Picking the perfect honeymoon is no easy feat—countless romantic destinations, endless hotel options, limited vacation time, and the struggle-is-real challenge of finding the perfect place to please both you and your new spouse. Where to begin? Well, right here. BRIDES teamed up with the A-list agents at Virtuoso—a global network of more than 15,000 luxury-travel specialists—to find the most romantic, luxe hot spots in the world. Whether you're looking for bucket-list hotels and resorts, far-flung beaches, the top cruise lines for couples, inexpensive honeymoon ideas or unexpected honeymoon-worthy locales, you’ve come to the right spot. Presenting our 2017 Honeymoon Awards—dive in to see the world's most romantic, yet unexpected honeymoon destinations!
By now, it probably feels like everyone and her mother has been to Iceland (or at least that's what your Instagram feed would seem to indicate). And it's no surprise, owing to the Nordic nation's wild scenery and even hotter nightlife. Start your honeymoon in Reykjavik, Iceland's bustling coastal capital, eating at farm-to-table restaurants like Fridrik V and touring out-there cultural sites like the Library of Water. From there, post up at Ion Hotel, an architectural marvel both inside and out (interior furnishings are designed by local artisans), where remote landscapes lead to adventure activities and unobstructed Northern Lights views. From there, make the trek to the Snéfellsnes peninsula to take in the otherworldly peak of Church Mountain (a.k.a. Kirkjufell) and explore glaciers, volcanoes, and geothermal pools. If you're traveling later this year, you can even stay at the new 62-room Moss Hotel, set inside the famed Blue Lagoon—think exclusive after-hours access to the steamy waters, set in an 800-year-old lava field.
Few destinations meld luxe, five-star living with thrill-seeking outdoor adventures quite like Switzerland. This Central European alpine nation oozes Old World allure (sophisticated mountain towns, historic museums, Michelin-starred restaurants, and Olympic-quality skiing). Rent a car and drive through quaint villages and medieval cities like Bern before checking in to a grande dame hotel on Lake Geneva like Beau-Rivage Palace) or post up in jet-setting St. Moritz or Gstaad (try the new Ultima Gstaad, with chic, reclaimed-wood decor, a detox bar, and spa with luxe La Prairie products). If you're traveling in winter, post up at a ski-in, ski-out resort in Zermatt, the resort town that overlooks the Matterhorn, one of the highest and most majestic peaks in the Alps.
When it comes to unexpected honeymoon destinations, Japan may be in your top five as well. But a trip to this Asian nation is at once a journey into the past and the future. From Kyoto's gilded temples and cherry blossom trees to Tokyo's bright-lights streets and world-class cuisine, there's something for everyone here. (Not to mention it's a quick overnight flight from the West Coast.) Learn about ancient Japanese crafts (painting and wood sculpting), criss-cross restaurants in search of your favorite ramen, and cheers to each other over few rounds of sake.
4. Sri Lanka
This island nation off the east coast of India used to be the main attraction for honeymooners headed to the Indian Ocean. But decades of civil war thwarted couples to the Maldives, that stunning island grouping in the bluer-than-blue middle of nowhere. (Not a bad alternative, we admit.) Now, with a stable government and a booming tourism industry, Sri Lanka is back to capturing the hearts—and souls—of honeymooners everywhere. Whether you make it to the Cultural Triangle (home to giant gilded Buddhist temples and elephant sanctuaries), tea country in the central highlands (post up at Tea Trails, a.k.a. heaven on earth), the southeastern jungle safari camps (the guides at Chena Huts by Uga Escapes are unmatched), the colonial fort city of Galle (Amangalla will steal your heart), or the relaxed southern beach towns (filled with chic resorts like Cape Weligama and Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort), a honeymoon here promises to be the highlight of your life.
A freezing polar ice cap might not sound like honeymoon paradise. But consider the life-changing adventures to be had: Walking across frozen tundras with no one for miles (except penguins and seals), crossing some of the most breathtaking blue waters in the world (the legendary Drake Passage, for one), and snapping pics in front of massive glaciers and fjords (talk about Insta-worthy moments). Not to mention if you book an Antarctic cruise on Seabourn, Lindblad Expeditions, or Silversea (to name just a few cruise lines), all the honeymoon planning is done for you, the service is exceptional, and you never have to worry about getting a dinner reservation.
There’s never been a better time to explore the Kingdom of Bhutan, with William and Kate’s visit this past April and the forthcoming opening of five Six Senses lodges (late 2017), scattered across the foothills of the Himalayas. Start your itinerary in Thimphu (the capital), before moving on to Bumthang (a verdant woodland), Punakha (filled with agricultural terraces), Gangtey (among the last habitats for the endangered black-necked crane), and Paro (home to Tiger’s Nest, an architectural marvel and one of the country’s most sacred monasteries).
Always dreamed of zip-lining through a dense canopy in a tropical rainforest? Chilling on a deserted beach? Finally learning to surf like the pros? Consider Nicaragua, a less traveled Central American nation with the largest area of primary-growth rainforest north of the Amazon. Then there are the six active volcanoes, stunning ancient ruins, and 550 miles of pristine coastline dotted with golden beaches and sleepy surf towns. Unlike its neighbor to the south, Costa Rica, much of Nicaragua is still undeveloped and undiscovered. Spend your days perusing the cute colonial towns of Granada and Leon, with pastel-painted churches and vibrant local festivals, and post up at a lush beachfront resort like Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa, a 37-room hideaway that's a favorite among stylish adventure seekers.
If you're looking to go where no one you know has ever been, consider this Asian nation, which only started allowing foreign travelers in 2012 and remains blissfully free of crowds and tourist traps. To really see it all, book a river cruise on a luxury ship like the Scenic Aura, Belmond Orcaella, Sanctuary Ananda, or Azamara Quest. Before you board, don't miss a sunrise hot-air-balloon ride over nearly 2,000 gilded pagodas in the ancient city of Bagan. (Trust us, it's worth the 5 a.m. wakeup.) As you make your way north from Yangon up the 1,300-mile Irrawaddy River at a leisurely pace, you'll pass centuries-old golden Buddhist temples, bustling markets, and monks draped in long red robes.
If you ever dreamed of honeymooning like Lara Croft and Indiana Jones, make moves toward this southeast Asian nation, home to the legendary New World Wonder of Angkor Wat, a massive stone temple complex built during the Khmer Empire. Also to be discovered: the Mekong River, the 12th longest in the world, resorts that let you interact with habituated Asian elephants, like the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, and chic beach towns teeming with local flair.