In sync with the ancients in Machu Picchu, Peru
In sync with the ancients in Machu Picchu, Peru

What’s the best international honeymoon destination?

Do you have any recommendations for a one- to two-week honeymoon adventure outside of the United States this summer? We would like the trip to involve outdoor activities mixed with relaxation. My fiancée and I are all over the board right now: Bora Bora, New Zealand, African safari, Mont Blanc circuit… --Andrew Evergreen, CO

In sync with the ancients in Machu Picchu, Peru
Greg Melville

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Thanks for such narrow parameters, Andrew. You don’t give me any clue of your budget, favorite part of the world, interests, or anything. I hope your specifics are better with your wedding planner. (“We’d like it to be religious, maybe. Or not, with a bunch of people, but not overly big, and maybe formal but casual would be nice, and we want it to be really fun. With music probably. What can you do for us?”)

In sync with the ancients in Machu Picchu, Peru

In sync with the ancients in Machu Picchu, Peru In sync with the ancients in Machu Picchu, Peru

So let’s tighten the search. Forget the tropics, which are wasted in the summer. Avoid places that get oppressive in the July and August heat (so au revoir, Paris and other big cities, and pretty much anyplace at sea level even remotely near the equator.) Oh, and this probably isn’t the best time to visit the South Pole. What’s left? Mountain locations mostly in the northern hemisphere sound most appealing. But you’ll probably want some luxury (at least if you want to stay married past your honeymoon), so we’ll stick with great national parks around the world that have some relatively high-end services. Here are the world’s five best national park destinations for summer.

Vanoise National Park, France
The first national park created in the Land of Stinky Cheese, it was established in 1963 in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, at the Italian border. Covering 200 square miles, and crisscrossed with 300 miles of trails, its straight-from-a-picture-book scenery varies from snow-capped massifs to narrow, stream-filled valleys, and grassy, open ridge tops. Its hills are alive with the country’s largest ibex population, and healthy populations of other alpine critters like lynx, hares, and marmots.

Honeymoon suite: There’s a hut system for spending the night in the park, but I suggest you stay in one of the ski lodges of Courchevel, like the cozy, 41-room Le Chabichou chalet, (starts at $350 per night), which is renowned for its French country cuisine restaurant and immense wine list.

Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
The centerpiece of this rugged, sprawling UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal is the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest. Its elevation varies from 9,300 feet to the top of the world, at 29,029 feet, encompassing 11 vegetation zones from forests to alpine scrub to glacier-capped peaks. A trip here truly is one of a lifetime—hopefully in a good way, as long as you’re not affected by the altitude.

Honeymoon suite: In the modest Panorama Lodge, etched into the mountainside in the village of Namche at nearly 11,000 feet in elevation on the trekking route to Everest (rates negotiable but around $20 a night).

Pollino National Park, Italy
A remote swath of green across the ankle of Italy’s boot, the pine-filled, 750-square-mile Pollino National Park is the country’s largest natural preserve. It covers a swath of surprisingly tall mountain ranges within the districts of Calabria and Basilicata that are barely touched, making it an ideal escape for backpackers or adventure-minded hikers.

Honeymoon suite: Stay among Mediterranean gardens and olive groves of La Locanda di Alia in the Calabrian town of Castrovillari on the park’s southern edge (starts at $160 per night).

Banff National Park, Canada
This vast national park, created in 1885 west of Calgary in the Canadian Rockies, is maybe the most spectacular in North America—my apologies to Yellowstone and Yosemite. You can climb jagged towering mountains, gape at immense icefields, and become one with the creatures of the pine and aspen forests, like moose, elk, falcons, otters, deer, and bears. (Although “becoming one” with grizzlies is not recommended.) Best of all, the village of Banff is the coolest ski town outside of Aspen.

Honeymoon Suite: The historic Chateau Lake Louise has a million-dollar view of Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies, and though the room rates reflect it (starting at $300 a night), this is your honeymoon, so you’ve got to splurge a little.

Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru
The months of July and August mark the dry season in the Lost City of the Incas. Even though this time of the year is Peru’s winter, the days stay fairly warm and the nights comfortably crisp. Mach Picchu only occupies 12 acres of jungle, but the national park around it spreads across 125 square miles and can be explored by hiking the Inca Trail.

Honeymoon Suite: There’s only one hotel at Machu Picchu: the posh Orient Express-owned Sanctuary Lodge. And like any self-respecting monopoly, they charge you for the privilege of staying there. Rates start at $750, but the views are otherworldly, and the restaurants excellent. We can quibble about the (lack of) ethics of building a hotel on such a sacred site after your honeymoon.

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