With Valentine's Day upon us, it's time to show that special someone that you've been thinking of them and are looking forward to spending a couple of romantic days and nights together. Forget Paris - the members and editors of VirtualTourist.com have come up with a list of "5 Romantic Weekend Destinations" that you probably haven't visited yet and are bound to enjoy together.
Photo credit: Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic - Courtesy of CzechTourism
If you think Prague and Vienna are too cliché, how about visiting the spa city of Karlovy Vary? Located at the confluence of the rivers Teplá and Ohre, Karlovy Vary is only about 130 km (81 miles) west of Prague. While the town is famous for its spa culture and hot springs, it also contains beautiful belle époque and art nouveau building facades. And these spas are not cost-prohibitive - many of the city's famous thermal springs are located in open colonnades, which are free to the public and where visitors can "drink cure" from special cups available for purchase throughout the town. Some of the more notable colonnades are the Park Colonnade and the Mill Colonnade, as well as the Thermal Spring Colonnade. Stroll the streets, sip the cure, and enjoy your weekend away from the busy city.
Photo credit: Castello Aragonese Courtesy of ENIT
Few coastlines have the views and sunsets of the Amalfi in Italy, but with those views come high prices and large crowds. Celebrities have flocked to the nearby island of Capri, but with their visits and vacations, so have followed the high prices and big groups. Multiple VirtualTourist members suggest avoiding the large crowds and high prices by visiting Ischia, the largest of the three islands off of Naples, but significantly less "sceney" and crowded than Capri. Accessible by ferry from Naples and Pozzuoli, this island is of volcanic origin and therefore known for its thermal hot springs and wellness activities. In addition to heated pools and spas, one must-see is the Ponte Aragonese, the foot bridge that connects the island to the Castello Aragonese. For unparalleled views, stay at the Albergo Il Monastero, a hotel built in an old convent within the Castello Aragonese. If that's not feasible, at least enjoy drinks from the hotels terrace.
Roussilon, Provence, France
Roussillon Ochres by M. Raynaud - Courtesy of CRT PACA
This year, the spotlight in the South of France has been on Marseille, the country's second largest city and a designated European Capital of Culture for 2013. While many trips within Provence start in Marseille, the destination for your romantic weekend should be somewhere less crowded and with a slower pace. If you and your significant other enjoy hiking and being outdoors you should schedule a stopover in Roussillon while touring the Cote d'Azur. Roussillon, situated 50 km (31 miles) from Avignon on the road to Apt, is a small village most notable for its location in the midst of one of the world's largest ochre deposits. This is reflected in both the hills surrounding the village as well as the buildings themselves, with the clay ranging from a yellow to dark rust to almost violet. Visitors can take two different walks, one 30 minutes long and another 60 minutes long, to explore the Ochre Trail and learn more about the geology and landscape at the site. It should be noted that the trail is closed annually from January 1 to February 16.
Savannah Historic Bed & Breakfast - Courtesy of VisitSavannah.com
Long overshadowed by pristine and picturesque Charleston, Savannah has recently become an increasingly popular romantic weekend destination due to the city's well-preserved architecture, creative culinary scene, and affordability. Savannah gives visitors the opportunity to truly embrace the flâneur lifestyle. With 21 public squares and no laws against open containers, visitors can stroll the streets with a to-go cocktail of their choosing. If you or your partner enjoy architecture and house tours, Savannah is a goldmine of amazing properties - simply walk along the Victorian district, filled with historic homes, flourishing gardens, and complex iron work. Boutiques and home furnishing stores line Broughton Street, and one store not to miss is The Paris Market. Filled with everything from vintage chandeliers to reproduction carousel letters to John Derian accoutrements, this store is as well known for its inspired seasonal window displays as its unique home furnishings. While many visitors try to sneak into Paula Deen's restaurant, a VirtualTourist member recalls an exquisite meal at Elizabeth on 37th. Set in a turn of the century Southern Mansion, the changing menu features a wonderful selection of fresh Southern Coastal favorites like crab, oysters, and clams, while incorporating seasonal herbs, veggies, and edible flowers from the house garden.
For the unexpected romantic gesture, one VirtualTourist member suggested a cruise on Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Start your trip with a day in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital and second largest city, before embarking on a two day, one night tour of Ha Long Bay. Members warned that the drive from Hanoi to Ha Long takes about three and a half hours (including one rest stop), with the second half of the trip being significantly bumpier, though all members unanimously agreed the journey is worth it. Rather than a large cruise liner with crowds of people, splurge on a "luxury junk" (which there is no shortage of on the bay) and enjoy one of the most beautiful scenes in Southeast Asia with your significant other. The bay, which includes more than 1,600 islands and islets, is comprised primarily of limestone pillars. One island, TiTop Island, can be explored on foot and affords those who make the climb to its summit an amazing view of the bay. Many visitors choose to explore the bay and the natural caves by kayak. The site is a rare combination of a truly rare geological occurrence (the bay and its islands are a UNESCO Heritage Site) with unique beauty that is protected from human encroachment by the very bay that surrounds it.
Whether your idea of a romantic weekend includes geological masterpieces, thermal springs, or southern comfort cuisine, we hope it is restorative and celebratory in every way. Need help planning your long weekend? Don't forget to use VirtualTourist.com's forums to have your travel questions answered quickly by a real expert traveler!