Beyond the Beach: Offbeat Honeymoon Ideas

Can't picture yourself spending your honeymoon lounging on a beach? Go off-the-beaten-track at one of these otherworldly destinations teeming with awe-inspiring scenery, sightseeing galore, and romance to spare. Make your first trip as a married couple memorable with one-of-a-kind excursions; here, we've rounded up some of our favorites, from soaring up, up, and away in a hot air balloon to spotting the Big Five on safari to sailing around European islands and more.

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  • The Galapagos Islands

    The Galapagos Islands

    Set on the equator, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands is the crown jewel of the nature world. Visitors — limited in number by Ecuadorian law — can get up close and personal with uber-rare animal species including red- and blue-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, marine-land iguana hybrids, and renowned giant tortoises. There are endless opportunities for adventure, including swimming with sea lions, scuba diving among hammerhead sharks, and horseback riding on Santa Cruz Island.

    Stop at the Charles Darwin Research Center in Puerto Ayora to learn about the restoration efforts taking place. Also, don't miss a visit to Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, which was set up by British whalers to send letters home via passing ships (to this day, people leave postcards in the barrel with only an address and no stamp).

    Photo Credit: Ecuador Ministry of Travel

  • Cappadocia, Turkey

    Cappadocia, Turkey

    Just a short flight from Istanbul, Cappadocia, Turkey has a surreal lunar landscape that's best explored by air. Clamber into a hot-air balloon at sunrise for a spellbinding spectacle of craters and valleys aglow under the first rays of light. There are many hot-air balloon operators to choose from, like Sultan Balloons, but the experience is stunning no matter which one you choose.

    To truly appreciate the whimsical rocks and caves carved through millennia of erosion, marvel at them up close on a hike. The three-hour Rose Valley Walking Trail leads through fairy chimneys, ancient cave churches, and orchards, with a café that seems to pop up along the way just when you’re ready for a break. 

    Photo courtesy of The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

  • Norway


    Visiting Norway feels like stepping into a fairy tale, thanks to steep-sided fjords, medieval wooden stave churches, and citizens who believe in trolls (and are most likely to live happily ever after, according to numerous studies). Go between December and March for best Aurora Borealis viewing. Amp up the adventure with the help of bespoke tour company Black Tomato, which can outfit you with dogs and sleds, tricked-out campsites and guided snowmobile rides.

    The capital city of Oslo woos honeymooners who like to couple outdoorsy adventure with cultural touring. Highlights include a museum dedicated to nautical exploration (containing the best-preserved Viking ships), an 80-acre sculpture park featuring Gustav Vigeland’s works, and the Nobel Peace Center.

    Photo Credit: Gaute Bruvik-visitnorway.com

  • New Zealand

    New Zealand

    With its glacial cascades, primeval rainforests, and turquoise pools, New Zealand is a real-world fantasyland on earth. Take in the dazzling scenery while touring the country by campervan. Must-sees include Waikato (a volcanic hiking area), Rotorua (kaleidoscopic fields of bubbling geo-fabulousness), and Lake Taupo’s hot springs. Milford Sound — the most famous fjord in the South Island’s Fiordland National Park — is also said to be the wettest inhabited place in the country. Translation — it’s waterfall central.

    Adrenaline junkies, don't miss the iconic sky tower in Auckland. You can do the SkyWalk on the 53rd floor, where you'll circumnavigate the building’s exterior sans handrail in a harness. If you're feeling even more daring, the SkyJump (the country's highest bungee) will send you down to street level at almost 53 miles per hour.

    Photo Credit: Rob Suiste

  • Ireland


    Ireland’s scenic beauty is the stuff of legend. The world-famous 702 foot-high Cliffs of Moher extend for nearly five miles and can be viewed from a walkway atop the cliffs, a sea-level cruise or by helicopter. The immense limestone plateau, Burren, features a variety of unique foliage such as purple orchids and wild thyme due to its unusually temperate climate. Take a trip to another era and tour the 15th-century Bunratty Castle filled with medieval furnishings. You can also golf, hike, bike, or horseback ride in the countryside.

    As you explore the country, you’ll revel in all it has to offer — from luxe accommodations to mouthwatering meals — and be charmed by the warmth of its people, who will invite you to feel right at home and share a pint or two. 

    Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland

  • Scotland


    Scotland’s turreted castles and romantic ruins make it a dream honeymoon destination. The capital city of Edinburgh’s Old Town, from the iconic Edinburgh Castle to the Royal Mile to the dark closes (alleyways), has a rich and fascinating history. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with New Town on the opposite hill. Stroll the picturesque gardens at Cawdor Castle near Inverness and look for the pasture of adorable shaggy-haired Highland cattle. 

    En route to the Isle of Skye, tour haunting Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness and postcard-perfect Eilean Donan Castle near Kyle of Lochalsh. And once you’re on Skye, you won’t want to leave. Its panoramas are seductive, especially from late July to early September when its hills of heather are colored dusty purple for as far as the eye can see.

    Photo courtesy of Kinloch Lodge

  • India


    With an awesome array of cuisine, colors, and cultural experiences, India offers an intoxicating adventure for every traveler. Start with a rickshaw tour in Old Delhi. New Delhi is the perfect introduction to the Rajasthan region since it’s home to Humayun’s Tomb, an architectural precursor to the Taj Mahal.

    In Jaipur, visit the City Palace, the Observatory (a sprawling collection of ancient astrological instruments), and the marquee Amber Fort’s geometric gardens. Unlike other areas of India where sightseeing is all about the temples, Rajasthan and Agra are known for expansive forts.

    Last but not least, few world sites compare to the majesty of the Taj Mahal. Walk across the river to Moonlight Gardens and watch the sun set over the great monument.

    Photo courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts

  • Tanzania, Africa

    Tanzania, Africa

    Tanzania has a plethora of wildlife, cultural sites, and hotels. At the fabled Serengeti plains, look out for the Big Five — rhino, lion, buffalo, elephant and leopard. Tanzania is also home to the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera — a volcano that collapsed into itself. The 100-square-mile area boasts flamingos, hippos, and the elusive black rhino. (The one exception: giraffe — their long necks have made it impossible for them to descend.)

    Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean archipelago located off the eastern coastline of Tanzania, is a boon for history buffs and shoppers. Once the center of both the ancient spice route and the colonial slave trade, the island has a variety of sites from churches and palaces to traditional markets in the capital, Stone Town.

    Photo courtesy of AndBeyond

  • Morocco


    Morocco's blend of east and west and old and new is alluring to visitors. The topography is just as varied, with the desert extending from the ocean to the snowy Atlas Mountains. Temperatures range from 100 degrees and higher in summer to the comfortable mid-60s in winter, so get your sightseeing done early with a guided morning tour of the medina (old city): the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, bustling Djemaa el Fna square and the colorful Jardin Majorelle (a botanical garden once owned by Yves St. Laurent). 

    Shoppers love the fabled souk, a labyrinthine market overflowing with handcrafted goods. An authentic Moroccan spa experience awaits at a beautifully tiled hammam (traditional steam bath), while adventure calls just outside Marrakesh in the snow-capped Atlas Mountains or on a camel trek through the desert’s endless sands.

    Photo Credit: Dave Lewis

  • Guatemala


    Guatemala boasts cool colonial sites, visitor-friendly lakeside towns and some of the best coffee on the planet. Just two-and-a-half hours from the States, this Latin American country feels totally untouristy while still being so welcoming to visitors. Antigua Guatemala, a colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the country’s highlands, is an untapped treasure trove for antiques. Mexico may get all the press, but Guatemala is just as robust with its own Mayan ruins, the most famous of which is Tikal in the north. Iximche is another sprawling site set on the route to Lake Atitlan from Antigua.

    Dedicate a day in your honeymoon itinerary to exploring the area towns. Hop on a boat and zip across the lake to San Antonio Palopó, where many of the families are potters. One of the country’s most recognized sites is Lake Atitlan, which is actually a caldera — a volcano that collapsed into itself.

    Photo Credit: Jenna Mahoney

  • Chile


    Chile features a spectacularly varied landscape that includes a European-esque capital city, the driest desert in the world, verdant wine regions, endless coastline and the Andes mountain. The best times to visit are spring (November) and fall (April). Skiers can swish down the slopes in July.

    One of our favorite parts is Lastarria, an upscale bohemian neighborhood in the capital city of Santiago, with art galleries, interesting restaurants, and bars set along leafy streets. Valparaíso is a seemingly endless maze of brightly colored buildings set into a mountainside. There are pedestrian pathways that lead to nowhere, and art galleries, handicraft shops, restaurants and boutique hotels among private homes in this UNESCO site. The Casa Blanca region, nestled in a valley between Santiago and Valparaíso, excels in the production of white wines. Hire a driver and spend the day touring the vineyards.

    Photo courtesy of Turisimo Chile

  • Uluru, Australia

    Uluru, Australia

    Australians call the heart of the Northern Territory the “Red Centre” and after just a single sunset you’ll understand why. Monolithic Ayers Rock, known as sacred Uluru to the local Aboriginal people, glows an almost unearthly shade of crimson that when juxtaposed against the twilight sky is nothing less than magical.

    Take hikes around the base of Uluru with a local guide or sightsee larger areas via jeep, motorcycle or even camel. For a bird’s-eye view, you can book a scenic helicopter flight. The region’s culture comes alive on day tours: See indigenous rock paintings at Cave Hill and learn about traditional crafts such as dot painting and didgeridoo carving.

    Photo courtesy of Australia's Coral Coast

  • New Orleans, Louisiana

    New Orleans, Louisiana

    The creole city of New Orleans has long been celebrated for its good eats, great music, and year-round party atmosphere. Add to the mix the recent city-wide resurgence ripe with new hotels and hip restaurants coupled with that famous Southern hospitality and you’ve got an awesome destination for any type of romance-related getaway. 

    Hands down, the best way to explore the city is on a bike tour. The three-hour Creole & Crescent ride with Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours provides an awesome overview to nearly every historic NOLA neighborhood from the French Quarter to the Marigny and Treme. There are plenty of stops to snap pictures of historic homes. A repose at the sprawling City Park is an opportunity to savor chicory coffee and beignets (fried dough smothered in powdered sugar). To try your hand at local cuisine, take an interactive class, complete with tastings, at Langlois Culinary Crossroads.

    Photo Credit: Richard Nowitz

  • Hvar, Croatia

    Hvar, Croatia

    A 16th-century fortress stands watch over the crystalline Adriatic Sea in the charming town of Hvar, the central town of the Croatian island of the same name. A popular holiday spot along the Dalmatian Coast, Hvar’s got plenty to do on land, from touring Greek ruins and medieval villages to hanging out in one of the prettiest town squares in the country.

    Rent a sailboat or hop a water taxi to the nearby Pakleni Islands and don’t forget to bring a picnic and a bottle of crisp Croatian Malvasia white wine. Pick up some famous Hvar lavender — fresh, dried or as a pure oil — as a fragrant reminder of the sunny days.

    Photo Credit: Juraj Kopac/ Croatian National Tourist Board

  • Hungary, Budapest

    Hungary, Budapest

    Elegant but edgy, historic but vibrant, Budapest is a mainstay on lists of the Most Beautiful Cities in Europe. The Grande Dame city is separated into two unique sections — Buda and Pest — by the Danube River, with islands floating in between the two sides. Spread throughout are UNESCO World Heritage sites, notable museums, authentic food, and over 80 geothermal hot springs, making there plenty to experience in this jewel of a city.

    Pedestrian-friendly Budapest is a great place for walking tours, which can be tailored to your interests and will help reveal some hidden gems. Tour operator Unique Budapest features some outings covering topics like architecture, design, music, castles, nightlife, and more. Catch a performance at one of the city’s top attractions, the stunning opera house. 

    Photo courtesy of Hungarian National Tourist Office

  • Portugal


    Like the soulful, heart-stirring sounds of its famous Fado music, Portugal evokes old-world mystery and is poetry come to life. It features cliffside castles, elaborate monasteries, and treasures dating back to its storied "Age of Discovery." A trip by highly regarded outfitter Backroads combines land and sea for an unforgettable experience. Beginning in Spain and ending in Porto, the tour has you cycle across sunbaked terrain by day and lounge in cruise ship comfort by night.

    The Portuguese love their eye candy. Lisbon alone has more than 16 official viewpoints. A few scenic spots include Miradouro Nossa Senhora de Monte, poised at the highest point in the city, and Penedo de Saudade, which faces astonishing vistas of the eastern part of town and the Mondego river.

    Photo Credit: Turismo de Lisboa/visitlisboa.com

  • Berlin, Germany

    Berlin, Germany

    Without a doubt, the capital city of Germany is currently one of the most art-focused cities in the world. Attracted by low rent and an exciting, progressive atmosphere, contemporary artists have been flocking to the city ever since the fall of the berlin Wall in 1989. The European city is currently home to over 400 galleries and at least 20,000 working artists.

    The ninth Berlin Biennale, a series of art events held in various locations, will take place in early summer 2016. Don’t miss the East Side Gallery, where you can see an almost mile-long section of what was the Berlin Wall, which, soon after it fell, was painted by 118 artists from 21 different countries. It is officially the world’s longest outdoor mural.

    Photo Credit: ©VisitBerlin, Foto: Wolfgang Scholvien

Beyond the Beach: Offbeat Honeymoon Ideas

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