DISCOVER PEACE IN PARADISE AT ESSQUE ZALU ON THE SPICE ISLAND OF ZANZIBAR
‘ZANZIBAR…’ THE WORD ALONE CONJURES ROMANCE. BOASTING SOME OF THE BEST BEACHES in the Indian Ocean, a warm welcome wherever you go and the surreal beauty of a tropical desert island, Zanzibar really does have it all. To top it off, you’re forced to stay clear of big hotel chains because there simply aren’t any. That doesn’t mean you have to opt for a beach shack though — far from it. Essque Zalu is the epitome of chic contemporary living with an injection of exotic flair. Boasting a beach-side location, five-star service and a gastronomic restaurant serving the finest prime South African beef steak south of the Equator, it is the ideal choice for honeymooners. Best of all, the hotel is located a stone’s throw from Nungwi, the liveliest part of the island, so you can delve into local life (and the local bars) as much or as little as you please.
Essque Zalu has a unique approach to customer satisfaction that’s worth noting. Instead of the traditional butler, a team of ‘navigators’ have been drafted in to cater to guests’ every whim. They also have a few romantic ideas tucked up their linen sleeves. From a private boat trip around the island to dining under the stars to the beat of a samba band, at Essque Zalu the world really is your oyster. Yours and your new hubby’s that is…
Sir Richard Branson bought Kasbah Tamadot in 1998 after visiting Morocco for his jinxed attempt to circle the globe in a hot-air balloon. That proved deflating, but his discovery of this idyll in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains must have raised his spirits. An hour from Marrakech, this is a whimsical fortress with epic views of Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. For the ultimate in romance, book one of the nine Berber-style tents; ours had a Jacuzzi on a private terrace. Don’t pass up some of the gorgeous treks and memorable meals — we opted for the Kasbah’s roof terrace for a French-inspired tasting menu under the kind of star-studded sky you only find in mountain country. Heavenly.
WOW FACTOR Ogling the snow-dusted peak of Mount Toubkal through a pair of Barska binoculars as you sip bubbly in the Jacuzzi.
GO Mosaic Holidays (mosaicholidays.co.uk) offers three nights in a Superior Room from £1,229 per person, half board. Includes flights, transfers, hamman treatments and one dinner.
UMABYCOMO PUNAKHA, BHUTAN
As soon as we discovered Bhutan measures its prosperity in gross national happiness’, we knew we were off somewhere 10 HRSl special, lima By COMO Punakha makes the most of the country’s star attractions: space, serenity and simplicity. It is small and secluded with only eight rooms and two villas. Choose one with a balcony for views over the Punakha Valley and the Mo Chhu River below. By day, walk through rice-terraced hills and visit local villages and dzongs (fortress-style monasteries). At night, take dinner on your private balcony (pictured) or on the terrace. Try the braised beef curry, red rice and spinach momos (dumplings). It’s not just the high altitude in this Himalayan mountain kingdom that will leave you breathless.
WOW FACTOR Have an indulgent Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath and Massage at the Shambhala Spa, where hot stones heat water in a tub for a herb-infused soak before a massage kneads away any aches.
GO Ampersand Travel (ampersandtravel.com) offers seven nights in a Valley View Deluxe Room from £2,975 per person, B&B. Includes flights via Delhi, Bhutan visa and transfers.
SHAKTI LADAKH, INDIA
If the object of your honeymoon is to get away from it all, Ladakh, high up in the Himalayas, is pretty much as far away as you can get. With otherworldly landscapes like you’ve never seen (soaring lunar-like peaks that frame lush green valleys) and the most peaceful, friendly people you’ll ever meet, you are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’ll stay in charming converted ‘village houses’ that are wrapped in prayer flags and feature simple, chic bedrooms — think neutral walls, hardwood floors and locally crafted toiletries. Days involve climbing, mountain-biking and white-water rafting on the Zanskar River, as well as visiting monasteries and cooking or archery lessons. There’s no lack of romance though, as almost every activity ends in a banquet-style picnic in a beautiful spot -they’ll even bring the carpet and tables. WOW FACTOR After dinner, climb on to the terrace to look for shooting stars. Between the altitude and lack of light pollution, the sky appears like a big, shimmering, ink)’ canopy.
GO Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com) offers seven nights, including a night in Delhi, from £3,945 per person, all-inclusive. Also includes flights and transfers.
MACHU PICCHU SANCTUARY LODGE, PERU
Its rare that we recommend hotels for a one-night stand but at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, you don’t want to spoil the wonder by overstaying your welcome. It’s the only hotel at the entrance to the 550-year-old site, so you can be the first to get a glimpse of the famous lost city of the Incas (pictured, inset) — sunrise is at 6.30am; the park opens at 6am. Don’t expect all bells and whistles: the rooms are simple (they are getting a cosmetic update later this year), but we would swap all the marble bathrooms in the world for this setting. Whether you’ve arrived via the Inca Trail or on the Hiram Bingham train, it will be a relief to kick off your walking boots and tuck into a Pisco Sour in the bar. But don’t get too carried away; that 5am wake-up call is coming.
WOW FACTOR Head up to the Sun Gate just as all the Inca Trail arrivals are coming down, and have the views over Machu Picchu all to yourself.
GO Cox & Kings (coxandkings.co.uk) offers seven nights in Peru, including one night at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, from £2,895 per person, B&B. Also includes flights, transfers, return tickets on the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu and a guided tour of the site.
Perched on a ‘butte’ (a steep hill with a flat top) in the Rocky Mountains, some 7,000 feet above sea level, Amangani is a serene way to start married life — its name aptly means peaceful home’. Deep in the Wyoming wilderness (this is Brokeback Mountain country), the hotel is all-American Aman style, crafted from Oklahoma sandstone and Pacific redwood, decorated with Native American artefacts, cowhide chairs and faux-fur throws. Floor-to-ceiling windows abound, perfect for soaking up the views of Snake River Valley and the Teton mountains. This is a honeymoon for all seasons; in winter, ski-bunnies are only a 20-minute transfer from the fresh powder at Jackson Hole. Once temperatures rise, the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are on your doorstep. Hike the valley and mountain trails, spot bears, wolves, elk, bison and coyotes on a wildlife safari, or enjoy a hot-air balloon ride over the valley. Then unwind in the spa before tucking into bison ribs or local trout in The Grill for a different taste of the wildlife.
WOW FACTOR After a day of action, you can’t beat lazing in Amangani’s infinity pool, which overlooks the majestic scenery below.
GO Carrier (carrier.co.uk) offers seven nights from £3,370 per person. Includes United Airlines flights and transfers.