Four getaways for honeymooners

The Peruvian mountains offer sights including the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and a project aimed at preserving endangered spectacled bears.
The Peruvian mountains offer sights including the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and a project aimed at preserving endangered spectacled bears. (Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.)
Posted: September 24, 2012

After you've tied the knot, escape somewhere unexpected. Paris? No, too cliche. Hawaii? Undeniably beautiful, but not exactly groundbreaking. Cancun? Best avoid it; too many memories of those youthful spring-break indiscretions. But never fear. We've compiled a quartet of canoodle-worthy getaways that will have your honey over the moon.

Istanbul: Culture

Straddling two continents - Europe and Asia - this exotic metropolis on the Bosphorus strikes an ever-shifting balance between East and West, old and new. The skyline is punctuated by minarets rising high above the treetops, while blocky modern mid-rises in shades of ocher and umber tumble down the hillsides. On the streets, men push heavy carts by hand, winding among long lines of cars.

Chic hotels have sprung up along the waterfront, but time stands still within the architectural wonders of the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapi Palace. (New husbands, try not to look too wistful when you tour the Topkapi's ornately tiled harem rooms. Brides, it's best not to compare your wedding ring with the Kasikci Diamond, an 86-karat, pear-shaped gem in the palace treasury.) You'll find more affordable mementos in the bustling Grand Bazaar, a sultan's trove of Turkish rugs, stained-glass lamps, gold and silver jewelry, hookahs, and hand-painted ceramics.

If you're not bothered by the "ball-and-chain" metaphor, you can begin your lifetime sentence together at the Old Town's neoclassic jail, which was converted into the 65-room Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet in 1996 ( www.fourseasons.com/istanbul; rooms from $665). Alternatively, ensconce yourselves in the sleek luxury of the five-star Swissotel The Bosphorus or the adjacent Swissotel Living, with 63 designer apartments, complete with kitchen - perfect for newlyweds who want a cozy night in. Located on 65 acres of gardens on the European banks of the Bosphorus, a 15-minute drive from the historical peninsula, both properties feature a pool and share an Amrita spa ( www.swissotel.com/hotels/istanbul, rooms from $321; www.swissotelliving.com, rooms from $577).

More information: www.goturkey.com.

South Africa:

Wine, waves, and whales

The southern tip of Africa is quite simply stunning, with an embarrassment of natural beauty - and beasts. Above Cape Town, romantics nuzzle over picnics atop iconic Table Mountain, accessible on foot or by cable car. In Camps Bay, surfers hang 10 while celebrities sip cappuccinos at sidewalk caf├ęs beneath the buttressed peaks of the Twelve Apostles. Those looking to explore the countryside drive south along the peninsula, where they can observe baboons in Kommetjie, hike to the top of the lighthouse at the Cape of Good Hope, and chuckle over the antics of penguins nesting at Boulder's Beach.

For whale watching, head to the quaint beachside community of Hermanus, where these oceanic behemoths gather from May to December. Foodies and oenophiles, meanwhile, can rent a car and motor inland through the gently undulating vineyards of Stellenbosch and on to Franschhoek, "the Gourmet Capital of South Africa."

Near Cape Town, book in at Ellerman House, encompassing an Edwardian mansion and a contemporary villa on Bantry Bay. Relax at the spa, the pool, or on the spacious terrace overlooking the Atlantic ( www.ellerman.co.za; doubles from $635). In Hermanus, fall asleep to the sound of the surf at Birkenhead House, a breezy beach abode with spectacular views of Walker Bay and a welcoming staff that makes you feel at home

( www.birkenheadhouse.com; all-inclusive rates from $490 per person). In Franschhoek, reserve a table at the Tasting Room - whose chef, Margot Janse, landed on San Pellegrino's "The World's 50 Best Restaurants" list for seven years in a row - then waddle off to your room at the adjoining Relais & Chateaux hotel, Le Quartier Francais ( www.lqf.co.za; doubles from $238).

More information: www.southafrica.net.

Peru: Eco-adventure

How can you possibly hope to top the high of your wedding day? How about a hike to Machu Picchu, the 15th-century Inca site set amid Peruvian peaks nearly 8,000 feet above sea level?

The Kiwi Collection, an online hotel-booking service featuring more than 2,300 top-notch hotels in 132 countries, spotlights two properties near the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, with two suites and 29 rooms located within the Sanctuary of the Inca citadel, and the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, with 85 cottages scattered across 12 acres.

Both hotels can arrange guides for a variety of outdoors excursions, including visits to the archaeological site itself. Additionally, Inkaterra's complimentary outings include guided walks through an orchid garden and a tea plantation, a twilight walk past a waterfall, and visits to the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Spectacled Bear Project, designed to encourage the recovery of this critically endangered species - the only bears in South America ( www.kiwicollection.com; rooms from about $550).

More information: www.peru.travel/en.

Isles of Scilly:

Retro relaxation

Anglophiles will find the perfect antidote to the stress of nuptial planning on the Isles of Scilly, a tranquil archipelago renowned for its white-sand beaches and teal-blue waters 28 miles off the southwestern coast of England. These bucolic isles are a throwback to a more innocent, less harried existence, without high-rises or rental cars. Visitors can hire bicycles or golf carts, but many opt to hoof it on one of the Scilly walks (do the locals ever tire of Monty Python jokes?) that meander along windswept bluffs, horseshoe-shaped harbors, and fields of daffodils, which bloom here from autumn through spring. Sailing, boating, and birding are popular pastimes, and for nightlife, well, what the Scillies lack in clubs they more than make up for with stargazing. The gardens on Tresco are perhaps the islands' most well-known attraction, with hundreds of varieties of plants from as far away as Australia.

The Isles of Scilly have even earned the royal stamp of approval. Prince Charles and Princess Diana vacationed here with their two boys in 1989, relishing the privacy and safety, and Prince William and his bride Kate were said to have considered it as a honeymoon destination.

At the Star Castle Hotel, on the grounds of a 16th-century fort on St. Mary's, you can stay within the castle walls or in sunny "garden rooms," many of which offer panoramic views of the sea. With an indoor swimming pool, an atmospheric restaurant that incorporates locally grown produce and fresh seafood, and a cellar bar presided over by a colorful character known as "Dungeon Dave," it's an excellent base for both exploration and relaxation ( www.star-castle.co.uk; rooms, including dinner and breakfast, from $154 per person).

More information: www.visitengland.com.

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