John O'Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, January 23, 2014
For a long time, travel companies' Valentine's Day holiday offerings have focused on the mawkish. But while a majority still offers predictable booking incentives - chocolate-covered strawberries and rose petals on the bed seem to come as standard in many properties - a number of hotels and travel agencies are offering couples both newly formed and long-standing romantic holidays with a touch more substance and imagination. For those planning a Valentine's Day break, honeymoon or anniversary celebration these are some of the most inventive and extravagant romantic holidays currently on the market.
The towering limestone karsts that pierce the emerald waters of Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay, still associated with Roger Moore’s The Man with the Golden Gun, provide a dramatic backdrop for Six Senses Yao Noi’s two-night Romance package. The experience begins with a helicopter transfer from Phuket to the resort, where a 50ft yacht will lie in wait. On board, Yao Noi’s executive chef will prepare a four-course meal as the crew navigates the surrounding karsts. Accommodation that night is in the glass-ceilinged master bedroom berth, breakfast is served on the beach. From there, it’s back to Six Senses for a series of spa treatments, private candelit dining and a night in a two-storey villa. Available until October 31, the package costs from £3,800 (THB199,000) per person.
Paris is a predictable choice for a Valentine’s escape, but the Love... by George V package at the city’s Four Seasons hotel should impress even the most jaded repeat visitor. After arriving in an Hermes Rolls Royce Phantom on February 14, the couple will check into the penthouse suite where the view stretches from the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré-Couer. The night commences with a 1964 Krug Champagne aperitif in the hotel’s candlelit wine cellar and continues with dinner, directed by two-Michelin-star chef Eric Briffard, in the suite. The package costs £24,935, including round-trip transfers and an in-suite champagne breakfast on February 15.
Sightings are never guaranteed, but Nasa has declared this winter an optimal time to view the Northern Lights. Couples willing to brave the cold can book a trip to Swedish Lapland from February 14 to 17, with accommodation in the Icehotel . Activities including husky sledding, horse riding and ice driving are available during the day, so it should be a memorable holiday whether the Lights come out or not. Simplynorthernlights.co.uk offers packages from £1,295 per person, including flights, transfers and warm clothing.
Not just for newlyweds, Inside Japan Tour ’s nine-night Japanese Honeymoon package begins with three nights in the Tokyo Peninsula hotel, where a night-time helicopter tour of the city should prove a highlight, before continuing to Hakone national park for a stay in a traditional ryokan and onwards to the country’s cultural capital, Kyoto. Here couples can enjoy a private audience with a geisha and attire themselves in traditional Japanese bride and groom kimonos. The package costs from £4,567 per person, including flights, accommodation and internal transport.
Some may consider it a touch overwrought, but the £61,000 ($100,000) Proposal of the Century package offered by The Langham Huntington Pasadena hotel in California is guaranteed to make an impact. Couples will spend two nights in the hotel’s presidential suite and during their stay are driven, in a Bentley Flying Spur, to the 100,000-seater Rose Bowl Stadium which is reserved for their exclusive use. From there they have an hour or so to consider a proposal as the 40-piece Pasadena Symphony Orchestra provides a musical accompaniment.
After reaching Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach by a Seawings flight from Dubai, couples participating in the resort’s Arabian Pearl Retreat experience will be chauffeured to the UAE’s only pearl farm to create bespoke jewellery under the instruction of a local designer. Available until February 28, the package includes accommodation in a Beachfront Pool Villa, transfers, meals and gifts. From £1,669 for one night.
Staying in the hotel’s penthouse suite, couples booking the Very British Engagement Indeed package at Dukes London hotel in Mayfair will start their stay with a jaunt around Hyde Park in a horse-drawn carriage, before returning to the property for afternoon tea. From there, a jeweller from Boodles will be on hand to advise on rings and, assuming the proposal went as planned, a celebratory dinner will follow at the hotel’s Thirty Six by Nigel Mendham restaurant. The experience costs £2,750.
A popular destination with travellers eager to encounter the Big Five, South Africa’s Thanda Private Game Reserve draws on Zulu history and culture with its newly released African Affair package. In addition to moonlit meals and the use of private plunge pools, couples here will participate in a traditional Zulu blessing under a marula tree (also known as a “fertility tree”) and receive an ibheqe, a necklace that serves as a Zulu equivalent to a Valentine’s card. The three-night package costs £2,250 (ZAR39,000) and couples who holiday here within three months of their wedding receive a 25 per cent discount on the standard rate. It is available until December 14.
Oenophiles are well catered for on a champagne-themed break that explores the vineyards that surround Reims. Staying at the converted palace Château les Crayères from February 13-15, couples will tour estates including that of Dom Perignon, for tastings, talks and the opportunity to learn sabrage – the art of opening a bottle with a sabre. Prices start from £1,247 per person, via Grape Escapes .
Couples at Berlin’s Hotel de Rome can enjoy some quiet time together by dining in the hotel’s preserved vault - the building was originally built in 1889 as the headquarters of the Dresdner Bank. The three-course costs £250 (€300) for two.
Again available to all, the “honeymoon package” at the Carlton Hotel in St Moritz begins with an in-suite candelit dinner and continues with a horse-drawn carriage ride through the woodlands surrounding this Swiss ski resort. Indulgence continues with afternoon tea to follow, massages and four hours’ use of a private spa suite and dinner in the hotel’s Romanoff restaurant. Otherwise guests are free to spend their time in their room – butler service and complimentary mini-bars come as standard with the package – or to take to the slopes, with a one-day ski pass is also included. Prices start from £1,299 per person.
Departing Britain on February 13, couples can spend an unconventional Valentine’s Day on the fringes of the Sahara. Spending their first night away at chic Riad el Fenn in Marrakech, couples then transfer to Relais & Chateaux’s Dar Ahlam resort in the desert for two nights. Accommodation is in well-equipped tents, all meals and transfers are included. The package costs from £2,049 per person including flights, via The Ultimate Travel Company .
Operated by Orient Express, British Pullman (departing from London) and Northern Belle (departing from Leeds, York, Chester and Manchester) trains offer special services on Valentine’s Day (aboard Northern Belle) and beyond (on either train). Ensconced in traditionally styled, marquetry-lined carriages, couples will enjoy a five-course meal with champagne and wine as rolling pastoral scenes provide a constantly changing backdrop – a handy source of conversation inspiration for any worn-out couples marking the day out of a sense of obligation. Prices start from £250 per person.
For romantic holidays that maintain high standards year after year, see our guide to the world's best honeymoon destinations .