Asia’s top 10 destinations for honeymoons

Asia’s top 10 destinations for honeymoons

From the evocatively beautiful Kashmir to the verdant wilds of Sri Lanka, the experts at TravelLocal suggest their top 10 romantic destinations in Asia…

1 Cambodia

"Angkor...is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome", said French explorer Henri Mouhot in his journal 'Travels in Siam, Cambodia & Laos', and for many visitors this seemingly bold claim rings true. Angkor once laid at the heart of a mighty empire and its mysterious temples, many of which remain in the evocative grip of the jungle, exert an irresistible grip on romance-seeking travellers worldwide.

There is something impossibly quixotic about seeing the sun rise or set over these magnificent temples. A well-connected guide can get you through the temples of Angkor before the tour buses arrive, while areallygood one can arrange once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will make for a truly memorable honeymoon. What, for example, could be more romantic than exploring Angkor by torchlight, with the light hum of the jungle all around and stars high above, away from the madding crowds?

2 Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country that calls out to be explored. With its clutch of boutique hotels, smart shops and beaches, it's all too tempting to 'fly and flop', but we'd really recommend mixing it up. Sri Lanka is a dream destination for those into wildlife - leopard, wild boar and sloth can be found in Yala National Park, while deep in the verdant Uda Walawe National Park, there's the Elephant Transit Centre where orphaned elephants are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild, and you can walk with a naturalist at the Sinharaja Biosphere.

'Tea Country' is as much about time travel as it is romance, and it is here that you can spend time in the colonial-era hill station of Nuwara Eliya, taking some gentle walks in the area. A wildlife trip, combined with some walking and a few days relaxing on the beach at the end, is our top tip for a romantic Sri Lankan honeymoon.

3 Kashmir, India

Kashmir, one of India's most evocative and beautiful destinations, is back on the traveller's map. Following the UK's Foreign Office ruling that it is safe to visit, this land of lakes, rolling hills, mystique and charming traditional buildings has long battled with an image problem, but it has never left the minds of those who remember how it was in the tourism heyday of the 1970's. Back then, tourists flocked to Dal Lake to stay on houseboats, walk in the hills and socialise with a friendly, local population.

Nowadays, with the travel advisory update, new luxury accommodation like the comfortable Sukoon houseboat provides honeymooners with a high standard, as do the Sheraton boats which deliver a lot of local character. As well as the romance of the lake, the Mughal gardens in Srinagar are a must-visit, but in our opinion nothing beats an afternoon spent with a local scholar who can tell travellers all about local Kashmiri culture and history - a great opportunity to delve a bit deeper and to have a truly local experience. A romantic feast is also on the cards for those seeking authenticity. A 'wazwan' is a delicious local style feast that comprises of many dishes.

4 Varanasi, India

There are many clichés surrounding Varanasi. This ancient city is 'the holiest in India', 'a spiritual centre of Hinduism' and is 'impossibly ancient', but despite the platitudes, Varanasi remains magnificently mystical. Varanasi has not been 'Disney-fied' by the onset of tourism and the city remains an intense and other-worldly place (especially for non-Hindus). There are 2000 temples to visit, traditional Indian gyms and Asia's largest university, but the magic of Varanasi is the city itself - just being there is an experience.

Given the intensity, many visitors choose to stay in upmarket hotels set slightly back from the riverfront, or out towards Sarnath, an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Also, there are several places to stay that serve romantic candle-lit dinners and have couples spa treatments (try Taj Hotel's Nadesar Palace).

5 Shaxi, China

Seeing unspoilt parts of China is getting harder and harder as the country develops economically, and as domestic tourism starts to take off. The cities, as fun as they are for all their excellent restaurants, shops and hotels, can be polluted and busy. Fortunately though, there are some unspoilt, more rural places, which not only manage to retain their romance, but also, in this giant country are surprisingly accessible.

Shaxi is one such place - a serene, gentle and tranquil village that lies around a three hours drive from Longji in China's Yunnan province. It's not yet making it onto itineraries for the big tour groups, however there is enough tourist infrastructure in place to make things comfortable - there are a couple of small, but smart, local guesthouses and a few good restaurants. We advise travellers to try and time their visit on a Friday when women from the surrounding Bai, Naxi, and Yi minority tribes walk into town to buy and sell their wares - generally in traditional dress: a wonderfully evocative and romantic scene.

6 The Silk Route

A romantic trip for true adventurers, a journey along the most celebrated section of the Silk Road is not easy - and certainly not very luxurious - but for what it lacks in comfort, it makes up for with novelty, interesting sights, desert cities lost in time and gorgeous mountain scenery.

Highlights include: Kashgar, home of China's greatest market, which sits between the mountains and the desert; the alpine lake Song Kol high in the Tien Shan mountains and the historic Silk Route cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. All are impossibly romantic, and real Arabian Nights stuff of plumed turbans, minarets and markets. Infrastructure is in its infancy, and the plumbing can be wobbly, but there's probably not a more memorable honeymoon in the making than an adventure like this, with genuine hospitality easing the hardships on the road.

7 Kyrgyzstan

High above the desert - where "land and sky meet" - is Kyrgyzstan. This stunningly beautiful country seems both smaller and much bigger than its neighbours. Its mountains tower over everything, pouring out glacier-fed rivers to the deserts and steppe of Central Asia. This is a little-visited wilderness that is friendly to the traveller, exhilarating to see first-hand and fantastic value as well.

We like to think that there is something very romantic about waking up in a yurt in an emerald green field. Thrill seekers might enjoy heli-skiing the snowy peaks of the Tian Shan mountains, riding horses along the ravines and lakes of the ancient Silk Route or dining on some rustic Kyrgyz food around a horse-dung fire pit.

The food in Kyrgyzstan can be very good, especially the homemade jams and fresh fruit and Kyrgyzstan's visa situation is the most liberal in Central Asia, so logistics are, thankfully, simple.

8 Thailand

Ever popular, but undeniably romantic, Thailand remains a great choice. From the frenetic capital, Bangkok, to historic Sukhothai, to the beaches in the south, it's tricky to decide what to choose in a land that excels in great hotels, service, spas and food. There are countless opportunities for inspiring and memorable honeymoons, but we'd really recommend Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is the gateway to the Golden Triangle, and is the perfect jumping off point for heading up to the border with Burma for a few days exploring remote landscapes and visiting some of Thailand's most interesting hill tribes. A stop in Chiang Rai on your way back to Bangkok provides the perfect finish to this exciting trip and there are plenty of luxurious hotels along the way to add to the romance.

9 Vietnam

"They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived", so wrote Graham Greene in The Quiet American. We say: bring your camera and have plenty of room on your memory card as this is Southeast Asia's most photogenic country.

For a quiet, romantic escape or honeymoon, try Ha Giang or do the "Northwest Loop" which offers a taste of untouched Southeast Asia. Taking to the water is also dreamy - luxurious boats like the Pandaw retains an incredible atmosphere as it travels up the Mekong River. Popular Halong Bay is the place for sunset and sunrise, but it does get busy in the peak months. We'd also highly recommend the cocktail scene in Saigon and having your fortunes told together in Cholon, Saigon's Chinatown.

10 Rural Rajasthan

The city jewels of Rajasthan - Jaipur and Udaipur - have a clutch of unquestionably exciting and evocative sights, but it's only by going into the countryside that you get to see the 'real' India. It is here that you can experience the life of a Maharaja by staying in a countryside palace, or a riverside fort, and here that you'll get to see villages untouched by time and meet countless friendly locals. You might also spot some wildlife, stumble upon an impromptu music festival, partake in a cooking class, try some yoga moves on the ramparts or get rowed along a sleepy river into the sunset.

Rajasthanis are incredibly hospitable and are proud of their culture. If it is possible to tie-in a visit with the famous Jodhpur RIFF, all the better. This fabulous festival - headed up Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur and Sir Mick Jagger, features a series of concerts and events based in and around Mehrangarh Fort, voted "Asia's Best Fortress" by Time Magazine. It doesn't get much more romantic than that!

 

TravelLocal can arrange private, tailor-made trips and honeymoons to many parts of Asia. To find out more, call +44 1865 242 709 or email team@travellocal.com.  Follow on Twitter @travellocalHQ.

 

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