In the heart of the Himalayas, this land of ancient sanctuaries, stunning scenery and the last Shangri-La serves up over-the-top doses of captivation.
Bhutan’s Buddhist culture can best be sampled in Thimphu, whose temples induce the peaceful state of mind needed to shrewdly navigate the marketplaces offering delicacies, including a dizzying array of chilies and matsutake mushrooms.
Nearby must-sees are the Tashichho Dzong fort (home of the king’s throne room), the nearly 400-year-old Simtohka Dzong palace and the Tango Monastery. Join local hikers for a cliff-side trek to the spectacular Paro Taktsang monastery.
Wrap up in cashmere blankets with warm Bhutanese cider as the sun sets behind lines of fluttering prayer flags.
Suggested hotel: Taj Tashi in Thimphu.
2. Florence, Italy
Stroll the streets of Florence and pause before the marvelous Piazza della Signoria, the stunning Ponte Vecchio, Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera and Michelangelo’s David.
Architectural beauty is as abundant as romance. The city, a symbol of the Renaissance, offers the classic Old Bridge (Ponte Vecchio) filled with arm-in-arm couples, Piazzale Michelangelo, the Church of San Miniato al Monte and the gorgeous gardens of Villa Bardini and Boboli.
Florence is synonymous with fashion. Browse the eclectic shops on Bella Firenze surrounding the Arno river for leather bags, high-end designer goods and, of course, shoes.
Take your love to new heights in the Arnolfo Tower or Brunelleschi’s Dome; all of Florence lies below.
Suggested hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
3. Savannah, Georgia
Take equal parts Southern charm, inviting culture and natural beauty and you have Savannah.
Not much is lovelier than riding in a horse-drawn carriage on cobblestone streets – clip-clopping past antebellum mansions, moss-draped trees, beautiful wrought-iron fences and historic landmarks. Slip off and enjoy one of the many romantic restaurants, like Vic’s On the River and Noble Fare.
Picnic in one of Savannah’s gracious public spaces, such as the 30-acre Forsyth Park with its massive, 160-year-old fountain.
Pack bathing suits – Tybee Island is 30 minutes away and offers a luscious stretch of pristine, white-sand shoreline. While on the island, take in the Fort Pulaski National Monument and hang around to dine at one of the island’s exemplary seafood restaurants.
Suggested hotel: the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront, Autograph Collection.
4. Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa blends Afrikaner, native and European philosophies, arts and cultivations in intoxicating ways. Nowhere is this more evident than in Cape Town, with its stew of architectural, musical and culinary styles.
On the tip of the continent, see where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet at Cape Point. Then keep the exhilaration going with a cable car ride up Table Mountain – gasp-worthy views abound.
Watch adorable penguins marching at Betty’s Bay and Boulders Beach. Tour the popular vineyards in the Constantia Valley; take in both the views and the wines. Then finish up at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for Ferris wheel and boat rides, shopping, a food market, aquarium and concerts.
Suggested hotel: 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa at Camps Bay.
The country has come of age in terms of tourism: Da Lot, intimate and romantic; Nha Trang, mountains and beaches; and Hoi An, unusually good shopping.
Hanoi, however, has it going on – bustling, multicultural, hip and historic. In the Old Quarter, shop as they did in bygone eras, on Silk, Gold and Silver streets, with each avenue offering a different ware. Sit in on public tai chi practices and experience the quiet temples.
Grand opera houses and high-rise hotels populate the French Quarter, along with jazz clubs and swanky lounges.
Narrow buildings clustered together reflect the French-colonial influence – and be sure to catch a water puppet show and stunning Ha Long Bay.
Suggested hotel: the Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi.