You finally made it: You're canoodling in a Venetian gondola while a musician croons a melody that seems composed just for you and your paramour. It'd be the most romantic moment of your life if not for that stench from the canal and the bottleneck of gondolas up ahead.
Romantic destinations require three key ingredients: beauty, mystery, and a sense of exclusivity. But a foul smell can turn beauty into ugliness in a second, just as being one of thousands lining up to gaze upon a supposedly romantic sight can quickly rob it of its allure.
No one expects towns in the American rust belt or the cluttered backstreets of Mumbai to tug at the heartstrings in the same way as, say, Venice. Yet in some respects they have it easier. Destinations that lay a claim to romance are immediately held to a far more stringent standard. If those iconic hot spots don't deliver a swoon-worthy stay, the disappointment can be akin to being jilted at the altar.
After all, you can't assume other travelers will be on board with your romantic plans. That's a lesson Philadelphia-based Travel + Leisure reader Nanette learned the hard way on a recent cruise: "I expected The Love Boat, but it just ended up being a crazy booze cruise," she posted to Facebook.com/TravelandLeisure.
Anyone who's tried to arrange a memorable moment for a paramour knows that romance is tricky to orchestrate. Some of the destinations on our list can live up to their reputations as dreamy getaways -- it's just a matter of navigating their hidden hazards. Others face greater obstacles. But the bottom line: with the right partner and a spirit for adventure, almost anywhere can be romantic.
The cobblestoned alleyways and whitewashed houses draped with sprays of vibrant bougainvillea of this fabled Greek island make for an idyllic afternoon stroll, if you happen to be there in off-season. If not, an entirely less desirable personality emerges, as these same streets fill with spring breakers, stadium-size speakers, broken bottles, and other party detritus. How to Find the Romance: Rent a villa off-season (October to March), when prices are lower and locals have time to make you feel welcome. —Adam McCulloch See More of the World's Least Romantic Places Photo: Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows
The awe-inspiring ruins of Machu Picchu belong on any respectable bucket list, just not necessarily your honeymoon registry. The fantasy of summiting 7,970 feet to the Incan ruin with only your beau by your side is just that: a fantasy. In reality, the four-day Inca Trail hike should be booked six months in advance, and that’s to secure a spot among a group of 12. It’s all too possible someone will freak out over the precipitous trail or succumb to altitude sickness. Prepare to have your relationship limits tested. How to Find the Romance: Get a God’s-eye view of Machu Picchu instead, by taking a helicopter tour over the ancient site. —Adam McCulloch See More of the World's Least Romantic Places Photo: Alamy
Tahiti isn’t in danger of losing South Pacific–bound lovebirds to this U.S. territory. Guam is more notable for its chain stores, fast food joints, and the largest Kmart on earth than for indigenous cultural charm. The 170,000 locals also consume more Spam per capita than anywhere else. And if there’s anything less romantic than canned ham, we don’t want to know about it. How to Find the Romance: For the heart-pounding rush that comes with storm-watching, time your visit to Guam’s typhoon season (August–October). Settle into JAL Hotel Nikko’s 16th-floor restaurant, where you can see the clouds and rain gather force and then slam over Tamuning’s Gun Beach. Otherwise, opt for Bora-Bora. —Adam McCulloch See More of the World's Least Romantic Places Photo: Alamy
There’s some trouble in this Caribbean paradise, which has seen bouts of gang violence, mostly in poor areas of Kingston. That isn’t typical tourist territory, but as a result, armed guards are common at Jamaican resorts—which some couples may find more off-putting than reassuring. Do your homework to steer clear of spring breakers and to distinguish any cheesy all-inclusives from fab ones like Couples Tower Isle. How to Find the Romance: The good news is it’s easy—even in partying Negril, there are alluring properties like the Rockhouse Hotel, a cluster of thatched-roof bungalows above an aquamarine cove (most have private patios or sundecks). —Adam McCulloch See More of the World's Least Romantic Places Photo: istockphoto
The promise of sun-kissed vineyards that cultivate Cabernet amid quaint towns just a short drive from San Francisco has been drawing couples since the 1960s. The resulting crush has transformed Napa Valley into a high-priced destination, whose tourists are largely of the wine-snob varietal. Even if you score a reservation at one of the swanky restaurants, it’s all too likely you’ll miss it—stuck in traffic along clogged Highway 29. How to Find the Romance: Time your trip to the late fall or early spring for fewer crowds, or head for Walla Walla, WA, where informal winemakers offer tastings at a refreshing price and restaurants follow the locavore creed. —Kate Appleton See More of the World's Least Romantic Places Photo: Hoberman Collection / Alamy
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