Far away from the madding crowd – we’d listed places where you could spend Valentine’s in splendid isolation. On the list are some of the most legendarily remote places on earth. The camping options are entirely private and all are a schlep to get to.
Background: Remote and expensive to get to, this place, Apocryphally Bill Gates’ favourite place in the world, Mahale is also where the words ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume’ were allegedly uttered. Mahale’s main draw is its chimpanzees.
Romance factor: By Lake Tanganyika, where the waters are as clear as gin and where, on a clear night, you could see into the Congo, . Transfer(after a domestic flight) is by dhow. The barefoot luxury aesthetic in the bandas, lounging in the dhows in the afternoon, feasting on freshly-caught sashimi. It is rainy season in February but these spells never do last more than an hour or two at a stretch. On the upside, the cleared skies after a downpour contributes to some spectacular sunsets. #NotYourUsualSafari
Accommodation: One of the bandas at Greystoke Mahale(after Tarzan!). A possible itinerary (in view of current apprehensions- sans the Kenyan element):
4. Moroccan Sahara
Background: The Sahara, which means desert in Arabic, covers most of North Africa. Over on the Moroccan end
Romance factor: Stylish white canvas tents with brass fixtures and Moroccan lamps, good food in the middle-of-nowhere as well as the exclusive factor. Dinner on the dunes at sunset make for a particularly memorable experience.
Accommodation: Accessible by chartered plane from Marrakech (or by scheduled flight from Paris), you’d be able to see Algeria as you fly down into the desert. Desserts are by French pâtissier Pierre Hermé.
This itinerary spells out a somewhat longer journey- from chic riad conversions in the kasbahs and opulent Atlas Mountain retreats aside
3. San Pedro de Atacama
Background:Atacama is the driest place on earth, which contributes to it being one of the best places in the world for stargazing.
If you’re serious about your stargazing, there’s the Paranal Observatory , dubbed ‘the most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory’, as well as to the site of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, containing the world’s most powerful radio telescope, and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2012.
Romance factor: There aren’t many places in the world where you can schedule an ‘impromptu’ outdoor picnic and stargazing session after a beautiful trek crossing over streams and spectacular mountain scenery, hardly meeting anyone else but the occasional fleet of goats.
Accommodation: You can choose to camp outdoors under the stars but there is a surprising array of sophisticated, well-designed hotels. Of these, the Tierra Atacama(pictured below) has the best spa. Consisting of cabins with incredibly romantic views of Licancabur, the design here is sleek and the food exceptional.
This is for a more comprehensive itinerary starting in Peru, going through the spectacular Bolivian salt flats, before ending in the Atacama desert.
Background: Raja Ampat is world- famous as a dive site.
Romance factor: Dolphins seemingly escorting you on your boat transfer to the resort, lounging in the hammock looking directly into the waters on the balcony of your above-water sea bungalows, the sight of moon jellyfish surrounding you in a lake.
Accommodation: A private resort island, accessible by flight from Sorong and a connecting boat transfer. With complicated logistics and just 8 bungalows, this is not your typical beach holiday.
1. Empty Quarters
Background: One of the largest sand deserts in the world.
Romance factor: All your Lawrence of Arabia fantasies come true.
This, being a mobile journey, is the most adventurous on the list but is done in impossibly high style.
Accommodation: In luxury, mobile tented camps, with excellent food, stylish movable baths, an advanced team waiting for you with cool towels upon your arrival at the end of the day, sundowners and meals in inspired surroundings. Depending on your route and how many days you have, it’s possible to ‘do’ part of the journey on water.