Travel Experts Say This Unexpected Honeymoon Destination Is Equal Parts Romantic & Affordable
It’s highly recommended.
Last year, the New York Times reported that the “dream” honeymoon has returned; in other words, couples are ditching frugality and small trips again in favor of far-flung, romantic getaways. As it noted, plenty of evidence supports this — according to a stat from a 2021 WeddingWire report, “more than 70% of couples who married last year went on or are planning to go on a post-wedding getaway, a figure that is up almost 20% from 2020 and back to pre-p
andemic levels.” This is no doubt exciting if you fall into that boat. Yet it also means that you’re probably going to be traveling at the same time as millions of other couples all heading to the same tired locations, which can make for a crowded and stressful experience. Thus, you may want to check out some incredible honeymoon destinations you’ve never considered before — and fortunately, TZR got the lowdown from experts in the industry on a few of the best.
For Liz Norment, wedding officiant and honeymoon planner at Have Lover, Will Travel, those suggestions are rooted in what her clients are currently seeking: energy, solitude, and compassion.
According to the planner, many are looking to experience the true culture and beauty of places at the moment, rather than the traditional “all-inclusive” resort — they want to learn and explore and feel. “We want to have a hands-on experience; we’re looking for a destination that is dynamic,” she explains.
That said, she maintains that “solitude is sexy” at the moment. “Sure, experiencing a foreign city still has its appeal, but as the ability to travel to ‘hubs’ changes almost daily, finding places that are off the beaten path becomes more appealing,” explains Norment. Thus, she continues, couples are planning vacations by first choosing a hub, and then planning day or road trips from those locations. “They are looking for freedom and the ability to either walk around and explore a destination all day or drive for a few hours and be transported to a completely different place, culture, feeling, and experience.”
As for the compassion aspect of travel? Norment explains that in the past two years, “We have felt more connected to humanity as we are all experiencing, suffering from, and fearful of the exact same yet formerly unknown enemy... So now, travelers are seeking to give more than simply take from a destination. We want to give back by wandering around farmers’ markets, experiencing local fare, sharing in those experiences locals are proud of, and hear and share stories. We want to be mindful tourists. We want to feel connected.”
While travel planning has picked back up and new trends are emerging, it doesn’t change the fact that designing a vacation right now — especially one tied to a wedding — is challenging and uncertain. Because of this, Norment offers a few tips on how to manage the process successfully.
Perhaps most importantly, have an open mind. “I’ve been working with my clients to focus equally on destinations AND dates,” she says. “This means that if it’s most important to have the getaway just after the big day, let’s put a flexible plan in place to an ‘exotic’ destination, and also a backup plan somewhere locally.” Of course, using a certified travel advisor will also help, since it ensures “that a professional is in control of the unpredictable.”
And finally, always remember why we travel in the first place. “This is especially key for honeymoons! We travel to connect with our lover, to learn about a place but also to learn more about each other,” shares Norment. Five incredible places to do that, ahead.
“[Iceland is] an unusual, unforgettable, and quite otherworldly, lunar-like landscape, and is a surprisingly accessible (thanks to Icelandair’s extensive flight network) year-round destination with direct flights from NYC that take around five hours,” Carolyn Addison, Head of Product at luxury trip planner Black Tomato, tells TZR. “It has that bucket-list feel, so it’s ideal for honeymooners.”
Where To Stay: “For an Icelandic twist on the traditional plunge pool,” stay at the The Retreat Hotel at Blue Lagoon, says Addison. “Lagoon Suites have direct access from their terraces straight into the hotel’s private lagoon, so you won’t have to share it with tourists.” You’d also be remiss not to check out the new EDITION Hotel in Reykjavik, she continues: “Chic, minimalist, with that signature scent, it has been making waves since it opened in November and is an ideal, and very chilled-out, city respite.”
Want the best of both worlds? Addison recommends Torfhús Retreat, which is “nestled in the rural landscape of Selfoss” and looks straight out of a fairy tale. “Secluded and alluring, yet still conveniently close to Iceland’s unmissable Golden Circle and a 90-minute drive from Reykjavik. Zero light pollution makes Torfhús Retreat a superb destination for stargazing and getting a glimpse of the jaw-dropping Aurora.”
What To Do: Norment recommends taking a road trip around the Golden Circle, explaining that you should plan all the stops and stay-overs along the way. She also includes plenty more nature exploration in her list of recommendations, such as self-guided glacier hikes, exploring black sand beaches, bathing in the Blue Lagoon, and submerging yourself in the Reykjadalur hot springs, among others.
Are you and your partner design lovers, adventurers, or foodies? Addison says Morocco is the place for you. Plus, she continues, it has “a level of comfort and luxury that might surprise some not as familiar with the destination.”
Where To Stay: “Rest up after the wedding chaos in a private riad at the opulent Royal Mansour,” says Addison. “Then head to the Atlas Mountains for hiking, cooking classes, and sprawling views at Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot.”
Another standout, she says? The “inimitable Dar Ahlam,” which is “an easy 30-minute drive from Ouarzazate International Airport, making it an incredible location from which to tour both the Dadès and Drâa valleys.” (And, of course, lounge by the pool.)
What To Do: Addison gushes over the “many amazing experiences” you can find in Morocco. However, her favorites include “creating your own signature honeymoon scent in a private perfumier masterclass in Marrakech, riding a vintage side car into the desert for an overnight in a private camp in the Scarabeo desert for stargazing, camel rides, and dinner by firelight. Dreamy.”
“Truly hard to beat food and wine programs coupled with gorgeous scenery, great nightlife, and a huge range of unique experiences, which make Argentina a no-brainer, especially if you are getting married in the Northern winter,” explains Addison. Plus, she continues, Argentina can easily be paired with a visit to Chile. “Both offer stunning landscapes and amazing experiences.”
Where To Stay: “Stay at the playful Faena [in Buenos Aires], where there’s always great, buzzy energy poolside — it’s also home to one of the city’s best tango shows,” she says. “Next, check into The Vines in Mendoza’s Valle de Uco for dinner at Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos and endless views over the vineyards and mountains beyond.”
What To Do: If you’re feeling energetic, Addison recommends signing up for tango lessons. And for the less coordinated? “A speakeasy tour of Buenos Aires’ best hidden bars is definitely a highlight.” Then, in Mendoza, “cycling in the region’s incredible vineyards or exploring in a vintage 2CV before blending your own wine to commemorate your honeymoon would be right up there as well,” she says.
As Norment notes, Portugal may be small, but it has tons to offer. Plus, she says, it’s super romantic while still being one of the most affordable places to visit in Europe.
Where To Stay: Norment has several favorites, but among them are the Memmo Príncipe Real in Lisbon (“romantic, design-led, and captivating,” she says), and the Vila Joya, which she describes as “the best way to experience the Algarve.”
She’s also a fan of the the PortoBay Flores Hotel in Porto because the “tranquil space embodies the magic of the city,” and Sobreiras in Alentejo, a “peaceful 22-room property with private cottage-like minimalist suites and an enchanting pool.”
What To Do: “My favorite trip in Portugal for [those] who love food, wine, and culture is to fly into Porto and then spend time exploring the Alentejo wine region and the stunning, museum-like town of Évora,” Norment continues. “For those seeking a bigger-city energy and stunning coastal experience, fly into Lisbon and explore Sintra and Cascais. From there, drive down the coast to the stunning beaches and charming villages of the Algarve.”
The road trip has officially returned, and yes — there can be romance in the endless discovery, notes Norment. Her clients’ favorite journeys include a 10-day trip through the Southwest: Start in Austin, end in Joshua Tree, and take in New Mexico and Arizona along the way. “Think retro-chic hotels to vintage ‘glamping’ experiences, long stretches of flat roads dotted with cacti, and plenty of room to breathe and unwind together.”
Where To Stay: Norment has plenty of favorites for places to stay throughout your trip. In Austin, “The Heywood Hotel, Austin Motel, and Carpenter Hotel all embrace the funky, artistic, retro-Western vibe of the city,” she says. Then drive into New Mexico and stay in a dome house for “for isolation and uninterrupted star gazing.”
Next stop: Arizona, where luxury seekers can relax at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and “unwind with world-class spa treatments.” Finally, head to Joshua Tree and check into The Castle House Estate — “a romantic ‘glamping’-style experience in castle-like ‘turrets.’”
What To Do: Norment says to start with art and live music in Austin, and catch the “nightly bat exodus from the Congress Avenue Bridge.” In New Mexico, “hike forest trails, seek moose and elk (from a distance!), and camp beneath the stars” in the Lincoln National Forest. In Phoenix, visit Camelback Mountain’s “renowned spas” and take in the Desert Botanical Garden.
Then, finish up your trip with one (or several) of the activities Joshua Tree has to offer. “Hike and discover waterfalls in Cottonwood Spring, pop into Joshua Tree Bottle Shop and choose a carefully curated bottle of natural wine, and then watch the sun set over the desert,” says Norment.