20 years ago it was easy. Whisk your partner away to Paris or New York, splurge on a luxury hotel, and have the champagne waiting on ice.
But that’s so predictable. You might as well buy a bouquet of roses, drop down on one knee, and scream “I’ve got the imagination and excitement of my parents…”
Think about it: if your romantic breaks are boring now, imagine what they’re going to be like in 20 years time. So let’s make things more interesting. Let’s head off to the weird and wonderful romantic destinations, places forever memorable without resorting to romantic cliches.
1. TRANSYLVANIA’S CASTLES
Perfect for: Recreating a fairy-tale.
Disneyland isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a fairy-tale castle setting. Dracula hails from Transylvania, a Romanian region of medieval splendor where every woman can play at being Rapunzel. Play it right and there will long days shacked up in some of the converted castle rooms. Play it wrong and the maiden will be throwing her hair out of the window looking for a new date.
2. SKYDIVING OVER MOUNT EVEREST
Perfect for: An unforgettable honeymoon.
The essential rule with romance is that it has to be bigger and better than what’s gone before. And there’s nothing grander that skydiving over the world’s biggest mountain. You descend beside Everest and land at a clearing that’s completely surrounded by snowy peaks. The only problem is the limited oxygen up here, meaning the bedroom action has to be of the slow and cuddly variety.
3. SCOTTISH HIGHLAND DISTILLERIES
Perfect for: young romance.
Providing you avoid the dumb American tourists searching for the Loch Ness Monster, the Scottish Highlands are liberally sprinkled with iconic loved up landscapes; a medieval castle over there, a field of purple heather here, and a dozen whiskey distilleries in the foreground. Drunken antics are always ice breakers for future romance and many a couple can be found getting it on after a day of tasting. Each distillery has a timeless setting, with thick oak bars and highland views that Sean Connery would be proud of. And as the single malts keep coming, young romance blossoms.
4. AN INFLATABLE BALL IN FRANCE
Perfect for: Exhibitionists.
Any of the world’s most unusual hotel rooms would make for a weird romantic break, except perhaps for the hotel where you pretend to be a hamster and sleep in a wheel. But for showing off, check out the giant transparent balls that are starting to dot the French country landscape. Yes, it’s see through and maybe there’s people walking past. But if you’re into a little exhibitionism then this is a place to do it legally.
5. AN INDIAN COLOR FESTIVAL
Perfect for: Losing inhibitions.
A few times a year, the mental Indians throw paint at each other in flamboyant displays of spirituality. Essentially, everyone gets coated in paint and some serious groping takes place as you start smearing the red and yellow into your romantic friend. It’s fun, adventurous, and also strangely hypnotic. After the madness, turn spirituality on its head by getting frisky in the deserted rooms of an Indian temple. Another similar options could be La Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight that takes place in Spain.
6. AN IRISH GYPSY CARAVAN
Perfect for: Proving you’re unique.
If you’ve seen My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding then you’ll know that the battered outsides of caravans often hide luxury on the inside. All across Ireland you can hire traditional gypsy caravans, the kind of accommodation that is becoming hip and cool as it loses its squalid tag.
Ireland is a lush green country, ideal for languid strolls through a bygone era. Turn off the phone, forget about wifi, and enjoy a few nights in some seriously unique accommodation.
7. BOULDER’S BEACH, SOUTH AFRICA
Perfect for: Sharing the romance.
Most couples dream of deserted white sand where they can wallow without interruption.
Boulder’s Beach, near Cape Town, certainly doesn’t fulfill this reverie. It’s absolutely packed and you’ll need to maneuver yourself cleverly to put the beach towels down. But it’s not packed with people. The sand is covered in jackass penguins. You can even join them by diving off the rock and returning to your partner with a freshly caught fish. Well, maybe not.
However, it’s the place to go for an unusual beach break.
8. QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
Perfect for: Breathing new life into a relationship.
Surrounded by fjords on New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown is the self-proclaimed adrenalin capital of the world. This was where bungee jumping started and there’s five jumps to choose from, including some of the world’s first ever tandem bungees. When you’re finished with the bungee, choose to go jet boating, white water kayaking, skydiving, glacier climbing, or heliskiing. If your relationship isn’t getting your heart racing at the moment, Queenstown should inject it with new life.
9. MOSCOW’S METRO STATIONS
Perfect for: Art and adventure.
Anyone claiming an art gallery is romantic evidently hasn’t been on a date since 1962. The paintings might be nice, but the atmosphere is so sterile. Moscow’s metro stations are staggering works of art, filled with ornate sculptures and paintings that were intended to prove that the Soviet Union was the world’s greatest nation. And unlike the police presence above ground, you’ll have plenty of romantic peace as you take the metro between these immense exemplars of communist indulgence.
10. LAS VEGAS
Perfect for: Testing longevity.
Gambling alone is a mug’s game, saved for sad losers looking to blitz their cash. But gambling together imitates the ups and downs of romance. Put it all on red and laugh your way forward as the roulette wheel spins in your favor. Then lose it all and it’s still been an adventure. Just make sure you pay for the hotel room in advance. It would be a seriously weird romantic break if you were sleeping on the street.
11. A BRAZILIAN CARNIVAL THAT ISN’T RIO
Perfect for: Color and intimacy.
There’s probably half a million couples heading off to Rio for the carnival next year, all expecting bliss and then discovering that the streets are so crowded you lose each other within 20 seconds. Rio is the famous one but every town and village in Brazil has a carnival in the week before lent. So get out into the sticks and experience the atmosphere at a small jungle village, where just a few thousand gather for a few days of color and partying. It’s unusual, unique, and there’s no drunken locals grabbing your ass.
12. A CONVERTED BOMB SHELTER
Perfect for: Partying in a weird setting.
It wasn’t that many decades ago that you had to run into the bomb shelter filled with fear. Now you can dance into one (or two or three) and feel the bass reverberate off its walls. A number of bomb shelters have been converted to clubs, making for an unusual place to party the night away. Try The Shelter in Shanghai, Bunker 42 in Moscow, or B018 in Beirut.