Valentine’s Day has once again been and gone, which may be a relief to many people. Setting aside the hype and noise around 14th February, what are some of the very best options for couples seeking out well-appointed, secluded romance before the summer season arrives? Here’s our guide to three of the most perfect destinations for couples this Spring.
In South East Asia, whilst Thailand retains many charms for lovers, serene Koh Rong off the coast of Cambodia offer a verdant, exclusive alternative. A two hour boat ride from the bustling and charming Sihanoukville, Koh Rong has stunning coral reefs and gleaming white beaches to explore by day, paired with glowing stars and plankton to gaze at by night. Virgin rainforest forms the interior of the island, with wonderful opportunities to explore hidden vistas, past waterfalls with toucans and kingfishers offering flashes of colour beside them. Unwinding by the warm, gentle sea afterwards, sweethearts can enjoy a therapeutic traditional massage or the fragrant, unique delights of Khmer cuisine, from banana blossom salads to lime-marinated squid skewers. In a world where genuine castaway experiences are harder and harder to come by, Koh Rong still feels like a miraculous little secret.
Cambodia’s breath-taking neighbour, Vietnam, boasts Da Nang, a rapidly-developing ocean side city for couples who seek out glitzy thrills and an assault on the senses as well as charming moments of solitude. Sailing its coastline is the best introduction to the combination of modernist and traditional sights to be found here. Back on dry land, the complex history of the nation can be explored in museums as diverse as the Museum of Cham Sculpture and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Those that play together, stay together, and there’s golf courses, a casino, jet skis and pretty much every type of activity a pair might wish to sample. Bicycles are a great way to get around and then there’s always China Beach for an ice cold drink and spectacular sunset view. For a yet more impressive panorama of the fascinating landscape, the Marble Mountains fringing China Beach are the place to trek. The biggest of the mountains, Thuy Son, offers a lovely walk past the picturesque, historic Linh Ong and Xa Loi pagodas. Early Spring is the perfect time to visit Cambodia and Vietnam, before the south west monsoon arrives in roughly May to September.
Irresistible as the charms of South East Asia prove to an ever-growing number of couples, Italy also boasts many world class islands and beaches, and has been attracting lovers for thousands of years. Early spring in Italy is almost impossibly romantic, as the sun begins to warm the earth again and ambrosial lamb, asparagus and artichokes are on the seasonal menu. Isola d’Elba, off the coast of Tuscany, is still perhaps most renowned as the site of Napoleon’s first exile. Unsurprisingly, he seemed to enjoy his stay more than he might have expected, and in the twenty-first century, it’s a destination of choice for many discerning duos. The blue sea will always be an attraction, but the fragrant forests are not to be missed, as a tranquil place to enjoy the ancient yet on-trend art of foraging, particularly mushrooms and chestnuts. Isola d’Elba is deservedly gaining a strong reputation for wine, with local varieties including Ansonica and Aleatico, the perfect accompaniment to a fish stew or squid ink risotto.
Wild boar and mouflon still thrive in the mountains of the island, but the most astonishing wildlife is in the sea, where regular boat and kayak tours offer up close and personal encounters with playful dolphins and the incentive of a possible glimpse of a whale or school of tuna. Nothing says romance like flowers, and from April onwards the beaches as well as the fields and mountains on Isola d’Elba and across Tuscany come alive with colours. The beaches of Maremma offer perhaps the most extraordinary spring display, with luminous pink flowers amongst the white dunes.
Innamorati can never reasonably expect to have Tuscan cities to themselves, but the run-up to the Easter crush is a relatively peaceful time of year to take in the timeless romance of destinations such as Florence, Pisa and Siena as well as dozens of charming smaller towns and hamlets. The beautiful walled village of Montefioralle, Chianti offers a quirky little festival in mid-March, when Frittelle, or little deep-fried rice cakes are served, perfect with the celebrated local wines. Chianti also hosts an impressive antiques fair on Easter Monday in Greve. Couples can pick up plenty of vintage inspiration for their interiors, particularly ceramics, linen and rustic artifacts to recreate a Tuscan farmhouse once they’re reluctantly back home again.
With such attractions on the global menu, it’s the ideal time of year to plan a last minute getaway with a loved one.
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Director of Passepartout Homes Ltd.