Honeymoon inspiration: Unusual yet amazing honeymoons

Incredible honeymoon destinations with a difference that are also well worthy of Instagram. Harriet Jones reveals all...

From those seeking adrenaline adventuremoons to those craving peaceful private island retreats, we know that choosing a honeymoon is a very subjective thing. We are proud to give you lots of honeymoon inspiration to ignite your wanderlust and Harriet Jones has been busy rounding up honeymoons with a difference for you. Keep scrolling to discover your dream destination…

Islas Secas Panama
Islas Secas, Panama

Honeymoon in Panama
The 14-islands-all-to-yourself moon

Dream destination?
If a honeymoon in Costa Rica feels a little touristy for you and Nicaragua is a tad too adventurous (although if you choose either of these, the Andaz Papagayo and boutique resort Mukul are amazing ‘moon-worthy’ digs) then Panama should be on your list.

Only 30 miles separates the Pacific from the Caribbean on this sliver of a country. On the Caribbean side, you’ll find miles of diamond-white beaches to rival that of any of the über-expensive Caribbean island resort, while in-between you’ll find lush, emerald green rainforests. And, of course, not forgetting the famous Panama Canal that cuts through the country (a must-see). 

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
Fresh out of the hotel box is Islas Secas , a private island retreat 20 miles off the coast of Panama that also coincidentally thinks outside of the box, too. This new opening is much talked about in the industry and just begging for honeymooners to find it. Instead of one island to explore, the resort is in its own archipelago with no less than 14 islands for you to get your hands (or bare feet) on. So you would think that with all that stunning land there would be a lot of guests to cater for. Not so, Islas Secas only welcomes 18 guests at a time. This level of privacy, mixed with the sheer excitement of such a large, rich natural playground (the marine life is astonishing) makes it pretty much one of kind. 

Unusual wildcard stay
If you’re more interested in getting under the skin of the country, then perhaps a canal cruise would be the one for you. The interior of the country (and some parts of the coastline) are so dense with rainforest that this is probably the best way to explore its hidden charms. Specialist tour operator Journey Latin America can organise mind-blowing 10-day excursions. You’ll be staying in one of 12 en-suite cabins as you cruise through palm-studded coral islets, and maybe even spot a whale or two.

What’s the wow factor?
Snorkelling is pretty out of this world, from gigantic coral reefs to mangroves, shipwrecks to rocky underwater cliff drops – and that doesn’t even take into account the abundance of sea life on offer. 

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Finland
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland

Finland
The no-ski, snow-moon

Dream destination?
As Scandinavian countries go, Finland is often overlooked in favour of Sweden, Iceland or Norway, and that’s what makes it an ideal alternative snow-moon. It has a certain air of mystery – stumbling upon fairy tale-like towns and hiking through the immense snowy wilderness.

It’s also small enough for you to experience the best of both worlds easily in a short trip – swap the delightful buzz of Helsinki for the reindeer-trodden peace of Lapland in under four hours by plane. If you’re not that interested in skiing, but looking for a magical frozen world full of jaw-dropping experiences, this country should be near the top of your honeymoon hit list. 

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
All the best hotels and restaurants can be found in Helsinki, a city with a deep sense of culture (and fun!). There are a few boutique hotels to choose from, but Klaus K is a firm favourite for its contemporary design (in fact it was one of Finland’s very first designer hotels), urban-cool vibes and location right in the heart of the action (plus its Italian restaurant is much-talked about).

The next, most natural step on your trip is to hideaway in a log cabin for two in the Finnish Lakeland, just a three-hour drive from the city. Imagine picking berries, fishing on a rowing boat and sinking your toes in your own private beach with a crystal-clear lake lapping at your feet. Start by renting a classic Finnish-style cottage at rockandlake.com. And when you can’t resist the draw of Lapland any longer, the Arctic Light Hotel in the north is the first five-star hotel in the area – and it delivers five-star activities, too. 

Unusual wildcard stay
Surely it doesn’t get any cooler than staying in a glass igloo? Cool in the trendy sense of the word, because these glorious domes of glass nestled into the ground are cleverly heated to perfection while also having rather magical anti-steam properties.This ensures that the view at night across the star-studded (or, fingers crossed, aurora-washed) sky is totally unobscured.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is quite simply spellbinding. Normally you would stay one, max two, nights in these now world-famous structures, but then you can move on to the delights of a log cabin in the resort and enjoy all that the five restaurants have to offer – plus a drink in the glass igloo bar! 

What’s the wow factor?
Book yourselves onto husky-sledding or quad-biking safaris for a winter wonderland tour you’ll remember for years to come.

Obonjan Private Island Croatia
Obonjan Island, Croatia

Croatia
The alternative Euro-moon

Dream destination?
The ideal get-me-there-quick mini moon. Unlike other destinations with similar qualities, such as Greece, that are a four-hour flight away, Croatia’s most popular hot spots – Hvar, Split and Dubrovnik – are just two and a half hours away so the honeymoon fun starts early. Expect dazzling beaches (the island of Brac has one of Europe’s most iconic beaches), hot hot heat, delicious, but (crucially) good-value eating and drinking and some delightful independent hotels (oh, and Game of Thrones fans will be in their element, obviously).

If the city of Dubrovnik is the main draw for you, try to visit in when the crowds have dispersed a little (May, June, Sept, Oct), but if you want to go truly off-the-beaten-track fly into Osijek (the route only opened in 2017) and explore the fascinating region of Slavonia.

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
Hotel Excelsior in Dubrovnik is in a stunning setting overlooking the Old Town and the Adriatic. A wonderful mish-mash of old and new – contemporary-chic concrete buildings rub up against a historical villa – so that even though this hotel has been operating for a number of years, everything about it still looks and feels fresh.

If you book a deluxe room with a sea view, not only will you have to shield your eyes slightly from the glittering water, but you’ll also just about spy the iconic terracotta-orange tops of the Old Town in the distance. Not keen for a dip in the sea? There’s a heated indoor pool plus luxury spa.

Unusual wildcard stay
Recently opened, adults-only private island Obonjan is for those who want an off-grid honeymoon experience, with a side of soul. Although it’s only a 6-kilometre (and super-speedy) boat ride from the mainland, the feeling of being cut off is glorious here.

There’s a real emphasis on wellness, so expect to practise yoga daily and have holistic therapies alongside mind-melting massages. But it’s super-romantic too, with couples booking as much as groups of friends. We recommend nabbing one of the newly built Sun Lodges especially for two – it’s glamping taken to the max. 

What’s the wow factor?
The national parks are rarely talked about, but they’re stunning and well worth a visit with their magical lakes and waterfalls. Oh, and you may even spot dolphins off the west coast of Istria.

Belmond Andean Explorer Peru
Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru

Peru
All aboard the rail-moon

Dream destination?
For starters, Lima is one of the coolest cities you’re ever likely to visit. Stay in the Miraflores district, a polished pocket of streets lined with hotels, restaurants and crepe stands. It’s rather like a South American Los Angeles, but way more trendy – less bling, more boho. The colonial city centre, a UNESCO world heritage site, is an intriguing blend of cultures and architecture, with stately museums alongside high-rise condos.

After a few nights in the capital, head to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon. Built from white volcanic stone, Arequipa’s cobbled streets are flanked by magenta flowers and are so Italian-looking that you could be forgiven for thinking you were on the Amalfi coast, were it not for the snow-capped peaks on the Andes in the distance.

And when it comes to the Colca Canyon, breathtaking doesn’t even cover it; the gaping views are incredible. But the main draw of this almost surreal landscape? Seeing mighty Condors take flight among the canyons. 

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
The Belmond Miraflores is particularly special and it can easily cater for all of your honeymoon wishes. There’s nothing understated about this property – the lobby is all marble floors with a sweeping central staircase and gold banisters; the rooms are minimalist in design, with sea views from the floor-to-ceiling windows doing most of the talking. The rooftop pool, although fairly small, is very appealing and handily located next to the dinky spa where the treatments are as good as any of the big-gun brands on offer. 

Unusual wildcard stay
Fancy trying out the continent’s very first luxury sleeper train? Of course you do! Your first sight of the Belmond Andean Explorer is something you’ll remember for a long time – a fully restored sleeper train in midnight blue and cream, the glow of  brass lamps on white-clothed tables softly pooling onto the gleaming track. This train is from the people behind what was the Orient Express (now Belmond), so you can imagine just how impeccable an experience it is. The thrill of waking up somewhere new never gets old.

What’s the wow factor?
If you do decide this is for you, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that an entire carriage has been dedicated to a spa. Who says you can’t be adventurous and get a massage with a view at the same time? 

Ice Q Das Central Solden
Ice Q, Austria

Austria
The affordable ski-moon

Dream destination?
If zipping down powder-white snow is your thing, then you’ll be glad to hear that a ski-moon is actually a thing, too. Plenty of couples take a sun-moon as their main trip and then tag on this winter break later on in the year as part of the celebration. But perhaps you’ve already done all of the classic hotspots in France and Switzerland? Then Austria should be your next destination when you hit the slopes. You’ll find resorts packed with charm, superb hospitality (this is, after all, the home of aprés – expect Fun with a capital ‘F’), super-speedy ski lifts and generally cheaper prices. 

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
It’s got to be traditional, been-there-for-years Hotel Kristiania in the resort of Lech. Want somebody to run you a bath as you walk in from a day on the slopes (aka a bath butler)? Check. Love the sound of a grand piano playing through the halls? Check. Lusting after a boutique stay with an alpine feel? Check.

This hotel is set over just three floors with only 29 rooms and suites and, although families are welcome, it’s got a distinctly grown-up, couples vibe. It’s also just a 10-minute walk from the centre of the resort (or there’s a shuttle service so there’s never any problems getting around). Lech itself is part of the Arlberg ski region and has mostly intermediate level pistes, as well as being utterly picturesque.

Unusual wildcard stay
Ever wondered what it might be like to stay somewhere straight out of a James Bond movie? Well, Das Central in Sölden actually was the location for some of the scenes in the film Spectre and it’s easy to see why… One of its restaurants, ice Q, is located over 3,000 metres above sea level in a box made entirely of glass. The views couldn’t be more breathtaking (there’s even a couldn’t-make-it-up, heart-shaped lake to stare into) and it’s architecturally so impressive that it’s hard to tear yourselves away to actually ski.

This restaurant really does feel at the heart of the hotel – even though you have to walk a suspension bridge to get to it. The rest of the property? For a five-star ski resort, it’s relatively good value, but it also throws traditional alpine design out of the window, with crisp, neutral colour palettes and a contemporary light installation in the lobby.

What’s the wow factor?
It’s not just skiing on offer here. There are plenty of other wow things for you to try, too. Why not take a sleigh ride through the forest? Or skate on a frozen lake? Go snowshoeing to spot wild animals? Or for the really adventurous, why not try a bit of ice climbing (that’s scaling frozen waterfalls, FYI)?

Boulders Resort & Spa Arizona
Boulders Resort & Spa, Arizona

Arizona
The Wild West ‘moon

Dream destination?
If being outdoors is the main draw for you both and you’ve got a hankering for a US honeymoon, then Arizona should comfortably tick all the boxes. Think horseback riding coupled with incredible desert sunsets, hiking in epic forests, canoeing down creeks and pottering around towns such as Prescott that will make you feel like you’re on a Hollywood movie set. Oh, and there’s the Grand Canyon, too, of course – which means you get to tick off something iconic.

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
Want to kickback in a resort where gourmet restaurants come as standard and you can get spa treatments on tap? Check into Boulders Resort & Spa in Scottsdale and you’ll get just that – plus a few extra-special activities such as a Grand Canyon air tour or star-gazing with a professional astronomer. It’s not far from the city centre, but once you’re ensconced within its walls the sense of seclusion is wonderful.

Next up, head to Sedona where the extraordinary red rocks are just waiting to be explored. Stay at luxury resort L’Auberge and you can expect more of the same pampering while enjoying a true ‘unplugged’ feeling – fine dining outdoors with the whoosh of Oak Creek by your feet is something you won’t forget in a hurry. 

Unusual wildcard stay
Why not get stuck in and truly ‘wild’ at a dude ranch? White Stallion Ranch is one of the best in the state and with the family having raised nearly three generations on the farm and trading as a guest ranch for over 50 years, they know a thing or two about hosting and making people feel welcome. The casitas are large with beds decked out in colourful Western-style throws and horseshoes hanging next to the door.

The food is homemade and plentiful, served at family style long tables – try the pancakes for breakfast. As the ranch is slap-bang in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, the trail riding is magnificent, the rock-climbing classes worthwhile and the no-frills but all-the-thrills vibe is perfect for anyone looking for an authentic experience. 

What’s the wow factor?
Take a hot-air balloon flight over the Sonoran desert (Boulders resort can arrange this for you). Your heart will be in your mouth as you rise up through the clouds, but you’ll quickly forget about the height when the jaw-dropping landscape is revealed beneath you… 

unusual honeymoons: Ninh Van Bay Hilltop Pool Vietnam
Hilltop Villa at Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

Cambodia & Vietnam
The ‘we’ve-already-done-Thailand’ ‘moon

Cambodia

Dream destination?
OK, so there’s a chance you may have already visited Cambodia on your gap year as well as Thailand. However, these destinations have recently opened up a slew of brand-new, honeymoon-worthy properties in some areas of the country that you probably haven’t discovered yet, so it may be time to revisit it in style. Luxury brand Rosewood has just opened in Phnom Penh. It’s got the top 14 floors of the kingdom’s highest building so, as you can imagine, it’s pretty spectacular (as are all Rosewood hotels). It’s a great base to spend a few days once you’ve flown in.

Next up, head to little-known Kep Sur Mer (it was a popular seaside retreat in the 50s, but most of it was eventually swallowed by the jungle) and stay at newly restored Knai Bang Chatt resort, a contemporary retreat offering a smart restaurant and a rustic sailing club. 

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
The most traditional combo you could possibly get – the Raffles duo of hotels doesn’t disappoint. It’s likely to be a path you’ve trodden before if you did visit on your backpacking travels (Phnom Penh and Siem Reap), but there’s a reason these grande dames have stood the test of time, even with the country’s recent troubled past.

Raffles Le Royal is truly an oasis among the busy city – think manicured gardens, colonial-style furnishings, refined restaurants and a general air of elegance. It’s played host to some of the world’s most historically famous names and is currently undergoing another refurbishment, reopening in April 2020. The Siem Reap sister property is equally charming and beautiful. 

Unusual wildcard stay
Shinta Mani Wild is hands down the most exciting opening in the country so far – a high-end but eco-friendly tented camp located in the rainforest of Southern Madomon National Park. Guests who really want to make an entrance can even zip line into the camp, landing, conveniently, into the bar where a cocktail awaits. This really is a game-changing experience in the area, with activities including fly fishing, river safaris and motorbike rides through the jungle with conservationists who are protecting the wild elephants.

Afterwards, expect to flop into your tent, but don’t expect anything other than the canvas to be conventional. These are souped-up mini-boltholes of loveliness with all the hallmarks of a luxe hotel. 

What’s the wow factor?
So you’ve seen Angkor Wat from the ground? Why not take a microflight tour instead? Soaring over these magnificent temples is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is your honeymoon after all.

Vietnam

Dream destination?
A land of huge cities and tiny hill tribes, stunning beaches and a complex culture and history. And then there’s the food. A lot of people say it’s a notch better than Thai cuisine, so no wonder there are lots of street food tours on offer and cooking classes are readily available at most hotels – it really is something special. So, whatever you do, make sure you get immersed in the Vietnamese foodie scene.

Our recommendation is to book a moped tour of Ho Chi Minh City when you land, taking in the best restaurants and markets (try saigonscootertours.com) and stay for a night or two at The Reverie, a hotel whose opening was eagerly awaited a few years ago. It certainly hasn’t disappointed – a lavish property with polished marble floors and gargantuan rooms, all geared towards couples and honeymooners. 

Honeymoon-worthy hotel
If you want to hide away in a resort (while still experiencing the Vietnamese culture), there are lots of big brand names to choose from here, but we come back to Six Senses again and again for its privacy, jaw-dropping locations and dedication to sustainability and working alongside locals to improve communities. Its two properties make an ideal two-stop trip. If you’re taking a 10-day break, start at Con Dao.

Just a short flight from Saigon, it’s got slick-as-you-like accommodation and the Vietnamese fusion dishes are to die for. Finish up with five nights at Ninh Van Bay, a resort that’s accessible only by boat (the sea is less wild here than at Con Dao so get your swimming in) and where awards have been won purely based on the romance factor of the hotel’s bedrooms. And if that doesn’t scream honeymoon, we don’t know what does.

Unusual wildcard stay
You may never have thought ‘river cruise’ and ‘honeymoon’ could be in the same sentence, but take it from us, cruising just got cool (and super luxe) with the Aqua Mekong. Don’t worry, this isn’t a giant vessel with hundreds of passengers, it’s got just 20 stunning suites, and although it’s compact, the design is genuinely like that of a chic, boutique hotel. In fact, it’s very easy to forget you’re gliding along the water at all – unless you’re sitting, glass of Champagne in hand, in the plunge pool at the back of the boat staring at the scenery and frothy water beneath you.

This seven-day cruise takes you from Ho Chi Minh all the way to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, stopping along the way to experience seriously remote villages and in-depth cultural tours. It’s the perfect opportunity to discover both countries from an entirely new perspective.

What’s the wow factor?
If you opt for the Aqua Mekong cruise, you’ll also get the chance to cycle huge expanses of the riverbanks… watch out for what the locals call ‘monkey bridges’ these not-so-sturdy-looking creations built over sections of the river are sometimes no wider than a single plank of wood.