Nothing bonds like sharing a new experience, which is why one of our key tips for honeymooners is to go to a place neither of you have been before, and discover it together. Better yet if this place is culturally intriguing, filled with art, food, history and lifestyle that challenges you to look at your own in a new way. Cultural trips tend to be active by their very nature, following an itinerary filled with tours and stops. But don’t forget to slow down every so often and just wander aimlessly for a day, lingering over coffee and seeing life as the locals do. It may turn out to be the highlight of your trip, especially in these locales.
This entire country is truly a feast for the senses, from colorful saris and gold jewelry to the prodigious spices and scents to the omnipresent Bollywood pop playing on the streets. It’s dizzying, commanding and totally overwhelming. But it’s worth the challenge, because you will go home touched, changed and illuminated by lessons learned from one of the world’s oldest cultures. For a honeymoon, take your time — two weeks minimum — and get around as much as possible: colorful Rajasthan, home to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur’s Red Fort; the serene ashrams of the Himalayas; the rivers of Kerala via luxury houseboat; and the beaches of Goa. India has some of the world’s most amazing hotels, from safari camps in tiger country to a former palace set on a private island in Lake Pichola.
When it comes to favorite cities, Istanbul tops the list. You can’t go there and not be awed by its past—before Istanbul, it was Constantinople; before that it was Byzantium. We love old town Sultanhamet, with its palaces, mosques and maze-like souk filled with colorful stalls. But the present is equally intriguing, embodied in the the hip vibe of Cihangir neighborhood. Shopping is an art form here, with negotiations preceded by cups of mint tea and wares spanning rugs and jewelry to interior décor worthy of Wallpaper magazine. Afterwards, head south where sandstone caves that hid the earliest Christians have been turned into hotels, and the beaches rival that of neighboring Greece.
Does any country offer the diversity that Thailand does? We’d be hard-pressed to think of one, and that’s why we love it. Consider it three trips (or more) in one. Bangkok is endlessly fascinating, a dizzying mashup of food, cars, clubs and cultures. The southern beaches are some of the prettiest we’ve seen everywhere, especially in the Andaman Sea where unique, stories-high rock formations reinforce that “where are we?” wonder. Chiang Mai is the spiritual and artistic heart, with temples, music and a slower pace embodied by the luxe boutique hotels offering yoga and meditation.
Just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, yet only unofficial gateway to Eastern Europe, Croatia has intrigued us since we first visited back in 2004. The country changes as you head south from Rovijn, the gorgeous port city that belonged to Italy for much of its existence and still showcases an Italian bent on cuisine from wine to olive oil. The middle section, home to islands like Split and Hvar, lures yachties looking for a (slightly) slower-paced alternative to the Cote D’Azur, while the regal walled city of Dubrovnik rivals any European capital for culture and beauty.