Have you always wanted that dream honeymoon, but never thought you could? Well you can, if you look a little off the beaten path. Whether you have the heart of an adventurer, or like to be pampered, you can find something in your price range. No, these aren’t trashy little spots, but popular tourist attractions – just not popular for most Westerners. Enjoy a different kind of luxury at Eastern European prices. I promise it will be just as nice as Italy, only half as expensive.
On the shore
For the beach lover choose between the romantic Dalmatian Coast, or the more vibrant Black Sea Shore.
Dubrovnik, Croatia on the Dalmatian Coast
Once a maritime power great enough to rival Venice, Dubrovnik was the home to not only merchants, but poets, scholars, mathematicians and playwrights. It’s Italian charm is a result of it’s start as a Roman colony and the value the citizens placed on freedom. When Yugoslavia fell apart, Croatia fought hard for independence, and beautiful Dubrovnik suffered through eight months of shelling by the Yugoslav/Serbian army until it’s liberation by the Croation Army.
While some scars remain, Dubrovnik has determinately retained it’s love of peace, beauty, and freedom. Your honeymoon here will steep you in the strength of the people, while letting you bask in the warmth of the Adriatic. Enjoy the pedestrian-only walled city and laid back atmosphere. Wander through the museums and take an evening stroll on top of the city walls to watch the sun set over the Adriatic Sea. Step outside the walls for a romantic late supper on the water as you watch the boats return from fishing.
Many hotels have private beaches, and there are numerous public options for both swimming and sunbathing. Book an excursion by boat to nearby islands for a day of adventure, or take a bus trip up the Dalmatian coast to explore other Croatian coastal towns.
In 2013, private rooms could be booked for under 300 kn (possibly with a shared bathroom, be sure to read carefully) or larger hotels for under 1000 kn (roughly $75-$200, check the exchange rate). A romantic supper on the harbor can cost as little as $10.
Varna, Bulgaria on the Black Sea
Varna is a seaside resort with plenty of sun, sand and topless bathers. The third largest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, this popular tourist destination has all the amenities a sun lover could want. Stroll along the 8km of beach, or just plop down and claim your spot for the day. Snacks and drinks are never far away. For a less touristy feel, head north for the less populated beaches.
For a break from the sun, enjoy the museums, or wander around and look for the Roman ruins. Stop in to the cathedral for some quiet culture, or find a seat at an outdoor restaurant for an afternoon of people watching. If you enjoy souvenir shopping there are plenty of little stores to spend an afternoon browsing through, or enjoy at night at the opera for a full change from sand and surf.
In 2013, hotel rooms could be had for under $30, or less for a guest house. This is a tourist destination, so dinner can be found in all cuisines and at all prices. Afternoon drinks for two in town should set you back less than $10.
In the city
If you aren't a fan of sand in your shoes, choose the Transylvanian countryside, or near the beautiful Julian Alps.
Granted, the term “city” only loosely applies here, but this ancient German colony has a marvelous European feel, and is the perfect place to stay for exploring nearby sights. One of the largest cities in the Transylvania region, Brasov is the perfect place for café’s and relaxed nightlife. And it’s completely charming. It’s also a great place to stay for exploring the Transylvanian neighborhood.
Take a long day trip to Bucharest for museums and art, or a shorter one to Sinai to see the castle. Tramp around the ruins of the Rasnov fortress, or keep going until you get to Bran castle, billed as Dracula’s castle with all the associated tacky tourist trappings on the way there. Sighisoara is a medieval little citadel with medieval arms and a nearby 15th century monastery.
Rent a studio apartment for less than $50 per night (2013 prices) or book a five star hotel for a little more than $100. Cuisine in this small city can be sampled for anywhere between $5 and $50 per meal.
If you’re worried about travel in Eastern Europe, but still want charm and value for your honeymoon, head to Ljubljana. Cafés and street musicians add charm to this quiet remnant of the Austrian Hapsburgs. Wander shops and markets as you enjoy the mix of architecture and art that has built the old town. Step farther into the new town to see just how modern Slovenia really is. Consider renting a car during your stay here, for quick trips to see the Lipizzaner breeding farm, or nearby Karst caves.
A little more expensive than Romania, Ljubljana is the perfect choice for the first time adventurer. Expect meals to start around $15, and hotels around $100. Check B&Bs for cheaper rates, although you’ll need to call or email them to get exact rates.
Best of both
The perfect place to elope, Lake Bled, Slovenia
If you just can’t handle the thought of all the planning that comes with a wedding, or you’re looking for a great story to tell the grandkids, elope to this beautiful resort in the Julian Alps. Plan your own quiet, romantic union around this Baroque church on a little island in the middle of Lake Bled. Splurge on an overnight stay at Tito’s summer villa or stay at the farm-like Alp Penzione just a short walk away from the lake for closer to $150 (honeymoon suite is around $200).
Spend a few romantic days here enjoying the lake and nearby easy hikes before setting off on a more exciting honeymoon. Enjoy one of the inexpensive options above, or just head across the border and go to Venice. Heck, you saved a fortune on the wedding by eloping, why not treat yourself?