Looking out over Niagara Falls, once synonymous in Americans' minds with "honeymoon," Oscar Wilde dubbed the spot "the second-greatest disappointment of American married life." A lot has changed since Wilde's days. The average couple no longer dreams of a week in Vegas or a trip to the Grand Canyon to celebrate their nuptials. Jet travel and better communications have made exotic destinations, once the exclusive playgrounds of the wealthy, more accessible to the rest of us. 

Nor are the rest of us content to be mere "tourists." Today we are "travellers." More and more couples now view honeymooning as a rare opportunity for adventure, exploration, and true spiritual bonding. When my own parents got married way back in 1955, their plan was to drive through Mexico. They made it as far as the border, spent a night at a roadside motel, got lost, turned around, and went home. That turned out to be a fitting first day of the rest of their married life, but it doesn't have to happen to you. The world's greatest spiritual and romantic destinations await you. Here are just a few to consider:

Turtle Island

If you endured a "traditional" wedding for the sake of family but long for a more intimate, spiritual experience, Turtle Island is the ideal destination. Here you can experience an authentic Fijian marriage ceremony in an open air chapel on the beach. Brides, adorned in flowers and Fijian attire, arrive by billi billi wedding raft. The wedding is tailored to either Methodist or Catholic faiths, but with local touches like a Kava drink-sipping ritual. Honeymooners stay in a bure (a deluxe palm hut), with private beaches reserved for each couple (the resort accepts a maximum of 14 couples at any given time). Meals are held in a communal outdoor setting under a Banyan tree, complete with French champagne.

Rates: $2,000 fully inclusive wedding package; seaplane transfers $690
Telephone: 800-255-4347
Website: www.turtlefiji.com


Hotel Monasterio
Machu Picchu, Peru

Perched high in the Andes, the ancient city of Machu Picchu is the New Age Mecca--one of the most beautiful and spiritual places in the world. Originally built as a monastery in 1592 on the site of Inca Amaru Qhala Palace, Hotel Monasterio in the town of Cusco (three hours by train to Machu Picchu) is an ideal spot for honeymooning. A stunning chapel is also available for weddings. But be warned: It's not a trip for the faint-hearted. The traditional trek by foot to the ruins is a four-day walk through altitudes that will test the healthiest lungs. But by all accounts, it's worth it.

Rates: Doubles $270-320; helicopter lifts $85
Website: www.monasterio.orient-express.com


International House Hotel
New Orleans, Louisiana

You don’t have to leave the country for a unique spiritual experience. The International House, a breathtaking hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, serves up a ceremony that ranks among the best of them. Featuring an authentic staff voodoo priestess, the hotel offers love blessing rituals for newlyweds. First an altar is built in your room, then clippings of the couple's hair and fingernails are taken and combined with herbs and sealed in a silk gris-gris bag as the priestess draws icons called veves on the floor to summon the loa, or spirit (no animals are killed). The hotel also features flower baths and a "voodoo love kit" with massage oils and other sensuous, mystical treats.  The hotel is almost back up to full occupancy after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  You can help support the renewal of New Orleans and reinvigorate yourself in the process.

Rates: Suites $359-439; blessing ceremony $125
Telephone: 800-633-5770
Website: www.ihhotel.com

Gamboa Nature Resort
Panama City, Panama

Ever wanted to try beaches on both the Atlantic and the Pacific- on the same day?  Gamboa, nestled just north of the Panama Canal, offers luxurious beach villas with views of the rainforest.  You can go bird watching, take a guided ecological tour, or go on an aerial tram over the Panama Canal.  Built inside a twenty-hectare nature preserve, Gamboa shares its space with monkeys, frogs, parrots, butterflies, iguanas, and more.

Rates: Single villas $135-$175; Two bedroom villas $165-$205; Themed suites $400-$600 (varies by time of year)
Telephone: 1-877-800-1690
Website: www.gamboaresort.com


Parrot Cay
Turks and Caicos, British West Indies

Once known as "Pirate Cay," the greatest treasure you'll find on this 1,000 acre private island today is Shambhala (Sanskrit for "utopia"), the new spa at Parrot Cay. A resort that prides itself as much on simplicity as elegance, Parrot Cay features Japanese cedar soaking tubs, open-air yoga classes, and cuisine that nourishes the body and the soul. The spa's staff is culled from around the world, including a Buddhist monk who specializes in Indian head massages.

Rates: Single rooms $315-$440; Beach house $1470 (three night minimum stay)
Telephone: 866-388-0036 or 904-288-0036
Website: www.parrotcay.com

Hacienda del Cerezo
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Rising up from a hilltop on the outskirts of Santa Fe, Hacienda del Cerezo's adobe walls are nearly indistin-
guishable from the surrounding pink earth and golden sunsets. Many consider Santa Fe to be America's spiritual center, and if so, Hacienda del Cerezo is its royal palace. Hand-carved beams and kiva fireplaces warm each room, with gorgeous panorama views of the valley from the hotel's Saltillo-tile balconies. Honeymooners can delight in treatments at nearby Zen's Inn Bodywork Sanctuary, where massages are given side by side. Native American ceremonies at the nearby Tesuque Pueblo Indian Reservation are open to visitors.

Rates: $600-$750, includes 3 gourmet meals a day.  Two night stay minimum.
Telephone: 888-982-8001 or 505-982-8000
Website: www.haciendadelcerezo.com

Galle, Sri Lanka

The influences of Hinduism and Buddhism (it is the home of the world's largest reclining Buddha statue), mixed with the architecture of the Dutch and Portuguese make the area around Galle, Sri Lanka, a certifiable dream world. Illukitaya (the "plantation house"), a private villa that welcomes couples, is a stunning homage to Zen aesthetics, surrounded by cool running streams and quiet stone fountains. Monks in saffron robes walk the roads leading to endless temples, as you drift off to sleep beneath a soft white mosquito net to the hypnotic sounds of the jungle.  Although Sri Lanka got somewhat less media attention than Thailand following the 2004 tsunami, the country is still in the process of rebuilding, though this resort has been entirely restored.
Rates: $350 per night for the entire villa, including staff, or $100 for a double room
Website: http://www.boutiquesrilanka.com/hotel-overview.php?HotelId=58


El Encanto Resort, Santa Cruz, Mexico

Located in the province of Nayarit, 96 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, El Encanto is an ecotourism resort with the goal of having their guests live as one with the rainforest. Open from November to May, the resort grows all their own organic, pesticide-free food.  Guests have the option of camping under the awning of gorgeous trees or staying in comfortable, airy apartments filled with fresh flowers and local art.

Rates: $50/night for apartments or $1200 a month
Website: www.encantomexico.com

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