Do your holidays lack romance?
Would you like a getaway with the wow factor?
Here expert Sarah Siese recommends six destinations you’ll love.
The Amanpuri in Phuket, which translates as ‘peaceful place’. It is situated on Phuket’s west coast
Best For: Heavenly seclusion. Meaning ‘peaceful place’, Amanpuri feels more like a private village, where the only interruptions come from exotic birdlife and nocturnal bullfrogs.
Fall in love with: The peace, the space and privacy at Aman’s flagship property, known as the mothership by ‘Aman-junkies’, situated on Phuket’s west coast on a private headland overlooking the Andaman Sea. When quixotic hotelier Adrian Zecher fell in love with Phuket 31 years ago, it was barely on the tourist map. Three decades later, and still a word-of-mouth phenomena, the 43 villas and 40 pavilions exude all the romantic architectural grace of Siam’s 17th Century capital, Ayutthaya. Feast on epicurean breakfasts, including kombucha and energising smoothies; treat yourself to Thai tea and cake; and candlelit dinner in one of five open-air pavilions specialising in Thai, Japanese and European food.
Room for romance: The peninsula is fringed with feathery casuarina trees and banana palms, and villas 25 and 26 have direct access to the beach. Many continue to cherish the 1980s villas but the millennial villas are hard to top for their handsome opulence with impressive walls of hanging foliage and black-tiled swimming pools that melt into the tropical-jungle canopy.
Romantic Moment: The couple’s signature massage and the complimentary meditation sessions high on the hillside in an open-sided teakwood sala. You must also take a private boat trip to Phang Nga Bay; take your darling for a sunset hack along the adjacent beach; or simply kayak around the hidden coves of Surin or Bangtoo Bay to the sounds of crickets and the distant chug of long-tail boats.
The amazing scenery of Phang Nga Bay in Phuket, where you can take a private boat trip
Heavenly hosts: Each dreamy villa has two permanent staff who know the ropes, along with a flock of gracious staff and superb head chef Kannika Jitsangworn, who’ll happily give you a cooking lesson.
Keepsake: In-house Aman Spa products, a jar of infused bath salts and the nightly pillow gifts are all keepers.
Book me in: Between December and March to break the long UK winter, from £641 room-only per night. Visit amanresorts.com.
Adare Manor, Ireland
Adare Manor in Ireland, pictured, has lashings of gargoyles and neo-Gothic heraldry
Best for: A whirlwind weekend.
Fall in love with: The dreamy views of a ruined 15th Century Franciscan friary from Adare Manor – a great Hogwarts of a hotel, with lashings of gargoyles and neo-Gothic heraldry proudly proclaiming the Dunraven family connections under the family motto ‘I wish to see what lies beyond’.
It’s a rare ‘calendar house’ adorned with 365 leaded windows, 52 ornate chimneys, seven stone pillars, and four towers to mark the annual tally of days, weeks and seasons of the year. It’s also foodie heaven. Swoon over the magnificent breakfast in the Long Gallery, pop into Adare for a pub lunch, then draw romantic inspiration from the chivalric past by the flicker of candlelight in the Oak Room.
Room for romance: All 14 rooms in the original manor house are decorated with bay windows overlooking the lawns and the River Maigue.
Many of the rooms at Adare Manor look out on to the beautiful River Maigue, pictured
Romantic Moment: Pedal off on Pashley bicycles around the 840-acre estate – you’ll hardly see another soul. Meet the resident birds of prey during a private falconry display, or take a quiet moment fly fishing. For a spontaneous romantic moment, climb Pugin’s Staircase to the secret turret, or take a dreamy walk into the Enchanted Forest and follow the Poet’s Walk where ‘trees dream their long dreams and leaves whisper their secrets’.
Heavenly hosts: Natural Irish charm is mixed with polished American efficiency, so nothing is too much trouble. Today’s proprietor is racehorse owner and enthusiast John McManus, who has poured his own heart and soul into the 104-bedroom property.
Keepsakes: Famous Irish lace, made in Limerick, or some Guinness.
Book me in: It’s going to rain, so go in spring to put the bounce back into your step. From £319 per night. Visit adaremanor.com.
Joali, pictured, is in the heart of the Raa Atoll and guests arrive at the tiny private island by an exciting 45-minute seaplane
Best for: Seduction – a flop-and-flirt fantasy island.
Fall in love with: Sugar-white beaches, tropical flowers and swaying palms, all surrounded by the shimmering blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It just begs you to kick back and wiggle your toes in the sand. Joali is in the heart of the Raa Atoll and the thrill of arriving at the tiny private island by an exciting 45-minute seaplane hop from Male is unadulterated seduction. Take breakfast in your villa, lunch barefoot on the beach and dine under the stars in Mediterranean-themed Bellinis, or over-water Japanese restaurant Saoke, whose exquisite traditional sushi, sashimi and black sesame ice cream is once tasted, never forgotten.
Room for romance: Almost a thousand master craftsmen have transformed exotic Dharavandhoo into a queen of resorts. All villas have an infinity pool and original artworks. Bathrooms are a complete indulgence, with a large indoor tub big enough for two and outdoor rain shower for a sensual strip and drip dry.
Romantic moment: Smooch around all day in a hammock or cool off with the fish. For a treasure-box moment, go diving at the manta ray hang out, or take a day trip on a traditional dhoni and sail off into the Maldivian sunset.
Heavenly hosts: Every villa has the service of a jadugar (Urdu for butler) who will arrange anything you want, from candlelit dining under the stars to diving trips.
Book me in: Any time you want from £1,520 per night based on two sharing a Beach Villa with pool on a B&B basis. Visit joali.com
The desert wetland of the Okavango Delta in Botswana is full of incredible creatures
Best for: Isolation.
Fall in love with: The desert wetland of the Okavango Delta. Each year floodwaters flow all the way from Angola to create this incredible habitat for hundreds of species of animals and birds. Divide your time between the three most romantic of the Wilderness Safari Camps.
Named after a special bull elephant, Abu is set in a riverine forest near a large lagoon; Jao sits among floodplains with prolific wildlife; and King’s Pool, renowned for predators and concentrations of game, overlooks an oxbow lagoon in a wildlife corridor in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve.
Room for romance: Book a night under the Milky Way in a Star Bed at Joa or Abu, where a raised cradle for two near the elephant boma – a compound for the animals’ protection – will let you drift away to the lullaby of rumbling from the herd below.
Romantic moment: At King’s Pool take time out at the underground hide, followed by sundowners on the Queen Sylvia barge. Take a walk with the elephants at Abu. And at Joa, float along in a glass-bottomed two-seater canoe into the Delta for an experience you’ll treasure for ever.
Heavenly Hosts: The team delights in creating moments just for the two of you, whether in the company of elephants or around a campfire.
Keepsake: A thousand photos and a bracelet made from elephant hair.
Book me in: April and May when the skies are clear and the landscapes are green. Cazloyd.com offers an eight-day safari to Botswana from £4,995pp. Visit cazloyd.com.
Seahorse-shaped Santorini, named after Saint Irene, is famous for its whitewashed architecture
Best for: Tranquillity plus wellbeing and quality time.
Fall in love with: Seahorse-shaped Santorini, named after Saint Irene, which burst into life following the apocalyptic volcanic explosion of 1450 BC that created the largest caldera on Earth. Andronis Concept Wellness Resort near Imerovigli has the most spectacular sunsets. Its private terraces and infinity pools are the perfect haven for lovers to enjoy the vast Aegean panorama of whitewashed cliff-hugging cubist villas.
Room for romance: All 28 suites feature the whitewashed architecture of the Cyclades with just a splash of opulence and colour.
Romantic moment: Book a Couples Connect Spa treatment, a sensual ritual for the reconnection on the physical, emotional, and spiritual level. It uses three oils: rose (the flower of love), orange blossom (the flower of bliss), and jasmine (the flower of unity). Take the hiking path in front of the hotel, which connects Oia and Fira, for some impromptu Mamma Mia! magic and renew your vows in the chapel at the base of the headland.
Heavenly hosts: Greek charm personified – they will take you on a meditation-orientated hike around the caldera.
Keepsake: Sate your shopping urges in the town of Oia, with its jewellery boutiques and narrow streets.
Book me in: Between June and September Andronis hosts a Gastronomy Festival in its three restaurants – Lycabettus, Lauda and Throubi – with cuisine from world-renowned chefs. Suites from £250 per night. Visit andronisconcept.com.
Kangaroo Island, Australia
Kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, seals, penguins and goanna lizards can all be found on Kangaroo Island
Best for: A time to talk and walk.
Fall in love with: Kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, seals, penguins and goanna lizards. This is a wildlife sanctuary without fences where you can walk hand-in-hand along spectacular cliffs to the Remarkable Rocks. Dubbed Australia’s Galapagos, more than a third of the island is a national park and has barely changed since explorer Matthew Flinders first stepped ashore in 1802.
Room for Romance: Named after local shipwrecks, 21 suites cantilever along the curve of the clifftop, commanding mesmerising views of the Southern Ocean. Book the Remarkable Suite with its outdoor plunge pool overlooking Hanson Bay.
Romantic Moment: Go bush-bashing through honey-myrtle and coastal velvet bushes, beachcombing between shallow reefs fringed by waters that have witnessed 88 shipwrecks, and head out with a picnic to Remarkable Rocks (huge, weather-shaped granite boulders perched on a dome) or to Seal Bay to walk within feet of the colony.
Heavenly Hosts: Attentive and on a friendly first-name basis (with supermodel looks and a passion for wildlife).
Keepsake: Leave footprints on the beach and bring home some delicious Ligurian honey (made by the only virus-free bees in the world) and a bottle of the island’s Shiraz.
Book me in: Between December and February, when fur seals give birth to chocolate-brown pups. Visit abercrombiekent.co.uk
Or why not set sail on the seven seas? Six cruises that are sure to make your heart sing
1. Greek Isles
The sleek, four-masted superyacht Wind Star, which has acres of white sails and gorgeous teak decks
Sleek, four-masted superyacht Wind Star has acres of white sails and gorgeous teak decks, perfect for gazing at the horizon with the breeze in your hair.
As she cuts through the waves at 16 knots in full sail, you’ll half-expect the theme from The Onedin Line to strike up.
Choose a cruise through the Greek Islands to watch the legendary sunset over Santorini, see the iconic windmills of Mykonos and dine by moonlight with a backdrop of the magnificent facade of the 2nd Century Celsus Library at Ephesus to the tunes of a trio from the Aegean Chamber Orchestra.
Book it: One-week Treasures Of The Greek Isles cruises aboard Wind Star sail round-trip from Athens from May to October 2020. Cruise-only prices start at £4,000pp. Visit windstarcruises.com.
2. Cruise along the Seine
The gorgeous new Spirit of Discovery, which has the ambience of a boutique hotel
Sail up the Seine, where few ships can follow, to spend Valentine’s Day in France.
Gorgeous new Spirit of Discovery, with its ambience of a boutique hotel, will dock in Rouen for two nights. Explore the charming medieval centre and dine à deux in a cosy bistro.
Or, take a side trip to Paris for a day strolling hand-in-hand around the City of Love.
Book it: A four-night, no-fly Rendezvous in Rouen cruise departs from Southampton on February 12, 2020. The cost, from £989pp, includes chauffeur service from home to ship (up to 250 miles), tips and travel insurance. Visit travel.saga.co.uk/cruises
3. Caribbean dream
Smart motor yacht SeaDream I, with just 56 cabins, sails from Puerto Rico, pictured, to St Thomas
With a starry sky above and the rhythm of the waves below, you’ll feel like the only two people in the world tucked up at the top of a SeaDream yacht.
Extra-special touches for your romantic nights on the Caribbean sea are rose petals strewn on your vast bed’s fine Belgian linen and flutes of chilled champagne.
Book it: Smart motor yacht SeaDream I, with just 56 cabins, sails from Puerto Rico to St Thomas for seven nights on December 21, sneaking into small harbours and quiet coves. All-inclusive fares start at £2,180pp – flights are extra. Visit seadream.com.
4. Ultimate privacy
Even big ships can deliver intimate experiences. Enjoy the privacy of your own brightly painted bungalow in the adults-only sanctuary on Princess Cays on a day in the Bahamas.
On board, order Ultimate Balcony Dining, a special room service, with cocktails, champagne, flowers, four-course dinner including lobster and a professional photo as a memento. On another night, snuggle up under tartan rugs with a tub of popcorn watching Movies Under the Stars on deck.
Book it: Nine nights in a balcony cabin aboard Coral Princess costs from £1,199pp. The Southern Caribbean Voyager cruise departs on February 15, 2020, round-trip from Fort Lauderdale. Flights are extra. Visit princess.com.
5. Seychelles sailing
You can sail the sparkling, gin-clear waters of the Seychelles aboard ultra-luxurious and super-stylish motor yacht Crystal Esprit
Treat yourselves to a voyage to the ocean bed in a glass-walled submarine just for two (plus expert pilot). This is just one of the unforgettable moments on a cruise in the sparkling, gin-clear waters of the Seychelles aboard ultra-luxurious and super-stylish motor yacht Crystal Esprit.
Snorkel, jet-ski and kayak from the yacht’s marina, land on sweeping palm-fringed beaches of soft white sand framed by lush, emerald mountains.
Book it: Seven-night cruises aboard 31-suite Crystal Esprit in the Seychelles depart throughout January and February 2021. All-inclusive fares, from £4,958pp, include overseas transfers but not flights.
6. Sheer bliss
You can book a spacious suite in the Haven, an exclusive enclave at the top of the Norwegian Bliss (pictured)
Revel in the romance of the wilderness and be mesmerised by the beauty of icebergs and glaciers as you sail on swish resort ship Norwegian Bliss.
Book a spacious suite in the Haven, an exclusive enclave at the top of the ship, so you can enjoy big-ship features – such as the quarter-mile promenade deck, a fantastic choice of restaurants and bars, and full-production shows in the theatre – then retreat to your private sanctuary.
The Haven has its own restaurant, lounge, pool and sundeck. And your butler will ensure you get a reservation for a blissful couples Swedish massage and bathing ritual in the Mandara spa.
Book it: Norwegian Bliss sails on seven-night Awe Of Alaska cruises round-trip from Seattle, May to October 2020. Cruise-only fares start at £3,056pp for suites in The Haven. Visit ncl.com
By Caroline Hendrie