A hand in hand stroll along the banks of the Seine, illuminated by the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, or a serene gondola ride through the extravagant Baroque buildings that proudly line the waterways of Venice… There are certain destinations that have become synonymous with the notion of romanticism; Paris, Venice, New York - all tried and tested romantic escapes which exude natural beauty, rich culture and an abundance of timeless romantic charm. However, there's no denying that these places have become perhaps a little cliché over the years.
With love in the air this Valentine's week, we've been thinking about lesser known romantic destinations - places with charm and intrigue to rival that of Paris or Venice, only slightly more unique, and consequently, that bit more special. So, whether you're a travel enthusiast with a penchant for romance who has already ticked many of the traditional top spots off your travel bucket list, or you're planning a romantic getaway and want to avoid the usual clichés, read on for our top alternative romantic holiday destinations, and prepare to fall in love with somewhere new…
Scottish Highlands, UK
Scotland is not a destination that immediately invokes feelings of romance. Its wild and unspoilt landscapes are punctuated with majestic, vast lochs, and the mist that seems to perpetually cover the land casts a bleak, almost desaturated filter across the nation. But, the romance is in the seclusion that can be found here. Escape to a tiny wooden cabin in the dramatically sparse highlights or on the shores of a magnificent loch, and you'll feel like you're the only two people in the world - what could be more romantic than that?
One of Germany's most celebrated regions, Bavaria boasts pretty, vibrant countryside dotted with fairy-tale castles and fascinating medieval towns. And, where better to visit during a romantic trip to Bavaria than the aptly named 'Romantic Road', or 'Romantische Straße'? Loosely based on an old Roman route, the Romantic Road is a 220-mile-long trail that cuts through picturesque southern Germany. The route meanders through the Bavarian countryside, through quaint villages with half-timbered houses and ornate churches, before concluding at the enchanting 19th-century Neuschwanstein Castle.
Originally built as an elaborate retreat for King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein Castle's whimsical aesthetic, with its white façade and cobalt turrets, served as the inspiration for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Now immortalised in Disneyland's Magic Kingdom theme park, the elaborate design delights visitors from all over the world. Immerse yourself in a fairy-tale world without the theme park crowds, with a visit to what is undoubtedly one of Germany's most romantic buildings.
If you'd prefer to explore the charms of a faraway destination with your beloved, why not take a break from typical beachfront resorts and soak up the colourful vibrancy of one of India's most captivating cities? Jaipur, the attractive capital of Rajasthan, affords the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different way of life, filled with regal architecture, bustling markets and rich culture. Also known as 'the Pink City' due to its enchanting, pink toned buildings, it seems only appropriate to celebrate romance in a city painted with a colour that epitomises the idea of love.
In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India. As a welcoming gesture, and an attempt to strengthen India's ties with British aristocracy, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur ordered the entire city to be painted pink, a shade widely associated with hospitality. The colour has become so synonymous with Jaipur heritage that the colour scheme has been maintained to this day - earning Jaipur its famous epithet.
Travel experiences don't get much more romantic than an evening in Jaipur. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets and watch in wonder as the sparkling city lights cast a stunning, warm glow across the painted pink hues of the city.
Affectionately referred to as "the Paris of the east", Budapest offers culture and charm to rival even the most well-loved romantic European cities. Budapest's beginnings are accordingly steeped in romantic symbolism. The Hungarian capital began as two distinctively separate cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the mighty Danube River. Buda and Pest famously united in 1873, marrying their unique styles and cultures in order to form the city we see today.
Take a step back in time with a romantic stroll through the narrow, winding streets of what was once Buda, on the western banks of the Danube River. Centred around a magnificent hill, crowned with the imposing Buda Castle, this historical area boasts romantic charm, with a myriad of architectural styles including Art Nouveau, Baroque, Neoclassical and Gothic. This dizzying mixture of extravagant architecture gives the city an alluring, old world charm, which harks back to a golden era of classical music, art and theatre.
Lake Louise, Canada
If you're seeking a scenic romantic escape filled with striking landscapes, azure waters and lush greenery, why not visit the Canadian Rockies? The dramatic mountain peaks are a paradise for nature lovers, offering some of the most impressive natural scenery in the world. Lake Louise in Banff National Park is among the most remarkable, boasting a dazzling expanse of turquoise water, complemented by a dramatic backdrop of soaring mountain peaks.
Part of the beauty of Lake Louise, and much of Canada itself, is in its transformative nature. Explore the astounding terrain of the scenic Canadian Rockies in the summertime, as the vibrant greens and blues of the landscape combine to create a stunningly resplendent picture, or, visit in the winter and experience the spectacle of Lake Louise as it is transformed into a winter wonderland. Spend your days exploring the magical wintry landscapes, perhaps with a fairy-tale ride on a horse-drawn sleigh, before enjoying a relaxing evening together with an indulgent hot chocolate in front of a crackling log fire - a truly undeniable romantic experience.