Romance and travel are linked in more ways than one. The former brings about an emotional intensity and a yearning for togetherness with your loved one in a bubble of seclusion, something that is best provided by a ticket to the nearest island nation. No wonder, then, that scores of Mills and Boon books work on the same theme, where the gorgeous hero and his lady love escape to a picturesque destination and rediscover their passions far away from the travails of everyday life. Here are my top spots to visit for romantic experiences in all their varied hues and flavours.
By the sea | Amalfi Coast, Italy
The beautiful Costa Amalfitana whispers romance along every turn on the winding coast-hugging highway south of Napoli. Dotted with picturesque villages stuck to the edges of rugged green hills, complete with bougainvillea-laden villas cantilevered over the shimmering sea, you can almost imagine yourself inside a Gran Turismo ride. Take your loved one on a walk along the cobblestoned streets of Sorrento, Positano or Amalfi, shopping at tiny boutiques, and parking yourself under the occasional roadside tree. Stop by the ancient ruins of Pompeii in the shadows of the Vesuvius, following by a boat ride across the blue-green sea to the fabulous isle of Capri.
THEATRE GOERS The Amalfi Musical
HISTORY BUFFS The Giardini di Villa Rufolo
NATURE LOVERS Valle dei Mulini Amalfi
LOVE FOR FOOD | Australia There is an openness to experimentation and a culinary affection among individual elements that make Australia such a gastronomic delight for nouvelle cuisine, and this was known much before MasterChef Australia even came about. Coasts, cowboy countrysides and chic cities define this large country. Try a kangaroo steak under the stars in the shadow of a looming Uluru, or enjoy freshly caught barramundi or mud crabs at a tucked away coastal town. Enjoy authentic dishes from the kitchens of Asian, European and Middle Eastern migrants, or savour fusion cuisines in eclectic restaurants by the harbour.
THEATRE GOERS Sydney Opera House
SHOPPER'S STOP Queen Victoria Market
NATURE LOVERS Kakadu National Park
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD | Scotland
Give the bustling cathedrals and castles of Edinburgh and Glasgow a miss and head for the atmospheric countryside. Millenniums of history and legends breathe life into the Scottish highlands, and along their tortuous firths. Stop at peaty gurgling brooks and stone-carved distilleries along the Whiskey Trail. Explore ruined castles and palatial homes in sleepy hamlets, finding space and time for solitude. Drive past the purple-brown moors and dense green hills, deep lochs and little inlets of the north and the west. Tee off in one of the original greens alongthe eastern side. It's easy to imagine peace and togetherness in this wild and scenic region. Even if you aren't keen on the haggis, do make it a point to try their melt-in-the-mouth fudge.
WATER RATS Loch Ness lake
HISTORY BUFFS Edinburgh Castle
BOOZE TRAIL Scotch Whisky Heritage Lovers
ISLAND GETAWAY | Caribbean Islands
Nothing conjures romance better than spending some time on a washed away isle in warm waters, or sinking your feet in soft golden or pink sands outside your secluded beach villa. No wonder, then, that it's a favourite among jetsetters looking for down time. Though the Caribbean offers many an option, you will do well to skip the glitz and glamour of Riviera casinos and - instead - opt for some together-time on a castaway island. From the reggae beats and Indian-African influenced foods of Jamaica to the utter seclusion of the Virgin Islands, you can find your own personal beach haven.
WINTER ESCAPE | Switzerland
Nothing works better than this winter wonderland to soak in the chills and thrills of the season. The sweeping panorama of majestic peaks, snow-laden slopes, picturesque cottages, dense green fir trees and frozen waterfalls can be seen as soon as you wind uphill from the cities. Once on top, settle down in an après ski chalet over a nice mug of hot chocolate or warm beer. Rub shoulders with the hip and the happening at the fashionable resorts of Mt Blanc, Zermatt or the Jungfrau. Relax in the quiet grandeur of the terrain in the Arosa or Davos Parsenn regions.
MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS Bernese Alps
HISTORY BUFFS Château de Chillon
NATURE LOVERS Zoo Basel
DESERT KINGDOM | Oman
Desert kingdoms offer an exotic blend of warm seaside and rugged interiors. As a safe and beautiful sultanate close to India, Oman offers some very delightful escapes. Experience the adventure of dune-bashing in the sands in the evening and sit by a spitting bonfire under the starry skies before retiring into a beautifully embroidered tent in a Wadi oasis. Soak in the luxury of a coastal resort and swim, snorkel or walk along the beach. Eat like a Sheikh and Sheikhina and discover the spit-roasted meats and grilled vegetables with warm pitas or pilaffs studded with olives and apricots from the desert.
THEATRE GOERS Royal Opera House, Muscat
HISTORY BUFFS Misfah
NATURE LOVERS Barka Zoo