Valentine's vacations around the world: The best places to go for Valentine's Day

Whisk your lover off their feet and on to a romantic retreat this February 14th, surprising them with some good old fashioned romance and a change of scenery for you both! But, which Valentine’s Day destinations to choose all depends on your style. Are you someone who’d rather keep things old school under the Eiffel Tower or would your partner prefer to be wined and dined in the Cali wine region of Napa Valley? Whatever you’re looking for on your Valentine getaway, our list — spanning the most romantic European cities, US offerings and unexpected Asian additions — is sure to provide.

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Venice | Photo: Dan Novac

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Fans of Call Me By Your Name will especially enjoy reenacting Oliver and Elio’s scenes from the movie, driving through historic cities and towns throughout olive-scented Tuscany, or lake hopping in the north en route to Verona, Shakespeare’s most romantic setting.

1. Italy

Chatting us up in one of the old romance languages, Italians sure know how to seduce us with a whole lot of confidence, cultural heritage and carbohydrates. Its big cities may receive a lot of prestige, captivating by way of gondolas in Venice and Roman architecture in the capital, but rural Italy can be just as charming, perhaps even more so for its lesser crowds and authentic interactions. Fans of Call Me By Your Name will especially enjoy reenacting Oliver and Elio’s scenes from the movie, driving through historic cities and towns throughout olive-scented Tuscany (central Italy), or lake hopping in the north en route to Verona, Shakespeare’s most romantic setting. South Italy is also a tempting choice, particularly along the azure Amalfi Coast that comes studded with gems such as pastel-coloured Positano where Mountain scenery backs a whole host of luxury Mediterranean resorts. Struggling to choose? Allow our ultimate Northern Italy itinerary to make the decisions for you.

Portofino | Photo: Kristine Tanne

2. Switzerland

It’s hard to be impartial towards Switzerland even as it remains entirely neutral towards us! There’s a lot to love in this pristinely kept nation, from the quaint capital of Zurich to countless resort towns based amidst stunning alpine scenes, all making it one of the best couple vacation destinations in Europe, despite its less than lovable prices. Couples who enjoy snow sports will especially love Switzerland for its skiing and snowboarding opportunities followed up by cosy evenings curled up in front of a fireplace at any of the luxury accommodations that dot the Swiss Alps. The vehicle-free Zermatt village is the perfect base on trips to the Valais region and mountaineering on the Matterhorn, coinciding with picturesque rides on the Gernegrat railway and meals with live music among the hills.

Spice up your February days of love by diving into the vibrant LGBT subculture of both Zurich and Geneva or otherwise visit the regional centres of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Lausanne or St. Gallen for their smaller gay communities. The de facto capital of Switzerland is, in fact, Bern and a great choice for Valentine’s Day getaways thanks to all the medieval architecture of its old town and panoramas over the Bernese Alps best seen from the top of Munster Cathedral’s lofty spire. If looking for a lakeside getaway, however, Lake Zug can delight for its cycling, hiking and skating adventures in central Switzerland.

Zermatt, Switzerland | Photo: Joel de Vriend

Photo: Renate Vanaga

3. Greek Islands

For some February sunshine, the Greek Islands will happily provide, almost guaranteeing warm weather and welcoming vibes for gay lovers across any of its sandy isles. Santorini and Crete are long-standing romantic favourites for their unbeatable beaches, prized sunsets and fresh seafood dishes, the former especially known for its white-washed villages flanked by both beach and cliff. For the perfect evening in Santorini, catch the sunset from the Byzantine castle ruins before dining by candlelight at a restaurant overlooking the caldera. In Crete meanwhile, a half-day sailing experience around the island is easily the most romantic experience to be had, allowing for some couple’s time on deck under the winter sun.

One of the trendier spots in the Greek island chain is Mykonos where you can find a great many boutique hotels and upscale restaurants to impress your partner with. Like Crete, Mykonos also runs boat tours, many of which take passengers out to a series of tiny islands off the coast — including the mythical spots of Rinea and Delos — for a full day of sailing. If you really can’t decide on one island, an island-hopping cruise can take you to a number of the best spots, often covering Mykonos, the Cycladic Islands and Crete. See our guide to find the best hotels in Santorini.

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto

4. Hawaii

One of the most popular Honeymoon destinations the world over, Hawaii is the epitome of romance. Even the well-known Hawaiian greeting of ‘Aloha’ can represent love as well as both hello and goodbye. Similar to Greece, Hawaii has both winter warmth (averaging 25°C in February) and a load of island escapes to choose from, starting with the biodiversity and cosmopolitan resorts of the Big Island, from Kona all the way to the Hamakua Coast. Many say that the best couples vacations in Hawaii are to be had on Maui, a dream destination for newlyweds thanks to its wide selection of romantic resorts and fun couples’ activities centred on the water. Avoid the island’s traffic by researching where to go beforehand, basing yourself in either Wailea or Kaanapali and venturing out from there. Another of the top spots in Hawaii has to be Kauai, otherwise known as The Garden Isle, for its entirely green valleys and mountains that slope spectacularly towards the ocean, particularly on the Na Pali coast, an area only accessible by trek, boat ride or helicopter tour. If you’re thinking of proposing on Valentine’s Day, head to the remote Mahaulepu Beaches or trek to a waterfall for a memorable backdrop. Alternatively, head to Oahu for nightlife and shopping, as shown in our Honolulu gay guide.

Photo: Jakob Owens

Hawaii | Photo: Braden Jarvis

5. Big Sur, California

Nicknamed the Golden State with many a 90s rock song dedicated to it, California is ideal for Valentine’s Day. The Big Sur is the name given to the ocean road leading from Carmel to San Simeon, sometimes referred to as the “American Riviera”. With Pacific Ocean views on one side and Santa Lucia Mountain backdrops on the other, the Big Sur is a dream road trip route, passing by a number of famous destinations along the way. State parks and dramatic beaches are strewn along the entirety of this 27-kilometre route, though the Bixby Creek Bridge and 80-foot Mcway Falls only come along once. Of the exclusive resorts lining the way, the clifftop Post Ranch Inn is a favourite for its treehouse and private home accommodation offerings complete with infinity pools, fine restaurants and exceptional stargazing. Read our advice on how to plan the ultimate California road trip, booking stays at any of the top 10 boutique hotels in California along the way.

Big Sur | Photo: Cosmin Serban

Photo: In Lieu In View Photography

6. Andalucía, Spain

Another of the fairy-tale places to go for Valentine’s Day is back in Europe in the south of Spain. Here’s where you’ll find the ethereal world of Andalucía, made so by its Moorish past and rustic Mediterranean setting. Besides the deep-blue beauty of the coast, Andalucía gets more and more intriguing the further inland you go, landing on white villages, and vibrant towns that will show you how to dance flamenco. Progressive mindsets abound across Spain and Andalucía is no different, particularly in the city of Granada with its gorgeous Arabesque culture and passionate people. Granada’s Alhambra and Arab baths can keep you busy by day, while the Mirador de San Nicolás is the perfect sunset spot. In Seville meanwhile, it’s the Jewish Quarter where we while away our time, scoping out the architectural wonders of the Royal Palace and gothic cathedral, sampling rebujitos and tapas after dark on the Plaza de Espana.

If a beach vacation is what you’re after, try Malaga, a coastal city with its own host of Moorish heritage, such as the Gibraltar Castle and the fortified Alcazaba built in the 11th century. Then, for some much-needed pampering, it’s the Hammam Al Andalus that will delight. Discover the best route through Andalucía with our dream South Spain road trip itinerary.

Photo: Los Muertos Crew

Seville, Spain | Photo: v2f

7. Napa Valley, California

Further north on California’s dreamy stretch of coastline from the Big Sur, passing San Jose and San Francisco along the way, road trippers can rest up and quench their thirst in the wine region of Napa Valley. Famed around the world for its rolling hill views and modern wine varieties, Napa Valley is an ideal setting for romance. Book yourself and your partner on a wine tour to pass through a number of world-class wineries, where you’ll get to boost your wine expertise with tours and tasting sessions around the vineyards, farmhouses and wine cellars of esteemed chateaus. Many of these wineries also host their own lodgings and fine restaurants, making them an easy option for a relaxed, vino-heavy Valentine’s weekend. Discover the best wineries of Napa Valley, marking the special occasion with a hot-air balloon ride over the region or a cooking class followed by a hot spring soak and a Napa restaurant experience.

8. Bali, Indonesia

One of the best couple vacations in Asia surely has to be to Bali, everyone’s favourite Indonesian island. The true picture of paradise, Bali is all golden-sand beaches and luxury spa hotels painted onto a tropical rainforest canvas. Enjoy the shade of the palms on lingering walks along the remote Gunung Paying Beach, discovering ornate temples, ancient trees and welcoming Balinese locals at every turn. As well as all the stress relief of the ocean and various spa treatments, Bali is known for its nightlife and adventure sports, allowing for a healthy balance of energies. So, after drinking in the sunset up on Mende Hill or among the marigold fields of Desa Belok, you’ll be ready for a candlelit meal and perhaps a few cocktails at a comfy bar in town. Or, for a Monday date night, head to Karma Beach for an open-air movie screening with only the waves and the stars to distract you. See our rundown of the best gay-friendly hotels in Bali.

Pura Lempuyang Bali

Pura Lempuyang | Photo Raj Eiamworakul

Photo: Marvin Meyer

9. Marrakech, Morocco

Morocco’s most loved ancient city, Marrakech enchants all who enter its Medina walls, intoxicating with heady spices, colours and textures of the old Arab world. At its centre, Djema el Fan square lies as the most vibrant square in the Middle East, home to riad hotels, hammam spas and the famed souk (market) where vendors tout carpets, mosaic decor and shisha pipes with zeal. It’s almost impossible not to fall for Marrakech’s charms, catering as it does to all types of travellers. Stay in a luxury spa hotel to ensure you have the chance to unwind, heading out into the lively streets for full immersion in local traditions. The ruins of Badi Palace evoke old Morocco, most romantic after dark, while Menara and Majorelle Gardens are perfect oases to escape into, lying just outside of the city.

Dining in the city is also a joy, whether you fancy traditional Moroccan dishes or gourmet international fare, there’s something for everyone. Before that, however, it’s the sunset views that we fill up on, and though many of Morocco’s roof terrace cafés don’t serve alcohol, they do offer up prime views over Koutoubia Mosque and the Medina, often with the sounds of the evening call to prayer ringing out in the distance. Those wanting to get a little tipsy while in Marrakech can head outside the Medina to the European-style bars of Ville Nouvelle, where the city’s ultra-discreet gay scene lives on. Enjoy 10 meandering days in Morocco with our ultimate Morocco itinerary or prep for the dunes with Mr Hudson’s advice on how to plan a Morocco desert trip.

Marrakech | Photo: Micael Saez

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Gay US couples planning to wed often choose Key West for its open LGBT-loving culture, tying the knot among rainforest gardens, on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor or in private courtyards of their boutique guesthouses.

10. The Florida Keys

Way, way down on the Florida Peninsula, a string of islands known as the Florida Keys bring a tropical hit of sunshine and Latino flavours for gay travellers across the globe. Made of more than just beaches, palms and poolside lounges (although, there are a fair amount of these things), the Florida Keys offer some of our favourite memories of all time, the action spread end to end on this 170-kilometre stretch. Aside from road tripping with cerulean blue windscreen views, the Florida Keys are a great choice for champagne cruises, diving courses (Key Largo) and snorkelling or paddleboarding excursions (to see the manatees of Islamorada), with many of the biggest isles (such as Key West) also known for their fabulous gay scenes. Enjoy the perfect weather even in February, touring any of the beautiful beaches that leading to the gay Mecca of Key West. It’s here where gay nightlife gets real, rivalling any other gay village in the US. Gay US couples planning to wed often choose Key West for its open LGBT-loving culture, tying the knot among rainforest gardens, on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor or in private courtyards of their boutique guesthouses. The Key West Metropolitan Community Church is also a community favourite for its marriage equality ceremonies, both civil and religious.

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto

Miami | Photo: Jason Briscoe

11. Mexico

Another well-tanned Latino wishing a ‘Happy Valentine’s Day everyone’ is the nation of Mexico, proffering ancient Aztec treasures and natural wonders to soak up all year round. Expect February in Mexico to be warm and sunny, allowing for snorkelling, diving and cruising in the Caribbean Sea (in Tulum, Cancun and the Riviera Maya) or, alternatively, for colonial city breaks that showcase the country’s grandest cathedrals and best museums amongst vibrant plazas and old towns, such as Mexico City, Monterey or Acapulco.

Combine both beaches and culture with a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s number one gay destination since the 1980s. Puerto Vallarta’s old town (AKA ‘Zona Romantica’) is packed with LGBTQ accommodations, bars and other gay-owned businesses, while, along the coast, gay beaches take over. Alternative beach destinations include Los Cabos, an island with luxury hotels edged by both paradise coastline and rugged natural landscapes. Los Cabos is particularly famed for its humpback whale watching tours that run from December to April, as well as drier activities such as horseback riding (at Rancho Carisuva), canyon trekking, and desert tours. Where else is there to go in Mexico as a gay traveller? See our top 10 destinations in gay Mexico.

Cancun | Photo: Gerson Repreza

Photo: Los Muertos Crew

12. Prague, Czech Republic

Winning over people’s hearts one affordable pilsner at a time, the Czech Republic is high on our list of Valentine’s Day destinations. Prague especially has us under the influence, thanks to its array of storybook castles and gothic churches linked by cobblestone arcades and medieval bridges. Walk hand-in-hand through the old streets of Prague or take a replica 19th-century boat down the Vltava River, marvelling at the seamless interplay between modern and ancient styles. The island of Kampa is one of the gems of Lesser Town offering enchanting views of the Smetanovo nábřeží riverbank between Charles Bridge and Legion Bridge, with Prague Castle ever-present in the background. Cross the lover’s bridge to get to Kampi, hanging a padlock like thousands of other hopeless romantics have done before you, throwing the key in the river to symbolise you and your partner’s eternal bond.

While February 14th is considered all too commercial in the country, a more traditional day for Czech lovers comes on May 1st, nicknamed the “Day of Love”  when, according to local superstition, couples should kiss under a flowering cherry blossom tree to ensure health and happiness.

Prague, Czechia | Photo: Dmitry Goykolov

Photo: Cottonbro

13. Iceland

February vacationers in Iceland will be cold of hand but warm of heart while exploring this icy realm, a top European destination for its unrivalled natural attractions and dark night starscapes. For LGBTQ+ travellers, Iceland is a place to be utterly free, where progressive ideas and friendly locals are everywhere despite a relatively underdeveloped gay scene outside of Reykjavik. Stay at a geothermal hot spring hotel near the Blue Lagoon to truly feel the warmth of Icelandic lifestyles, by way of saunas, steam caves and outdoor fire pits overlooking the volcanic landscape. For a wild bathing spot, try trekking to the springs of Reykjadalur, or simply gaze on at glacial falls such as Gullfoss, Skógafoss and Rjúkandi.

The traditional day of Bóndadagur (or ‘Man’s Day’) and ‘Konudagur (Women’s Day) both hark back to pagan midwinter celebrations, allowing for gay lovers to express their love on the Norse calendar, inviting love in after the harshest months of winter. Another reason to visit Iceland in winter is for its dazzling Northern Lights displays, best seen between late September and late March outside of urban areas. Find the best places to stay in Iceland.

Iceland | Photo: Benjamin Suter

Gullfoss Falls, Iceland | Photo: Khamkeo Vilaysing

14. Maldives

Warming up slightly in the Indian Ocean, we choose the Maldives as our penultimate  Valentine’s choice. The white-sand beaches, azure sea views and luxury overwater villas would be enough to win over even the most seasoned of island vacationers, but the Maldives goes further by building a welcoming tourist industry atop it all. Even in February, the weather is good enough for snorkelling, windsurfing and canoeing, with the marina also offering more sea-faring options, including traditional Maldivian Dhoni vessels, speedboats and yachts. At many of the island’s best hotels, Valentine’s packages ensure your and your lover’s needs are met throughout your stay, with experiences and romantic features such as champagne breakfasts and private sunset cruises, followed by candlelit dinner for two on the beach. The Cheval Blanc Randheli resort of Noonu Atoll is one such beauty, serving up gourmet international fare and fresh seafood in next-level tropical surroundings.

Maldives | Photo: Ishan Seefromthesky

15. Paris, France

Closing our list with a time-honoured favourite, we offer up Paris as the most romantic city in the world. It may sound cliché but what more could we ask for than a moonlit cruise along the Seine River followed by an embrace under the glittering Eiffel Tower and modern French dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Daytime in Paris is just as seductive, thanks to the city’s range of world-class museums, galleries and historic institutions, all built in breathtaking architectural styles, from the gothic to the futuristic. See the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre and the Sacré-Cœur Church, enjoying the buttery delights of a freshly baked Croissant from a local patisserie or the sophisticated cafés of the Montmarte district when in need of a rest. Alternative attractions to surprise your lover include the Musée Rodin, the Aquarium de Paris and the tropical Jardin des Plantes, finishing up with some champagne at The Ritz Hotel where the dress code for Valentine’s Day (and every day at that) is ‘classy Parisian gentleman’. Spend longer in France with our ultimate France itinerary as your guide.

Paris Rooftops

Photo: Behzad Ghaffarian

Photo: Jeanbaptiste Burbaud

Elevate your Valentine’s Day with a look at our guide to the most romantic mountain getaways.

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