With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, and romance in the air, it got me reminiscing about the most romantic places I’ve ever stayed. From white sand beaches to pristine mountains to spectacular jungle, each of these places has a special place in my heart. Oh, and since I couldn't narrow it down to three, here's four of my most romantic places instead.
Cinque Terre, Italy
At the heart of the Italian Rivera, Cinque Terre (or five lands), is a string of five medieval villages, the pastel coloured buildings clinging implausibly to some of the most spectacular coastline you will ever see. The villages start with Monterosso (the oldest), then Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each village has its own personality and unique quirks, but the thing they all have in common is that they're all completely magical.
I stayed in Monterosso in an adorable little B&B with a rooftop garden filled with lemon trees. Sitting up on the rooftop on a warm summer evening, looking out over the ocean, with the scent of lemons in the air, holding a dainty glass of limoncello is still one of my most cherished memories. Wandering the cobblestone streets, looking for the perfect little street-side, candlelit table to sit down to eat a spectacular, yet simple, pizza or pasta became another favourite pastime.
One of the most popular activities in Cinque Terre is to hike between the towns. Each section of the path reveals something different, with the landscape constantly changing from heavily wooden areas, to steep hills to cliffside vineyards. One of the best things about these hikes is that you don't have to attempt all five towns in a row. Since a train line also connects the towns, it's possible to hike to the next town then get the train back and then do a different leg of the trail each day.
By far the most romantic part of the trail is the part that connects the last town, Riomaggiore, with its neighbour, Manarola. Dubbed the Via Dell Amore (the love walk), the story goes that when it was built, it brought lovers from the two towns together (they were previously separated by mountains). When you take a walk along this stunning path hugging the coastline, you'll also see many padlocks on the fences and railings, some painted with love hearts and the names of lovers (sigh).
Another way to appreciate this stunning part of the world is by sea. We hired a kayak and paddled our way from Monterosso to the next town, Vernazza. It was an experience that gave a completely different perspective of the villages, looking back at the spectacular coastline, the colourful buildings clinging to the hills among the greenery of the forest and the vineyards. After arriving at Vernazza, we simply parked the kayak, walked up to one of the waterside restaurants, spent the day eating and drinking and then kayaked back for dinner!
What’s most romantic about it: the stunning scenery, the food and the people.
Note: in a tragic twist, the lover's walk was destroyed by a landslide in 2012, and parts of the walk were only just opened in 2015.
Como Shambhala, Bali
About a 20 minute drive out of Ubud, Como Shambhala is one of the most secluded, serene, stunning and romantic places I have ever stayed. The property is simply breathtaking, high on a peninsular and surrounded on all sides by jungle. Different shades of the colour green are everywhere, and the place just feels...alive.
The resort is also built on top of a natural holy spring (‘Sumba’ in Balinese), so the sound of water plays a romantic soundtrack throughout the property. There are also several pools, so it’s possible to have one to yourselves if you pick the right time.
The resort is divided into five luxurious residences, each named after a different element – fire, water, air, earth and forest. Each residence is built around a central pool, and some villas have their own private outdoor spas surrounded by lush greenery, complete with a cabana built for two.
The villas are nothing short of spectacular, perfect in every detail, from the huge four poster king sized beds, to the luxurious sunken stone bathtubs which can easily accommodate (at least) two people.
The day spa is understated and elegant and naturally offers side by side massages for a romantic touch.
The restaurants serve organic, healthy but unbelievably delicious food. But if you'd prefer, it’s possible to organise a private candle lit dinner in your residence.
What’s most romantic about it: even though there are other villas in your residence, it feels like you are staying in a totally secluded, incredibly luxurious tree house. And the views look like this:
For my full story on Como Shambhala, click here.
The Datai, Langkawi
Situated in Datai Bay, about an hour’s drive from the airport, the Datai is an amazing resort where the jungle meets the ocean. The property is absolutely enormous and the free standing villas give you total privacy. OK, we stayed here with the kids, but the Datai is very popular for weddings and honeymoons, and it’s easy to see why. Besides, they have plenty of babysitters, so even if you have the kids with you, it's possible to find some time for romance!
The villas are beautifully appointed, with huge pitched rooves, dark timber interiors finished with cream linens. They’re surrounded by lush jungle which gives you the impression you’re miles from anywhere.
The Datai also has an adults-only pool for guests who don’t want their romantic getaway interrupted by kids doing bombies.
We stayed at the Datai to attend a wedding, which definitely upped the romance factor. What could be more romantic than getting married on the beach, looking out at the islands of Thailand as the sun goes down?
What’s most romantic about it: The resort is one of only two in Datai bay, and you can walk along the beach, hand in hand, from one end of the bay to the other (sigh).
For my full story on Datai bay, click here.
Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania
About a two and a half hour drive north west of Launceston, Cradle Mountain is an incredible wilderness area that’s home to thousand-year-old trees, dense moss-covered forests and stunningly clear mountain lakes. The romance of this place is in the pristine wilderness and sensational views.
The Lodge is beautiful, and features log cabins dotted in groups around the property. Several of the cabins perch on the edge of a sweet little lake, which you can take a romantic stroll around, hand in hand.
The cabins themselves come with spa baths with plenty of room for two, instantaneous fires (red wine by the fire anyone??) and private balconies (white wine on the balcony anyone??)
The Highland restaurant has tables which look out over the lake, and are the perfect setting for a romantic dinner.
The day spa is also set up for side by side massages with spectacular views (when you can look up!)
Most romantic thing about it: wandering through the ancient forest with the sound of waterfalls along the way. Photos of Cradle Mountain in winter covered in snow also makes it look incredibly romantic.
For my full story on Cradle Mountain, click here.