30 of the world’s best romantic vacation destinations
Paris, the City of Light, seems made for lovers. Wander the winding streets of the Marais, stop at a sidewalk café for a croissant and café crème, and walk hand-in-hand along the Seine.
Later, you can explore the Left Bank. Visit the Luxembourg Gardens, drop by Shakespeare & Company, the modern heir to Sylvia Beach’s famous bookstore that welcomed American expatriate writers like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, and stop on one of city’s graceful bridges at sunset to watch the lights come on all over Paris.
-- By Sharon O’Brien
Couples around the world who are looking for romance are beginning to rediscover Dubrovnik on the southern coast of Croatia. The city’s fortified old town, set into limestone cliffs, overlooks the sparkling Adriatic with its many beaches and offshore islands, and offers a charming architectural blend of ancient churches, majestic palaces and marble-paved streets. Dubrovnik’s appeal to travelers is not new. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who visited the city in 1929, said, “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik, because the beauty there will leave anyone breathless.”
Kyoto, which was the imperial capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years, escaped much of the World War II violence that devastated some Japanese communities and the frenzied rebuilding that followed. Several rivers and canals flow through Kyoto, and the city is home to more than 2,000 temples and shrines as well as 20 percent of Japan’s national treasures. Kyoto is also famous for its ryokan, traditional inns and guest houses, which allow visitors to experience a taste of old Japan.
What could be more romantic than gliding through Venetian canals in a gondola, passing beneath arched bridges and balconies overflowing with colorful flowers? There is a local legend that says lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of the Campanile di San Marco begin to toll. Hey, it’s worth a try. Or you can wander through the cobblestoned streets of Venice, check out one of the cafes that ring the Piazza San Marco, and listen to the bells from there.
When you travel to the island of Maui, you can feel yourself start to relax and embrace the aloha spirit the minute you get off the plane. Maybe it’s the warm fragrant air washing over you, or maybe it’s just knowing you’re in paradise. While you’re here, explore the beach town of Lahaina and the Haleakala volcano, learn to surf or take a whale watching cruise (the waters around Maui are the winter habitat of Humpback whales), and drive the road to Hana to get the flavor of old Hawaii.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is where the tango began, and the city still has the sultry vibe that inspired the world’s sexiest dance. From the genteel look of its Belle Époque and French-colonial buildings to the pulsing beat of its bohemian heart, Buenos Aires is a city that never disappoints.
Novelist James Michener described Bora Bora as “the most beautiful island in the world.” Not many people would disagree after seeing the South Pacific island’s jungle-cloaked mountains, cobalt lagoon, coral reef and white sand beaches.
Provence, in southeast France, epitomizes the good life and living well. From long lunches in charming village cafes to bustling farmers’ markets to fields of lavender stretching to the horizon, Provence makes romance a part of every day. Mix in the incomparable Mediterranean beaches for which this region is famous, and it’s a hard combination to beat.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks is a region of firsts, from the first English colony in America (the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island) to the first powered flight by a heavier-than-air craft (the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk). Walk the beaches looking for seashells, tour the historic lighthouses lining the coast, or go snorkeling or scuba diving in the Graveyard of the Atlantic, where 3,000 shipwrecks are clustered just offshore of the Outer Banks.
Get out of the big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and head to places like Hoi An, a well-preserved 15th-century port town and site of the famous so-called China Beach, or Halong Bay (the name means “where the dragon descends into the sea”), a UNESCO-protected area where emerald-green waters surround some 3,000 limestone mini-islands.