Planning Your Great Escape5. This is the only time we'll both have two weeks off. We want to go someplace really exotic.
Located in the heart of the Himalayas, with Tibet to the north and India to the south, Bhutan is the only nation in the region that remains entirely Buddhist. The dramatic landscape - wide, verdant valleys and rugged, snow-capped peaks - saw fewer than 300 paying tourists in 1974 and just 7,500 in 2000. Today, the peaceful nation is slowly welcoming an increasing number of visitors thanks to a new breed of small, luxurious resorts. Uma Paro, for one, opened last fall on Bhutan's western border, near the country's only airport. It comprises twenty rooms and nine villas scattered throughout 38 acres of wildflower meadows and thick forests. Rooms are modernist in design, with a nod to local culture: Timber is darkened with wood smoke, and white walls hand-painted by local artists feature birds, religious motifs, and flowers. Far from the sparse living quarters of Bhutanese monks, Uma Paro's guest rooms coddle with hand-stitched Indian bed linens, hand-woven Nepalese rugs, flat-screen TVs, and yoga mats. The resort's circular restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows and a traditional bukhari fireplace. Artisanal ingredients like hand-churned butter, hand-molded farm cheese, and honey from nearby hives are used in local dishes like sicum paa (dried pork) and misthi doi, a creamy dessert similar to crème brûlée. The spectacular Shambhala spa emphasizes yoga and Ayurveda, and features an outdoor gym and a hot-stone bathhouse in the middle of a pine forest. For local flavor, visit the monasteries, markets, and museums in the nearby monk-filled village of Paro; the resort will also arrange guided walks, overnight camping treks, and mountain biking.
Details: Late spring and fall are the ideal times to visit. 975-8-271597; uma.como.biz; from $210 a night.
My fiancée thinks Italy is the most romantic place in the
world, but we’ve already been to Rome, Venice, and Tuscany.
Well, you've saved the best for last. In the small medieval town of Ravello on Italy's Amalfi coast, the impossibly romantic Palazzo Sasso hotel sits atop a 1,000-foot cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Built in the twelfth century as a royal palace, the Palazzo opened as a hotel after World War II. It's since undergone major renovations, though many of the palace's original charms are still in place. Forty-five rooms and five suites are decked out with beautifully restored antique furniture, rich fabrics, and stunning views of the sea, gardens, or mountains; on request, your bed will be made with satin sheets (by Frette, of course). You'll most likely want to spend your time sipping chilled wine by the rooftop pool while gazing at the spectacular view of the coast. But should you wish to explore, you can visit Roman ruins and Greek temples, stroll the cliff-hanging villages of Positano, or jet over to Capri on a hydrofoil boat. There's also deep-sea fishing, horseback riding, tennis, and helicopter tours. At night, put back on those pre-wedding pounds with the hotel restaurant's Neapolitan dishes such as aubergine-and-provolone timbale with baby-octopus stew.
Details: The hotel is only open from March through October.
800-225-4255; palazzosasso.com; from 300 euros - or roughly $400 - a night.