Marriage is one of life’s greatest adventures. So why not double down with a honeymoon that’s as exhilarating as your bond? Write your thank-you notes on the back of a dogsled, talk tax exemptions in an ancient rain forest or discuss the pros and cons of a joint checking account while packrafting through the Alaskan wilderness. From the frozen wilds of the Arctic to the misty rain jungles of Borneo, here are our top 10 honeymoon destinations for adventurous couples.
Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
On the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park is among the wildest places on earth. Seek out adventures by land and sea where ice-capped mountains guard deep blue fjords, tussock-covered hillsides run between dense, temperate forests and icy rivers tumble over moss-covered boulders. Get face-to-face with the fjords on a kayaking excursion or grab your backpack for a multiday trek along one of the Great Walks. Choose between the waterfalls and alpine meadows of the Routeburn Track (19.2 miles), the beech forests of the Kepler Track (36.7 miles) or the rivers and fjord views along the Milford Track (36.1 miles). Along the way, stay in huts operated by the Department of Conservation for a romantic—albeit rustic—twist on the typical honeymoon suite.
Gobi Desert, Mongolia
The Gobi Desert stretches for half a million square miles between northern China and southern Mongolia. Home to vast expanses of bare rock, shifting sand dunes and mountains populated by snow leopards, this stunning landscape offers adventurous souls an experience that can’t be found anywhere else. One of the most popular ways to dive into this incredible environment is to arrange a homestay with one of the families that call the Gobi Desert home. Many multiday tours leave from Ulaanbaatar, where most agencies are based, and head south toward Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to see the Gobi’s top sights. During the day, amateur archaeologists can look for dinosaur fossils in the Bayanzag or “Flaming Cliffs,” equestrians can hop between the humps of a camel for an undulating ride and honeymooners looking to work off all that wedding cake can climb the singing sand dunes at Khongoryn Els, within Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. At the end of the day, bed down in a traditional ger (yurt-style tent), where cups of fiery arak (a milky, anise-flavored spirit) are sure to take the chill out of your bones during the desert night.
Mljet Island, Croatia
From moonlit walks on white sandy beaches to stand up paddle boarding in calm coves of emerald green water, there are plenty of honeymoon-inspired activities to be enjoyed among the islands off of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. For those seeking more solitude on their getaway, look no further than Mljet Island. Canoe through saltwater lakes to reach a 12th-century monastery, explore the pine forests of Mljet National Park by foot or cruise around the island on two wheels as part of a complete Croatia island-hopping experience.
Borneo, shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei
Borneo is the Swiss Army knife of adventure travel destinations. Split between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, the world’s third-largest island beckons visitors to explore its 140-million-year-old rain forest and beyond. Look for orangutans in the forests of Kalimantan, visit Iban longhouses in Sarawak and tackle the slopes of Mount Kinabalu in search of the world’s biggest flower, the rafflesia. As an added bonus, if you time your honeymoon between July and October, you can share Sabah’s sugar-white beaches with green turtle hatchlings as they make their way to the sea for the first time.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
If your dream African vacation looks something like the opening scenes of The Lion King, where zebras and lions and wildebeests and birds are bursting out of every corner, than Botswana’s Okavango Delta is where you need to go. To visit this Unesco World Heritage site, plan an active, multi-country safari between June and September, when animal viewing is at its peak, and get up-close views of the animal kingdom’s all-stars: hippos, elephants, crocodiles, lions, leopards, giraffes and rhinos, oh my!
Atacama Desert, Chile
Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, receives less than 1.5 centimeters (about half an inch) of rain a year, on average. The resulting landscape is so similar to Mars that NASA uses it to test future Rovers. But for earthlings, there’s far more here than dust and rocks. Striking red rock mountains and snaking canyons give way to massive salt flats that mirror the sky with stunning clarity. Head out to spot three species of pastel-pink flamingos, visit some of the most advanced observatories in the world and make sure to catch at least one sunset in Moon Valley, where the day’s last light illuminates the desert in rich, fiery hues before fading into one of the most brilliant night skies on earth.
You don’t have to have a passport or a big bank account to max out your honeymoon thrills. Base your marital bliss out of Anchorage, and you’ll have easy access to tons of classic Alaskan adventures. Take off on a backcountry ski tour out of nearby Girdwood, look for moose and grizzly bears around the bends of Turnagain Arm or walk along the historic Iditarod trail on a hike to the top of Crow Pass (22.5 miles). Venture a bit farther beyond the city limits, and you can team up with a guide to cross the crevasses of the Matanuska Glacier. For paddlers, kayaking alongside the crackling, crumbling glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park shouldn’t be missed.
Tucked away in China’s southern mountains, Yangshuo is a climber’s paradise. Millions of years of geologic activity have worn limestone mountains into steep, craggy karsts, perfectly pockmarked to create countless challenging routes. In between ascents, rent a bike to explore the countryside on two wheels, make the trek to catch sweeping views of Moon Hill and the surrounding landscape or practice your spelunking by exploring one of many caves worn out of the famous karsts.
Zambezi River, Zambia
After plunging over the monumental cliffs of Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River roars through steep gorges to create some of the most exhilarating whitewater rafting on the planet. Class V waters welcome adrenaline junkies to test the rapids with names like Stairway to Heaven and Ghostrider on day-long excursions. But, the real reward is reserved for those who book multiday rafting trips that bring you to lesser-visited stretches of the river, where quiet sandy beaches and calm pools make for perfect campsites. For those who’d rather encounter big animals than big water, partner with a guide on a canoeing safari and you can paddle among hippos, elephants and crocodiles.
In a place where polar bears outnumber the locals, adventure isn’t hard to find. Traveling to Svalbard is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the northernmost points on the globe, and average temperatures range from a balmy high of 44 degrees Fahrenheit in summer to a brisk −4 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Just getting to Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s main settlement, is a multiday excursion. But once you arrive, the raw power and beauty of the Arctic draw you in. In the winter, spend your days snowshoeing past glaciers or searching for views of the aurora borealis. In the summer, kayak through waters home to resident narwhals. Keep in mind, thanks to its latitude, Svalbard is a land divided by light. Expect days of endless night in the winter and never-ending sun in summer.
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