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With all the planning necessary to pull off a wedding, it's no wonder many newlyweds choose relaxing, beachy climates like Mexico, the Mediterranean or the Maldives for their post-nuptial travel plans. But for newlyweds who want to explore more unexpected territory during their first few days as a married couple, a world of possibilities awaits.
To find a few of these surprising romantic spots, we sought out answers from the question-and-answer community Quora.com, asking “What is the best country to visit for a honeymoon?” These were the less-expected places that promised to keep the adventure alive long past the walk down the aisle.
In Asia, the happiest marriage
To start off a marriage on the right foot, what better place than one that measures its economic output in Gross National Happiness instead of GDP? At least that's the suggestion of Annie Taylor, currently living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
From the famous panoramic views of the cliff-side Tiger's Nest monastery to the soothing waters of the healing hot stone baths, Bhutan has no shortage of romantic things to do. Since tourism is a large part of the economy, the country also has luxurious amenities.
“The mountain lodges built in sync with Bhutanese architectural patterns have natural rammed earth walls, gently sloping roofs and wood-panelled interiors with a king-size bed, a traditional bukhari (wood-burning stove) and large terrazzo-clad bath,” Taylor said, describing the Amankora Paro lodge in western Bhutan. “You can hear the gurgling river as you enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner on the stone patio outside your room.”
Britain’s magical mountains
Smriti Modi of Singapore loves the Scottish Highlands, in part because some of her favourite movies were filmed here. But there are plenty of other reasons to recommend the mountainous Gaelic region.
“If ancient history, natural landscape and fairytales are your thing, this is the place to be,” Modi said. “The magical flora and fauna deserve no introduction and have a way of making everyone go cheesy and smushy. Go for a trek in the wilderness and let the highlands do their magic!”
There's no better place to start than at Loch Lomond, the eponymous setting of one of Scotland's most famous ballads about star-crossed love. The loch is often considered the threshold between Scotland’s lowlands and highlands, and couples can explore the water via kayak, canoe or motor boat. Another fairytale spot is Eilean Donan Castle: the 13th-century construction and its stone bridge are one of the most photographed places in all of Scotland. Couples can even tie the knot inside the castle itself.
Europe’s exotic surprise
While France and Italy usually top the list of Europe's dreamy destinations, Nargis Ansari of New Delhi finds that their neighbour Spain is “the most romantic and exotic”. For a fairytale take on the honeymoon trip, he suggests heading to the walled city of Toledo in central Spain for its “cobbled streets, ancient walls and cosy restaurants”, while coastal region Andalucía has “gypsies, flamenco, matadors, tapas bars and strolling guitarists”.
“Its got it all – the sun, sea and sand, but with a twist,” he said.
If an island retreat is more your thing, Tenerife in the Canary Islands is the place. Away from the touristy southern part of the island, the north is more locals-oriented, with traditional Canarian entertainment and restaurants.
“The rocky terrains and scenic backdrops make this secluded, pine-fringed island with white-sand beaches an utterly romantic getaway,” Ansari said.
In Canada, it’s snow romantic
For honeymooners who would rather spend time making snow angels than slathering on sunscreen, Rishi Saxena suggested the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, situated on the glacier-adjacent Lake Louise in western Canada.
“The wide variety of winter activities includes downhill and cross-country skiing, as well as snowshoeing, ice skating and even dogsledding,” Saxena said. “Guests can get pampered in the hotel's spa and then set off for a romantic sleigh ride into the wilderness.”
Summer brides and grooms can trade in the snowshoes for hiking boots and tackle local trails, or try whitewater rafting.
Scenery and seclusion in the Himalayas
Khajjiar in northern India is a great choice for couples seeking seclusion. The tiny hill station, nicknamed “Mini Switzerland”, is 2,000m above sea level in the foothills of the Himalayas, and has an abundance of meadows, a small lake and plentiful pine forests.
“Just walk with your special someone around the lake or go on a romantic long walk in the thick pine forests,” Gowda suggested.
Lake Khajjiar can also be traversed via horseback with a local guide, or couples can tackle the trails of the Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary, with a good chance of seeing pheasants, antelope-like serow and even the occasional black bear. History-buff honeymooners should visit the 12th-century Khajji Naga Temple, dedicated to its namesake lord of serpents and intricately decorated with woodcarvings of snakes.
A deep dive into love
To truly push love to its limits, Jay Bazzinotti of Boston, United States, recommends a stay at the 1920s-built Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona — but only for the truly adventurous couple.
“It's a three-year wait to get one of the few rooms and there are only two ways to reach it: by white-water raft or by donkey,” he said. “But few experiences you ever have will match it.”
For a bit of culture in the Canyon, the El Tovar dining room serves internationally recognized American Southwest cuisine, and has hosted luminaries from Teddy Roosevelt to Paul McCartney. Many couples cap the trip off with a stay in nearby Sedona (about 100 miles south), a resort town known for its luxurious accommodations and cosy bed and breakfasts.