Alternative honeymoons: 10 of the best
Honeymoons are not one-size-fits-all products. Whilst one couple's idea of paradise might be lounging all day on an idyllic beach, to another it might be an unforgettable wildlife encounter, a hike through the mountains or immersing yourselves in an exotic city. Perhaps it's a combination of experiences that would make for the perfect adventure, with a little something for both of you and enough down time to enjoy each other's company, as you discover new and exciting places together.
Latin America offers the chance to indulge in all this and more, with ample opportunities to hike, swim, snorkel, horse-ride or bird-watch, and wonderful destinations in which to self-drive, cruise or ride luxury trains. You could learn to dance tango in Buenos Aires, samba in Rio de Janeiro or salsa in Havana. There is the Amazon Rainforest, the Andes Mountains and Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean coasts. You can discover some of the world's most impressive waterfalls, wetlands, lakes, deserts, salt flats, glaciers, national parks, haciendas and eco-lodges. And we still haven't mentioned the Inca, Mayan and Aztec archaeological sites and vibrant cities that bring you close to local life both now and in ancient times.
Here we present a selection of ten of our favourite honeymoon ideas in Central and South America, from cultural discoveries and intimate wildlife experiences to off-the-beaten-track adventures and the chance to tackle the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
For the perfect combination - Bahia State, Brazil
The Brazilian state of Bahia offers one of the very best combinations of exotic city life, breathtaking scenery and beautiful beaches on which to unwind, relax or snorkel.
Salvador is the capital of the state, a city renowned for its unique Afro-Portuguese culture, expressed in acrobatic capoeira dance performances and the rhythmic melodies of the Olodum group. Its world heritage centre is packed with colourful colonial era houses and impressive churches, whilst riding the Art Deco elevator brings you to the lower part - the point of disembarkation for laid-back schooner boat rides to tropical islands. Just round the corner is the district of Barra and its colonial fortress, famous lighthouse and popular beach.
Following the Paraguaçu River leads us to the sugar cane plantations and boutique cigar factories of the Recôncavo region and the attractive town of Cachoeira, which together make for a wonderful day trip from Salvador. We need to head much further inland, via road or air, to reach the expansive Chapada Diamantina National Park. This is an area of astonishing natural beauty, of cinematic table-top mountains, vast canyons and underground caves illuminated by soft green and blue shafts of natural light. Here you can find Brazil's second tallest waterfalls and a bounty of attractive wild orchids. It is an ideal place to hike, swim and enjoy the great outdoors.
Back on the coast, the idyllic former fishing village Morro de Sao Paulo is the perfect place to unwind together. It offers miles of pristine beaches, lined with gently swaying palm trees, easy walks through coconut groves to lookout points and fantastic snorkelling in the clear shallow waters. Morro de Sao Paulo can be reached by a combination of a scenic drive and boat trip or via a short panoramic flight.
Tour: 13 night Diamante tour from £2,614 per person
Further Reading: Seven Ways to Experience Salvador
For a taste of luxury - Haciendas of the Yucatan, Mexico
Staying in lovingly restored haciendas, in the heart of the Yucatan, is a wonderful alternative to the prized beach resorts of the region. They offer an entirely different experience, but provide the same balance between relaxation, indulgence and exploration.
But as this is your honeymoon, why not enjoy the best of both worlds? Combining the Peninsula's haciendas and Caribbean beaches, with visits to Uxmal and Chichén Itzá in between, provides the classic Mexico experience, but with some culture, history and even some wildlife mixed in.
The haciendas were predominantly cattle ranches in the 16th and 17th centuries, before swapping cows for henequen in the 19th century, following the sudden boom in demand for the fibre. Thankfully many have retained their stately colonial feel and days can be spent lounging in hammocks, strolling the tropical gardens and taking a dip in the inviting pools. They are also ideally located to explore the nearby Spanish style cities, such as Mérida and Campeche. Out of town are hidden Mayan ruins, buried in the jungle and the coastal Celestun Nature Reserve, home to thousands of attractive pink flamingos.
Of course, it would be somewhat remiss of you to come to the Yucatan and not have the chance to marvel at the Mayan's best work. So the tour takes you to perhaps their two most impressive (and distinct) sites; first the Puuc-style towering pyramids of Uxmal and then, a few days later, to the world famous Chichén Itzá.
And what better way to round off your honeymoon than a four night stay on the Caribbean coast? The turquoise waters, soft sand and clear blue skies provide the perfect setting for you to enjoy each other's company and take things at a leisurely pace.
Tour: 14 night Sisal tour from £4,711 per person
Further Reading: Seven Ways to Experience the Yucatan
For the more active traveller - Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
Of course, a honeymoon doesn't need to be all about rest and relaxation. For those looking for a more active trip, with a huge helping of ancient history, Andean culture and beguiling landscapes, our Chasqui Active tour might be the one for you.
The tour starts in the capital Lima, reached via direct flights with British Airways. This vibrant coastal city has a collection of fascinating museums and also boasts one of the best culinary scenes in the world. From here we head south to the beautiful 'White City' of Arequipa, full of attractive colonial era houses, churches and cathedrals, as well as leafy squares in which to people-watch.
Close-by is the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world and, as well as breathtaking views, offers the best vantage point from which to see Andean condors up close. After admiring some ancient Inca terraces, it is on to Lake Titicaca, where we spend a day visiting the traditional island of Taquile, learning about its unique customs and perhaps purchasing some knitted items, before alighting at the surreal floating reed islands of the Uros people.
A scenic drive, with multiple off-the-beaten-track stopping points, leads you north to Cusco (to where you will soon return). First though, we will get closer to rural Andean life in the Sacred Valley and visit dramatic hilltop Inca fortresses, traditional markets and pre-Inca salt ponds. It's then on to the main event, the three day Inca Trail trek to lost citadel of Machu Picchu, shrouded in cloud forest.
Having completed the gruelling hike, the moment you reach the Sun Gate and get your first glimpse of the ancient ruins at sunrise will be a memory that you will share forever. And let's face it, having conquered the Inca Trail together, anything else married life can throw at you will surely be a doddle right?
Tour: 14 night Chasqui Active tour from £3,349 per person
Further Reading: Walking & Hiking in the Sacred Valley
For nature and wildlife lovers - National parks of Costa Rica
There are surely few better places to immerse yourself in nature, get closer to exotic wildlife and relax in lush surrounds than in Costa Rica's national parks and eco-lodges. Mix in some active volcanoes, mysterious cloud forests and two inviting coastlines and you have the recipe for a wonderful honeymoon.
Direct British Airways flights to the capital San Jose get you there in comfort and from here it is a short drive up to the smouldering crater of the Poas Volcano. North of here is Bajos del Toro and the luxury El Silencio Eco-Lodge & Spa. This beloved resort is nestled in a private nature reserve of forest-covered mountains and peaceful waterfalls, pools and streams. Sounds like the perfect place to recover from all that meticulous wedding planning doesn't it?
We then enter the first of our national parks, built around perhaps Costa Rica's most iconic feature - the Arenal Volcano. Your days here can be spent hiking, crossing its famous hanging canopy bridges. relaxing in hot springs or horse-riding in the shadow of the towering volcano.
Heading south, the next stop is Manuel Antonio, where Costa Rica's golden Pacific Coast beaches, tropical rainforest and exotic bird life converge into a delightful national park. The final stop is further south still, where we find the Corcovado National Park, part of the Osa Peninsula. This is where you can best experience the country's famed exotic bird and animal life, with its range of ecosystems providing homes to sloths, monkeys, ocelots, margays, jaguars, macaws, toucans and many more besides. It is a fitting end to a memorable and varied trip.
Tour: 14 night Colombus tour from £3,538 per person
For a once in a lifetime experience - Galapagos & the Amazon
Ok so Costa Rica isn't the only place to combine bountiful wildlife, breathtaking rainforest vistas and world class lodges and guides. A very different experience can be had in Ecuador, combining the mysterious Amazon, the remote Galapagos Islands and the Andean city of Quito.
The holiday starts with a day trip from Quito to the colourful indigenous market at Otavalo, where you can observe locals in traditional dress and purchase locally-made handicrafts and clothing. Heading east, it is a short flight to Coca to transfer to a specialist Amazon Lodge. From here you will set out on daily excursions, led by expert naturalist guides, to explore the tropical rainforest; admiring the towering trees and extraordinary flora and perhaps canoeing down the narrow creeks. There will even be an opportunity to meet local people to learn about life in the jungle.
Back in the capital, our guide will lead you around the colonial centre, home to beautiful architecture, the renowned Gold Museum and some of the most important and impressive churches in the whole of South America. After a short stay it is on to the remote Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago where some of the world's most bizarre and tame creatures live on land, air and sea.
A seven night cruise allows you to explore in greater detail the incredible variety of life found here, with daily walks led by licenced experts and plenty of opportunities to snorkel, bird-watch and relax on white sandy beaches, often in the company of playful sea lions.
Tour: 14 night Pichincha tour (including 7 night Galapagos Cruise) from £5,040 per person
Further Reading: Meet the Inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands
For cultural exploration - Markets, ruins and colonial splendour in Guatemala
For inquisitive travellers who revel in culturally-rich destinations, Guatemala is a must. It is a country steeped in Mayan heritage, layered with engaging Andean culture and enriched by one of the region's most charming cities and enchanting lakes. When combined with the tropical rainforests, exotic wildlife and vivid coral reefs of Belize, it makes for an extremely attractive honeymoon option.
This two-country tour starts in Antigua, one of the best-preserved colonial era cities in Latin America. Surrounded by two towering volcanoes, its atmospheric cobbled streets are lined with pastel coloured buildings, welcoming cafes, fascinating museums and classic Baroque churches and convents. Not far from here is the vibrant indigenous market of Chichicastenango, where your local guide will lead you through the array of textiles, handicrafts, fruits, vegetables and pottery on sale here. Next door is Santo Tomás, a 400 year old Spanish church, built on the steps of a former Mayan temple.
The most mesmerising Guatemalan landscapes are found around Lake Atitlán. Among the surrounding villages, perhaps the most interesting are San Antonio Palopó, known for its beautiful church and Santiago, best visited on market day when locals in colourful dress display their hand-woven items, socialise and do their shopping.
You then fly north, heading deep into the jungle to discover the towering anicent Mayan pyramids of Tikal. This is one of the oldest, largest and most varied archaeological sites in Central America, giving an insight into the unique customs and ingenuity of the Mayas. The park also provides a habitat for a variety of small animals, whilst climbing to the top of one of the temples affords panoramic views of the dense forest canopy, for as far as the eyes can see. It is particularly romantic at sunset.
We then cross into English-speaking Belize to stay at a lodge in Chaa Creek, in the Maya Mountains. Set amid tropical gardens, the lodge provides opportunities for hiking, swimming, canoeing, horse-riding, bird-watching, guided nature walks and river trips. There are also excursions to Mountain Pine Ridge or to the Jaguar Reserve, to see Latin America's most elusive cat up close.
The journey ends with a stay at a luxury resort on the tropical Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye. Relax in a hammock, enjoy a leisurely lunch and stroll along white sandy beaches, lapped by crystal-clear water. Short boat trips lead to Caye Caulker, giving access to the world's second biggest barrier reef and some remarkable snorkelling in the company of colourful fish and sea turtles. It is the perfect end to your Central America honeymoon.
Tour: 14 night Aurora Landmark tour to (includes Belize) from £2,971 per person
For a self-drive discovery - Lakes and vineyards of central Chile
A self-drive trip is perfect if you want greater levels of independence on your honeymoon or anniversary celebration and there are few places better to hit the open road than Chile.
The tour starts with direct British Airways flights to Santiago de Chile, where you will be shown around the cosmopolitan city and taken up Cerro San Cristobal for a panoramic view of the gleaming skyscrapers, backed by the powerful Andes Mountain Range. Following a day at leisure, you will collect your car and begin your drive by heading out to the coastal city of Valparaiso, famed for its colourful houses and artistic vibe. Nearby are some of Chile's best beaches.
Heading south, the next port of call is Santa Cruz, the best base from which to explore Colchagua Valley - one of Chile's premier wine regions. Seven of the best eco-friendly vineyards are grouped together on the Ruta del Vino, taking you to a variety of spectacularly-located wineries, each offering educational tours and the chance to sample the world-renowned reds produced here, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec and Carmenère.
Following an overnight stop, you will then arrive at Pucón, your first base in the Chilean Lake District. The town is overlooked by the towering snow-capped peak of the Villarica Volcano and provides ample opportunities to explore the breathtaking scenery either on hikes, horse-back or by driving.
The final destination is the Germanic town of Puerto Varas, on the shores of Lake Llanquihue. You are still in the Lake District, at the very southern edge of the region, and are now close to the Osorno Volcano and the awesome Petrohué Falls. Across the water is the traditional fishing island of Chiloé and its collection of colourful houses, World Heritage wooden churches and penguin colonies. We offer a number of day tours to the local area, or enjoy time at leisure to savour the last moments of your special journey together.
Continue on for an alternative honeymoon in Chile.
Tour: 12 night self-drive Villarrica tour from £2,857 per person
Alternative Self-Drive Tour: See our self-drive back roads of Yucatan tour in Mexico
For intrepid explorers - Fjords of Patagonia cruise
As you can see from the previous entry in our run-down of the best alternative honeymoons in Latin America, it is no surprise that Chile has made its way to the top of so many travellers' wishlists so quickly. Direct British Airways flights have made it easier than ever to reach Chile, where a range of fantastic lodges and expedition cruises have made deep exploration of some of the world's most inhospitable environments possible. This panoramic trip extends from the Mars-like landscapes of the north, all the way down to the towering glaciers and pristine fjords of Patagonia in the south, via the attractive capital and colourful Valparaiso.
Having explored Santiago and become acquainted with its fascinating history and modern day life, we fly north to the Atacama Desert for a three night stay at the renowned Alto Atacama Lodge. During your stay all meals and guided excursions are included, taking you to glistening salt flats, billowing geysers and the cinematic rock formations of Moon Valley. The Atacama is one of the most romantic places to watch the sun go down and one of our favourite spots to witness this is the ruins at Pucara de Quitor, with the Andes stretched out in the distance. For the ultimate experience, you could even take a hot air balloon ride over the desert.
The tour then heads south, taking in Valparaiso and then arriving at the bottom of the Lake District. It is from here that you embark on a five night expedition cruise through the Chilean Fjords to San Rafael Glacier, one of the most spectacular in South America. En-route there are ample opportunities to disembark, visiting charming fishing communities, natural thermal hot springs and the traditional island of Chiloé. During the trip you will stay in a comfortable room with a double or king-sized bed and will have plenty of time to mingle with other guests and dine in style.
Tour: 14 night Azul tour (including 5 night Skorpios cruise) from £5,860 per person
Further Reading: Seven Ways to Experience Patagonia
For a cross-continent odyssey - Five country Landmark tour
For those with a little more time and budget, why not do it in real style on a 22 night journey through five of South America's most beguiling countries? Travel from tropical jungle to high Andean peaks, via magnificent waterfalls, sparkling lakes, remote communities and six vibrant cities. It is a trip peppered with enough highlights to last a lifetime.
The tour starts in Rio de Janeiro, where you can enjoy the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and the fabulous views from Corcovado. There is also the opportunity to have an unforgettable helicopter ride over Christ the Redeemer and Guanabara Bay, or plenty of other excursions to delve into Rio's natural, historic and lesser known sides with our local expert guides. From here it is a short flight down to the Iguazu Falls, perhaps the most breathtaking set of waterfalls in the world, set amid sprawling sub-tropical rainforest. The tour continues onto the Argentina capital Buenos Aires, where you will be dazzled by tango dancers and the bright colours of La Boca.
We continue across Argentina to reach the Lake District, exploring the beautiful area around Bariloche, before taking a scenic boat crossing through the Andes Mountains into Chile. It is a wonderful area charactarised by conical volcanoes, deep blue lakes, verdant forest and small Germanic towns.
The cross-continent journey continues to the Chilean capital Santiago, where you can sample world class wines in the surrounding vineyards, before heading into Bolivia and La Paz. Perhaps the defining experience here is the chance to soar high over the city on the modern cable car system, as the city fills out the mountainous canyon below. After a visit to the city's fascinating witches market, it is onwards to magical Lake Titicaca to visit the Sun Island, the birthplace of the ancient Inca civilization.
In Peru you can admire the powerful clifftop ancient Inca fortresses and observe traditional rural life in the Sacred Valley, before boarding an expedition train to Machu Picchu, where you will be guided around the Lost Citadel of the Incas. Nearby, historic Cusco was the former Inca capital, where today the mix of Catholic and Inca beliefs is seen in impressive Baroque churches, built on ancient foundations and overlooked by the impressive ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Finally the tour ends in Lima, the culinary capital of South America, with a lively cultural scene. All in all not a bad way to start married life.
Tour: 22 night Osorno Landmark tour from £5,402 per person
For a taste of the wild - Traditional Argentine Estancia
We end our summary of Latin America's best alternative honeymoons with something a little different. The vast Argentine pampas are home to sporadic cattle farms that offer enthusiastic guests the chance to live the gaucho lifestyle for a week. Among these, one of our favourites is Estancia Huechahue, a huge estate nestled in the foothills of the Andes in northern Patagonia.
The eight day Estancia to Estancia program links up with two other renowned cattle farms; Cerro de los Pinos and Collon Co, affording ample opportunities to ride, trot and gallop through water meadows, basalt canyons, peaceful streams and flourishing rivers, passing rolling hills and the towering Lenin Volcano. In between you can enjoy Patagonian cuisine, including an 'asado' style barbecue and become intimately acquainted with the landscape, the gaucho way of life and, perhaps best of all, your trusted steed.
Other activities within the grounds of the estancia include rafting, fishing and bird-watching, whilst you can relax together in the open air jacuzzi or wood burning sauna, or perhaps with a massage. Relaxing walks through the nature lead to panoramic views of the conical Lanin Volcano or even to a condor nesting site. A number of animals, including deer and guanacos can be seen roaming the plains, whilst eagles, kingfishers and small burrowing parrots join the condors in the sky.
Estancia Huechahue can be easily combined with Buenos Aires and Bariloche, the gateway to the Lake District and the rest of Argentine and Chilean Patagonia.
Learn more about Estancia Huechahue
Further Reading: Seven Ways to Experience Patagonia
Better With Experts
At Veloso Tours we have tailor-made all sorts of fully-escorted and carefully-planned celebratory trips, from traditional through to alternative honeymoons or anniversary holidays. Each was enriched with special moments and struck the right balance between guided activities and tours and plenty of time at leisure to enjoy each other's company at the start of your new life together. All the above tours can be tailored to you, with extra days added in to relax, or special room or hotel upgrades included, for a truly memorable experience. Alternatively we can work with you to create something unique to mark the special occasion. So if you are planning a honeymoon or anniversary adventure, why not talk through your options with one of our experienced Travel Consultants? Call or email to get in touch.
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