Holiday ideas for couples
Whether you’re a young couple looking for a romantic break or getting your first chance to travel alone now the children have left home, you’ll find choices for all budgets in the best destinations for couples in the UK, Europe and further afield.
Couples holidays in the UK
1. Scotland is packed with short break options – check out McKinlay Kidd for some fabulous trips. Try a whisky tour on the island of Islay, keep your eyes peeled for Minke Whales, otters, seals and porpoises off the west coast of Scotland on a Mull Wildlife Experience or take a nostalgic trip on a steam train through the highlands – otherwise known as Hogwarts Express.
2. Whether you travel by air or ferry, Jersey is only a short hop away and chance are you will find the weather than bit warmer than on the UK mainland. Head out on some of the many excellent walking trails, swim off stunning beaches, explore WW2 tunnels – and relax back at base at The Atlantic Hotel. We like this hotel’s dramatic views over St. Ouen’s Bay – a conservation area of outstanding natural beauty – and Mark Jordan’s delicious Michelin-starred cooking, served in the light and airy Ocean restaurant.
3. We love the family-owned Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District – it’s a luxurious, relaxing hideaway with some thoughtful contemporary twists. It’s a big draw for foodies especially, with 3 AA Rosette dining. Not far from Windermere, there are 22 acres of country gardens on the edge of moors and woodland.
4. Aldeburgh is one of Britain’s prettiest seaside towns. The Wentworth Hotel is a family-run gem which overlooks the beach and promises a warm, unpretentious welcome.
5. You may think that you have to travel to France or even further afield for a wine-tasting break but take a look at the Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire. Three Choirs is one of England’s leading wine producers. As well as gorgeous rooms, you can expect top quality food, 100 acres of quiet, scenic countryside and wine-tasting, of course.
7. For something a little different, join a small-group cultural tour with the renowned Martin Randall. Each tour is led by an expert in art, music or architecture. You could attend a classical music festival, visit some of England’s stateliest of stately homes, or follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens or William Turner, for example.
8. Join a small-group escorted to based around a special event such as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo or Hampton Court Flower Show. See the full list of tours in the UK including four days in the Orkney Islands and an Old Pubs & Great Grub tour of the Severn Valley.
9. In the beautiful Cotswolds, Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa has an exceptional two-Michelin star restaurant, a world-class spa and even a private cinema. Perfect for some serious pampering.
10. Rent a cottage in Scotland. You could find a traditional homesteads, a house in a fishing village in the Highlands, or a luxury lodge with a private hot tub. Popular destinations include the Highlands, Loch Lomond and the Borders.
11. If you’re a couple who want to celebrate a special occasion with other couples, friends and family, why not make like the cast of Downton Abbey and rent an historic house in England, Scotland or Wales. It’s a great option for birthdays or anniversaries.
13. Set on the Shropshire-Wales borders, you’ll find this stylish Georgian country house hotel. Pen-y-Dyffryn has cosy bedrooms, an excellent restaurant and great walking on the doorstep. See the latest offers.
14. If you want to take your beloved four-legged friend with you, there are a number of options where dogs are welcome. Rural Retreats has more than 80 dog-friendly self-catering properties in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
15. Another option is to cross the sea to Ireland for ones of these special experiences. You could discover the windy backroads in a Mini or on a Classic Car Tour in a MGB roadster, Alfa Romeo Spider, Mercedes 350SL or Morris Minor. If you love unspoilt nature, discover the dramatic coastline, mountains, beaches and pretty villages of Connemara.
16. Margate on the coast of Kent is on the up with the opening of the Turner Contemporary art gallery, along with interesting boutique shops and the stylish new Sands Hotel. It has a superb beach and views that were immortalised by the painter JMW Turner.
Across the Channel
1. Inntravel can always be relied upon to unearth some hotel gems on the continent – just across the Channel near Calais is the charming Hostellerie de Tourelles, for example. Inntravel also offers some gentle cycling breaks, such as this four-night option in the Loire Valley.
2. A river cruise is the perfect way to see the sights of Europe. You can navigate great rivers such as the Danube, Rhine, Mosel, Seine, Rhône and Douro, enjoying lovely views, great food and lots of exciting excursions – and there’s no need to pack and unpack whenever you reach a new destination.
3. The markets of Nice Old Town, on the Cote d’Azur, are some of the most vibrant in Europe. With its warm Mediterranean climate, elegant streets, art museums and markets, Nice works as a short break destination at any time of year.
4. Set off the Atlantic Coast of France, the Ile de Ré will beguile you with its vast sandy beaches, pretty harbours, cycle paths, pine forests – and superb seafood restaurants. We think the best approach is to rent an apartment.
5. The canals and rivers of France wind their way through some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery. We can think of no better way to soak it all in than on board a luxury hotel barge. Each barge sleeps between four and 20 passengers, in considerable comfort, and the price includes gourmet meals, fine wines, an open bar and all shore excursions. Most journeys are for six nights – take a look at Burgundy, Alsace-Lorraine, Provence and the Canal du Midi, for example.
6. Whether you are a vinophile or have just a passing interest in French wines, we recommend Arblaster & Clarke for a wide choice of expert-led group tours for foodies and wine connoisseurs with vineyards visits, tastings and stylish accommodation. They offer more independent trips too. Try a classic wine tour to Sancerre, Burgundy, the Rhone or Chablis. Further afield, there’s Italy, Spain and Portugal. If time is short, a Champagne weekend is hard to beat, especially if you have something to celebrate.
7. Avoid the stress of airports and let the train take the strain – it’s surprisingly quick to reach Europe’s iconic cities by rail now. Travel with a specialist – we recommend Railbookers – for advice on the best routes and fares and take your pick from classic destinations such as Paris, Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam. For a special treat, how about heading to Venice via the Alps?
8. Of course, there is a way to fly without any stress – and that is by private jet. Formalities are kept to a minimum, you get to choose where you fly from and when and you can choose from a day trip or short break. Gather together some friends or family and you will find it surprisingly affordable, starting at less than £1,000 per person for a Michelin-starred lunch in Paris.
9. Holiday villages are hugely popular in France and the ones operated by Pierre & Vacances are particularly good, not least outside the school holidays. Whether you love beach, countryside or mountains, rent a luxury apartment for great value with year-round facilities including spas and heated pools.
10. Join a Battlefield Tours in France or Belgium to visit military graveyards and learn about the places where history was made in two world wars. To mark the 100th centenary of the First World War, this three-day Battlefield Weekend takes in the Somme, Villers-Bretonneux, the Hooge Crater and the Messine and Vimy Ridges.
Summer holiday ideas for couples
1. Croatia is one of Europe’s gems with a gorgeous coastline studded with islands and great-value hotels. Completely Croatia has a particularly good selection of budget and luxury hotels. Take a look at the stunning island of Hvar too – it’s easily reached by ferry from the mainland.
2. We rate Turkey’s Aegean coast as one of the best destinations for young couples who want to laze in the sun in a stylish boutique hotel – and for anyone with even a passing interest in ancient history. The region is packed with archaeological treasures. Exclusive Escapes has the pick of the hotels in this region, some of them exclusive to their customers only.
3. If you prefer mountain air along with your summer sunshine, head to the Alps. Peak Retreats has a selection of ‘aparthotels’ in some of the prettiest alpine villages – you could even enjoy some glacier skiing in some.
4. For old-school Italian glamour and superb hotels it’s hard to beat the Amalfi Coast – and the coastal road is perhaps one of the most dramatic and picturesque in the world. For something a little different, there are authentic experiences on offer such as cookery classes, garden tours or limoncello tasting.
5. Also ranking high in the glamour stakes are the Italian Lakes, where you’ll find jaw-dropping scenery, excellent hotels and good food. Most lakes have a great public transport system for local sightseeing, and lots of boat trips are available. They are a particularly good option in the Spring and Autumn when the colours are particularly vibrant – and the crowds less thronging.
6. The Italian island of Sicily is packed with atmospheric towns, fascinating historical sites and a gorgeous coastline. For great-value locally-owned hotels throughout the island, we recommend ExpertoItaly. For something on a grander scale, there’s Sir Rocco Forte’s relatively new Verdura Golf & Spa Resort which has rapidly emerged as one of the Mediterranean’s most desirable hotels.
8. The tiny Adriatic nation of Montenegro – about the size of Northern Ireland – is rapidly emerging as one of Europe’s most attractive destinations. With lots of characterful places to stay, it has mountains that reach down to the coast, vast lakes, national parks, historic cities and dozens of tiny beaches.
9. The Catalonian coast is one of the most beautiful regions of Spain, packed with unspoiled fishing villages and pretty coves as well as some sandy beaches. These self-guided cycling holidays include a selection of routes – some very gentle – and your luggage is transported each day to await you at your next hotel. You can also combine it with a beach break.
10. Wide empty beaches with unspoilt countryside, mountains, historic medieval towns and vibrant cities….if these are all on your tick list, you might not realise that they can all be found in Northern Spain. Add to that list great food and wine (Rick Stein raved about it in his TV programme on the region), good-value hotels and friendly local people. We recommend the specialist operator Casas Cantabricas or – if you’d like a self-drive itinerary – try its low-cost sister company Caminos.
11. Portugal’s coastal city of Porto is home to the famous Port lodges perched on the hillside across the Douro River from the old city. It’s a glorious choice for a city break but even better when combined with a stay in the Douro Valley. Travel there on a leisurely boat trip or by road and you’ll be rewarded with mile upon mile of terraced vineyards, sparkling river views and ‘Quintas’ – wineries which are as picturesque as they are historic (many have been converted in to hotels).
12. It can be hard to find a villa for two but villa specialist, Vintage Travel, makes the search easier with a selection of properties throughout the Med which are suited to couples – and all have a private pool.
13. Simpson Holidays has a great selection of hotels, cosy private villas and cottages ideal for couples. They are particularly strong in Corsica, Greece, Turkey and Mallorca.
City holidays for couples
1. Florence is one of Europe’s must-see cities, packed with art and architectural treasures. We recommend you avoid the height of summer and take a short break in spring or autumn. Our recommended tour operator is Sardatur Holidays.
3. Madrid is a great city to spend a few days. It’s packed with world-class art galleries, lovely bars and restaurants, pretty squares and charming hotels – prepare to eat late, like the Madrilenos. Or head down to Barcelona which boasts the works of Gaudi, Miro and Picasso as well as fabulous restaurants and a beach.
4. Head to Prague at any time of year for a heady dose of gothic and Art Deco architecture, an atmospheric cafe scene and head-turning cityscapes in every direction. Indulge yourselves with a stay at The Augustine, a simply stunning hotel in a former monastery
5. Tunis is less than three hours’ flying time from London, but it feels like it’s a world away. You’ll discover a medieval souk, a world-class museum, the treasures of Carthage, the stylish seafront village of Sidi Bou Said and the fabulous The Residence Tunis hotel with its superb spa and terrific food.
6. The city of St Petersburg is unmatched for its opulent sights and artistic heritage. Go in summer for the White Nights when the sun never sets, or wrap up warm for the romance of winter. Combine it with an insider’s tour of Moscow.
7. Las Vegas is not just about gambling. The city has some gob-smacking hotels, big shows, gourmet restaurants and fabulous shopping. Book with Trailfinders.
9. Budapest is a great-value city. It’s actually two cities, ancient Buda and the more modern Pest on either side of the Danube river. Both are packed with history, excellent places to eat and historic spa hotels. Find out more.
11. Copenhagen is a great destination for a short break, especially in summer when the days barely end. Denmark’s capital is currently enjoying a fashion moment due to its stylish contemporary design, award-winning restaurants and laid back lifestyle.
12. In winter take a short break to visit one of Europe’s greatest Christmas markets. Most interesting and romantic destinations include Cologne, Munich and Prague, as well as smaller German towns such as Freiburg, Koblenz and Wiesbaden.
Do something different
1. A glimpse of the Northern Lights is on many people’s list of things to do before they die. Head to Iceland for a good chance of viewing this amazing phenomenon, combined with jaw-dropping natural wonders, including glaciers, hot springs and geysers, volcanic craters, lava flows and stunning waterfalls. Reykyavik is a great choice for a city break with a difference.
2. Float in the Dead Sea, explore the ancient city of Petra, drive around the deserts of Wadi Rum and, in August, stay in a desert camp with a chance of viewing the annual Perseids Meteor Shower. All these amazing experiences – and some top class hotels – await in the glorious kingdom of Jordan.
3. If you love nature, the Galapagos Islands should be on your bucket list. The chance to enjoy up-close encounters with turtles, giant tortoises, seals and exotic birdlife is truly unique, and the sheer pristine beauty of these protected islands will enchant you. Combine it with a trip to mainland Ecuador where you can take a thrilling train ride into the Andes and visit the Amazon rainforest.
4. Head to India to chase tigers. This amazing wildlife holiday with Audley Travel includes a stay at Bandhavgarh National Park with private safari drives at dawn and dusk, plus the best of Delhi and Agra, and an overnight train journey.
5. Take a cultural walking tour with Kudu Travel, which uses expert guides in a host of fascinating destinations from Italy to Namibia.
6. Inntravel offers a terrific choice of self-guided hotel-to-hotel walking holidays. Stay in charming locally-owned hotels and inns, armed with detailed route maps and notes – your luggage is transported for you each day to your next destination. Try the Costa Vicentina coastal walk in Portugal, the Lycian Way in Turkey and or Waterways and Flowers in Madeira.
7. Explore Europe on two wheels on one of the many cycling holidays offered by Headwater. Choose from a range of itineraries with varying levels of exertion to suit you – whether you want to meander gently or tackle more challenging routes. We can’t think of a better way to burn off those calorie-rich pasta lunches than on the Gastronomic Barolo cycling holiday, for example.
8. If you’re interested in digging a little deeper into a destination, how about trying an archaeological tour with Andante Travels? You could visit thrilling places such as Sicily, Jordan and Pompeii in the company of an expert tour leader, with a great choice of short breaks and longer tours.
9. Spain has some wonderful state-run luxury trains such as the Transcantábrico and La Robla. Jump on board to see the beautiful countryside and cities of the north of Spain on a luxury rail holiday with Kirker Holidays.
10. Indulge in a “wellness weekend” at L’Albereta, a gorgeous hideaway deep in the countryside of Lombardy, Italy. You’ll get spa treatments, nutritional advice and exercise along with fabulous healthy food.
11. Visit the locations of classic TV programmes and films. In New York TV & Movie Sites where you’ll see where the likes of Seinfeld and The Devil Wears Prada were filmed. There is a Sex and the City tour, and a Sopranos tour of New Jersey. Find more location tours.
12. Norway is a stunning year-round destination, but best seen under the Midnight Sun or in winter when you can witness the Northern Lights. An independent summer tour of fjords, lakes and mountains will highlight many of the country’s natural wonders, or take to the water on a coastal voyage used by local people or a cruise through the gorgeous and little-known Lofoten Islands.
13. One of the ultimate travel adventures is to visit the wild, haunting landscapes of Antarctica. Take a 9-day classic cruise to see vast colonies of Emperor Penguins and incredible ice sculptures. Or combine Antarctica with visits to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia on an 18 or 19 night voyage.
15. Sweden is stunning in summer – a land of sparkling lakes, midnight sun, beautiful design and great food. On this Seascapes and Forests fly-drive you can stay in a 400-year-old castle, sunbathe on the white sand beaches on the Baltic and explore the cities of Gothenburg and Stockholm.
Long-haul holidays for couples
1. Bali is one of the world’s most beguiling holiday destinations. Favourite hotels include The Samaya Ubud – a paradise hideaway – and the boutique-style Amala in Seminyak. You can also combine Bali with other islands of Indonesia to discover spectacular marine parks, temples, jungle and wildlife including Orang-Utans and Komodo dragons. Try this Essential Java and Bali tour.
3. The four-hour flight means it’s certainly not long haul, but Lanzarote does boast year-round sunshine, making it great for a winter sun break. You can find some charming villas with pools including Villa Placeres which is perfect for couples, with a double gazebo beside a secluded pool.
4. An intoxicating taste of Brazil, Portugal, Africa and the tropics awaits in the Cape Verde Islands. Only a six hour non-stop flight away, located in the Atlantic ocean west of The Gambia and Senegal, you’ll find a good choice of hotels, diverse restaurants and dreamy white sand beaches with guaranteed winter sunshine. It’s a surfer’s paradise too.
5. Explore the glorious landscapes of the Canadian Rockies by road or rail. Don’t miss a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer, for one of the world’s most famous rail journeys. If you prefer to drive under your own steam, how about the 8-day Mountain Express fly-drive holiday from Calgary to Vancouver which takes in the Rockies, Banff and Jasper National Parks.
6. Discover the delights of Sri Lanka – a wealth of fascinating cultural sites, superb beaches, beautiful hotels, great food and epic scenery from lush tea plantations to arid parkland, home to wild elephant and even leopard. See a selection of unique holiday experiences.
7. Cuba is a good-value winter sun destination. But although it has stunning beaches, there is so much more. You should spend time in the capital Havana (where we recommend the Saratoga Hotel), and the colonial city of Trinidad is charming. Other idea include a self-drive tour and a 10-night “affordable luxury” tour.
8. Enjoy the best that India has to offer on a private tour with chauffeur-driven car with TransIndus. The best places to visit include Rajasthan and Kerala.
10. Peru is one of the world’s most exciting and culturally rich destinations. Visit the Lost City of Machu Picchu, explore the Sacred Valley, the Amazon rainforest and charming Spanish colonial towns. Find more Peru holidays.
11. See all the best bits of Australia in just two weeks. Try this golden triangle which combines Sydney, Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef. And if you really want to be staggered by stunning scenery – as well as charming people, great food and wine – then it’s got to be New Zealand.
12. Burma is one of the world’s hidden gems, but is rapidly opening up to tourism. In our view it’s one of the most beguiling and beautiful destinations on Earth. We defy you not to fall in love with it. See a selection of holidays in Burma.
13. One of the most enchanting hotels in Asia is Tanjong Jara, set on the beautiful unspoilt east coast of Malaysia.
14. There are few destinations more exciting right now than Cambodia. The mysterious and beautiful temple complex of Angkor is a “must see before you die” while the capital of Phnom Penh is an exciting, buzzing city. Great food, world-class beaches and friendly people complete the picture.
15. St Lucia has some great hotels for couples. The adults-only Rendezvous is ideal for a romantic getaway. For health and wellbeing, head for The Body Holiday where daily spa treatments are included in the price.
16. The Canadian province of Québec is easy to reach, but spectacularly unspoilt with thousands of square miles of lakes, forests, hills and pristine coastline. You can hike in the woods, spot bears, whales and moose and enjoy fabulous French food. Spend a few days in the capital Montreal.