365+ days of pandemic life. It has felt like a never-ending endurance marathon, with a path that is continually marred by unexpected obstacles and a finish line that keeps getting moved. This lengthy ‘pause’ has taught us a lot—about ourselves, our priorities, our relationships, our work-life balance, our impact on the planet, and indeed our undefeatable love affair with travel.
Among the teachings we’ve been forced to ponder, perhaps the main overarching life lesson is that of time. Time is fleeting; time can be lost or taken away abruptly; and time, above all, is a true luxury. Let us not take it for granted.
The reality is that time stands still for no one, not even during a global pandemic. An entire year’s worth of missed celebrations, postponed holidays and less-than-ceremonious birthdays have passed us by. So, as the vaccine rollouts start to shed a ray of hope, it’s time to dust off those bucket lists, celebrate life’s milestones properly and (finally) start living in the now again.
Whether that means escaping for a grand, multi-generational family reunion somewhere epic; getting down on one knee to propose; or tying the knot (at long last) and jetting off on the most unforgettable and long-awaited honeymoon. It’s time to make up for lost time.
Once the woes of pandemic life are finally behind us, will you make the most of your newfound freedom? Carpe diem … seize the day.
Love in the time of Covid
From cholera to Covid, love endures. If the past year of uncertainty has encouraged you to graze the knee and ‘put a ring on it’, these 10 places to pop the question might help inspire your top secret plans.
We LOVE a good surprise at &Beyond and our teams can help orchestrate your special moment, from the logistics of actually getting yourselves there, to those extra-romantic details that will have your partner saying that three-letter word that’ll change your lives forever.
1. For old school romance
Hop aboard and take a step back in time on the Belmond Hiram Bingham luxury train in Peru. Named after the American explorer who rediscovered Machu Picchu with local villagers in 1911, this exclusive rail journey traverses the picturesque 3.5-hour route from Cusco to Machu Picchu (or vice versa).
The iconic navy and gold luxury train boasts 1920’s vintage charm, with its elegant Pullman-style carriages, polished wood, brass touches, antique fittings, white linen and plush armchairs. Remnant of a bygone era, this is a romantic, comfortable and truly memorable way to travel to the ancient Incan citadel.
Relax and savour a gourmet meal, pop into the bar carriage for some celebratory drinks, enjoy some live traditional Peruvian music and slip away to the observatory car for an even better view of the Andean scenery … and perhaps a private moment to ask that all-important question.
Even more dramatic, if you overnight at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, our teams can organise you exclusive early access to Machu Picchu so that you can propose at sunrise with the ancient ruins almost entirely to yourselves.
2. For the ultimate in privacy
It doesn’t get any more (blissfully) remote than this. The ultimate in understated desert luxury and sought-after seclusion, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia is situated, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. With the nearest town 145 km (90 miles) away, it is an unapologetically romantic desert oasis and the perfect place for an engagement (not to mention wedding, honeymoon, babymoon, anniversary, you name it).
There are countless places for your momentous proposal, from a private champagne and canapés stop on the top of a mighty star dune, to a helicopter flip for two that also culminates with champagne, but on a mountaintop overlooking the timeless desert.
Just a word to the wise, if you plan to propose on the dunes, don’t carry the ring around loose in your pocket; it could easily fall out and get immediately swallowed up by the vast sea of sand.
3. For safari romance
If you or your partner have watched Out of Africa more times than you can count, then look no further than &Beyond Bateleur Camp in Kenya for your unforgettable moment. Situated just below the breathtaking lookout where Out of Africa’s famous final scene was filmed, Bateleur Camp, with its undeniable air of old-school safari romance, overlooks the endless plains of the Masai Mara.
A hot air balloon over the tree-dotted, game-filled plains is an absolute must. In theory, many envision an airborne balloon proposal as the ultimate in romance. In reality, as breathtaking and memorable as this flight is, it is important to note that (depending on the balloon and availability) there can be upwards of 16 passengers in the basket, as well as the pilot. That’s 16 other voices, plus the intermittent roar of the flame, to talk over. Should you still opt for a balloon proposal, again, don’t carry the ring loosely.
For a far more intimate and equally goosebump-worthy proposal, opt for private sundowners-for-two on an escarpment overlooking the Mara as far as the eye can see.
4. For old-world opulence
If popping the question at the world-famous Taj Mahal feels a bit too cliché, there are countless equally picturesque and hopelessly romantic palaces and monuments throughout India.
Iconically situated right in the middle of Lake Pichola in Udaipur (affectionately known as the Venice of the East), the grand Taj Lake Palace was once an exquisitely over-the-top residence fit for a Maharana in the 1700s.
This historic, floating 18th century palace is a vision of intricately carved pearlescent white marble, complete with grand, scalloped archways, detailed mosaic inlays, opulent suites, gilded chandeliers, resplendent gardens and a romantic rooftop terrace.
The ultimate in fairy-tale romance, surprise your partner with the most regal al fresco dinner-for-two in a rooftop marble minaret, on a small boat, or on a private floating platform under the moonlight.
5. For tea (and nature) lovers
Perched high in the verdant hills of a Sri Lankan tea plantation are the Ceylon Tea Trails Luxury Bungalows. Choose from five spaciously distanced bungalows, each with its own distinct charm and décor, or spend a night or two discovering each one.
Sitting at an altitude of 1 250 m (4 101 ft), each historic bungalow offers the ultimate in privacy and seclusion. A personal butler will unobtrusively tend to your every whim, while a private chef will prepare each dish to your unique tastes.
The panoramic views from each private bungalow are breathtaking, with the tea fields, lakes and mountains as the backdrop. From mountain biking, hiking and kayaking, to spa treatments, lawn croquet and learning the ancient art of Ceylon tea making, you and your partner can be as active or as idle as you please.
6. For the young at heart
Paying wistful homage to the long-forgotten secret hideaways of our youth, treehouse hotels provide quiet solitude, natural leafy surrounds and a playful sense of adventure. Not to mention an ideal and truly memorable place to propose.
&Beyond Ngala Treehouse in South Africa is an uber-stylish, four-storey luxury wooded escape situated in Big Five wilderness. Nostalgic and enchanting, this overnight adventure takes you and your partner off the grid, where you can (and should) disconnect from technology and truly appreciate the captivating starry sky and night sounds of Africa.
7. For art lovers
Global art enthusiasts will know of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) in South Africa’s cosmopolitan Cape Town. A lesser known jewel in the Zeitz family crown is the charming Segera Retreat in Kenya.
This is not your traditional safari retreat. It is a verdant and surprisingly arty oasis, complete with all of the luxurious creature comforts to pamper safari enthusiasts. Yet interspersed throughout this delightfully quirky property are beguiling art installations, sculpture gardens, unexpected steelworks, beautiful paintings and unusual artefacts. Among these artefacts is the original yellow bi-plane, G-AAMY, that flew Meryl Streep and Robert Redford high above the plains in Out of Africa.
Spend a romantic and adventurous night in the Nay Palad Bird Nest. You’ll arrive just before sunset, so you can toast the day (and celebrate that three-letter answer) with a lantern-lit champagne sundowners and a rooftop picnic-style supper. This totally lavish and nestlike stilted sleepout is a truly unique place to pop the question.
8. For jungle beach vibes
Sri Lanka’s Wild Coast Tented Lodge is harmoniously situated on a secluded beach adjacent to Yala National Park, which is renowned for its thriving leopard population.
The whimsical tented cocoon suites have been purposefully distanced to mimic the shape of a leopard track and their rotund shape mirror the giant boulders strewn across the rugged shoreline.
As romantic as they are luxurious, the tented cocoons evoke anchored airships. The elegant interiors are a throwback to the expedition days of old, with canvas walls, polished teak flooring, handsome leather accents and grand four-poster beds with billowing canopy nets.
The spacious ensuite bathroom boasts copper vanities and a freestanding (handmade) copper bathtub ideal for post-jungle soaks.
9. For wine connoisseurs
The Vines Resort & Spa is situated at the base of the snow-capped Andes Mountains within a lush, private vineyard in Argentina’s famed Mendoza wine country. It is an award-winning and picturesque boutique property that seamlessly combines world-class wine, fine dining, outdoor adventure and laidback luxury.
The spacious villas, which are furnished with natural materials like stone and wood, each boast their own unique views of the panoramic landscape.
Enjoy unhurried wine tastings, long vineyard strolls, gourmet picnics, poolside afternoons, pampering spa treatments, evening stargazing, and leisurely meals featuring regionally-inspired dishes (with Argentina’s famous beef a firm favourite).
The Vines is an invitation to press pause and slow down to enjoy the finer things in life.
10. For nature lovers
Who could resist an unforgettable starlit proposal on the wild, grassy slopes of a volcano? Ecuador’s picturesque and remote Cotopaxi Sanctuary Lodge is situated on the foothills of the Cotopaxi Volcano on 3 000 hectares (7 400 acres) of protected land that is home to wild horses, Andean fox, Andean pumas, deer and even the rare Andean-speckled bear.
The lodge’s iconic dome-shaped suites are glass-fronted allowing for panoramic views of the rugged landscape and imposing volcano in the near distance. Adventurous days can be spent in the great outdoors, exploring the dense forests, rugged moorlands, hidden waterfalls and sparkling streams. This is an outdoor lover’s playground and a truly unique and memorable place for an engagement.
SEE WHAT LIES BEYOND
Planning to pop the question? Let us help you plan the perfect proposal.