18 life-changing trips for couples

One of the best parts of being in a relationship is having a built-in travel buddy, and one of the best parts of traveling with that built-in buddy is getting unobstructed one-on-one time while exploring unfamiliar parts of the world. Whether domestic or international, a trip with your significant other almost always guarantees sharing unusual experiences and learning something new about each other, like that your girlfriend gets a rush from cliff diving, or your boyfriend can make friends with anyone despite only being able to say “Where’s the bathroom?” in the local language.

It’s easy to uncover sides of your partner, and maybe even yourself, you haven’t seen before when you’re having many first-time experiences together, and travel allows couples to access a different kind of closeness than that of regular daily life.

When deciding where to venture with your significant other, you’ll want to consider which components of a romantic getaway matter most to you, from beautiful sites and adventurous activities to intimate settings and stunning views.

These places should be on your radar for a mix of those elements, especially when Valentine’s Day is coming.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, aka the island of the Gods, is a versatile haven with something to offer every type of couple. If your version of romance is hiking through lush greenery, monkey forests, and rolling rice paddies, you’re in luck. If you think romance is dancing to DJ sets and light shows until the wee hours of morning, Bali is also known for its nightclub scene. Want to feel spiritually enlightened? Bali has countless temples and shrines to visit. And if you’re all about beaches, the island’s bevy of beaches range from white-sanded shores on the south coast to the more unexpected black sand you’ll see on the northern and western coasts.

While some parts of the island have maintained a pre-modern look, the island is a popular tourist destination, so it’s well-equipped to accommodate international travelers looking for a romantic stay with comforts like high-end resorts, yoga classes, spas, and Australian-influenced cafes.

Santorini, Greece

Santorini is definitely having a moment on Instagram these days: our feeds are packed with newlyweds enjoying picture-perfect honeymoons. It makes sense, though: Santorini is a cloud-like oasis that envelops travelers in an ethereal fantasy. The romance of the island pretty much sells itself; wandering the hilly, weathered streets, you’re surrounded by bright white walls and blues roofs, and in the evenings, you have front-row seats to incredible sunsets. Once the sun is down, the city lights up and the houses, churches, and restaurants glow like stars.

Safari in Tanzania

Aside from traveling to Tanzania to hike the intimidating Mount Kilimanjaro, many visit the country because of the incredible wildlife conservation sites and national parks. Going on safari opens your eyes to a completely unfamiliar part of the world, allowing you and your significant other to share some firsts: the first time you see a lion, the first time you drive across the African plains dotted with baobab trees, the first time you meet someone from a local tribe.

You’ll definitely want to visit Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive and intact volcanic caldera. The bowl-like shape makes a natural border for the animals, boosting the chances safari-goers will be able to spot all of the Big Five – lion, cheetah, rhino, elephant, and buffalo – during a tour. Serengeti National Park is another popular safari destination because of the area’s mass seasonal migrations of wildebeest and zebra, large lion population, and diversity of habitats and animals.

Tulum, Mexico

Two core pillars of many romantic vacations are intimate settings and exotic experiences, and Tulum has a lot of both. You can rotate between lounging out on tropical beaches, snorkeling at the nearby “aquatic theme park,” Xel-Ha Park, swimming in a natural sinkhole (or cenote), and touring the Mayan ruins, which make up one of the most intact sites of their kind. After a day packed with leisure, adventure, or both, the cherry on top will be a drink at a bar that feels more like a jungle.

Whistler, Canada

A great way to bond as a couple is by getting active, and skiing on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains is great for both veteran and beginner skiers alike. You can take on the mountains, with numerous trails of varying intensity, enjoy an overhead view of the snow-capped trees from sprawling gondolas, break for lunch at the mid-mountain lodge, and top off the day with an après ski at one of the slope-side bars. If one day of skiing leaves you with wobbly legs and your fill of downhill action, there’s a lot more action at the base of the peaks. Whistler Village is a lively, pedestrian-only hub of bars, shops, and restaurants. The little winter wonderland is as charming as the inside of a snow globe, and what’s better for a romantic getaway than that?

Oxford, England

Only two hours from London, Oxford offers a quaint escape into Medieval British architecture and cozy neighborhood pubs. Everywhere you look makes an ideal backdrop for a postcard or inspiration for a dollhouse blueprint, with cloak-clad students and professors whizzing by to get to an event at the University of Oxford. And with the pervading presence of the university, the oldest in the English-speaking world, you can’t help but feel like you’re playing a part in a romantic period piece, in which grand gestures and romance are the main themes.

Cappadocia, Turkey

For a fairy-tale vacation, there’s nothing more fitting than a landscape dotted with literal “fairy chimneys.” In addition to fairy chimneys, which are tall, thin rock cones dotting the rock sites of Cappadocia, cave churches, underground cities, and homes carved into rocks create a whimsical aura usually reserved for the fictional realm. Floating high above the rocky terrain in a brightly-designed hot air balloon, you’ll feel like characters wandering the pages of a Dr. Seuss book or like astronauts discovering a civilization on the moon – either way, the other-worldly experience will have you recapturing childlike wonder and awe together.

Paris, France

Most clichés became clichés for a reason, and so is the case with Pari’s romantic reputation. Looking at pictures of couples in the City of Light, you can practically see the cartoon hearts in their eyes as they embrace in front of the Eiffel Tower. Paris and romance go together like Valentine’s Day and pastries, anniversary dinners and candlelit bistros, marriage proposals and world-famous landmarks… all of which Paris is not-so-coincidentally known for having.

Burning Man, Black Rock City, Nevada

An effective way to let the strength of a relationship shine is by stripping away the comforts and conveniences of modern life. At Burning Man, technology is eschewed for a more rough-and-tumble, go-with-the-flow lifestyle, but it’s also much more than a regular camping experience that offers bonding solely through waking up with twigs in your hair and unbrushed teeth. No two couples will have the exact same experience at Burning Man, allowing you to share memories and connect in ways completely your own. Burning Man fosters an open environment to explore yourself and your relationship with spiritual and holistic workshops, events, and parties. Suspended from reality at Burning Man, you’ll experience art in new ways, encounter people and situations you never would in normal day-to-day life, and probably discover some of your partner’s less obvious traits, thoughts, and beliefs.

Hakone, Japan

While not as romanticized for cherry-blossomed strolls as its nearby neighbor, Kyoto, Hakone is a day trip away from Tokyo that offers an intimate escape from city travel in the most relaxing way possible: hot spring resorts. Aside from relaxing in onsen (hot springs) at a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn), you can take advantage of the natural sites, like Lake Ashi and the volcano Mount Fuji, or tour the fire-engine red Hakone Shrine and the open-air sculpture museum. The many transportation options also seem more like mini adventures than a straightforward means of travel, from boats and cable cars to rolling train routes through the mountains.

Northern Lights, Northern Norway

If you’ve ever considered stargazing a romantic experience, northern Norway really ups the ante with its unbelievable events in the sky. The region, which covers about one-third of Norway, is considered a top destination to see the Northern Lights from autumn to mid-April, while from May to July, the sun is still visible at midnight in a phenomenon called the “midnight sun.” Venture even farther north if you dare to Svalbard, the northernmost inhabited region of Europe, to experience 24-hour daylight between April and August. On the opposite end of the light spectrum, Svalbard’s January and February months have “polar nights,” when night lasts for over 24 hours, making the aurora borealis particularly visible.

Porto, Portugal

Porto is a waterfront merchant city that transports you to an earlier time with its cobble-stoned streets, baroque churches, and prevalence of family-owned businesses and port factories, the region’s most famous export. In the nearby Duoro Valley, you can visit the vineyards where the wine has been produced for 2,000 years, sample the wine, and participate in some harvesting practices like stomping on the grapes. In a city infused with the culture of wine making and drinking, you and your significant other can get tipsy on the energy alone.

Amalfi Coast, Italia

Known for its natural and architectural beauty, the Amalfi Coast is a prime choice for a romantic Mediterranean getaway. Travelers bask in the natural scenery, hiking through small villages with picturesque sea views, and visit famous sites like the “Emerald Grotto” (Grotta dello Smeraldo), medieval churches, gardens, and museums. When you need some quiet time for just the two of you, there are a number of secluded hotels that offer ocean-front views and luxurious amenities.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

In Argentina’s bustling capital, you and your significant other will never run out of activities to try. Every weekend, hundreds of plays and productions are put on throughout the city, or you can go out for a sophisticated night at the internationally-acclaimed opera house, Teatro Colón. The multitude of restaurants and bars provide a lot of options for a pre-performance dinner, making the perfect dinner-and-a-show date night easily attainable. For a day-to-night date, La Boca is a vibrant neighborhood known for Tango dancing and a pedestrian walkway lined with crafts and houses and shops painted in bright primary colors.

Whitsunday Islands, Australia

At the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, these 74 islands off the coast of Queensland, Australia, will have you sailing into uncharted relationship territory with unbelievable sites to discover together. Whitehaven Beach is one of the most famous white-sanded beaches on the islands and despite being a tourist hotspot, it stretches for over 4 miles, making it easy to find your own space. In addition to having blissful beach days, you can have some truly unforgettable and romantic excursions while visiting these islands, like flying over Heart Reef in a helicopter, staying aboard a boat for a few days, and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef.

South Caicos, Turks and Caicos

While Turks and Caicos is certainly not a new destination for romantic vacations, most tourists flock to Providenciales, the first stopping point for travelers on the tropical archipelago. Far less popular (a.k.a. far more secluded) are the pristine beaches of South Caicos, just a short, scenic connecting flight away.

If you’re looking for something truly special – perhaps for celebrating an anniversary or another special occasion – Sailrock Resort is a luxury property nestled within natural brush along white-sand shores that lead into crystal-clear water. You’ll experience the type of picturesque serenity you thought was only accessible to movie stars – yet there the two of you will be, sipping colorful cocktails together on a hammock at the beach’s edge, with nothing but the open, beautiful horizon spanning ahead of you.

Barbados

The west coast of Barbados is home to several high-end resorts with various offerings to make your Caribbean escape extra memorable. Of course, you can arrange some classic island excursions, such as snorkeling, private boat trips with companies like Seaduced, and visits to local attractions like the spectacular Hunte’s Gardens and Rihanna’s childhood home. For a dose of the local cuisine and culture, enjoy an upbeat Friday night at Oistins fish fry or sample some of the island’s best rums at Mount Gay rum factory. You could also kick back and make relaxation your number-one priority by simply enjoying the beautiful beaches and temperate water.

No matter how active you decide to be, Barbados makes for one of the best vacation spots for couples. Some hotels offer unique experiences for couples wanting to up the romance even more. The House by Elegant Hotels, for example, is an adults-only property with a romance concierge whose main job is to help you personalize your trip and create experiences that are perfect for the two of you. For an off-property dinner you won’t soon forget, head to The Cliff, which overlooks the water in a sultry, fire-adorned setting.

Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

For the ultimate couple’s vacation, charter a boat and sail along the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia. If you start your journey in Dubrovnik and end up in Split, you’ll get a comprehensive look at the country, from nautical exploration to sightseeing in both small seaport towns and big cities. With a stopover in a new place every night, the transit is part of the fun, rather than merely a means to get from point A to point B.

Travelers mainly book Turkish gulets (or small yachts) with separate quarters for the crew, and companies like Adriatic Holiday offer packages with a captain, chef, and one to two crew members who help curate not just your route, but everything else you do while on water or shore. The busy season is from June through early September, but trips set out into October – a great option if you want a bit more quietness and privacy on the Adriatic Sea.

By Travel and Leisure

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