by Emily Wasserman
Romantic getaways often mean candlelit dinners, long walks on the beach, and pampering accommodations. But some destinations boast their own romantic je ne sais quoi—in places like Paris, Bali, and San Sebastian, there’s just something in the air. From the cherry blossom-lined streets of Kyoto to sensual tango dancing in Buenos Aires, these are our picks for the world’s 15 most romantic getaways.
Bali is not just a pretty face: While the island’s picturesque scenery attracts visitors from around the world, its unique culture and tradition keeps them coming back for more. Watch the sunset over clear blue water in Sanur, a popular beach destination. An iconic attraction, Tanah Lot, is a 15th-century temple that juts out of the ocean on a small rock formation. Don’t miss the five waterfalls between Bedugul and Singaraja: Gitgit is the farthest down the mountain, and visitors can climb 150 steps to take in stunning cascading falls.
Insider Tip: To escape the crowds at Bali’s southern beaches, visit Echo Beach in Seminyak. The secluded stretch of sand is located below a series of outcrops, and often features a hazy, dream-like mist.
Fairytale Brugge will enchant visitors. The city’s open squares, quaint houses, and cobblestone streets create a romantic atmosphere, and couples can take boat rides through picturesque canals. Climb the Belfort’s 366 winding steps for bird’s-eye views of the city. Take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage ride to Beguinage, a sprawling monastery with bridges and swan-filled ponds. For canal-side accommodations and upscale amenities, book a room at the Fodor’s Choice hotel De Tuileriëen. The property features charming guest rooms and parlors, and turndown service includes complimentary Belgian chocolates.
Insider Tip: Splurge on a meal at De Karmeliet. Located in an 18th-century house, the formal restaurant features a topiary-filled garden for al frescodining.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
It’s easy to get swept away by Buenos Aires’ colorful nightlife and diverse culture. Sit back in Teatro Colón’s red velvet seats and take in an opera or ballet. The Palermo neighborhood boasts some of the city’s finest restaurants and boutiques, and it offers acres of parks perfect for picnicking or long walks. Dance the night away at Rojo Tango, a popular club that features five-star food, cabaret performances, and glamorous velvet-lined interiors.
Insider Tip: Seasons in Buenos Aires are opposite from the US: An Argentinian winter is a North American summer. Visit during spring (September to December) for blooming flowers, mild temperatures, and fewer crowds.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston’s pristine gardens, historic ambiance, and laid-back Southern charm make it an ideal romantic getaway. Stroll through magnolia-lined streets in the city’s South of Broad neighborhood, which features sprawling mansions and verdant parks. The Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park offers picture-perfect scenery, complete with waterfalls and views of the Charleston Harbor. Take a drive to Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens, and explore the property’s heirloom rose garden and butterfly pavilion.
Insider Tip: Located in the French quarter, the Fodor’s Choice restaurant Tristan boasts fresh-caught seafood, artisanal pasta dishes, and sleek, contemporary decor.
Cinque Terre, The Italian Riviera
The rocky shores of the Italian Riviera belong in the pages of a romance novel. Visitors can explore quaint harbor villages, hike up stunning trails, or stroll through beachfront promenades. Climb the Cinque Terre trails to explore vineyards and villages, and lookout over the sea. The world-famous Giardini Botanici Hanbury features one of the largest gardens in Italy and offers panoramic views of the water. Spend the day touring Portofino, a lush seaside village with cliffside gardens and plenty of people watching.
Insider Tip: The Italian Riviera is divided into two regions: the more rustic Riviera di Levante to the east, and the resort-oriented Riviera di Ponente to the west. Riviera di Ponente is your best bet for nightlife and beaches. But for breathtaking views of the Ligurgian and a more secluded ambiance, nothing beats the Riviera di Levante.
Stepping through the gates into Fez feels like entering a time machine: The city’s medieval streets, covered markets, and historic sites will heighten your senses, and take you back to a different era. Visit Heri el Souani to tour granaries designed by an ancient king. Pass through Medina Square in nearby Meknès to view Bab Mansour, an elaborate marble gate with engraved tiled panels. House of Venus in Volubilis houses the city’s finest set of mosaics, and provides easy access to the site of the Temple of Saturn.
Insider Tip: Although Fez is best known for its ancient architecture and historical sites, the surrounding region is also home to ski slopes. Book a room at the Michlifen Ifrane Suites and Spa for luxurious amenities and picturesque mountain views.
Greek Isles, The Cyclades
It doesn’t get much better than The Cyclades, or Greek Isles, a destination on the 2014 Go List. The islands’ shimmering turquoise-blue waters are an attraction in their own right, and rustic mountains, bright sun, and delicious food attract honeymooners and seasoned travelers alike. The most famous of the islands, Santorini, boasts breathtaking sunsets and dramatic white stone cliffs. Naxos, the largest of the isles, features long, sandy beaches, and stunning green valleys and ravines. Hike to Panayia Pouláti, a whitewashed, blue-domed structure and bell tower set atop a sparkling bay.
Insider Tip: If you’re planning on visiting the Isles, consider booking a room in the spring or fall. Summer months mean more tourists and overcrowded beaches, while winter brings shuttered businesses and stormy weather.
You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a scene from 101 Nights in Istanbul: Towering minarets, narrow winding streets, and stunning mosaics are nestled alongside Western-style shops and restaurants, and visitors can stroll through ancient palaces and markets. Take in stunning Byzantine art and architecture at Aya Sofya, one of the world’s largest religious monuments. Walk through rose gardens and tour a former sultan’s Harem at Topkapi Palace.
The Fodor’s Choice restaurant Müzedechangafeatures a sophisticated setting, open-air terraces, and an award-winning menu with traditional mezes.
Insider Tip: Visit Istanbul in late April for its annual Tulip Festival. More than nine million tulips are planted in the city’s parks and gardens, and visitors can take leisurely strolls through the greenery.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Istanbul Guide
Kerala mesmerizes with its pristine beaches, lush tropical forests, and ayurvedic treatments. Spend a day relaxing in the state’s renowned spas, which offer everything from oil massages to natural restorative treatments. For the ultimate in seclusion, visit Northern Kerala. The area is largely untouched by tourism, and it features unparalled views of rolling hills dotted with tea plantations. Travel to Thekkadyand Munnar to take in glittering waterfalls and colorful wildlife.
Insider Tip: Once a bustling seaport, Kerala still boasts many of its original waterways. Take a cruise through the backwaters for up-close views of lotus-flowered rice paddies and verdant coconut groves.
A peaceful tranquility permeates Kyoto, a city best known for its historic shrines, temples, and palaces. Cherry-blossom trees line the sidewalks, and pagodas sit atop lush green hills. Step into paradise in one of the city’s Chinese-influenced gardens, which feature budding plants and Zen temples. Visitors can look out over breathtaking mountains at Enryaku-Ji, an ancient temple with intricate architecture. Enjoy traditional Japanese hospitality and lavish amenities at Tawaraya, one of the city’s most elegant inns.
Insider Tip: Western Kyoto is home to some of the city’s best religious architecture: Tour Kinkaku-ji’s golden temple, walk through the rock garden at Ryoan-ji, or stop by Kitano Tenman-gu’s bustling monthly market.
Maui is often described as magical, and the island lives up to its reputation. Visitors can stroll hand-in-hand through white sand beaches, hike through lush valleys, and explore quaint, historic villages. Take a trip to South Shore Maui, which features some of the island’s best beaches and resorts. Haleakala National Park boasts the island’s highest lookout point, and 360-degree views of the park’s volcanic crater. Book a room at Ho’oilo House, a Bali-inspired B&B with private rooms and breathtaking ocean views.
Insider Tip: Winter in Maui means humpback whale season: Visit the island from December through April to watch the majestic marine mammals make their yearly migration.
The City of Light is also the city of love. Whether you’re strolling along the Seine hand-in-hand or enjoying a candlelit meal at a cozy bistro, the romantic ambiance is hard to ignore. For a view of the Eiffel Tower and lavish amenities fit for a king, book a room at the Shangri-La Hotel. Take a walk through the peaceful Palais-Royal, Paris’s most secluded garden. For unparalleled views of the city and fairytale sunsets, climb the steps to Sacré-Coeur.
Insider Tip: Parisian restaurants are the perfect place to linger over dinner. For an intimate dining experience with inspired seasonal cuisine, visit the Fodor’s Choice restaurant Spring.
San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastián is a lover’s paradise. The city boasts lush green hills, crashing surf, and a shell-shaped beach ideal for sunbathing. For views of La Concha and old-world ambiance, book a room at Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra. Guests can watch the sunset from private terraces, or dine at an in-house restaurant facing the bay. Take the funicular up to Monte Igueldo for a panoramic view of the city. San Sebastián is known for its gourmet cuisine, and Mugartiz serves authentic Basque specialties in a rustic setting.
Insider Tip: Sample some of the city’s best food at Arzak. World-renowned chef Juan Mari Arzak serves traditional Basque fare with cutting-edge style, in an intimate dining room. Reserve a table several weeks in advance.
Vienna, a destination on our 2014 Go List, is rich with history, stunning architecture, and a prime location along the sparkling Danube River. Step back in time and tour an imperial castle at Schönbrunn Palace. The grounds include sculpted marble fountains, pristine hedgerows, and picturesque garden views.
For a taste of Austria’s famous pastries, visit Demel. Guests can enjoy a slice of rich Viennese Sachertorte, and watch as chefs create confections in a glassed-in courtyard.
End the day at Deutschordenskloster, a quaint, fresco-lined room that offers Mozart chamber music concerts.
Insider Tip: During January and February each year, the city hosts its annual balls. Couples step out in their finest ensembles for a night of dancing, eating, and drinking, and the evening doesn’t end until the sun comes up.
Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington’s mystical ambiance attracts those in search of romance. The city’s natural beauty makes it the perfect homebase for exploring. Travelers can wander misty hillsides, stroll along waterfront promenades, or hike through green valleys. Visit Wellington Botanic Garden for an up-close look at exotic trees and plants.
A neighboring town, Martinborough, features more than 20 vineyards and is accessible by horse-drawn carriage. Take a scenic drive around the Pauatahanui Inlet and Bird Sanctuary for picturesque views of the coastline.
Insider Tip: Kapiti Island is one of Wellington’s best-kept secrets. Climb 1,700 feet to the island’s highest lookout point for stunning views of the surrounding area, and to observe exotic birds and wildlife.