30 dreamy honeymoon ideas and best destinations to get you planning ahead

If I had been writing this at any time while I was an editor of Brides magazine, it would have been a breeze. I could have told you the latest hotspots without a care in the world. After all, that’s the beauty of being in the honeymoon and weddings industry – it’s joyful and carefree. But currently, those adjectives feel a little stuck in my throat. Stuck when my brother and his fiancée tell me they have postponed their big day for a year, stuck when my best friend is forced to cancel hers and feels too jaded to set another date. We all know somebody whose wedding has been affected by Covid – and their trip-of-a-lifetime, too.

This year, it’s back to basics. We want to reignite that spark of joy, to look to the future with hope. Travel is about escapism, and what could be more escapist than a honeymoon? Taking flight from your normal lives to mark a new chapter, the pair of you in the best bubble possible. It’s the sort of trip that’s packed full of those special moments that are hard to explain, yet live forever in some part of your ­consciousness. It’s a precious thing, especially after such a tumultuous time, and it’s worthy of proper research. And that part – the planning, the dreaming and the hoping should start now. 

We can’t predict what or where those brilliant moments will be, but we do know that it’s often the hotel you pick that kick-starts this super-personal journey. It’s your essential jumping-off point, the crucial diving board into that glorious pool of memories… which is why it’s important to get it right. Your honeymoon is out there on the not-too-distant horizon – you just need to plan it first.

No-fly moons

The Fife Arms, Scotland

The romance factor here isn’t the rose-petals-on-the-bed type, it’s all in the curated, exceptional feel to it. It’s in the joy of hunting down the watercolour painting by Queen Victoria, the excitement of seeing the blown glass antler chandelier in the lobby, the comfort of tweed hot water bottles and ruby-red wing-backed chairs next to the darkest mahogany furniture. It’s like staying in a traditional hunting lodge/museum/contemporary art gallery all rolled into one. And it’s close to the Cairngorms. Doubles from £230

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The Fife Arms is a hunting lodge, museum and art gallery all rolled into one

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Venice Simplon-Orient-Express & Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy

If the 1920s were the golden age of travel, then the 2020s are the dawn of “slow travel” and a trip on this train from London to Venice embodies both eras. For 2021, three new grand suites are to be unveiled, respecting the original art deco design but with added luxe touches: hand-embroidered cushions, intricate mosaics and free-flowing champagne. Double beds and en suite bathrooms come as standard. And when your slow journey does end? Check into Belmond Hotel Cipriani, one of Venice’s smartest addresses.

A night at the Cipriani and journey to London on the train costs £3,366pp; belmond.com

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Total class: the Belmond Cipriani in Venice

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ERIC LAIGNEL

Akelarre, San Sebastian, Spain

From the sultry curves of the modern building to the lingering signature scent (an earthy potion of oak, hot whetstone and herbs), everything here is considered. Bedrooms have a lofty, apartment-style feel, with a steel spiral staircase. Black Poltrona Frau armchairs and Cassina marble tables work well with the slate-grey exterior and the glass-fronted terraces look out onto either the Bay of Biscay or the Basque landscape. But it’s the food that is the real draw. The now three-Michelin-starred restaurant by Pedro Subijana actually came long before the hotel, so you’re in for a treat.

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Dine and then plunge at Akelarre

Adare Manor, Ireland

There’s a reason Kim and Kanye chose Ireland for their honeymoon and it’s to do with the fairy-tale choice of accommodation: the enormous manor houses, the lavishly restored castles. Adare Manor is a little (or a lot) of both. Not only is it Disney-perfect in its architecture and details (gothic-style window arches, shimmering chandeliers, too-heavy-to-move gilded drapery), it’s got the only La Mer spa in the UK and Ireland, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Co Limerick and a roll call of activities that would take weeks to get through: fishing, archery, clay pigeon shooting, falconry – the list goes on. Doubles from £235 

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Adare Manor is Disney-like in its proportions

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JACK HARDY

Hotel Lou Pinet, St Tropez, France

St Tropez is stuffed with chichi grandes dames, but there’s something so exquisitely understated about Maisons Pariente’s latest French addition. Much like its Provence property, Crillon Le Brave, it has that difficult-to-engineer quality of being superbly polished, but supremely laid-back. Everyone is drawn to the emerald-green pool, the scent of lavender from the gardens in the air. Although the city in all its glamorous glory is just beyond the walls, people would rather while away the day here, Aperol spritz in hand, until lanterns are lit for supper at Riccardo Giraudi’s legendary beefbar. loupinet.com

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You won’t be able to get off one of these sunbeds at Lou Pinet

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Dreamy island resorts

Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

Gili consistently tops the Maldives charts for honeymooners. The very first all-overwater villa resort, each is beautifully illustrative of the hotel’s overall efforts at sustainability: reclaimed pine, local teak and even giant telegraph poles have been used cleverly in the purposefully rough-around-the-edges, earthy design. It’s not flashy, or super techy, but it’s the organic feel of the place (which also extends to the home-grown fruit and veg) that gives it its charm. 

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A bath fit for two at Gili Lankanfushi

Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles

Everything in the Seychelles seems to be on a different scale; the colours more saturated, the granite rocks on the beaches as large as giants. And the private islands? They are also vast, with luxury levels to match, but none are quite as off-the-scale as this one. That’s not to say it’s in any way glitzy – this is Six Senses, after all, so the design is as sensitive and impressive as the sustainability credentials – but it’s the sheer space available that rivals its dramatic surroundings. It’s not quite as expensive as its ­private island neighbours, either.

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A room with a view at Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles

Petit St Vincent, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

Yes, it’s got the obligatory pristine beaches and lapping neon-blue water, but it’s the small touches that set this island apart. Like the fact that staff needn’t even step into your cottage to answer a desire – just raise the yellow flag outside your door where there’s a slot to leave a note. Or the fresh lobsters at Goatie’s Bar, which you can pick out for lunch at no extra charge. There’s a distinct blasé feel to it all: you’re free to hike, snorkel, dive, explore … or not. Raising the flag for rum punches in your patio hammock is just as good. Doubles from £1,045

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It doesn’t get bluer than this: Petit St Vincent

Laucala , Fiji

A retreat for the elite (it’s the playground of Dietrich Mateschitz, the Red Bull co-founder). So yes, it may break the bank, but that cash buys you the largest swimming pool on the planet (with a unique glass lap pool in the centre), a resort-first Super Falcon submarine for an up-close view of the ocean, and more than 330 members of staff to 25 villas. Of the many must-sees, the guided farm tour is impressive as it’s more than 80 per cent self-sustainable. Doubles from £3,900

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Laucala’s pool is one of the greatest in the world

Guana Island, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean

Guana Island is full of simple pleasures: there’s no TVs (just open-air film nights) and no public bar… the scenery reigns. Surrounded by diamond-clear water, it has 850 acres of lush landscape and seven beaches for just 35 guests. Try out the 12 miles of hiking trails and you’ll be greeted by vivid flamboyant trees, pink flamingos and stout iguanas (after which the island is named). The hotel’s focus on privacy attracts celebrities, most of whom favour North Beach Villa, which sits on its own shoreline. Doubles from £565

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Enjoy the simple pleasures at Guana Island

The Brando, French Polynesia

Hollywood legend Marlon Brando’s private atoll. This necklace of 12 beach-fringed islets is home to a gorgeous escape a world away from the bigger resorts that have made French Polynesia a honeymoon hotspot. The only way in is on the resort’s private plane, which leaves from a dedicated terminal at Papeete’s Faa’a International Airport – and there’s no long cookie-cutter parade of overwater bungalows, but 35 beachfront villas with outdoor baths, infinity pools and a rocking chair for two. It’s also fresh from a winter makeover. Villas from £2,700 a night all-inclusive

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The Brando, in French Polynesia, is otherworldly

InterContinental Hayman Island, Australia

Hayman has always been one of the most indulgent of the Whitsunday islands and, having undergone a change of hands (it’s now an InterContinental), it’s back and sexier than ever. From the air (guests often transfer via helicopter), the island looks almost untouched, until you spy a spine of white cubes hugging the beach on the southern side. On land, get up close to the inhabitants: wallabies, flying foxes and kookaburras, not forgetting the Great Barrier Reef.

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It’s always cocktail hour at InterContinental Hayman Island

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Jalakara, Andaman Islands

Until recently, a lot of the Andaman Islands were off-limits to visitors, so the opening of boutique beauty Jalakara – with its stunning views, tropical gardens, infinity pool, beach camps and attentive service – a few years ago was big news. Plus, the destination, which is made up of mostly uninhabited sandy dots, is often cited as “the new Maldives”. Located on Havelock island (one of the prettiest dots), Jalakara nails a chilled-out vibe and has some spectacular Asian-fusion food from chef Nazre; the coconut and papaya curry is the star of the menu. It’s a short tuk-tuk ride to local “Beach No 7”, an empty pristine stretch of white.Doubles from £220 (020 3287 5052; jalakara.info)

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A bedroom at Jalakara, a boutique hotel in the off-the-beaten-track Andaman Islands

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Ed Reeve/Ed Reeve

Activity moons

Severin*s The Alpine Retreat, Austria

Among the chocolate box, pine-covered chalets of this upscale ski resort lies Severin*s, its interiors as fresh as the thick powder surrounding it. There’s still a lot of wood, but it’s blonder and is a backdrop to copper pendant lights, original Lichtenstein artworks and soft, plum furniture. It’s the sort of place where a ski butler might meet you for a surprise slope-side snack or ease off your boots before placing them into a heated locker ready for the afternoon pistes. Above ground the cloud-wreathed peaks of Arlberg are outside your window. Below ground? A subterranean spa with infrared sauna. severins-lech.at

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The cloud-wreathed peaks of Arlberg are accessible from Severin*s

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Aqua Mekong, Vietnam & Cambodia

Essentially a floating hotel, the Aqua Mekong snakes its way from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, but there’s nothing cruise-like about this ship. There are only 20 suites, all masterfully decorated in teak, with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide views from the king-size bed. Take an excursion on a skiff with guides Houem and Chariya as you squeeze down narrow waterways lined with lush paddy fields visiting isolated villages. You’ll sample mangosteen, sugar cane and pineapple at local markets; receive blessings from Buddhist monks and glide through ancient flooded forests. Seven nights from £4,988pp; aquaexpeditions.com

Cape Weligama, Sri Lanka

A surfing base with wow-factor. Clustered on a wild headland on the south coast, this sophisticated hotel is just down the road from Weligama beach where both beginners and intermediates ride consistent breaks before a cold beer at Tiki Bar. As well as the enormity of the terracotta-roofed villas, the crescent-shaped pool and the meditative sound of the waves pounding the cliffs, it’s the service here that’s memorable. The sort where you only have to think “cocktail” and it appears.

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Pool or surf? It’s your choice at Cape Weligama

Andbeyond Ngala Treehouse, South Africa

If it’s your first time on safari, South Africa is a great introduction with a massive choice of top-end accommodation. But try something a little different: stay at AndBeyond’s Ngala Lodge or Tented Camp and you can hire a treehouse for the night. The four-storey, solar-run structure is a far cry from the normal “sleep out” spots (usually a ­simple raised wooden platform). At the very top there’s decking with a daybed and retractable screen; beneath, a huge weatherproof bed, plus a hot shower and a kitchen with a coffee station and bar. Treehouse from £435 per night

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A treehouse with a difference at Andbeyond Ngala Lodge

COMO Uma Paro, Bhutan

As our guide, Sonam, said: “Some guests are so overwhelmed by the view from the plane when they arrive that they cry.” It might have something to do with the fact that you can spot the tip of Everest, but when it comes to immersing yourselves in the mountains, you can’t beat Bhutan. A stay at Como is like living in the clouds – it’s perched at the top of the valley of Paro at a head-spinning altitude of 7,500ft. Trek to Tiger’s Nest, take Himalayan camping trips, try white-water rafting. For other options: Six Senses has just finished launching its five-lodge circuit and &Beyond are about to open, too.

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COMO’s first property in Bhutan is a 20-suite hillside lodge surrounded by nine standalone villas

Post Ranch Inn, United States

Somewhere that puts nature front and centre. The “ocean houses” here seem to almost melt into the land, curved roofs carpeted in a blanket of thick grass and wild flowers. These free-standing structures were built to capitalise on the glittering view of the Pacific and are in the middle of miles of outstanding Big Sur coastal hikes (the Molera eight-mile loop is a good place to start). When you’re done with stomping – rooms come with walking poles and binoculars – return home and slide into one of the outdoor soaking tubs (open 24 hours) with a glass of Californian pinot noir.

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Post Ranch Inn, set in the middle of Big Sur coastal hikes

Turtle Inn, Belize

Belize is considered one of the top diving locations in the world. Turtle Inn is one of the best places to experience this glorious underwater world with the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. Despite its A-list owner (film director Francis Ford Coppola), it’s somewhat of a low-key affair, with modest thatched cottages built with lots of wood and limestone, no air-con to keep its carbon footprint low and zero fuss when it comes to dining. Spend all day under the sea spotting whale sharks then come back for coconut shrimp and cocktails at Auntie Luba’s kitchen next door to the Padi centre, gazing over the smooth-as-glass lagoon.

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Turtle Inn is owned by the Coppola family

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© Gundolf Pfotenhauer/GUNDOLF PFOTENHAUER

Hush-hush hotspots

Can Ferrereta, Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca might not feel undiscovered, but this new hotel opens a door to a quiet area in the south-east, where contemporary art collectors discuss their latest finds in villages and the beach is blustery and barefoot. Set within a restored 17th-century mansion, Can Ferrereta is all cream tones, hessian rugs and olive-green urns. Much like the surrounding town of Santanyi, it’s a place of sun-soaked serenity where couples come to recharge, dream and repeat. For something really special, book the signature suite with its own pool. hotelcanferrereta.com

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Can Ferrereta is in a 17th-century mansion in the lesser-known part of Mallorca

Elang Private Island, Indonesia

The launch of Bawah Reserve in Indonesia in 2018 included a high-end eco-retreat built on previously uninhabited isles. Elang is the latest to be given this treatment and features just six lodges created with recyclable materials, a restaurant, dinky spa and saltwater pool made from a natural rock hollow with a water slide. It’s adults only, all-inclusive and so remote that the stars scatter across the sky like a sheet of sequins.

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Bawah Reserve is one of the most luxurious and sustainable resorts in the world

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Six Senses Shaharut, Negev desert, Israel

The very first luxury offering to open in the Israeli Negev desert: 60 villas and suites, built from local rocks, look out on to the swirling sand, the horizon in sharp focus with the wide turquoise sky, the pale ochre and clay palette in perfect harmony with the cacti-dotted, terracotta landscape. ­Resident camels plod about the resort and it has all the hallmarks of the brand (an immense spa, for example) as well as lovely cultural nods such as cosy Bedouin tent suppers with popping fire pits. sixsenses.com

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Six Senses Shaharut is the first luxury hotel to open in the Negev desert

Islas Secas, Panama

A magical place where pelicans nose-dive into the ocean, hummingbirds zip past the shutters and iguanas sun themselves on the decking. It’s fiercely private, delightfully off-grid but not too tricky to get to and – most thrillingly – has 14 islands to explore. Even better, the hotel only welcomes up to 24 people at a time. Wildlife tours with conservationist Rob are a highlight, as well as pop-up picnic lunches of grilled plantain and fresh red snapper served in secret swimming coves. Casitas from £1,128 per night all-inclusive 

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Panama’s Islas Secas is off grid but not too tricky to get to

Little Kulala, Namibia

One of the safari world’s rising stars for 2021. Wilderness has painstakingly refreshed and rebooted its Namibia outpost, the only lodge with direct access to the red dunes of the Sossusvlei desert. It has created a feather-light footprint, including a 100 per cent solar energy system. Take a sunrise breakfast in your suite (it’s modern living, so not a tent flap in sight) before exploring the reserve on e-bikes or a self-guided walking tour. Top it all off with a silent hot-air balloon flight over the Namib. Suite from £974

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Little Kulala is the only lodge with direct access to the Sossusvlei desert
Under £150 per night

Blue Apple Beach House Colombia

The fact that there’s no phone signal on this underdeveloped island, just off Cartagena, shows how cut off it is. This young, box-fresh beach club sprang up with British owner Portia at the helm and is mostly visited by Colombian locals and in-the-know travellers looking for a hang-out with soul. Expect a fun Caribbean playlist, buckets of rosé served with calamari and no children at the weekends. A double room is nice enough but Manzana, a cabana with outdoor bath and private plunge pool, has honeymooners in mind. Doubles £120; Manzana from £147

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Blue Apple Beach House is on an island just of Cartagena

The Melegran, Rovinj, Croatia

While large hotels on the Adriatic coast with pool-party scenes get the most attention, The Melegran has a more understated feel, in a less-visited area of Croatia. The design is playful but grown-up (dusky pink velvet headboards, whimsical Olivetti typewriters) and the location is in the pretty old town of Rovinj. Cobblestoned streets are lined with gently humming cafés and restaurants, and you can catch a ferry to Venice. The hotel organises wine tours, island-hopping trips and truffle hunting. A spa is coming this spring.

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It’s cute and kitsch at The Melegran

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Dexamenes, Peloponnese, Greece

The industrial aesthetic of Dexamenes isn’t classically romantic, but there is certainly an air of romance about the idea of owner Nikos stumbling across these abandoned wine tankers on an empty beach and having the vision to turn them into a hotel. Think concrete bunkers outside, purposefully pared-back inside with bare walls and accents of brushed-black chrome. It lets the vastness of the architecture and the sea outside do all the talking, which, as there is no pool, will fast become your go-to in between locally sourced meals at the lamplit restaurant.Doubles from £149 (0030 2622 025999; dexamenes.com)

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Dexamenes, a design hotel on the Peloponnese

Masseria Le Torri, Puglia, Italy

Take one ancient masseria and one man’s dream to restore the place where he’d previously stayed as a boy and you’re bound to get something sensational. The sunshine is almost blinding as it bounces off the chalk-white exterior; a stark contrast to its sweeping interiors of cool curves and cavernous alcoves. There are chandeliers of dried cacti, birdcages suspended from trees and stacks of old novels adorned with dried roses. There’s only nine rooms, each with soft-grey shutters and breezy white linen, and it’s adults only, so the peace is tangible. masserialetorri.com

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From bed to bath and beyond: Masseria Le Torri in Polignano a Mare

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Cream Studio 2018

Alila Diwa, Goa, India

Alila is really good at pools and this one in Goa is no exception, with its infinity drop over the lime-green fields encircled by coconut trees. The value for money is astonishing. All rooms are simple but stylish with balconies; there’s a spa, a library and a cinema; and all four places to eat serve excellent food, especially the signature Spice Studio. One for those who backpacked around India years ago and want to return without spending serious cash. 

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Alila sure know how to design a pool

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