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Thu 29 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Ultimate Valentine’s destinations

It's that time of the year when the imminent arrival of Valentine's Day means romantic overtures are expected. But instead of shelling out on rocks or the latest It-bag, First Class suggests some truly memorable travel escapades.

It's that time of the year when the imminent arrival of Valentine's Day means romantic overtures are expected. But instead of shelling out on rocks or the latest It-bag, First Class suggests some truly memorable travel escapades.

Latin delight

Just the mere mention Argentina conjures images of stunning landscapes, tantalizing tango and drinking Yerba-maté. You and your beloved will adore the Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Spa in Argentinean province of Salta.

Set near the lush state-of-the-art El Esteco Winery vineyards, the elegant Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Spa is a former colonial mansion dating back to 1892 and boasts spectacular views of the Calchaquí Valley vineyards. Cafayate is home to a range of wineries, which offer guided excursions to taste excellent and varied wines, including the exceptional Torrontes wine. Behind the hotel's grand facade lie vaulted corridors, courtyards, and gardens redolent with the scent of jasmine.

The property oozes rustic charm and features 30 rooms, with decorative touches including loom-woven carpets, hand woven upholstery, oven-baked tile floors, candle chandeliers, alpaca-metal fittings Andean tapestries, penny royal baskets and motifs of wines and grapes. 15 Garden View rooms feature spectacular views of the gardens and have direct access to the patios and corridors.

You can laze around their chic pool or go for a drive through the deep canyons, hike in the mountains and discover the tiny village of Cafayate. The surrounding area is great for exploring the valleys, archaeological ruins and world-class bodegas, the architectural wonders of the Cathedral and over 1,000 archaeological pieces at the Rodolfo Bravo museum.

You can also peruse the work of local craftsmen at the artisan market. Epicureans will relish native delights and restaurant specialities like the Andean cereal - quinoa, llama and goat.

At their WineSpa, the benefits of grapes are used to encourage relaxation, health and rejuvenation. The treatments are based on antioxidants found in fruit and the spa has an array of body and facial treatments. The enhancing properties of quinoa with the typical valley products like the carob tree, Andean clay, the cactus, and molle which are combined with grape to create ancestral treatments derived from the old Calchaquí culture.

Their luxury Romance package includes accommodation, daily breakfast for two at the restaurant or in your room, champagne and flowers on arrival. Rates

A Deluxe Room with Garden view starts at USD 275.00 per night Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Spa

Ruta Nacional 40 y Ruta Nacional 68

Cafayate, Salta 4427 ArgentinaTel:+54 3868 422 229

Fax:+ 54 3868 421 753 www.starwoodhotels.com Arabian nights

If you're short of time but still desire an ultimate romantic respite that's a little closer to home, make your way to the Banyan Tree Desert Spa & Resort, Al Areen in Bahrain. Recreate the splendour of the Arabian Nights fantasy at this luxurious oasis that flaunts subtly elegant Arabian architecture.

The prestigious resort boasts the only all-villa private pool and jet-pool resort in the Middle East, with one of the world's extensive spa and hydrotherapy complexes. What's more, the resort has the added mystique of being set in amidst well-preserved forts, enlightening museums and one of the Gulf's oldest mosque.

The villas are by themselves cavernous and opulent thanks to Arabesque interiors, including a specially designed king-size bed, private garden, swimming pool and exquisite jet pool courtyard.

Romance in Bahrain package

Desert Pool Villa - US$ 1,015

Royal Pool Villa - US$ 1,765

Banyan Tree Desert Spa & Resort, Al Areen

PO Box 75055

Juffair, Kingdom of Bahrain

Tel:+ 973 17 845 000

Fax:+ 973 17 845 001

E-mail:reservations-bahrain@banyantree.com www.banyantree.com/alareen/index.html Wild romance

For an altogether different escapade that would appeal to the adventurous yet won't deter romance, book a luxurious safari trip in Africa. You'll form amazing memories and an unforgettable experience in the tranquil settings of the Sabi Sabi Selati Camp. Savour crimson African sunsets amid dramatic landscapes and the orchestra of the wild.

Imbued with an ‘Out of Africa' grandeur, the Luxury Safari Lodge features eight thatched suites with en-suite bathrooms. The swanky interiors highlight numerous railway memorabilia and collector's pieces. Here, you can experience the quiet thrill of a private alfresco shower under magnificent trees.

The Ivory Presidential Suite is a colonial style favourite with the royals and includes a draped four-poster bed, a private terrace, cozy fireplace and private plunge pool. The magnificent en-suite bathroom boasts a luxurious Persian carpet and an antique chaise-lounge. When it comes to dining, options include dining in colonial elegance on wooden thatched decks by the Msuthlu riverbed, in the open-air "boma" - the setting is definitely evocative of romantic adventure.

Your partner and you can head into the wild with their day and night Safaris. Watch as the lions prepare for their evening hunt. Relish the heavy yet silent tread of elephants as they move in the moonlight. RatesSabi Sabi

The Ivory Presidential suite - US$ 775 pp per night (includes private Land Rover)

Sabi Sabi Head Office

Tel:+27 11 447-7172

Fax:+27 11 442-0728

Street Address: 4 Jameson Avenue, Melrose Estate, Johannesburg, South

Africa

Postal Address: P.O. Box 52665, Saxonwold, 2132, South Africa

E-mail:res@sabisabi.com www.sabisabi.com Tropical tryst

Located on Motu Piti Aau (meaning ‘two hearts' in Tahitian), the St Regis Resort Bora Bora is the grandest hotel on Bora Bora. Situated below the majestic Mount Otemanu, the resort is edged by powdery sands and the serene and inviting waters of the lagoon.

Facing the main island, the Deluxe Over Water Villas are the largest in the Pacific and flaunt chic décor designed in woods and marble. The 32 villas feature private terrace with a Jacuzzi and private gazebo with Day bed.

Couples can saunter out on to the deck and relish the visual feast of valleys covered with hibiscus, sail on a catamaran to savour a Tahitian sunset or embark on a guided tour exploring the crafts by local artisans.

There's also the lauded 13,000 square foot Miri Miri Spa that coaxes into a world of pampering. Regardless of your treatment - whether facial or a heavenly massage their Tahitian Rim treatments use local ingredients including monoi oil, tamanu oil, mother of pearl and luminescent pearl powder.

The resort also offers the St Regis Butler service for all the resort's villas. The butler is available on call to accommodate any requests including a romantic flower petal turndown or even a day on your very own private island! Rates:Daily Villa rate starts at US$ 1,835 per night

The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort

Motu Ome'e BP 506

Bora Bora 98730

French Polynesia

Phone:+ 689 607888

Fax:+ 689 607856

Email:reservations@stregisborabora.com

www.stregisborabora.com Desert magnificence

Abu Dhabi is more than just tawny dunes and black gold. Unspoiled sanctuaries like Sir Bani Yas Island afford an opportunity to experience exquisite unblemished terrains and to explore the desert wildlife.

A mere eight kilometres from the shores of Abu Dhabi, Desert Islands Resort & Spa offers the prospect of the perfect island escape away from the urban chaos. The once-private Royal Natural Reserve is now a resort featuring 64 spacious rooms, suites, one and two bedroom villas including two Royal Villas.

Loved-up couples will cherish the isolation so opt for the Beach Villas with their own private splash pools and tropical gardens. With stunning views of the shimmering Arabian Gulf turquoise waters, the villa is designed to be the ultimate isolated haven that caters to your every comfort.

The interior of the villa features ornate furniture in lavish fabrics, a separate bedroom adorned with a king-sized bed, a sunbathing lounge, private kitchenette and dining space. Additionally, culinary delights abound at the resort with five dining venues featuring Arabic mezze to grilled seafood to ensure you'll never go hungry.

Activities include exploring the island's wildlife and ancient ruins, snorkel or scuba-dive to spot vibrant marine life. Or you could simply take a game drive through the park with field-guides and even go mountain biking to glimpse some flamingoes. Rates

Deluxe Seaview with Beach Access starts at US$ 600 per night

Beach Villa starts at US$ 1,145 per night Desert Islands Resort & SpaSir Baniyas Island, Al Ruwais

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Tel:+ 971 2 801 5400

Fax:+ 971 2 801 5404

Email:dirs@anantara.com

www.desertislands.anantara.com

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