For Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share not one specific destination, but a series of travel experiences snipped along my journeys. These eight places have worked their charm on me, and the romantic magic of each place has won me over forever.

What makes a destination ‘romantic’, you ask? There are places that seem to exude romance with their very nature. Venice comes to mind, with its gondolas gliding along the canals. But the magic of a place is often subtler than that: the most romantic destination will be forever linked with a moment in our lives when forces combine to offer a perfect harmony of the senses. The most romantic travels I’ve had were more than intimate moments with a loved one; they were unique moments experienced with travel itself, be they shared with a friend or experienced alone. These moments were always spontaneous, and never forced. Join me on a visit to the eight places where I fell in love.

  1. Luang Prabang, Laos

    Every night for the last few days, we wander the streets and alleys of Luang Prabang, the Pearl of Mekong.  The sidewalks are speckled with small streetlights, but tonight, there’s something special in the air. It’s the festival of lights marking the end of Buddhist Lent. Locals have decorated the temples and houses with pretty paper lanterns, alit with tea lights.  Their subdued glow transforms the otherwise dark night, and the ambiance is softly spiritual. We succumb to the bewitching magic as Luang Prabang captivates and enchants us.

    Girl in the foreground at night at the Festival of Lights in Luang Prabang, Laos

  2. Percé Rock, Le Rocher Percé (Pierced Rock), Gaspésie,  Canada

    The moon is high tonight. Its powerful glow backlights the impressive mass of the Pierced Rock against the horizon. We scramble down to the pebble beach where small pea-shaped pebbles, polished smooth by the sea, offer a comfortable gazing spot. Minutes later, the flames of a small fire start to dance and light our faces as we lose ourselves for a moment in each other’s eyes.

    Percé Rock, Le Rocher Percé (Pierced Rock) at sunset in Gaspésie, Canada

  3. Beacon Hill, Boston, USA

    Night falls, and Beacon Hill, Boston’s chicest quarter, propels us into another universe. Gas lit streetlights turn on and their charm starts to work its wondrous ways. We feel as if we’ve been transported into a Harry Potter book, with the English style houses and the hundreds of flickering streetlights that give the quarter a mystical, muted and romantic air. We get lost in the moment, hand in hand, letting silence guide us along.

    Boston's Beacon Hill neighbourhood at night

  4. Flores, Guatemala

    The sun sets slowly over the lake before us. The sky is coloured with marvelous warmth. We stare at this almost unreal painting, as shapes take form in a symphony of colours—just like a Salvador Dali masterpiece. The spellbinding melody of Bliss’ “Wish you were here” trickles over from the nearby restaurant. We’re literally swayed by so much visual and auditory beauty; this trip is a unique instance when two souls rock gently, swayed by the sheer power of the moment.

    A view of the water in Flores, Guatemala

  5. Yuanyang, Yunnan, China

    Our window looks over one of the most beautiful panoramas I’ve ever seen. The terraced rice fields of Yuanyang are a human marvel. Sitting in bed, we admire the last rays of the sun reflecting on the surface of the water like a mirror glinting off the blue-tinted sky.

    Rice terraces in Yuanyang, Yunnan, China

  6. Paris, France

    Paris has always turned me head-over-heels. I roam through the city, music filling my ears, and feel a total sense of harmony with my surroundings. I stop here and there, watching people go by, noticing works of art and architecture―from the gigantism of the Eiffel tower, to the subtlety of Mona Lisa’s smile in the Louvre. A few days spent in Paris gives me the impression that I’m fusing with this city that unveils itself so easily before me. Paris’s romanticism operates steadily, beguiling me often to the point of tears.

    The Louvre in Paris, France

  7. Haeinsa Temple, South Korea

    It’s sunrise on the Haeinsa Temple. We’ve been up since 3 in the morning to witness a Buddhist ceremony. The site is empty, besides a few monks going about their daily chores. A disconcerting serenity reigns… side by side we pass through these perched buildings magnificently decorated by autumn. We understand this is a special moment and ours alone. In a few hours, the temples will take on their usual touristic hub bub, but right now, they belong to us.

    The Haeinsa Buddhist temple in South Korea

  8. La Payunia Provincial Reserve, Argentina

    I’m in a minibus heading back to the village. The sun is setting and I’m looking out the window. Red and black lava fields form vast landscapes all around. It’s the first time I’ve encountered volcanic lands. The sky’s soft colours soften the volcanic stones, making them less menacing somehow. I feel alive, and I let my thoughts drift, letting the landscape inspire me. I try to write, to describe what I see, but the result is pitiful next to reality. Without knowing it, I’ve been seduced by travel—I’ve fallen in love with wandering itself. Today, travel remains my one true love. The one that changed my life forever.

    Lava fields in La Payunia Provincial Reserve, Argentina

All of these places allowed me to connect with people I love, and more often than not, to connect with myself. If you want to discover the force of love that flows from these connections for yourself, you’ll have to get out and travel to meet them.

And you, fellow traveller, which places have seduced you on your travels?

Rachel

Rachel is a travel blogger from Quebec who’s been travelling the world for several years.

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