Chocolates, petal-strewn suites, sandy beaches – yawn. Your love is unique, so dodge the cliches with a Valentine’s Day break that caters to the quirks of your coupledom.
From obvious romantic destinations littered with proposals to those spots that you might not have considered for spending time with your beloved, be inspired by these top places to visit on Valentine’s Day.
1. Adrenaline seekers will love Krabi, Thailand
If the thought of a candlelit meal or spa treatment has you tapping your feet with boredom, bond over a shared challenge this Valentine’s Day. Krabi on southern Thailand’s west coast has adventure rippling through its every limestone cliff. In the space of a few days, you can scale caves, zip line through forests, go canoeing, trek jungles and try quad biking. Start with a climb up the karst with views of Railay beach (for those who dare to look down) or explore the forest trail towards Tiger Cave Temple. After all that activity, you can always flop onto a beach at the end of the day, and Krabi’s Hat Tham Phra Nang is the perfect place to do just that.
2. Find medieval romance in Carcassonne, France
Would you and your lover have been better born in another era, when corsets were tight, armor was polished and the likelihood of death by bubonic plague was… never mind. Step over a drawbridge and back in time to fairy-tale Carcassonne in southern France. In summer armies of tourists storm this fortified city; but mid-February is well out of high season so free your imagination as you and your beloved roam its medieval turrets. Carcassonne sprawls well beyond the old town, so choose your hotel location carefully – luxurious Hôtel du Château is just at the entrance of the medieval city, and sure to meet the expectations of Valentine’s lovers.
3. Craft-beer lovers will be satisfied in Portland, Oregon
If roses and red wine leave you cold, head to Portland, the heartland of amber nectar. Proudly eccentric Portland has been a craft-brew capital for decades, and with the highest concentration of breweries in the world you won’t be short of choice. Take a brewery tour if you want to sip a whole bunch. But if boozy bus rides take the fizz out of your couple’s getaway, Portland’s haunts are easily discovered on foot.
4. Gaze at the stars from Mauna Kea, Hawaii
The universe is vast, but somehow you found each other. Hawaii’s clear skies are ideal for gazing upwards at a sky blanketed in stars and contemplating your place in the cosmos, whether you’re dreamers or devoted astronomers. Head to the sacred hill of Mauna Kea where the summit is so high, dry and dark that it’s possible to gaze deep into the universe and enjoy some of the world’s most inspired starry skies.
5. Keep conversations lively in Cambridge, England
If your love bloomed over torrid prose and pub philosophy, then you need a vacation with intellectual clout. Where better, then, than one of England’s most historic university cities? Cambridge nurtured intellectuals and major talents, including Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Emma Thompson and Naomie Harris, over its 800-year history and scholarly debates continue to echo off the walls of every pub. Snuggle up in a punt for a guided boat tour past university icons like King’s College chapel and under the Bridge of Sighs, with a commentary by one of Cambridge’s modern brainiacs (many of the guides are current students).
6. Escape to Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
Many of us would gladly lace up our hiking boots to escape the Valentine’s frou-frou. Isolationists should seek out the rugged wilderness of Cradle Mountain National Park in Australia’s island state. Even a half-day hike allows a glimpse of Tasmania’s remote beauty; but if you’re experienced hikers, take on the challenging Overland Track. Against Cradle Mountain’s forbidding silhouette, with nothing around you but miles of brushland and mirror lakes, you’ll feel like the only two people on Earth.
7. Add some mystery at a masked ball in Venice, Italy
For lovers who like to mix things up, nothing can match the frisson of a masked ball. The world’s most decadent carnival takes place every February among the gilded domes, palaces and canal-lined piazzas of Venice. Don a Venetian mask, dress to the nines and submit to the hedonistic atmosphere: you’ll see gondola processions, elegant period costumes and outdoor theater, including the traditional Flight of the Angel – a zip wire performance above Piazza San Marco – all in the lead up to the unmissable Grand Masked Ball (Gran Ballo delle Maschere).