Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is a many-splendored thing. Love is blind. Love is a battlefield.
OK, OK. We know what love is. But the question is: Where is it? Every year, millions of people jet all over the globe trying to find love: in rustic wine cellars, on tropical beaches, in dimly lit restaurants. In 2009, 1.7 million honeymooning couples spent more than $8.3 billion seeking out the most romantic places on Earth [source: BAA]. And that's just newlyweds! Add to this number those who are dating, celebrating anniversaries, or simply rekindling old flames, and that adds up to a lot of candlelight dinners and moonlight boat rides.
So where are the most romantic places to go? Well, the list is about as long as those walks on the beach at sunset, but here are 10 recommendations for you and that special someone.
This might seem like an unexpected way to begin a list of most romantic places, but India offers a surprising amount of romantic, Old World charm. A former British colony, the country is an alluring blend of Old Europe and the rapidly modernizing Indian subcontinent, a combination that results in a wide variety of romantic opportunities.
Hop aboard the Maharajas' Express for a week-long luxury train ride from Delhi to Mumbai that includes stops for a champagne lunch at the Taj Mahal, a tiger-spotting safari and an elephant polo match. It's fitting that the train's name includes the Sanskrit word for "great king" because that's exactly how you'll travel. Enjoy the bar, games table and fine-dining restaurants before retiring to your private cabin, which has comfy beds, large windows and LCD TVs.
Want a more stationary experience? Travel north to Wildflower Hall, an opulent resort built 8,250 feet (2,514 meters) up in the Himalayas. The former residence of Lord Kitchener, this destination offers fine dining, an outdoor Jacuzzi and heated swimming pool, as well as spa treatments, all with spectacular mountain views. But don't run off and make reservations for these trips until you've checked your bank account. Wildflower Hall will run you at least $300 per night, while the seven-day ride on the Maharajas' Express costs a cool $14,000 per couple.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Where better to spend a romantic getaway than in Buenos Aires, home of the tango? To get a peek at the sexy dance, head down to Le Calesita, an open-air dance floor in the Nunez neighborhood. Better yet, grab your dancing shoes and take a tango lesson at Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso.
But the "dance of love" isn't the only thing that draws lovers to this "Paris of South America." Tree-lined streets and elegant 19th century architecture recall the city's romantic European past without masking its exciting South American present. Revisit the country's Italian heritage with a plateful of lasagna at Il Materello in the La Boca neighborhood before checking into the super-chic Bo-Bo Hotel in the Palermo district. In addition to its modern accommodations, the hotel offers romantic touches like candles, flowers, rose petals and boxes of chocolates for an additional charge.
When picking a travel date, spring and fall are best, but remember that if you live in the Northern Hemisphere the seasons are reversed. It's a bargain at any time, though, as recent financial crises have significantly lowered prices in the once-expensive city.
New York City
If you watch romantic comedies set in New York City, you already know some good places: Tiffany's, the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the top of the Empire State Building. The parks are great places for lovers, too; Central Park and Prospect Park are not only romantic, they're Romantic. Designed during the artistic period known as Romanticism, these parks are to landscape design what Frederic Chopin is to music and Nathaniel Hawthorne is to literature.
If you're looking for somewhere a little less traveled, try the "LOVE" sign on the corner of 54th and 6th or the fountain in front of Lincoln Center. Want more options? Pick up a copy of "Romantic New York City: A Guide to the Most Romantic Clubs, Restaurants, Bars and Hotels in New York City" by William King and Jimmy Hahn.
"Here's looking at you, kid." It's perhaps the most iconic line of cinematic romance. These words were spoken by Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman in a soft-focus scene from "Casablanca" (1942). The movie was named for the capital of Africa's Morocco, and it gave the country a reputation for exotic romance.
In Morocco, you'll find several destinations sure to turn your vacation into a romantic film noir. If you stay in Casablanca, enjoy a walk on Mediterranean beaches, stroll down streets lined with old French architecture, and venture to Old Medina, where lively markets sell silk dresses and other native crafts. Looking for luxurious accommodations? Travel east to Fez and stay at the Riad Laaroussa, 17th-century-palace-turned-hotel or the Dar Roumana, which offers Moroccan cooking lessons. Like Casablanca, Fez features a thriving market with 30,000 artisans hawking everything from tile to leather to native argan oil.
If you're feeling especially flush, stay in fashionable Marrakech at La Mamounia, which Conde Nast Traveller magazine touted as the city's most romantic hotel. The former palace features four restaurants, five bars, spa treatments, indoor and outdoor pools, and a yoga pavilion.
For those of you who prefer tents to swanky hotels and granola to hors d'oeuvres, this one's for you. The small town of Moab lies on the banks of the Colorado River in the heart of Utah's Red Rock Country. It's surrounded by abundant public land, and two of the country's most breathtaking national parks -- Arches and Canyonlands -- are just a short drive away. This makes Moab one of the country's premiere locations for outdoor adventure sports.
Are you and your partner into mountain biking? Take a ride on the world-famous Slickrock Trail. Backpacking? Explore the incredibly remote section of Canyonlands known as The Maze. The area also offers plenty of opportunity for rock climbing, horseback riding, rafting, four-wheel drive exploring and much more.
So where's the romance? After enjoying a day of fun together, travel to the Green Canyon overlook in Canyonlands National Park and cuddle close as the sun descends and turns the distant landscape to a fiery red. Then gaze at the Milky Way in some of the darkest sky in the continental United States.
If you decide to venture into town for a romantic dinner, try the Sunset Grill, which offers good food and great views from its perch on a red cliff 220 feet (67 meters) above the city. For those of you who demand luxury, don't worry. Just 17 miles (27 kilometers) northeast of Moab is the Sorrel River Ranch, voted one of the top 10 luxury wilderness lodges in the country by Luxury Travel Magazine.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
As romantic destinations go, Niagara Falls is often derided for its commercialization and banality. However, with 500,000 newlywed visitors a year, a list of 10 romantic places isn't complete without mentioning this self-proclaimed "Honeymoon Capital of the World" [source: Harvey].
As early as the mid-1800s, railroad lines brought newlyweds to the falls, prompting author Oscar Wilde to declare it, tongue-in-cheek, "the second biggest disappointment of American married life." The destination got a huge boost from the 1953 movie "Niagara," a tale of love, betrayal and murder that featured Marilyn Monroe.
Today, most visitors frequent the Canadian side of the falls, where lodging and dining options are more abundant and the views are more breathtaking. Unless your idea of romance involves sculptures of Jeffrey Dahmer and a Chinese man purportedly born with four eyeballs, you may want to avoid crowds at the numerous wax museums. Instead, think of going in the winter when visitation is down and frozen mist from the falls turns the attraction into a sparkling wonderland. Find a warm place to stay and enjoy a glass of "ice wine," a dessert wine native to the region. Look past the tourist traps, too, and enjoy the beauty of 6 million cubic feet (170,000 cubic meters) of water per minute falling 180 feet (55 meters) to the rocks below [source: Niagara Falls].
Napa Valley, Calif.
Can California plus wine equal anything else but romance? Find out the answer to that question by visiting Napa Valley, a swath of ground 30 miles (48 kilometers) long and just a few miles wide in the heart of the state's world-famous wine country. The region hosts several hundred wineries, many of which offer tours -- one such spot, the Spring Mountain Vineyard, was voted one of Napa's best by Food and Wine magazine. Its tour, which costs $25 per person, takes you through caves, vineyards, a barn-full of winemaking artifacts, and ends with a tasting at the Victorian mansion once featured on the 1980s soap opera "Falcon Crest."
For a classic Napa dining experience, make a reservation at Angele, an elegant French bistro in a delightfully weathered, 100-year-old former boathouse. Sit out on the patio in the shade of trellised grapevines, and enjoy dishes like roast chicken with mustard seed gnocchi and summer berry clafoutis as you look out over the sparkling Napa River. For your romantic stay in the valley, nowhere provides the rustic privacy of the Calistoga Ranch in northern Napa Valley. The resort is located on 157 acres (0.6 square kilometers) of a secluded side canyon just outside the town from which it gets its name. Guests stay in separate cabin-style bungalows, giving you and your sweetheart the alone time that you need.
When honeymooning outside of the United States, American couples' favorite destination is the Caribbean, and no country in that region is visited more heavily than The Bahamas. Of course, this means bigger crowds than other islands in the region, so try to avoid the weeks around Christmas and spring break when crowds spike. Sample traditional Bahamian cuisine like conch salad, fried grouper burgers, and stone crab claws at Goldies on Arawak Cay, just west of downtown Nassau. There's no shortage of mega-resorts like Sandals or Atlantis on the tiny island nation, but if you're seeking a more intimate stay, look for smaller accommodations like the Rock House. Once a schoolhouse, this tiny hotel consists of just nine rooms and sits high on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic. Here you'll enjoy massages by the pool, horse rides by the ocean, fishing trips on chartered yachts, and picnics on the beach catered by the hotel's chef.
Of course, what brings people to the Bahamas time and again is the beautiful beach scenery. Snuggle up with your significant other and enjoy a sunset on the beach at Landfall Park, San Salvador Island. Here, on Fernandez Bay, a simple stone cross marking Christopher Columbus' first landfall in the New World provides an excellent foreground for the day's last orange rays.
What list of romantic places is complete without Paris? French art, architecture, cuisine and language embody the idea of romance in popular culture, and the City of Lights is at its heart. Unfortunately, the French must know they have something special in Paris, because the city can be rather expensive. You can stay at the 400-year-old Pavillon de Reine, an ivy-covered landmark whose rooms have beamed ceilings and start at more $400 a night. If you've still got any money left, take a dinner cruise down the Seine on the 164-foot Don Juan II -- at around $600 for a couple.
If your budget is a bit tighter, check into L'Hotel du Petit Moulin for $180 a night, and enjoy French cuisine by the fire at Le Coupe Chou, where a dinner for two runs about $80. During the day, check out the hot-air balloon at Andre Citroen Park, which, though tethered, rises nearly 500 feet (150 meters) into the air and provides excellent views of the city.
Of course, no romantic trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the country's greatest tourist cliché, the Eiffel Tower. Built for the 1889 World's Fair, the 324-foot-tall (100 meter) structure says Paris like nothing else can. Finish the day's romance on the Pont des Arts bridge, watching the sun set over the shimmering Grand Palais.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
A lot has changed on the tiny Pacific island of Bora Bora since it served as a refueling base for American troops in World War II. Long gone are the guns, warships and hostility. In their place emerged over-water bungalows, sailboats and a general serenity, earning Bora Bora the nickname "the Romantic Island." It's the definition of an island paradise, and consists of a lush, green central island surrounded by a turquoise lagoon and a coral reef. Water temperature in the lagoon fluctuate just five degrees all year -- from 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) in the winter to 84 Fahrenheit (29 Celsuis) in the summer. In fact, Bora Bora is so beautiful and the weather so ideal that some of the soldiers stationed on the island during World War II refused to go home when the war ended.
You and your loved one won't want to leave, either, after a night in an over-water hut at the luxurious Bora Bora Hotel, which puts snorkeling and swimming just off your front porch. At mealtime, try a local dish concocted from sweet coconut, vanilla and seafood, but be sure to find your way to Bloody Mary's, an American-style restaurant where you might just run into a celebrity. Other activities include shark-feeding expeditions and sunset tours around the island in traditional Polynesian outriggers. Perhaps the ideal romantic getaway, Bora Bora lacks the loud culture and wild nightlife of many Pacific and Caribbean islands, giving it a peaceful reputation that is ideal for travelers seeking love.
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