Roses are red, violets are blue, chocolate is great… but what you really want is to travel, isn’t it? We do, so instead of writing poems and shopping for gifts this year, we’re opting for romantic getaways.
Below are eight destinations that we love to visit with our loved ones on Valentine’s Day, and any other day for that matter.
This historic town in the Peloponnese is a popular getaway destination for Athenians, and for couples in particular. Only a two-hour drive away from the capital, it still feels like you’ve traveled to an island, at least within the charming Old Town. CNN regards Nafplio one of Europe’s most beautiful towns, while Booking.com named it as one of the planet’s top ten destinations for outstanding hospitality last year.
Lovers like it for the charming streets of the old quarters which boast plenty of good restaurants, excellent ice cream (get at least one gelato from Antica Gelateria di Roma), and boutique hotels. It’s also a great place for cultural sightseeing, especially archaeological and historical sites, from the Venetian castle towering above town, to the Vouleftiko – the building that once housed the Greek government. Don’t miss out on taking a walk along the sea on the picturesque stone-paved path that wraps around the foot of the Palamidi rock.
The world is finally taking note of Athens as a great destination for a city break. If you only have time for a short getaway, a direct flight to Athens is ideal (and often remarkably affordable in February, depending on where you are), and there are loads for couples to do.
Visit the Acropolis and get your selfies in front of the Parthenon; stroll around the streets of Plaka without the summer crowds; pay a visit to the Athens Observatory in Thissio, offering guided tours in English every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, to look at the stars; watch the sunset from one of the famous hills; and of course, dine splendidly at the city’s excellent restaurants (according to a study by British price comparison company Uswitch ahead of Valentine’s Day last year, Athens is one of Europe’s most romantic cities, specifically in regard to its restaurant scene).
Another Old Town that feels as if built for people in love is that on the island of Corfu. One of the Greek islands that are still largely accessible during winter, we love it because it’s equally beautiful regardless of the season. The favorite romantic destination of travel couple Angelina and Antonis (pictured), it will also look amazing on your Instagram feeds.
Places you mustn’t miss here are: the narrow streets of the Old Town, known as “kantounia,” with their clotheslines strung between buildings Naples-style; the grand Spianada Square and the adjacent Liston arcade, lined with cafés great for a morning coffee; and the gardens of Mon Repos, the grand villa and birthplace of the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Also don’t forget to try the local cuisine, including the traditional dishes pastitsada (a casserole made with rooster or beef), sofrito (beef or veal in white wine sauce), and bourdeto (fish in a spicy red sauce).
Note the pattern shaping: Monemvasia is yet another destination with a charming medieval town frequented by Greek couples. Why do these old towns inspire romance? We can’t say for certain, but with their stone-paved alleys void of cars, lined with tiny shops, traditional homes, and boutique hotels, they could be compared to a grownup version of theme parks; reminiscent of fairytales and stories we’ve read in books, they fill us with wonderment and joy. Monemvasia in particular is often referred to as a destination for love birds.
A tiny island connected to mainland Peloponnese by a bridge, the town is small enough to discover in its entirety over the course of a weekend, and maps and information signs make it easy to explore the historical and archeological sites. Don’t skip the chance for a wine tasting while you’re here (information here) – especially a taste of the newly revived historic sweet Monemvasian Malvasia wine.
It’s a famous and classic honeymoon destination, and one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations overall. Santorini, and the village of Oia in particular, has everything a couple could ask for, including uncountable stunning accommodation options with private pools, fine dining restaurants, and the world’s most famous sunset. In February, you’ll find that some things will be closed, but you’ll also have a lot more space to walk, check out the shops, and take your photos without the crowds of other tourists in the background.
Besides village-hopping, it’s worth it to pay a visit to one of the island’s many special wineries (read about 15 of them here). If the weather is good and you really want to treat yourself, charter a yacht and go see the famous volcano up close, or head to the Akrotiri area for horseback riding on the beach.
For something a little different (everyone goes to Santorini, after all) the capital of the Cyclades, Ermoupolis on Syros, is an alternative worth considering. While it looks quite different from what you might picture when you think of the Cyclades architecturally speaking – statelier and with fewer sugar cube houses – it still has tons of island charm.
An island less dependent on tourism than most of its famous neighbors, Syros doesn’t “shut down” in winter the way other places do. On the contrary, life carries on for the locals, and Blue Star ferries still offer three Pireaus connections per day on weekdays, even in February. For a romantic walk that will linger in your memory, head to the Vaporia neighborhood (pictured). Meanwhile, the steps of one of the large, beautiful churches might serve a great place for a proposal. Hint, hint.
If you’re a couple of nature lovers, you can’t go wrong with Zagorohoria (the villages in the region of Zagori). Here, you might find accommodation in a stone-built cottage with a fireplace and a balcony with a jaw-dropping view of the mountainside. You’ll dine at traditional tavernas, and spend your days hiking on well-kempt trails running through protected forests, over old stone bridges, and past beautiful monasteries, and you’ll gasp at the beauty of the Vikos Gorge, rivers, waterfalls, and caves.
The villages themselves are as picture-perfect as the mountain, built according to custom by local stonemasons, from rock sourced right here. Among the most popular of the villages are Aristi, Megalo Papigo and Mikro Papigo.
For a similar mountain experience closer to home, Athenians love the three villages of Trikala in Corinthia. Built on the slopes of Mount Ziria in the Peloponnese, and named for their altitude (Lower, Middle, and Upper Trikala), there is nothing here to remind you of the city, even though it’s less than two hours away. Many accommodation options (most of which you’ll find in Middle Trikala) are designed to inspire romance, with hot tubs in the rooms and complimentary wine offered upon arrival. Near Upper Trikala, meanwhile, you’ll find the Ziria Ski Center.
Another great tip for actual Valentine’s Day: drive to the gorgeous man-made Lake Doxa, stroll out to the chapel of Aghios Fanourios, then continue up the hill above to the monastery of Ai-Giorgis, where you can gaze at a mesmerizing view of the lake while sampling delicious, and fitting to the occasion, rose petal spoon sweets.