During my travels I encountered a few newlywed couples on their honeymoons. These couples were invariably fit, supremely happy, and Australian. Sharing the natural and cultural wonders of the world with your beloved is one of the best things in life((albeit not as good as crushing your enemies and seeing them driven before you))– so much so that sometimes exploring the world solo seems a little lacking by comparison.
It was four months into my trip while hiking through Patagonia that I realized I was fortunate in a different way: the opportunity to spend so much time with yourself is like a honeymoon-for-one. A solo honeymoon sounds like a sad oxymoron, but it’s a chance to really get to know yourself, develop your independence, and build some great memories by yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the only one guaranteed to last a lifetime, so it’s worth putting some effort into.
That said, I often found myself in places that would definitely rate as honeymoon-caliber romantic getaways. Here’s an unordered scouting report on some good ones:
Go chasing waterfalls and rainbows. Seeing the waterfalls lit up under the full moon is a good idea if you time it right.
Just about every village along the 125 mile Haute Route hike between Chamonix and Zermatt is idyllic, but Arolla’s flowers were especially nice. The Swiss are a famously unromantic people, but maybe the high quality of their chocolate is to compensate.
Stereotypically romantic, and for good reason. Go to art museums, watch the sunset, leap across rooftops chasing your quarry, and get gelato.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
Once you go beyond the inner Islands of Eternal Spring Break, you’ll get to utterly unspoilt beaches with the softest sand I’ve ever laid toes into. I later heard that the beaches were abandoned because a man with a machete was attacking tourists, but a little danger only heightens the romance!
The tree house I stayed in was very much to my liking, but there are also some swanky bungalows only accessible by boat if you really want to feel trapped in paradise.
San Blas Islands, Panama/Colombia
The crossing from Panama to Colombia is best made by sea. Charter a sailboat filled with sexy international adventurous types and rum, spend a couple days island hopping from one white sand paradise to another, and experience the sort of reality that inspires reality TV. (All romantic rivalries are adjudicated via beach volley ball.)
Gateway to the Trolltunga hikes, Odda and the other towns on the fjord have some nice Wes Anderson style hotels and perfectly cozy cabins in the mountains. Public transportation is limited, so I was very glad to hitchhike/third-wheel with two Brits on their engagement trip. Make sure your lover can carry their own weight, and bring a two-person tent so you can cuddle against the sub-freezing temperatures between cabins.
The smallest and least accessible town in Cinque Terre, Corniglia avoids the worst of the crowds. Pesto originated in nearby Genoa, so order it with every meal.
Home of Gabriel García Márquez, Cartagena’s not a bad place to author your own magic realism story on the shores of the Caribbean.
Bushmills, Northern Ireland
When it’s sunny, go on delightful strolls through the green hills of Antrim and the Giant’s Causeway. When it’s rainy, drink lots of whisky and enjoy the pubs. This place looks like the Shire.
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
I cropped this woman’s boyfriend out of the shot because he was wearing an ugly shirt, but they did appear very happy together.
El Chaltén, Argentina
If your new spouse’s soul isn’t moved by the natural grandeur around here, it’s not too late for an annulment. I met a couple in their 70s hiking it; they were living life right.
Easter Island, Chile
This is geographically as far as you can get away from it all, and the volcanic craters and Moai statues make you feel like you’ve been transported to an alien paradise planet. Watch the sunrise over the fourteen stone sentinels at Ahu Tongariki and see if that doesn’t make you feel like a small part of a big, beautiful, mysterious universe.
All the hype about Tuscany is deserved, and Lucca’s my favorite city of all in the region. Climb the tower of the tree, ride a bike on the city walls, listen to the nightly Puccini concert. Definitely a Tier 1 Romance-Zone.
Venture into the Arctic circle and rent one of the cute red fishermen’s cabins (rorbu) for outrageous Norwegian prices. I’ll be returning someday in the winter so I can catch the northern lights play above Reine’s otherworldly peaks. Climb the mountains for an even better view, but don’t let your lover fall to her death– the unofficial trail is steep, slippery, and ill-maintained.
The nearby village of Henningsvær is also noteworthy for its disproportionate share of super hardcore (100+ countries) travelers who’ve decided to settle down here. Whatever they were looking for, they feel that this village at the end of the northern world has it.
Italy gets yet another nod. The most developed of the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily, Lipari is a surprisingly affordable Mediterranean paradise. Ride a Vespa around the island and earn Instagram likes. Go shopping for fresh fish everyday from the locals. Take the hydrofoil to Stromboli to see a volcano erupt right beneath you, and try some of the most delicious Neapolitan pizza in the world.((Seriously, this pizza made me feel surges of love/lust/protectiveness that I’ve never felt outside a serious human relationship.))
Right now in February is the rainy season, which briefly turns Uyuni’s salt flats into an infinite mirror. Between the salt flats, red algae and borax lakes, hot springs, and dazzlingly bright stars, Uyuni’s one of the most unusual places on Earth. Not recommended for proposals, though; the salt will ruin your pants when you kneel.
Other useful notes: Paris could be romantic, if not for all the Parisians. London and Rome are very worth checking out, but not especially romantic to me. Dubrovnik is beautiful, but too crowded in summer. Nice is more crowded, but nearby Ville France sur Mer could easily make the list.
Want to upgrade from a solo honeymoon to standard? Best cities to find a date: Buenos Aires, Milan.
Want to downsize? Best cities to get your partner kidnapped: San Salvador, Managua.