1. Santorini, Greece
Santorini takes sunsets and long walks on the beach to another level with its one-of-a-kind whitewashed villages, red sand beaches and awe-inspiring views. Hike through the west coast of the city between the villages of Fira and Oia to avail some of the best viewing spots of the island, especially for the gold painted sky over the gorgeous chalk-white buildings of Oia during sunsets. You can also visit the ruins of the 15th century Byzantine Castle in Oia. Wander around at one of the most unique beaches in the world, the Red Beach. It is a must-see for its spectacular red cliffs and prominent red sand.
[Travel guide to 9 sacred landscapes]
Right on the cliffside of Oia stands Canavas Oia Hotel offering luxury rooms, infinity pools and a ‘Romance abounds’ package for Dh1,012 per night which offers sparkling wine, chocolates, balloons and rose petals on your arrival. Additional activities such as couples massage, and sunset sailing cruises are available for separate charges.
Getting there: Etihad + Olympic Air (1 stop in Athens), return trip for Dh4,803 per person.
2. Kyoto, Japan
Much like the dew that coats the city after a wintery rain, history coats every crevice and nook of Kyoto. Life in the erstwhile imperial capital of Japan unfolds at a slower pace than the rest of the futuristic nation, setting the perfect rhythm for a romantic getaway – enjoy leisurely strolls through otherworldly bamboo groves such as the Arashiyama Bamboo grove; step back in time during a visit to the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousand red torri (traditional Japanese) gates or head over to the Shinesen-en Garden, the oldest existing garden in Kyoto. Several shrines in Kyoto have made a reputation for themselves to be lucky for love. One such shrine is the Jishu Shrine – also dubbed as “the Cupid of Japan”.
Unwind yourself at the end of the day at the Kyomachiya Hotel, a quiet retreat located not far from the grand Imperial Palace. Experience a rare 100-year-old townhouse turned hotel with contemporary Japanese architecture, authentic food and enchanting private gardens to maximise your experience. Rooms from Dh1,099 a night.
No trip to Japan is complete without walking under the pink canopy of Cherry blossom flowers, luckily White Day (a two-part holiday celebrated in parts of East Asia where men give gifts to women as an expression of love as opposed to Valentine’s Day where women are expected give gifts to men they like) falls on March 14th, just in time to come back to Kyoto to watch the Sakuras bloom.
Getting there: Emirates flies to Kansai (Dh6,085 per person, return). Kyoto is 1 hour 30 mins away by road.
3. Cardiff, Wales
Fall in love this romantic weekend in Cardiff’s Victorian setting. From gothic castles such as the Cardiff Castle to museums showcasing the region’s rich history, Cardiff is a treasure-trove of heritage. That’s not all, Cardiff has a buzzing night life – cosy bars, romantic restaurants and quaint cafes are proof. If shopping is what you are looking for, a visit to “City of Arcades” is a must.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a snug little boat ride at Cardiff Bay or a stroll through the Rose Garden in Roath Park.
VOCO St. David’s is the destination to treat yourself and your partner as it offers various spa and dining offers this Valentine’s. The rejuvenating ‘Couple’s Paradise spa day’ package includes a 50-minute hot coconut poultice massage each, a two-course dinner overlooking Cardiff Bay, and full use of the spa facilities. The luxury hotel is also at a convenient distance to local transport links. Book a room starting from Dh707 per night.
Getting there: Air France + Flybe (1 stop in Paris). Dh5,715 per person, return.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
A couple that goes on adventures together, stays together – and the Dutch capital is just the candidate for your Valentine getaway with its numerous activities and attractions waiting to be explored. Hop on a tandem bike, available at several rentals located throughout the city, for a fun and active way to experience the city together. Tour through the shops down De 9 Straatjes, a neighbourhood consisting nine streets to explore some of the best museums, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. If you’re in for a more laid-back day, take a boat ride on the canals of the city with your partner. Remember to stop by the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) while you’re at it, legend has it that couples who spend time under the bridge will be together forever.
A visit to the renowned Van Gogh museum is a must if you are an art enthusiast. It is home to some of Van Gogh’s greatest works such as The Bedroom and The Yellow House.
The Hotel Pulitzer, a luxury property in the Canal Loop of Amsterdam, is offering a special Valentine’s weekend package which includes a two-night stay in the suite of your choice, with a chance to renew you vows in a wedding ceremony, a three-course dinner, and breakfast in bed all for Dh16,790. The hotel has unique historic architecture, canal views, and is in walking distance from the Van Gogh Museum.
Getting there: Etihad has daily flights. Dh5,803 per person, return.
5. Geneva, Switzerland
You can’t skip the chocolates when it comes to February 14th so why gift those world-famous Swiss chocolates from a supermarket when you can satisfy your partner’s sweet-tooth cravings at one of the local gourmet chocolate shops in Geneva. A city that also has sweet delights to offer beyond the sugary treats – stroll around in the serenity of the city’s numerous botanical gardens and promenades such as Parc de la Grange or Parc des Eaux-Vives.
Admire the splendour of nature at the spectacle that is Lake Geneva, Switzerland’s largest lake. On the shores of the lake also stands the beautiful Chillon Castle – a medieval fortress that is over 400 years old. Conveniently set on the shore line of Lake Geneva, Le Richemond offers a breath-taking view of the renowned Geneva water fountain – Jet d’Eau and the highest European mountain Mont Blanc. They have a special Valentine’s Day offer called “That most important thing: Love” which includes a one-night stay with breakfast, a special menu dinner, and also pampers you with discounts on spa treatments and romantic decoration in the room. Prices start from Dh2,237.
Getting there: Emirates has daily flights. Dh5,075 per person, return.
6. Wadi Rum, Jordan
Give homage to the tale of the star-crossed lovers as you spend a romantic night laying under the stars alongside your partner. The Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp, located in the heart of the Wadi Rum desert, is a luxury camp that offers you a chance to sleep amid the desert with a stunning view of the starry night sky in your private little bubble-designed room with 24-hours room service. Also known as the “Valley of the Moon”, its red-pink sands and stunning natural arcs and mountains will never make you want to leave. Live the local Bedouin life as you start your day with a magical sunrise over the mountainous horizon, a delicious Jordanian breakfast and have a chance to venture out into the desert for a camel ride. Have this once-in-a-lifetime experience with your loved one at the Full of Stars hotel room, bubble-designed tents starting from Dh1,166 per night.
Getting there: FlyDubai has direct flights to Amman. Dh1,575 per person, return. The camp is about 4 hours by car from Amman.
7. Bagan, Myanmar
Watch the city of Bagan unfurl before your eyes as you sour over it in a hot-air balloon. Still unexplored by most tourists, Old Bagan, also known as the ‘Sea of Temples’, is a hidden gem waiting to capture your heart. The popular hot-air balloon season, which goes on from October to April, gives tourists a mesmerising view of the historic temples, stupas and monasteries dating back to the 11th century. Some of the temples to visit are the Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest temple in the city or the Shwesandaw Temple for its beautiful views.
The Bagan Lodge is nestled amongst the best archaeological sites in the city. With luxury facilities inside the hotel and temples right on the doorstep, it is the perfect spot to relax and spoil yourself and your partner. The hotel includes spa services, swimming pool and jacuzzi, and a fitness centre. Villa room available from Dh716 per night with complimentary breakfast.
Getting there: FlyDubai has direct flights to Yangon. Dh2,398 per person, return. Old Bagan is nine-hour bus ride away.
8. Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Nicknamed ‘Little England’, Nuwara Eiya is a small city in Sri Lanka that encapsulates natural beauty like no other. Its lush green fields, numerous waterfalls, and scenic views is what makes it a perfect escape from the hectic city life. Hike up to one of the many beautiful waterfalls such as the Lovers Leap Fall or head out to the Gregory Lake for a quiet picnic by the waters. Visiting a tea estate is a must in Sri Lanka and Nuwara Eliya has the country’s best tea estates stretching out beyond the reach of your eyes. Relish the aromas of authentic Ceylon Tea at the Pedro Tea Estate or learn the art of tea making yourself at the Mackwoods tea Museum.
Restored in its original Georgian style country mansion with a contemporary Sri Lankan touch, Jetwing St. Andrew’s is a classic colonial accommodation. Rooms starting from Dh661 per night, including breakfast.
Getting there: Sri Lankan Airlines has daily flights to Colombo. Dh1,165 per person, return. Nuwara Eliya is four-and-a-half hours away by bus.
9. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai’s mountains, parks, and gardens towards the north spring to life as we move towards spring. A haven for adventurers, a treat for shoppers, and a must for foodies; the place has something for everybody. Take a romantic boat cruise along the Mae Ping River or take a dip in the waters of the Mae Sa Waterfalls located in San Doi Daen. Shop till you drop at the Warorot Market, the city’s oldest public market and a hub for mouth-watering Thai street food. If you’re an animal lover, head over to the Elephant rescue Park, a happy place for rescued elephants, situated in Green Valley.
End your day with a relaxing Thai couple massage at the luxury spas of Villa Mahabhirom. The hotel offers a 3 night stay in its villa deluxe for couples starting from Dh5,240 including breakfast.
Getting there: Thai Airways (1 stop in Bangkok). Dh3,085 per person, return.
10. Zanzibar City, Tanzania
Experience the same tropical paradise as Bali, Maldives or Bora Bora but at a less crowded and affordable location – Zanzibar City off the coast of Tanzania. A melting pot of Arabic and African cultures, with its tropical foliage and stunning beaches, Valentine’s in Zanzibar city is a dream come true. From the Unesco World Heritage-listed Stone Town – the heart and soul of Arabic architecture to Juzani Forest – the last indigenous forest left on the island, the city has enough to pack your day with unforgettable experiences. If you wish to go back in time, take the half-hour boat trip to the Changuu Island, a former quarantine station for slaves but now a serene tourist spot surrounded by white sand beaches. It home to the rare Aldabra giant tortoises as well. Indulge you taste buds with the unique cuisine of Zanzibar with delights like the coconut bean soup or the Date But bread.
Kisiwa House, an elegant mansion located in the centre of the Stone Town, it offers an ideal location for trips to the best attractions around the city – whether on land or water. Rooms available from Dh437 per night.
Getting there: Ethiopian Airlines has direct flights. Dh1,235 per person, return.