Celebrating your newly cemented relationship status deserves a lavish honeymoon escape. However, after an expensive wedding, a second splurge may be off the cards. The good news is, there are plenty of swoon-worthy destinations all over the world, that offer all the luxe, without the hefty price tag.
If your honeymoon dreams are bigger than your budget, consider one of these gorgeous getaways:
Charming, cultured and very affordable, Portugal is the European country of the moment. It’s hard to picture a more classically romantic scene than Lisbon’s steep, cobblestone streets, vintage trolleys, ancient architecture and dozens of sandy beaches. Visitors fall for the city’s welcoming charm and warm climate, and lose themselves in the characterful neighbourhoods and rich history. What’s more, Lisbon’s food scene is one of the most exciting in Europe right now. All across the city, you’ll see a new wave of chefs putting unexpected twists on traditional dishes, as well as craft-breweries and urban wineries popping up on every corner. And since the city is famously built on seven hills, honeymooners are spoilt for choice when it comes to drinking and dining with a view.
The Garden Route, South Africa
Stretching 200km along the eastern coast, from Mossel Bay to Storms River, South Africa’s Garden Route promises some of the most soul-stirring, thrilling and romantic experiences on Earth. All along the coast, you’ll find plenty of affordable, yet luxurious lodgings, as well as exceptional value food and wine, which means you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime without blowing your budget.
Nestled between the towering Twelve Apostles mountain range and the beautiful coastline, Cape Town should be every honeymooners’ first port of call. A scenic drive inland brings you to the rolling hills of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch where you can sip and swirl your way around South Africa’s finest wineries. Make your way south and you’ll hit the world-famous Garden Route, a dramatic coastal road peppered with seaside towns and nature reserves. Further east, private wildlife reserves and national parks abound, offering honeymooners a malaria-free and thrilling safari experience.
If your dream honeymoon is a far-flung island, but your budget won’t stretch as far as the Maldives, the tear-drop island of Sri Lanka is a great alternative for castaway couples. Though more untamed than its glitzy neighbour, Sri Lanka still knows how to put on a show for honeymooners. Dazzling white and often untouched beaches encircle the island, offering a private spot of sand for every type of traveller. But with no fewer than eight World Heritage sites, as well as lush tea plantations, ancient temples and wonderful wildlife, Sri Lanka offers more than just seaside staples. Stretching between Dambulla’s cave temples and the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa, the Cultural Triangle is a treasure trove of historic wonders. The view becomes even more spectacular as you make your way south to Hill Country, Sri Lanka’s cultural heart, known for its rolling tea plantations and national parks. Wildlife lovers will want to save time to visit Yala National Park, home to one of the world’s largest leopard populations.
South East Asia is a no-brainer when it comes to affordable luxury. Though Thailand has its fair share of shoe-string accommodation, it’s also home to a plethora of posh hotels and romantic retreats that cost a fraction of the price they would in the Caribbean. Honeymooners can also dine on delicious food and indulge in world-class spas while sticking to their budget. What’s more, frequent flights make it easy to combine city and beach.
Thailand’s colourful capital, Bangkok, is a popular starting point. Rise early to visit the Grand Palace before the crowds emerge or meander the city’s canals on a longtail boat. When night falls, head to one of Bangkok’s legendary markets or dine 61 floors above the city at the Banyan Tree’s rooftop restaurant. Just a short flight south, Thailand’s islands are the stuff of castaway fantasies. Honeymooners can take their pick of super-luxe hotels, beach clubs and exclusive eateries on Koh Samui, Thailand’s most popular island. Nearby, the tiny island of Koh Tao is lined with pretty coves, lantern-lit restaurants and a plethora of dive shops. Over on the West Coast, Phuket is the biggest and busiest island, while neighbouring Koh Lanta offers a more peaceful escape.
If you can picture yourself dining al fresco, surrounded by fortified castles and ancient monuments, gazing out over the water, this Mediterranean gem is for you. Just because Croatia is having its moment in the spotlight, it doesn’t mean it’s expensive.
Dubbed one of Europe’s most romantic destinations, Dubrovnik seduces couples with its baroque buildings, hidden laneways and gorgeous coastline. Meander the maze of cobblestone streets, walk the city’s medieval walls and bask on one of the many bathing platforms peppered along the coastline. Further up the coast, Croatia’s second city, Split, offers a perfect combination of modernity and tradition. The buzzing, palm-lined promenade is the prime spot to linger over a cup of coffee, before getting lost in the roman ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. Though these historic cities play a part in the country’s appeal, for many it’s Croatia’s picture-perfect islands that are the greatest attractions. Considered the new ‘St Tropez,’ Hvar is Croatia’s most happening island, where gothic chapels and a medieval fortress rub shoulders with swanky waterfront bars and restaurants. Though much quieter, Pag has a similar party vibe. For those looking to get away from it all, the untamed islands of Mljet and Cres offer rest and relaxation in spades.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
If you’re looking to bag an all-inclusive honeymoon, Mexico’s got you covered. Avoid the crowds and high prices of Cancun and head south to the Riviera Maya. Stretching from Playa del Carmen to the cliff-top ruins of Tulum, this strip of coastline is fringed with mile upon mile of white sand beaches and luxurious resorts.
Now, you’d be forgiven for spending your entire honeymoon cosied up in a poolside cabana with a good book, only leaving your sunbed to reach the swim-up bar. But for ‘mooners looking to combine beach time with a healthy dose of adventure, you’re also in the right spot. Without straying too far from the sun lounger, you can explore Tulum’s ancient ruins and snorkel the Great Maya Reef. One not-to-miss experience is swimming in a cenote, a natural sinkhole which reveals a secret subterranean world of groundwater pools.
Nowhere else on earth offers the same combination of sun-kissed beaches, surf and spirituality as Bali. Add to this jungle-draped volcanoes, verdant rice paddies and gorgeous resorts ranging from boutique hotels to zen hideaways, and a Bali honeymoon can be just about anything you want it to be.
At the heart of the island, Ubud is Bali’s cultural and culinary capital. Here, honeymooners can browse the colourful art that adorns the street, try their hand at Balinese cooking or strike a yoga pose among the hippie crowd. As you’d expect from a tropical paradise, Bali also serves up some of the world’s best beaches. Stay in Seminyak for stylish hotels, fashion boutiques and exclusive beach clubs. For an ‘all-inclusive’ vibe, head to the high-end resorts of Nusa Dua. Or for a quiet retreat, check-in to one of the cliff-top hideaways, perched dramatically on the Bukit Peninsula. And if one picture-perfect island isn’t enough, combine Bali with the neighbouring island of Lombok.
Expert tips for planning your honeymoon on a budget:
- Be flexible with your travel dates. These days, there are no hard and fast rules about when you have to leave for your honeymoon. In fact, it’s now commonplace for couples to postpone their travels for a few months in order to rebuild their savings or take advantage of shoulder-season rates. In addition to travelling outside of high season, honeymooners can also cut costs by considering alternative airports or flying mid-week to avoid weekend supplements.
- Book with a Travel Agent. Leave the planning of your honeymoon to the pros. Your honeymoon isn’t just any holiday. It’s the most important, and possibly the most expensive trip you’ll ever take, so it deserves careful attention. Tour operators like Trailfinders, Audley and Black Tomato, have established relationships with hoteliers which means you’ll enjoy upgrades and exclusive offers that you couldn’t secure on your own. What’s more, book with a reputable tour operator and your money will be protected.
- Book in advance. It might seem like an obvious saver, but many couples leave the task of booking their honeymoon until the last minute. Avoid missing out on your dream hotel by booking at least 6 months in advance.
- Join exclusive travel clubs. Get the best deals delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to members-only travel clubs. Voyage Privé’s team of travel experts do all the legwork for you by sourcing the very best offers at some of the world’s leading hotels.
- Go all-inclusive. Booking an all-inclusive honeymoon, with accommodation, meals and drinks thrown in can help you keep within budget. But not all packages are created equally, so it pays to plan carefully.
- Tell people you’re newlyweds. When you’re booking your trip, don’t be shy about playing the honeymoon card. At the very least, you might secure a better table or a complimentary bottle of fizz.
- Use a Gift Registry. Skip the traditional wedding gift list and opt for a honeymoon registry instead. Set up a free honeymoon wishlist with Trailfinders and they’ll contribute the first £100.
Written by Tiffany Denning