The World's Most Romantic Hotels: Asia and the Middle East
Whether one of Asia's behemoth city retreats or tiny islet bungalows, there will be impeccable service, picture-perfect views, and plenty of alone time.
Where: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, and Bumthang
What's to Love: It's hard not to fall in love with Bhutan, the last surviving Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas. Amanresorts has a circuit of five small lodges in the western and central valleys. Your journey will become a pilgrimage, one in praise of simple pleasures.
Good to Know: The most romantic of the five lodges is Gangtey, where you can take a classic Bhutanese hot-stone bath in a candlelit hut in the middle of a potato field, and then have a nine-course dinner at a formal table set up inside a potato shed while a bonfire roars outside.
Read More on Fathom: Chef Eric Ripert Discovers Bhutan
Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor
Where: Siem Reap
What's to Love: It's the best example of formal and indulgent French colonial luxury in what is otherwise an uninteresting outpost on your way to visit Ankgkor Wat.
Good to Know: Part of a colonial commission to build hotels in French Indochina, the grand hotel opened in 1927. Charlie Chaplin, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Bill Clinton have stayed here. Request a landmark room when you book.
Where: Song Saa Island
What's to Love: Fly in via seaplane from Phnom Penh or by boat from Sihanoukville to reach 27 fisherman-style, over-water and jungle bungalows on the Koh Rong archipelago. All have outdoor showers and private pools.
Good to Know: No matter how you spend your days, at midnight, you should be skinny-dipping in the bioluminescent waters.
Where: Hong Kong
What's to Love: The super sexy heritage hotel in the former (and very refurbished) mainland police quarters has ten high-design suites decorated in styles from lacquered '30s Deco to English countryside to pop-era posh. Service is subtle and flawless.
Good to Know: The drinking and dining establishments on the premises give a glamorous nod to the past.
The Peninsula Hong Kong
Where: Hong Kong
What's to Love: Custom Rolls-Royce Phantoms with wifi (including one from 1934) ferry you around town or to and from the airport. Messages arrive to your room by silent fax. A glass-faced shoe box allows polished wingtips and morning newspapers to be delivered inside your room.
Good to Know: There's a huge ESPA spa. Adrenaline junkies can take a helicopter tour of the city from the hotel's rooftop. There's a Roman-style pool overlooking Victoria Harbor.
What's to Love: The refurbished castle overlooking the working village that it supports, where a drawn bath sprinkled with rose petals awaits you every night. Each room is designed with a totally different spirit using local materials. A thali dinner for two in the top of the castle is the most romantic one you will ever have.
Good to Know: Bring a pashmina as the desert gets cold at night. Designate a pair of socks as your temple socks; you will not want to walk around barefoot.
Hotel Cochrane Place
Where: Kurseong, Darjeeling District
What's to Love: An old world mountain retreat surrounded by tea estates and the Himalayas. Excellent restaurant and massages on-site, and, of course, lots and lots of delicious tea.
Good to Know: It's cold at night, but the owners will give you a hot water bottle for your giant four-poster bed. Does it get any sweeter than that? Also, Kurseong is where you catch the charming toy train up the mountain to Darjeeling.
Where: Udaipur, Rajasthan
What's to Love: Lose yourself in self-indulgence with the most stunning views of the Aravalli Hills while receiving royal treatment in the palace of 16th-century Rajrana Sajja Singh II. Perks include old-school service, an unbelievable spa, crispy clean sheets in freshly renovated rooms, and an outdoor candlelit dinner — to name but a few.
The Oberoi Udaivilas
What's to Love: Overlooking a majestic lake and the area's grand palaces, this is luxury and romance at its finest. Each room is meticulously decorated, and most have private decks leading right into the surrounding swimming pool.
Good to Know: Tour the adjacent wildlife conservatory and take peaceful walks through the lush, manicured gardens. A private butler is not as costly one would think.
Alila Villas Uluwatu
Where: Uluwatu, Bali
What's to Love: Incredible views, top notch spa, legendary surf break. Villas have their own pool and outdoor living room. A cabana bar juts out from the cliffs over the Indian Ocean.
Good to Know: Ask for the top floor room for a 180-degree sea view.
Read More on Fathom: Heaven at the End of the World
Where: Moyo Island
What's to Love: Twenty luxury tents with air conditioning, solid walls, hardwood floors, and en-suite bathrooms, plus some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in Indonesia. If you're feeling really flush, set sail on Aman's private liveaboard, Amanikan.
Good to Know: For a day trip, visit the island's hidden waterfall or its sanctuary for indigenous rusa deer. Or trek to the questionably romantic cave of several thousand bats and the lurking pythons that like to eat them.
COMO Shambhala Estate
Where: Ubud, Bali
What's to Love: The cathedral of all spas — grand, energizing, and naturally spiritual — is located on a hill overlooking the Ayung River. You are immersed in nature (and sometimes cloud mist) with views of rice fields and can stay in your own villa, each designed differently with their own soul and personality.
Four Seasons Resort Bali
What's to Love: The service is impeccable, from Javanese beauty rituals to cooking classes in a state-of-the-art kitchen.
Good to Know: Arrange for an evening sail on the 66-foot catamaran, then have dinner under a canopy bed on the beach.
Where: Seminyak, Bali
What's to Love: My husband and I love everything about it — the lobby-less design, the vibrant ground-floor bar and restaurant scene, the in-room craft cocktail mini-bars, the hand-burnished brickwork, the on-site shopping featuring fantastic local artisans, and so much more.
Where: Sumba Island, Indonesia
What’s to Love: Floating away the afternoon in the private plunge pool in your thatched-roof villa overlooking the spectacular beaches of an eastern Indonesian island feels good. Riding horseback through the jungle to villages that have benefited from the hotel’s extensive service initiatives (clean water, medical care, eduction) feels even better.
Where: Ubud, Bali
What's to Love: Private bungalows with their own plunge pools ensure maximum romance. Spa treatments overlooking Ayung River are pure bliss.
Good to Know: The food at the hotel restaurant is among the best in Bali. Jurg, the chatty owner, is always nearby to provide insight into the most worthwhile daytrips.
The Efendi Hotel
What's to Love: A modernized palace in an offbeat, medieval-flavored corner of the Middle East with spare but beautiful artisanal details, a very nice hammam, and a rooftop patio where you can take in the sunset, chattering birds, and call to prayer. Owner Uri Buri has an award-winning, grotto-like fish restaurant just down the street.
Where: Naoshima, Japan
What’s to Love: Mind and body are in ultimate harmony at the Tadao Ando-designed hotel on an art-filled island where well-being is the theme uniting nature, contemporary art, and accommodation. Love is in the little things here, where days are spent contemplating architecture and outdoor sculpture against the salty breeze of the marvelous Seto Inland Sea.
Bourou Noguchi Noboribetsu
Where: Noboribetsu, on Northern Japanese island of Hokkaido
What's to Love: Massage, of course, and the most amazing kaiseki meals. The hotel rooms come with steam rooms and double-size bath tubs with natural water.
Good to Know: It is an onsen (traditional Japanese spa with outdoor pools), so emphasis is on healthy living and utter relaxation.
Where: Hakone, Japan
What’s to Love: An architecturally stunning 19th-century resort outside Tokyo where you soak in natural spring water from the privacy of your bathtub. Even better is a stay at the Kikka-so Inn complex, built for the Imperial family. First you take an aromatic hinoki wood bath, then you indulge in a seasonal kaiseki feast.
What's to Love: Japanese hospitality. Elaborate breakfasts. Sinking into the fluffy futon bed at the end of each day.
Good to Know: While the traditional soaking baths are typically segregated for men or women only, they offer couples private soaking time together. Think ancient hot tubbing.
Evason Ma'in Hot Springs
What's to Love: This is THE place to stay in Jordan. The spa includes a sensational natural hot spring, and the view through the rocky hills onto the Dead Sea is unbeatable at sunset. The local cuisine, as prepared by the hotel kitchen, is delicious.
Good to Know: Jordan is an extremely drivable country: You can go from end to end in about six hours. There is a shortage of chic accommodations, so spend your entire trip at Evason and arrange for day trips through the hotel. The guides and drivers are exceptional. Ask for George!
What's to Love: Location, location, location. Located in Achrafieh, the historic, Christian quarter, the Albergo has old world charm and new world access to all the sites. It's like time travel to the 19th century with Wi-Fi included.
Good to Know: The rooftop garden is unbeatable. You can sightsee in Beirut, but it's darn fun to kill two hours playing "marry, fuck, kill" with a couple of bottles of local rose. Be sure to order the Lebanese breakfast for room service.
Where: Kunfunadhoo Island
What's to Love: A far-flung, laid-back hideaway among 1,000 sand and coral islets. There's windsurfing, Hobie Cat sailing, and tai chi by day; telescoping in a celestial observatory by night.
Good to Know: When you're tired of your beachfront property, hitch a seaplane ride to Soneva Gili's lagoon.
Where: Thaa Atoll
What's to Love: First of all, the location: the pristine waters of the Thaa Atoll. Then, the privacy: the first luxury resort in the area, which is full of tiny private islands for hiding away the day. Finally, the hotel: the COMO Shambhala spa, the fresh-as-can-be seafood meals.
Good to Know: Book an over-water villa or suite for direct access to the lagoon for midnight skinnydipping. The private pool is really gilding the lily.
W Retreat & Spa Maldives
Where: Fesdu Island, North Ari Atoll
What's to Love: Couples can relax on their very private, spacious deck in the infinity pool or grill an informal dinner on the BBQ. Think soft, white sand, crystal clear water, and all your creature comforts.
Good to Know: Villas on the beach and luxurious overwater bungalows are reachable only by boat.
Where: Surigao del Norte
What's to Love: A low-key, sustainable surfer's paradise with pristine waters and ten tropical villas seamlessly integrated into the environment.
Good to Know: It's hard to reach (planes, layovers, puddle-jumpers), which means your nap in the iconic Dedon Nestrest will be well deserved.
Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa
What's to Love: Lush Bill Bensley-designed gardens, ten bars and restaurants to chose from, the Mandara Spa, and daily river sailings along the Chao Phraya.
Good to Know: It's contemporary living in the heart of the City of Angels.
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Where: Golden Triangle
What's to Love: A flawless experience consisting of fifteen super chic, open-air tents in the middle of the jungle where Burma, Laos, and Thailand meet. Days are spent riding, feeding, and frolicking with unbelievably adorable gentle giants. You will go home being extra kind to each other.
Read More on Fathom: Love in the Time of Elephants
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
What's to Love: The lavish suites in the 19th-century Author's Wing are named after the literary greats who took residence over the years. Founded in 1876 and looking over Chao Phraya River, the city's grande dame was owned by Louis Leonowens, son of Anna from The King and I, before it became the Mandarin Oriental in 2008.
Good to Know: A separate complex across the river houses the Sala Rim Naam Thai restaurant, where there's a dance performance each night, a massive fitness center with squash and tennis courts, the Oriental Thai cooking school, and an Ayurvedic penthouse. Naturally, a private ferry connects it to the hotel.
Where: Chiang Mai
What's to Love: Feel like a Thai one-percenter with private cottage-like rooms decorated with ancient period details. The common areas are so tranquil and sublime you feel like you're floating, and the food and service at the restaurant are Thai classy but not overbearing. Hidden from the urban bustle, too.
Good to Know: Spend time in the library bulging with books and peruse the 19th-century ceramics and lithographs.
Vipa Tropical Resort
Where: Ao Nang
What's to Love: Located in the middle of a luxuriant jungle, the quiet resort is the ideal retreat for those in search of peace and relaxation. Lush vegetation, tropical birds, and an imposing rock face are just a few of the elements that make this place special.
Hotel Sofitel Metropole
What's to Love: French colonial luxury in the center of town and in old Hanoi.
Good to Know: Opened in 1901, it has survived wartime air raids and is still incredibly charming, even if it has 364 rooms. Book a room or suite in the older section of the hotel for Old World romance.
Where: Hoi An
What's to Love: The vast private beach for romantic walks. The private pools outside your even more private villa. The modern take on traditional Vietnamese architecture. The sunset massages at the blissful spa. The breakfast spread. The delicious dinners at the restaurant surrounded by more pools. You'll never want to leave.
Good to Know: If you can tear yourself away, nearby Hoi An is a beautifully preserved colonial port town, a UNESCO World Heritage site with museums, shops, temples, and delicious bahn mi street stalls.
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay
Where: Ninh Van Bay
What's to Love: Hilltop bungalows are like treehouses for adults. Private villas have plunge pools; personal butlers arrange tours, dinner, massages, and airfare. You will probably extend your stay. Soak in large wooden baths filled with cinnamon bark and look out onto the South China Sea.
Good to Know: It's a schlep and requires small planes, small boats, and patience to get there. Worth it. Tour their garden to see an astonishing array of native herbs.
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Contributors: Jeremy Abrams, Cassandra Barry, Daniel Boulud, Larry Burnett, Sonya De Castelbajac, Caryl Chinn, Scott Conant, Eric Demby, Melanie Dunea, Laura House, Devorah Klein Lev-Tov, Charyn Pfeuffer, Julie Jaoudi, Stephanie March, Claire Milonas, Kate Schwed, Helen Shu, James Sturz, Bridgette Thom.