Although I am a longtime fan of solo travel, there are certain places and experiences that are simply a little more special when shared with a significant other. And when February rolls around, my thoughts drift to a mix of destinations around the world that promise fun—and yes, an irresistible dose of romance—with a well-chosen partner in adventure at your side. Can’t decide where to go? Always remember the timeless words of Peanuts creator (and, sadly, not a relative) Charles Schulz: “In life it’s not where you go, but who you travel with.”
Northern Lights, Manitoba, Canada
There is never a guarantee that you will see the northern lights, of course. But Churchill, Manitoba (population 900), is one of the best places on the planet to maximize your chances, where the auroral display often appears at its most active and most vivid. On the shores of the frozen Hudson Bay, Churchill in midwinter guarantees long nights and dark skies—and frigid temperatures. Natural Habitat takes you out into the vast tundra in the cozy comfort of their one-of-a-kind Aurora Pod, custom designed to provide 360-degree views thanks to a glass roof and sides (you can also luxuriate in their heated plexiglass-covered Aurora Domes). The dancing lights are the top attraction, but by day there are exhilarating dogsled excursions and visits to small but interesting museums that fill out your Arctic adventure. And should you choose to return in October or November, Churchill lives up to its name as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” when the King of the Arctic wanders by the hundreds down to the shores of Hudson Bay, waiting—and hungry—for the ice floes to form so they can take off to hunt seals.
Key West, Florida, USA
Pick up a rental car at Miami International Airport and put the top down and turn the music up. Set your GPS for the 113-mile Overseas Highway that links Miami on the mainland with the Florida Keys chain of islands: Your destination is Key West, the southernmost point of the continental United States—closer to Cuba (90 miles) than it is to Miami. Sure, the sandy beaches are nice, followed by famous sunset-watching happy hours at Mallory Square pier (dinner sunset cruises provide a better vantage point and more alone time). But this quirky and welcoming town also offers a wide array of impressive dining options, music venues that range from intimate to bawdy, and lots of history. (If only the homes of Ernest Hemingway and President Harry S. Truman could talk!) Rent a bike for a tool down the shady side streets of the key’s historic district, where thousands of colorful wooden-framed homes—both grand and modest—date back to the 19th century. Today, many of them house cafés and restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, galleries, and palm-shaded inns and Airbnbs.
Postcard-perfect scenery unfolds during the 3 1/2 hour train ride from Zurich or Geneva to Zermatt (train lovers should consider the legendary Glacier Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt). Situated at the foot of the highest mountains in the entire Alpine mountain range (and that’s saying something!), Zermatt (population 5,800) is dramatically framed by the snaggletooth form of the Matterhorn that looms behind it. High elevation guarantees near-perfect snow conditions, but non-skiers and warm-weather visitors can spend idyllic days hiking, shopping, or signing up for a helicopter ride for an up-close view of the Matterhorn and 40 other Alpine peaks that are more than 13,000 feet high. The Gornergrat Railway, the second-highest in Europe after the Jungfrau, offers more breathtaking vistas and the chance to check in to the just refurbished Riffelalp Resort, Europe’s highest luxury hotel. From this lofty location, lucky guests have been drinking in million-dollar views since 1884, as lovely when covered in white as when blanketed by spring flowers.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The sultry capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan mix of Italian, French, Spanish, and other subtle influences. Vibrant and elegant, it is unquestionably part of Latin America, but the architecture and culture will have you thinking Europe. In fact, for many years (and to this day, for some) it was called the Paris of South America. Join the well-heeled locals for a performance at the Teatro Colón Opera House, a contender to Europe’s finest when it re-opened in 1908. Argentina has long been world famous for the quality of its beef: Enjoy an hours-long dinner at any of its handsome wood-paneled steak houses, where dinner pairs perfectly with a bottle of Malbec from nearby Mendoza. Cap off your evening with a late-night tango performance at any of the city’s atmospheric venues—from dark, traditional halls to classy nightclubs. You’re even likely to spot a tango-dancing couple at the open-air San Telmo antiques market on your way to Recoleta Cemetery and the much-visited grave of María Eva Duarte de Perón—aka Evita.
Tokyo is the vibrant political and commercial capital of Japan, but Kyoto is its heart and soul, an easy 3 hour bullet train ride away. With a history that reaches back well over 1,000 years, Kyoto offers vestiges of Old Japan, with a visit to any of its elegant Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines (by some accounts more than 2,000 of them) or when strolling through the meditative gardens that surround them. The streets of the Gion District are lined with old wooden buildings and traditional teahouses where you might spot a richly kimono’ed geisha slipping down a narrow lane. Some of Japan’s most delicious cuisine, kaiseki, can be found in Kyoto, perhaps offered by a traditional ryokan (inn) where guests spend the night on futons on tatami mats—they’re a lot more comfortable than you think. But Kyoto is not merely stuck in the past—you’ll find much more than just noodle shops, generations-old artisan workshops, and Kabuki theater. It is not—thankfully—as high octane as sprawling Tokyo, but Kyoto has one foot firmly in the future—another reason to fall in love with this special city.
And don’t forget to check out the book!
About the Book:
The world’s bestselling travel book is back in a more informative, more experiential, more budget-friendly full-color edition. A #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places reinvented the idea of travel book as both wish list and practical guide. As Newsweek wrote, it “tells you what’s beautiful, what’s fun, and what’s just unforgettable—everywhere on earth.” And now the best is better. There are 600 full-color photographs. Over 200 entirely new entries, including visits to 28 countries like Lebanon, Croatia, Estonia, and Nicaragua, that were not in the original edition. There is an emphasis on experiences: an entry covers not just Positano or Ravello, but the full 30-mile stretch along the Amalfi Coast.
Every entry from the original edition has been readdressed, rewritten, and made fuller, with more suggestions for places to stay, restaurants to visit, and festivals to check out. And throughout, the book is more budget-conscious, with starred restaurants and historic hotels such as the Ritz, but also moderately priced gems that don’t compromise on atmosphere or charm.
The world is calling. Time to answer.