Don't let winter put a chill on your relationship - see our top ten spots for a romantic get-away
What’s your idea of the ultimate romantic retreat? Escaping to a private paradise with deserted beaches and nothing to disturb your solitude? Or would you choose an elegant boutique hotel serving seafood fresh from the ocean? Take your pick from our round-up of dream destinations.
Best for: Fiery passion
Itching to run away with your valentine this year? The Aeolian Islands are perfect for a volcanic romance. Stromboli is the first island to greet visitors sailing from Naples to this dramatic archipelago off the north coast of Sicily. Its fiery, 3,000ft cone rises out of the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea like the classic volcano, a perfect triangle with long plumes of smoke puffing from its summit. The islanders here live with fire and rumbling danger all year round, and it stirs up passions famously captured in Rossellinis classic 1950 film Stromboli.
The most elegant hotel on the island is La Sirenetta (pictured), which is £125 for a double room (00 39 090 986025; lasirenetta.it). Take a trip up the volcano to see the eruptions or a boat tour to view the effects of constant lava flows into the sea, and visit the remote hamlet of Ginostra, where Dolce and Gabbana own a house.
Best for: Secluded seduction
From Stromboli, island-hopping is easy. Calm and sensual Salina, where Michael Radford shot some of the scenes for his Oscar-winning film, Il Postino, is green, fertile and famous for growing capers and sweet Malvasia grapes. Try the wine from Regaleali, a beautiful estate that is home to Salina’s newest resort, Capofaro, £173 (00 39 090 984 4330; capofaro.it). Set on a secluded headland overlooking an old lighthouse, it’s exclusive and romantic, with just 18 rooms, an idyllic pool and cookery courses in English. Now, that’s amore.
Best for: French kissing
Looking for somewhere to stroll hand in hand? Ile de Ré fits the bill. After a one-hour flight to La Rochelle, a 20-minute drive over a bridge takes you to this beautiful island, where smart Parisian families have second homes. The quieter spring and autumn months are ideal for a few days at LHôtel de Toiras (00 33 5 46 35 40 32, hotel-de-toiras.com) on the edge of the old port of Saint-Martin-de-Ré. The hotel is elegant and homely, and the chef is expert at choosing whats fresh and fabulous at the local market.
The island is very flat and has a vast network of picturesque cycle paths. Take the one that leads to Le Bois Plage En Ré, a pretty windswept beach. The shoppings great, too. Stock up on those chic soft furnishings and accessories that you can only buy in France, and book a table at Le Skipper (00 33 5 46 09 20 38), where the seafood platter will inspire romance.
Best for: Hideaway love
A palm-filled speck in the Grenadines, Petit St Vincent psvresort.com is a privately owned Caribbean island with 22 luxurious cottages. There are no phones, TVs or room keys – just warm sea, hammocks, two miles of beach and a sky filled with stars. Fly via Barbados with ITC Classics.
Best for: Art and Sun
Lanzarote is the best dressed of the Canary Islands, with bright volcanic scenery and pretty houses painted in green and white. Stay inland at the newly opened Finca Malvasia (fincamalvasia.com), which has a pool, a spa and vineyards. Explore the many sights associated with the brilliant artist César Manrique (cesarmanrique.com), including his underground home.
Best for: Honeymooners
Bali offers the ideal mix of adventure and bliss. Its a beautiful, deeply spiritual island with lots to see (such as the Puri Saren palace, right) and some great hotels. Buy Bali & Lombok (£12.99, Rough Guides), and book with i-escape.com or audleytravel.com.
Best for: Windswept walks
Need to get out of the city? Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, is a hearty place to tramp and snog theres also a pub and an excellent choice of cottages run by the Landmark Trust (landmarktrust.org.uk). Short breaks by helicopter are available till late March, then theres a regular ferry service see lundyisland.co.uk.
Best for: Celebrity chic
This glamorous island nestled in the French West Indies is a melting pot of models, music moguls and big-bucks business tycoons. The regulars? P Diddy, Paul McCartney and, most recently, our very own Kelly Brook and fiancé Billy Zane were spotted splashing around on its unspoiled beaches. With only two-dozen hotels on the whole island, demand is high and prices even higher. For unapologetic luxury, try the recently refurbished Eden Rock Hotel (590 590 29 79 99, edenrockhotel.com); for a still-beautiful yet humbler stay, visit the Saline Garden Cottages (Grande Saline; 011 590 590 51 04 44; salinesgarden.com). Dine with the glitterati at Mayas or La Mandala or, for a romantic rendez-vous that wont cost the earth, try the Wallhouse Restaurant (wallhouserestaurant.com) a candlelit spot on the place-to-be-seen, Gustavia Harbour. Serious sun-worshippers should head to Saline Beach or the flawless Flamands Beach.
Best for: Lose-yourself luxury
Want the ultimate escape-from-it-all paradise haven? Huvafen Fushi, also known as the Dream Island and situated in the Northern Male Atoll, is, quite simply, pure bliss. The 43 modern bungalows, including ocean and beach choices, each boast a freshwater plunge or infinity-edge swimming pool, as well as plasma screens and a fully-loaded iPod. When you need a break from relaxing on the icing sugar-soft sands, stroll over to the Lime Spa, where youll be pampered in sense-soothing underwater treatment rooms. Heaven? It could well be.
Best for: Kick-back couples
Whether you opt for unparalleled luxury (the east coasts Le Touessrok, pictured) or a more purse-pleasing abode (Le Sakoa Hotel on the north coasts Grand Baie), either way, youre guaranteed the islands trademark property: a standalone, beachfront cottage. Located in the Indian Ocean, in the crosspath between Africa and Asia, Mauritius is the playground of royalty and celebs alike. By day, chill out on one of its powdery beaches, or check out its stunning abundant reef. By night, enjoy performers dancing Sega a gyrating African belly dance and fill up on delicious French and Creole fare.