Tania Cagnoni picks the premiere honeymoon destinations, from a Scottish castle to a private Fiji island where boats may not dock, around the world.
Luxurious, secluded, romantic: Top 10 honeymoon spots
1. North Island, Seychelles
For white sand between your toes and away-from-it-all desert island seclusion, you can't do better than this. "Haute-couture Robinson Crusoe" is how co-architect Silvio Rech describes the North Island resort of 11 sleek, beachfront villas on a 3km-long Seychellois island, accessible only by helicopter. Newly weds Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge booked the whole island for their secret honeymoon last spring, at a cost of US$700,000 (Dh2.5m).
For those on a smaller budget, there are 10 individual 450-sq-m huts built from reclaimed wood and refurbished in designer colonial style, with four-poster beds swathed in white cotton, indoor-outdoor living spaces on beachside decks, white marshmallow-like daybeds and private plunge pools. The most exclusive is Villa 11, a vast designer dream created especially for honeymooners on the incline of Anse d'Est Beach.
Mingle with fellow desert islanders at the "piazza", with its 45-metre pool, dive centre, spa and dining terraces, hosted by your own Man Friday, one of the impeccably turned out and barefoot staff. Tour the island on bike or buggy - the island's indigenous ecosystem, created when the resort was built, doesn't forsake five-star mod-cons such as air-conditioning, electric buggies and Wi-Fi.
North Island Villas (www.north-island.com; 00 248 4 293 100) cost €2,115 (Dh11,152) per person per night, including all food, most beverages, scuba diving, snorkelling, mountain biking, kayaking, guided walks, a half-day fishing trip and taxes. Excludes helicopter transfers.
2. Northern Laikipia, Kenya
The sights and sounds of an African wilderness, home to more than 260 birds and 50 animal species, beckon guests at Loisaba Lodge in Northern Laikipia, Kenya (on the cover). Gaze across the Laikipia plateau at Mount Kenya, laze in the lodge's infinity pool, and spot elephants, zebras and lions at the watering hole from your private deck, but for the most wildly romantic experience, spend a night in a Loisaba "starbed". Friendly Samburu staff wheel beds out from under palm-thatches on platforms three metres above ground and 30m apart, ensuring total privacy in super-comfortable beds beneath vast skies, but well beyond the reach of the wildlife below.
Two camps containing four starbeds are a half-hour drive from Loisaba's 24,695-hectare ranch and game sanctuary, home to a seven-bedroom lodge, a private house and cottage, and where game drives, walks and camel and horse rides can be arranged for wildlife sightings.
Starbeds and doubles at Loisaba Lodge (www.loisaba.com) cost from $390 (Dh1,432) per person, per night (minimum two-night stay), full board, including transfers, game drives and bush walks. Honeymooners get a complimentary Jacuzzi experience and private dinner. Book through www.chelipeacock.com. Starbeds are not available in November.
You can sail into Venice, feted as one of the world's most romantic cities, by private boat direct from the quay at Marco Polo Airport and arrive in the mood for Carnevale, with its extravagant costumesand famous masked balls held in palaces along the Grand Canal (in February).
After a hard night's dancing, rest weary bodies at Palazzina Grassi, an aristocratic 15th-century palazzo and Italy's first Philippe Starck-designed hotel that merges ancient palace with creature comforts in lounges with eclectic designer chairs, modern Venini glass lamps and Doric columns, and mirrored walls with white leather sofas in all-white suites. Wander its smart residential district of narrow calle (alleys) where Casanova once lived and Venetian nobles still reside. A six-minute Vaporetto ride takes you to the acrobats, jugglers and masked masses animating St Mark's Square and Casanova hangout, Harry's Bar. Follow in the footsteps of the renowned lover on PG's private tours of secret Venice, or by arranging to dine at the home of a countess. The hotel has 15 rooms in the main building and six suite apartments adjoining, three with direct canal views. Book suite 201 for floor-to-ceiling canal views or, for total privacy, hire a suite-apartment in the building Johnny Depp lived in during the filming of The Tourist.
Doubles rooms at Palazzina Grassi cost from €320 (Dh1,659) per night, excluding breakfast. Two-night honeymoon packages cost from €1,431 (Dh7,510) in a suite, including breakfast, transfers, dinner, a Sunset Love Tour and late check out (www.palazzinagrassi.it; 00 39 041 528 4644). The carnival runs from February 11-21. To book gala dinner dances and masked balls, visit www.venice-carnival-italy.com (from €250 [Dh1,296] a ticket).
4. Tierra Atacama, Chile
The sun burns over a landscape of active volcanoes, sand dunes, salt flats and vast flocks of flamingoes congregate in Chile's Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. Adventurers to South America with a passion for high altitudes and designer escapism make for Tierra Atacama, an architecturally inspired eco-oasis in a Spartan landscape which featured in James Bond's Quantum of Solace. This boutique hotel on the edge of San Pedro de Atacama is a contemporary swathe of cubes with pool, spa and terrace fire-pits beside which you can gaze at the stars in clear night skies.
The raw fabric of the hotel, made of galvanised metal, green slate adobe and shale, gives it a chic, industrial feel but offers maximum comfort. Bedrooms are stylishly simple; romantic Oriental rooms have alpaca blankets draped over low-slung sofas, four-poster-beds, outdoor showers and private terraces with views of snow-capped Licancabur volcano. Curvy designer sun loungers edge the infinity pool, but the real pull is the stunning, surrounding landscape of volcanoes and salt flats, where Tierra's guides will take you hiking, biking and climbing to work up an appetite for the finest Chilean seafood and prime beef served in the hotel restaurant.
A two-night stay at Tierra Atacama (www.tierraatacama.com; 00 56 2 263 0606) costs from $970 (Dh3,563) per couple, including meals, drinks, two half-day tours, return transfers to Calama Airport and taxes. Honeymooners purchasing a four-night all-inclusive programme before the end of the year receive a free night and massage at the Ritz-Carlton, Santiago.
5. Inverlochy Castle, Scotland
Go salmon fishing with a gillie, gallop around the estate and generally live the life of a laird and lady at Inverlochy Castle, flanked by its own private loch in the foothills of majestic Ben Nevis. You'll be following in the steps of visiting royals over centuries, including Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, and King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan, with days spent on long country walks, hunting, shooting, riding and fishing in the grounds of the grand estate, before whiling away evenings ensconced in plushly furnished lounges beside crackling log fires.
Inverlochy Castle is one of the most lavish Scottish castles, with an unrivalled heritage; as Queen Victoria wrote in her diary in 1873: "I never saw a lovelier and more romantic spot". The 17 bedrooms and suites are traditionally furnished, many with four-poster and coronet beds. There is a one-Michelin-starred restaurant plus more unusual five-star add-ons, such as hiring a gillie for a hunting or shooting expedition, and airport transfers in a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Doubles at Inverlochy Castle cost from £320 (Dh1,917) per night, including breakfast and taxes. Rolls Royce transfers from Inverness Airport cost £275 (Dh1,648). Book through Relais & Châteaux (www.relaischateaux.com; 00 33 1 45 72 96 50).
6. The Omnia, Zermatt
Year-round skiing is Zermatt's USP. Join the national European ski teams practising on 20 kilometres of glacier pistes in summer or blaze a trail through virgin snow on Tour Monte Rosa's heli-skiing trail in winter. And while other ski resorts take pride in pine chalets and steaming punch, Zermatt has long been the choice of design gurus, thanks to brilliant designer Heinz Julen who uses steel, glass and contemporary-style wood-burning stoves and lighting to bring Zermatt's hostelries into the 21st century.
But a new kid has arrived on the block - New York architect Ali Tayar, who, doffing his cap to American modernism, has created the most contemporary interpretation of the ski lodge. The Omnia, perched high on a rock, uses natural fabrics, grey granite, white oak, leather and felt, both reflecting and paying homage to the Matterhorn. The mountain, Zermatt's most impressive landmark, lurks above you, whether you're swimming under the indoor/outdoor, glass-screened pool or trudging through the snow to the slopes. Tayar combines clean-lined American modernism with cosy spaces, real fires and, most recently, the Cavern-Club, a state-of-the-art pleasure zone submerged in a pool of water within the granite rock. The hotel's 30 bedrooms and suites vary dramatically, many with terraces, Jacuzzis and saunas. Modernists love Room 12's egg-shaped, wood-burning fireplace. Honeymooners must book a suite with views of the Matterhorn.
The Omnia's (www.the-omnia.com; 00 41 27 966 71 71) winter rates start from 500 Swiss francs (Dh2,382) per double room including breakfast, transfers from Zermatt station or heliport and taxes. Heinz Julen's "Loft" Chalet sleeps six; book through www.mountainexposure.com.
7. Nile cruise, Egypt
Taking in the history of one of the world's great civilisations while lounging Cleopatra-like in an elegant cabin or a cream-coloured, four-poster cabana aboard a luxuriously appointed cruise ship is surely the most memorable way to see the sights along the Nile. On the itinerary aboard Sunboat III, the Rolls Royce of cruise ships, is the Valley of the Kings, Dendarah, the Temples at Luxor and Karnak, and Abu Simbel, all guided by Egyptologists of the finest calibre.
The ship boasts 14 cabins (all with river views) and four suites with four-poster beds, heated pool and gourmet menus (prepared in mineral water to avoid tummy troubles). If money is no object, charter A&K's luxuriantly fitted dahabiya the Zein Nile Chateau, a sumptuous traditional sailing boat, chartered exclusively from £20,000 (Dh119,568) a week, including staff.
A 12-day trip costs from £3,635 (Dh21,885) per person, including seven nights on Sunboat III, full board, three days in Cairo, domestic flights and taxes (www.abercrombiekent.co.uk; 00 44 1242 547700).
8. Bahia, Brazil
Trancoso, Angra dos Rios and Parati have fast become the boho-luxe playgrounds of the jet-setters of the fashion world and Brazilian finance, who descend on the string of uber-fashionable towns along the Atlantic coast of Bahia. These stylish yet laid-back coastal resorts boast beautiful villas near the beach, sought for photo-shoots by top fashion houses, and Uxua Casa in Trancoso is one of the most chic.
Designed by Albert Das, formerly the creative director of the clothing label Diesel, this boutique retreat has a spa, tropical pool and white padded sun loungers at the centre of 10 modernist houses (including a treehouse), bespoke furnishings, alfresco living areas, four-poster beds and sumptuous bathrooms. Four houses sit on the 16th-century town green (quadrado) and the rest within a large verdant garden among mango trees. A10-minute stroll to Uxua Lounge and Bar reveals a fishing boat-turned-kitchen on a gorgeous stretch of white sandy beach, where you can dine on fresh ceviche or work off Uxua's vast breakfasts with Capoiera lessons, beach volleyball and riding horses by the sea.
Uxua Casa houses (www.uxua.com; 00 55 73 3668 2277) cost from R$1,170(Dh2,640) per night, including breakfast and taxes.
9. Wakaya Club, Fiji
Wakaya Club's exclusive island hideaway is so private that even passing yachts aren't permitted to anchor - you have to arrive by private jet. Which was fine for Bill and Melinda Gates when they chose to honeymoon here, but if you don't own a jet, the resort will arrange transfers in its own 2006 Cessna Grand Caravan (US$960; Dh3,526 per couple).
The Gates guaranteed further privacy by renting the royal "Vale O" bure: the most secluded, 1,115-sq-m villa in its own 6.5-hectare tropical paradise with a private pool, tennis court, dedicated staff and chef. Island guests can be as active or lazy as they like, enjoying gourmet picnics served on private, deserted stretches of white sand, scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, golf, croquet or tennis.
Owners David and Jill Gilmour created this eco-friendly island resort of 10 exquisite, vernacular cottages, all made from woven bamboo and indigenous yaka wood, with 153-sq-m interiors, open-air lava-rock showers, private decks and beach or garden views - but no TV.
Prices at Wakaya Club (www.wakaya.com; 00 679 3448 128 ) start from $2,280 (Dh8,374) per night, full board,with all activities (except fishing) and laundry services. Spa treatments and tips are extra. Seven nights for the price of six and a free couples spa treatment applies on trips taken before December 22 .
10. St Petersburg, Russia
From November 1, a new Emirates route to St Petersburg will make it easier for culture-vultures to dig out their furs and head for cooler Russian climes. Snuggle up on a city tour in a horse-driven troika in the snow, or aboard a Venetian speedboat cruising through St Petersburg's canals in summer during the White Nights Festival, a celebration of classical dance and music held each year from May to July when the sun stays in the sky all night long. If music is a passion, head to the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace for a concert, before crossing the bridge to Anichkov Palace, presented by Catherine the Great, to her true love, Prince Potemkin.
Stay at Rocco Forté's sophisticated, turn-of-the-century Hotel Astoria, traditionally decorated with lots of style and a hint of bling. Suites named after composers offer views of St Isaac's Cathedral and within easy walking distance is the famous Hermitage Museum, with its huge collection of important art. Dine on fine Russian caviar at the Astoria's Davidov restaurant, the epitome of chic grandeur with crystal chandeliers and white leather banquettes, where Gérard Depardieu was recently spotted while filming Rasputin.
Double rooms at the Astoria cost from 10,195 rubles (Dh1,263) per night, including taxes but excluding breakfast. Book through Leading Hotels of the World (www.lhw.com).