Bye-bye beach-flop: today's newlyweds want more from their honeymoon. When I was putting together the first edition of Unique Honeymoons magazine, we did a survey. It revealed that 81 percent of couples crave the trip of a lifetime, with only 12 percent content to take a sun-sea-sand break. Many couples have holidayed together for years before marrying, which means the trip needs to be special. Luckily, as times have changed, choices have widened. While there are over-water villas a-plenty, there are monk blessings and tango lessons, too. No matter the budget, the key is deciding what will make a honeymoon your own.
The “average” honeymoon
A survey by Brides magazine found British couples typically spend £4,000 (about R48 000) on their honeymoon. Happily, for around £2,000 per person you can consider options well beyond the average. For example, you could island-hop around Mozambique's Quirimbas archipelago on a dhow sailing boat, sleeping out on the sand before ending your trip with three nights of barefoot luxury at the secluded Ibo Island Lodge. The Zambezi Safari and Travel Company (01548 830059; zambezi.com) offers an eight-night trip from £2,090 per person, including flights.
Honeymoons don't have to cost the earth. Take cuddling up under canvas in Scotland, where wild camping is permitted if the landscape is respected. Glen Etive is a good spot, and perfectly placed for lung-clearing hikes in the surrounding Glencoe mountains. A few little luxuries - a bottle of prosecco and tea lights in jam jars - add low-cost romance. For more glamorous camping, Black Mountain Tipi Retreat in Powys, Wales (01638 576682; blackmountainretreats.com) has secluded tepees, tucked away in a private valley meadow - complete with private hot tubs. Tepees start at £85 per night.
“We thought if we started married life by taking on a huge challenge, then everything else would seem easy,” says Sonia Jackson, who headed with her new husband to Tanzania to climb Africa's highest mountain. “It was both the best and worst experience of our lives.” There's nothing romantic about Kilimanjaro's freezing nights and long-drop loos, but hiking up this 5,895m peak will cement any relationship. Exodus (0845 869 9179; exodus.co.uk) offers a 13-day “Kilimanjaro & Zanzibar” trip that includes recuperation on the Spice Isle, for £2,179 per person, including flights.
Make it a mini-moon
If there's no time for a grand escapade, a mini-moon is ideal. Arctic Sweden's IceHotel is spot on for a sparkling winter short break, with the added romance of the chance of catching the Northern Lights. Discover the World (01737 214250; discover-the-world.co.uk) runs three-night trips from £1,200 per person (December to March), including one night in a suite sculpted from ice; reindeer skins and hot lingonberry juice keep things toasty.
Top five special sleeps
Swap hotels for something a bit different. Free Spirit Spheres (001 250 757 9445; freespirit spheres.com) on Canada's Vancouver Island, allow lovers to stay in treehouses; from C$213 (£134) per night room only. Outside Wellington, The Lighthouse (00 64 4 472 4177; thelighthouse.net.nz) is a nautical retreat that feels far from New Zealand's capital; rental starts at NZ$180 (£95). The yurts of Chile's Patagonia Camp (00 562 334 9255; patagonia camp.com) overlook the crags of Torres del Paine; three-night all-inclusive packages start at US$1,700 (£1,133) per person. Perched on a Santorini hillside, the Windmills (00 30 22860 25207; windmill.gr) have lovely sea views. Prices from €280 per night. Finally, Sri Lanka's Beach Hut (thebeachhutgalle.com) has its own cook; rental starts at US$300 (£200) per night.
Budget? What budget?
For those lucky in love and money, options are abundant. For example, in April a flying safari launches across Western Australia's Kimberley region. The new Ibis Aerial Highway is a collection of over 20 airstrips at cattle stations, luxury lodges and national parks, making it easier to explore this vast wilderness. You'll also get to see the extraordinary sandstone formations of the Bungle Bungles and the natural phenomenon of the Horizontal Falls. Bridge and Wickers (020-7483 6555; bridgeandwickers.co.uk) offers the five-day aerial safari from £5,420 per person, including flights from London.
Share the honeymoon love
You could spend your honeymoon volunteering for a charity. Just research carefully. “Weddings are expensive, and so are many organised volunteer programmes,” says Charlotte Hindle, author of Lonely Planet's guide to Volunteering. “You could sign up for a week of conservation, asking wedding guests to contribute to the cost instead of buying presents.” Earthwatch (01865 318 831; earth watch.org) offers an eight- or 15-day “Amazon Riverboat Exploration” in Peru, helping biologists collect data on pink dolphins, monkeys and macaws; from £1,595 pp, flights extra.
Who said that?
“The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure” - Samuel Johnson, 1755
“I do want an expensive honeymoon. Not because I'm extravagant, but because a honeymoon is a solemn, important thing ... a symbol. And it ought to be done - well, adequately” - Arnold Bennett, The Honeymoon “When a man is newly wed, he need not go out on a military expedition, nor shall any public duty be imposed on him. He shall... bring joy to the wife he has married” - Deuteronomy 24:5
“The only guarantee of a flight upgrade is to pay for one. But telling check-in staff (or your booking agent) that you're on honeymoon will slightly improve your chances. Most airlines will want to do something special for you. Look for a plane offering a 2-5-2 formation so you can sit by yourselves.” - The Independent