After the months, sometimes years, of planning and stress that go into pulling off that perfect wedding fete, nothing’s sweeter than boarding the plane en route to post-marital bliss—a.k.a. the long-awaited honeymoon.
But when it comes to honeymooning, where does one even begin in choosing a destination? The good news is you’re not limited to an all-inclusive Sandals resorts or over-the-top Caribbean cruise. Nor do honeymoons have to be restricted to beaches and umbrella-garnished boat drinks. In fact, many more intrepid honeymooners are choosing the path less traveled and opting for cold-weather jaunts as an alternative.
Take, for example, a Hurtigruten expedition trip up to Spitsbergen, a remote island in the Arctic Circle that’s part of the Norwegian-occupied archipelago of Svalbard. Not only will you have one-on-one time with your new spouse far from the maddening crowd where cell phones, TV and Internet are scarce to none. But you’ll also enjoy an intimate experience in some of the most remote reaches of the planet, surrounded by glaciers and towering jagged peaks, keeping your eyes forever pointed toward the horizon searching for a polar bear, reindeer, Arctic fox, walrus, minke whale or other friend of the far North.
Or you might decide on high-altitude fun in an outdoor sports summit like Switzerland instead. Philadelphia-based couple Lindsey Ferris Carmine and Andy Carmine did just that, hopping a flight to Zurich, gateway to the Alps, after their New Year’s Eve nuptials two years ago, and making their way southwest via Switzerland’s high-tech rail system. “A small wooden elevated train track lined with white Christmas lights coiled the town center of Gstaad, our first stop,” the Carmines recall. “When the train came to a halt, a mix of night skiers, locals and wide-eyed visitors poured out onto the main street. If our trip had ended with that view alone, we would have been satisfied.”
Those with summer honeymoons on the calendar might also consider a visit to Switzerland. Where biking and hiking and mountain climbing opportunities abound, the Engadin Valley in the southeastern corner region of Maloja is chock-full of high-end resorts and outdoor tours—so you can have your cake and eat it, too (i.e. get your fill of the outdoors without sacrificing luxury while doing so). Take an extreme mountain bike ride down from Corviglia, through the town and have a picnic alongside the lake. Or try your luck at the terrifying yet exhilarating mountain climbing trail, Via Ferrata, which ends just above 10,000 feet, at nearby Diavolezza, before soaking in the world’s highest hot tub, toasting to your achievements with a fine bottle of bubbly.
For a bit more adventure with unique flair, New Zealand has much to offer. From zorbing—i.e. hurling yourself down a grassy knoll in a beach ball-like globe contraption—and rappelling through glowworm-lit caves on the North Island to week-long kayaking journeys, hang-gliding, sky-diving and exploring the bush along the South, you won’t be lacking for cardio activities to fill your days. “Since New Zealand’s the size of California, it’s easy to see and do more in two weeks than elsewhere like Australia,” Donna Heiderstadt, travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, says. “I know of many couples who made adventure—like trying every crazy extreme sport New Zealand has to offer—the focus of their honeymoon.”
If you have more humanitarian intentions in mind, you might consider a volunteer vacation. Heiderstadt has witnessed an increasing trend of those who volunteered for two weeks—whether “teaching kids English, building schools or helping with village infrastructure”—in Africa, India or South America before finishing their honeymoons at a luxury lodge or resort. While the price tags of these trips can often be lofty, volunteer opportunities occur all over the world, and Travelocity now offer two annual $5,000 Change Ambassador grants to those who want to help out but don’t have the funding.
“We believe we can make the world a better place, one trip at a time—and we don’t want a tight budget to hold back passionate volunteers,” says Alison Presley, manager of Travelocity’s Travel for Good program. “The program awards grants to deserving travelers for volunteer vacations, from trips to Ghana, Costa Rica, China, Jamaica, the Arctic Circle and beyond. Plus, you can apply as an individual or team, making this program perfect for couples.” With Globe Aware, the company that partners with Travelocity on such altruistic ventures, volunteers can choose among the programs in 17 countries and work on a plethora of initiatives, from constructing schools in Ghana and building wheelchairs for land mine victims in Cambodia to helping sea turtles in Costa Rica.
If you’re not so keen on getting down and dirty on your honeymoon, why not settle on a cosmopolitan city break instead? With nightlife to rival any international metropolis and a foodie scene to boot, Berlin has a solution for all those big city needs. Explore the sites vital to the Cold War and relax in the Hotel de Rome, an ornate bank-turned-luxury-stay, before taking a gastro tour courtesy of Berlinagenten in the hip neighborhood Kreuzberg, and burning the midnight oil in some of Berlin’s all-night riverside bars and clubs to top off a perfect day.
And if you want to go off the radar entirely, Africa has an enticing mix of untapped luxury in a perfectly serene setting packed with wildlife. Posh safari company &Beyond manages more than 50 properties across the map, all of which allow you to sleep in comfort then rise with the sun to explore the reserves on which they’re located.
Heiderstadt says, “In two weeks in South Africa and nearby Botswana and Zambia, you can not only have an amazing five-star safari experience, but enjoy the cosmopolitan hotels and restaurants of scenic Cape Town, tour the fabulous wines of the nearby wine regions in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, go cage diving with great white sharks, be pampered at spas in luxurious coastal resorts and even bungee-jump high above the Zambezi River right near world-famous Victoria Falls.”
Other off-the-beaten-path trips include an exploration of Macau, which has been dubbed the “fastest growing destination” by the World Travel and Tourism Council, paired with a day or two over the water in Hong Kong; a trek across Israel; and island-hopping in the Cook Islands or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Heiderstadt advises that wherever you may choose, avoid a couple common mistakes. “Often, the couple can’t agree and one person caves and then holds a grudge and is never really happy with the honeymoon plans,” says . The key if you disagree is to forget those two spots and pick a third that meets both your criteria,” she says. “Another problem is scheduling too much or too little; you end up either bored or exhausted. Aim for a happy medium of some active days and some do-nothing days.” Here are 10 unique custom-made itineraries for your honeymoon; feel free to steal them and call them your own.