What is love? Nicholas Sparks described it as a stable hearth, “that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.” Oscar Wilde disagrees, claiming “The very essence of romance is uncertainty.” Like beauty, love and romance are in the blinking eye of the beholder. Whether your idea of romance is comfort and succor or fierce adventure, you may find a setting to your love story in the following. From city escapes to wilderness retreats, these are the 13 most storied romantic hotels:
What is the greatest love story ever told? Many of your heads probably went immediately to the immortal bard’s work, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, this tale of star-crossed lovers betraying tradition and family lines for the sake of their romance had long been held as the quintessential example of love shunning all bonds.
Fictional as it may be, Shakespeare fittingly set Romeo and Juliet in Italy, home of the Latin romance languages. Verona, Italy, to be precise. Harkening that heritage, Il Sogno di Giulietta, in English “The Dream of Juliet,” is a charming, boutique hotel in the heart of historic Verona. Overlooking Juliet’s balcony and courtyard, features of the real former inn that was said to house the lovers that inspired the legend, Il Sogno di Giulietta affords an intimacy to the site even in the hours after it is closed to public tours.
Only a short saunter to the Arena, the Porta Bosari, the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, and other myriad allures of Verona, Il Sogno di Giulietta is central to the greatest love story of literature as well as the greater explorations of one of Italy’s finest cities. Truly, this hotel is a must-see for pilgrims of Shakespeare and romance alike.
John Muir said, “there is a love of wild nature in everybody.” Describing itself as “on the edge of the world, in the heart of the glorious wild,” Clayoquot Wilderness Resort invites you to discover that love. Less hotel and more remote luxury encampment accessible only by seaplane and riverboat, Clayoquot consists of 25 white canvas tents inspired by turn-of-the-century prospectors are embedded throughout the temperate Canadian rainforest. Sporting vintage oil lamps, wood burning stoves, and antique crystal and silver, Clayoquot’s accommodations embody a time of true frontiers when the untamed, passionate wilds of the earth were the formidable companion of all settlers.
Guests at Clayoquot have the opportunity to engage the woods in this way through myriad recreation such as kayaking, rock climbing, whale and bear watching, and more. To replenish after a full day in the outdoors, retreat to The Cookhouse to enjoy the culinary crafts of Executive Chef Michael Pataran and an extraordinary team of Relais & Chateaux class artisan chefs, all made from sustainable, locally grown, foraged, and harvested ingredients.
Even beyond the kitchen, Clayoquot is built upon the ethic of sustaining wilderness. Established in a UNESCO biosphere reserve, Clayoquot Resort, in partnership with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation of Ahousaht, helps fund an initiative dedicated to mitigating and repairing human-caused habitat destruction.
For a truly wild romantic hotel getaway, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is the place to nurture your love alongside nature.
If “life is an ocean and love is a boat”, as suggested by poet John McDermott, then there is no surer place to celebrate love than over water. In the sea as much as it is on an island, the Four Seasons Bora Bora is the quintessential island escape.
Part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, Bora Bora is characterized by its dream-like blue lagoon protected by a barrier reef. At the heart of the island are two mountains. As in Aristophanes’ mythical explanation of love, these two mountains, Mount Bootyus, and Mount Otemanu, were once a massive volcano rising from the ocean floor.
At the Four Seasons in Bora Bora, guests can stay in overwater bungalows while diving into underwater adventures, snorkeling through the vibrant reef with resident marine biologist Denis Schneider. Or, embark a private boat with the resort chef, and fish for your own dinner, prepared a fresh as you catch it.
No matter how you spend your time at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, a stay on this private island amid the endless ocean will forever symbolize the love that keeps two people afloat.
Romance have you living on a cloud? Come to the cloud forest. At 6,627 ft. above sea level, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is nestled in the heavenly Peruvian mountainsides. But those aren’t angels singing, it’s a choir of 214 species of local birds ringing through the terraced hills and jungle labyrinths.
Here, guests walk stone pathways by a waterfall and native orchids in an intimate Andean village. Should you wish to strike out further, the 15th-century ruins of royal citadel Machu Picchu are a day’s walk by the Inca Trail, and a short bus-ride to return.
Back at the hotel, guests may dine in sight of the meandering Vilcanota River or relax at the Unu Spa, where they utilize local botanical extracts of mint, eucalyptus and orchid to soothe body and spirit.
Between the altitude, the historical gravitas, and the lush pampering, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is an unparalleled home among the clouds – out of this world, and beyond time.
Of course, no list of romantic hotels would be complete without the inclusion of a destination in Paris, “City of Love.” In the City of Love, perhaps no lodging offers a more complete experience of Paris than the Shangri-La Hotel.
The former home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, the Shangri-La exudes elegance and regality. A marble lobby of white and gold meets guests before they ascend the Grand Staircase to their quarters. With a large array of rooms and suites to choose from, fear not; nearly every room in the Shangri-La offers exquisite views of the Paris skyline, and with careful selection, guests may also stay in one of the many Eiffel View Rooms, from which Paris’ famous tower is prominently displayed. These are the rooms in Paris of which every lover dreams.
On the island of Santorini, Greece, there is a small village called Imerovigli, “The Balcony to the Aegean Sea.” Immortalized in Homer’s epic tale of Odysseus, this is the same sea that the fabled warrior, father, and lover traversed in a ten-year journey to return to his love Penelope. Amid the ancient architecture of Cycladic churches and white-walled homes amphitheatrically constructed around a volcanic caldera, there is the Grace Santorini Hotel.
This exclusive, seasonally available boutique hotel overlooks the legendary oceanic sunsets of the Santorini Island and offers a range of bespoke experiences for guests. From wine and archaeology tours to photography and sailing lessons, there is something in the Grace Santorini docket of activity for everyone.
Perfect for honeymooners, a stay at the Grace Santorini will find you gazing across the azure Aegean contemplating the voyages of legendary love.
Called “the cradle of humanity,” The Great Rift Valley in Kenya is the beginning of beginnings where our species evolved into its recognizable, upright form. Ancestral home of all humans, the valley spans a vast tract of lakes and grasslands that, in some deep instinctual form, elicit a subtle sense of nativity to humans from across the globe. Every person on earth has an ancient mother and father that once walked the plains and slept under the stars of this Kenyan landscape.
At the Loisaba Star Beds, you and your loved one can live this legacy and slumber in the presence of deep time. Set upon raised wooden platforms, these rustic, thatch-roofed accommodations are individually built to complement the surrounding rocky landscape. Open to the wide African sky, the vistas stretch endlessly across the valley, sweeping over a permanent watering hole frequented by resident wildlife.
Hosted by a team of traditional Maasai warriors, a stay at the Star Beds is a balance of wilderness and hospitality, where the history is too old to be recorded in brick and mortar. Instead, guests gather around open log fire and exchange stories in the most authentic human fashion.
Vowing “till death do us part” may seem dedication enough, but to some, death does not relieve the passions of committed love. Hands empty of romance may busy themselves with great works. Such was the case for the husband of Mumtaz Mahal, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. So great was Mahal’s beauty, so refined her companionship, that upon her passing in 1631, Shah Jahan commissioned a great mausoleum and mosque to house her tomb.
By 1653, the final touches had been put on Jahan’s monument to love, and the Taj Mahal was born on the banks of the Yamuna city in Agra, India. Considered one of the seven “new” wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is a universally admired masterpiece that attracts 7-8 million visitors every year.
Unrivaled in its view of the Taj Mahal, the Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel is positioned only 600 meters from the monument, gracing guests with the uninterrupted presence of the ancient tribute to love and marriage. Combined with the finest amenities available, a stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas is sure to endow a visitor with warm care second only to the affections between Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan.
Love may thrust a couple into an isolative dream as if the whole world should fade into gray obscurity when cast against the fiery bond between two souls. No place on earth can speak to the sweet solitude of love better than the North Island Seychelles. First recorded in 1609 by Captain Sharpeigh of the English East India Company, the North Island of Seychelles was marked for its massive population of giant land tortoises.
For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the North Island housed fruit and spice plantation, before being returned to its native flora and fauna in 1981 by Marius Maier. In 1997, Wilderness Holdings Limited, a South African ecotourism company, purchased the North Island and proceeded to establish a private resort by 2003. With only 11 villas, the North Island Seychelles resort retains a privacy befitting such a small, remote spit of land surrounded by sea.
In May of 2011, the natural romance of North Island of Seychelles was affirmed when it was elected by the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to be their royal honeymoon retreat.
Private luxury comes with a price, but short of finding an as-of-yet uncharted island, there are few options that can rival the truly secluded elegance of North Island Seychelles.
There is an old Hawaiian proverb, “Kahuna Nui Hale Kealohalani Makua,” that translates to “Love all you see, including yourself.” In Hawaii, this is easy to do. Boasting a tourism industry that generates $10 billion annually, the appeals of Hawaii are well evidenced. From Waikiki Beach to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this string of Polynesian islands is frequented for its agreeable tropic climes, spectacular outdoors, and surfing. Of course, you don’t need a lover to tell you that Hawaii is also known for its great leis.
Should you seek a romantic Hawaiian getaway, look no further than The Kahala Hotel and Resort on Oahu. Since its 1964 opening, Kahala has gained a reputation of being a Hollywood hideaway due to its location just-far-enough from Waikiki beach. With a guest list sporting the iconic likes of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Queen Elizabeth, The Dalai Lama, and Empress Michiko of Japan, no other Honolulu retreat nears the star-power as Kahala.
Not as secluded as other hotels on this list, the Kahala is a place for the boisterous romp of romance, where two can celebrate their love with fine dining and white-sand beaches.
Known as “The House that Love Built,” The Thornewood Castle is as enigmatic as it is elegant. Oddly at home in Lakewood, Washington, the Thornewood is a 500-year old Gothic Tudor castle that in 1907 was meticulously disassembled, shipped, then reconstructed on the shores of the American Lake. This very-nearly-insane act owes its impetus to the love that Chester Thorne had for his wife Anna Thorne. The entire endeavor was undertaken as a gift to Anna, whose world famous “Secret Gardens” adorn the premises of the Thornewood.
Now, this fairy-tale castle serves as an exceedingly popular wedding venue, bed and breakfast, and rental where guests can stay in stately suites or apartments, enjoy the gardens, and fawn over the incredible enterprise of love amongst Washington greenery and the overheard presence of Mount Rainier.
When in love, what else do you need? Still, our world is so full of distraction that attention, let alone devotion, to another human is a feat in itself.
At the Pousada Picinguaba, the pressures off, as is your phone. This charming bayside stay deep inside the Natural Park of Serra do Mar is the only hotel within a 30km radius, offering privacy and a completely “unplugged” experience. Rooms are noticeably free of television, telephones, and the internet. Even the road stops some 250 meters before the hotel’s entrance, requiring quests to walk the last stretch and discover the resort as it emerges from the forest.
The effect is substantial. With no distraction from the magic of nature, the sound of the seashore, the breeze through the palm trees, the embrace of the forest, one feels truly transported to a forgotten time. It’s the perfect example of disconnecting to reconnect.
Simple, but luxurious, Pousada Picinguaba touts “the human touch,” in its accommodating attitude, serving to comfort but not overwhelm while guests re-engage with the pure pleasures of love and life.
A truly unique hotel, the Argos in Cappadocia is built into the remains of an ancient monastery in the Old Uchisar Village of Turkey. The surrounding landscape is a surreal collection of “fairy chimneys” formed out of eroded ashen remains from the sixty-million-year-old volcanic emissions of Mt. Erciyes, Mt. Hasan and Mt. Güllü. For thousands of years, humans have inhabited these “fairy chimneys” by carving tunnels, dwellings, and places of worship into the soft rock.
Similarly carved into a rock, the Argos in Cappadocia is an intimate, warmly cavernous and enchanting hotel where guests can wine and dine in an atmosphere only nearly described as otherworldly.
Be sure to visit the Bezirhane. This marvelously acoustic cathedral in the past has homed monks and Silk Road caravans, but now hosts weddings, concerts, and special dining events.
Though many of the hotels, resorts, and escapes on thus list have aimed to take guests off the beaten path, the Argos in Cappadocia is absolutely unmatched. As a romantic retreat, in you and your love, it will instill an unsurpassed feeling of inhabiting the edge of something holy, historical, and solid as stone.