Jen Murphyis the kind of traveler who visits Slovenia on a whim, takes kite boarding lessons in Portuguese, has visited more than 40 countries, and has logged almost 500,000 miles in the air. As the Editor of the award-winning travel magazine, AFAR, and the former Travel Editor of Food & Wine, she's also on a first name basis with award-winning hoteliers, chefs and winemakers around the world. Here, she shares her highly awesome and trustworthy honeymoon suggestions, as well as gives you the ultimate bucket list for all the trips you'll need to take after the honeymoon.
Q: What do you think the ideal vacation includes?
A: Friends, great food, serendipitous adventures with locals, surprises, and experiences that push you out of your comfort zone a tiny bit. Avoid a jam packed itinerary at all costs. The best vacations always just fall into place in unexpected ways.
Q: I'm sure this could change At the drop of a dime, but where would you Honeymoon at this moment?
A: I would do a bush and beach Africa combo where we’d do something active like hike South Africa’s wild coast, or go on safari in Botswana and then fly to Zanzibar to kitesurf and chill on the beach. Or rent an RV and drive all around New Zealand and then fly to Nihiwatu hotel in Indonesia to surf.
Q: for HONEYMOONERS who DON't travel AS MUCH AS YOU (so everyone), WHERE WOULD YOU recommend they go?
A:You want to keep in mind that a honeymoon should be relaxing. If you’re going away directly after your wedding think of some place low-stress. That doesn’t mean you have to go lie on the beach. Belize is a great option for combining rainforest and beach. I always say you can never go wrong with Tuscany. Do two days of culture in Florence and splurge on the Four Seasons Firenze and then just relax in the countryside at a place like Castello di Vicarello. Eat, drink and enjoy the incredibly romantic surroundings.
Q: Top 5 places you've traveled and why?
1. Cambodia: The country is so culturally rich and still feels so undiscovered in spots. Despite how fresh the wounds are from Cambodia’s past, everyone is still so positive and unbelievably generous. Phnom Penh is such a vibrant city and while the temples of Angkor Wat should not be missed, the coastal area of Kep is truly special – rows of simple crab shacks and deserted islands.
2. Slovenia: I visited Slovenia on a whim last year and the country blew my mind. I rented a car and drove from the capital of Ljubljana, which is straight out of a fairytale with its castles and cobblestone streets, through wine country, and ended in the area of Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, which are spectacular for hiking, biking and fishing.
3. Dominica:This is the Caribbean’s hidden secret. The island still feels untouched by tourism. Dominica isn’t your typical beach getaway—the island is covered by lush jungle and volcanoes. The rasta locals are so happy to take visitors on hikes to brilliant waterfalls or to these incredible champagne pools where you snorkel in bubbly water.
4. Portugal: If I could go back to one country time and again it would be Portugal. It truly is the California of Europe with its mix of coastline, wine country, and urban culture. I love the coastal town of Sintra with its old castles and the Douro Valley might just be the prettiest wine country I’ve ever visited. Lisbon is such a multi-culti city full of history, amazing restaurants and loads of culture. The people couldn’t be nicer, and compared to the rest of Europe, Portugal is unbelievably affordable.
5. Trancoso, Brazil: Trancoso is my dream beach town. The town green is anchored by an old white church and has wild horses grazing out front and kids playing games of soccer. Old fishing houses along the green have been converted into the chicest boutiques, restaurants and fashionable hotels. Everyone is so stylish yet the vibe is so laidback and carefree. The long stretch of beach is great for people-watching and I have such respect for how the women in Brazil—no matter their age, shape or size—rock these tiny Brazilian bikinis without an ounce of self consciousness.
Q: favorite hotel in Each Place?
1. Cambodia: Villa Romoneain Kep is more like a private villa than a hotel. The home is built in this really cool 1960’s modernist style. There are just six rooms but the grounds are enormous, with a saltwater swimming pool and tennis courts and lots of shaded hammocks. The property is set right on the sea. The highlight is the villa manager, Stephane Arrii, who will sit down to dinner with you (he can order in from any of the local crab shacks) and tell you stories of Cambodia’s past and offer suggestions for day trips to Kep National Park or the mountains.
2. Slovenia: Garden Village Bledin Lake Bled, which opened last summer. This place is the ultimate garden-to-table fantasy hotel. It is set just off the lake and you have a choice of luxe glamping tents, treehouses or smaller tents set right on the river. The spa is in a giant man-made bird house and the restaurant feels more like a greenhouse with grass and herbs growing straight from the tables. Almost all of the food is sourced from the on-site garden or neighboring farms. The little market in front of the hotel sells artisanal Slovenian products like honey and liqueurs—it’s perfect for stocking up on souvenirs.
3. Dominica: Secret Bayis such a romantic hotel. Guests stay in incredibly designed tree houses and villas set on a hillside overlooking the ocean. It feels like the setting for a modern day Swiss Family Robinson. Your homes are stocked each day with coffee, tropical fruits and homemade granola and there are hot tubs just outside your door. When you hike down the stairs you come to a small rocky beach where you can kayak or SUP. It’s one of the most peaceful places I’ve been.
4. Portugal: Areias do Seixois set in the small coastal town of Santa Cruz. I never thought I would plan a trip around visiting one hotel but Areias do Seixo changed that. I can say that this is my favorite hotel I’ve ever stayed at…and I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels. The property is set right on the beach and is designed to be eco sensitive but it’s incredibly stylish in a very natural way. The whole vibe is very whimsical with sunset beach bonfires and hanging fireplaces in the rooms. The restaurant doubles as a general store that sells local housewares and artisanal ingredients. There is something so magical about the setting and the ethos of the property.
5. Trancoso: Uxua Casa Hotelwas opened by the former creative director of Diesel. He converted old fishing shacks into gorgeous homes decorated with Indian-style stained glass and local artwork. The whole place has a hippie chic, barefoot luxe vibe. I love how the owners have really infused the hotel with local culture, from the dishes the chef makes (don’t miss the moqueca, a coconut milk-based fish stew), to the spa treatments that use local ingredients.
Q:favorite food experience in each place?
1. Cambodia: There is a tiny crab shack in Kep called Kimly’s where you can sit at your table and watch the fisherman pull your crab straight from the water. Get the signature salt n’ pepper crab. It’s super simple but so delicious.
2. Slovenia:Gostilna Pri Lojzetu in set in an old manor house, Castle Zemono, in the wine region of Vipava. I felt like I was driving to the middle of nowhere but the meal was well worth the adventure. The chef uses all local ingredients and set up a table for me out under a tree, complete with a beanbag chair so I could take a post-meal nap. The food was extraordinary, including bear cheeks (Yes bear) sous vide for 12 hours topped with thin strips of lardo and locally foraged mushrooms. Dessert was a crazy twist on a gin and tonic—gin ice cream infused with the smoke of juniper berries.
3. DominicA: The people in Dominica are said to be some of the oldest in the world thanks to their super healthy diet. The food here is fresh and simple and at Secret Bay you are served dinner in your bungalow. Ask for the mud crabs if they are in season—they are simple, messy and delicious.
4. Portugal: Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo is a 300-acre estate in the Douro Valley with a working vineyard, chapel, and 18th-century manor house that has been turned into an 11-room hotel. Lunch here is a must. The chef, Tavares Pinto, prepared a rustic, yet perfectly executed three course meal of tender octopus with marinated, shaved fennel, a juicy pork chop with mango chutney and the most divine chocolate shortbread ice cream sandwich for dessert. We ate overlooking rows of vineyards in the outdoor courtyard and a sommelier paired each course with just the right wine.
5. Trancoso:The best meals always require a bit of effort. A dirt road leads from Trancoso to Silvinha’s, a small cottage on Praia do Espelho, which many claim to be the prettiest beach in all of Brazil. The owner, Silvinha, doesn’t have a menu. She cooks what’s fresh that day. Expect homey food like plantains and grilled fish and strong caipirinhas. The best part is the hammocks on the front porch that away for a post-meal snooze.
Q: favorite activity in each place?
1. Cambodia: I volunteered at a local sewing school in Angkor Wat on Christmas Day. Seeing the smile on the kids faces is something that I’ll never forget.
2. Slovenia: I loved stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Bled.
3. Dominica:Snorkeling in this spot called the Champagne Pools is pretty unique. The volcanic activity below the water creates effervescence so you feel as if you’re swimming in a big pool of Dom Pérignon. The snorkeling itself is pretty amazing with tons of colorful coral and exotic fish.
4. Portugal:Quinta da Regaleira is a fairytale-like estate in the town of Sintra. It was built in the early 1900s and once belonged to the Viscondessa de Regaleira and was later acquired by a man nicknamed “Moneybags Onteiro” who hired a famous Italian designer to do the landscaping and interiors. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site full of gardens, grottoes and lookout towers. I spent hours wandering the castle and grounds.
5. Trancoso:I have to say it’s a tie between taking three day’s worth of kite surfing lessons on the beach with a guide who spoke no English - talk about having an incentive to grasp the Portuguese language - and Uxua sponsors a local capoeira school and the GM will take guests to practice capoeira with the locals. It was a killer workout. I’ve never felt so uncoordinated in my life!
Q: BEST hotel experience, Ever?
A: I’ve been lucky enough to stay at some pretty spectacular hotels and I have to say Castello di Vicarello, a family run estate in Tuscany, was a very special experience. Staying here feels like being adopted by an Italian family for the week. The property is set on acres of vineyards and a few miles up the road the owners have a wild boar hunting grounds. Aurora, the owner, has a cooking school so you can spend time with her in the kitchen and she took me into town to the flea markets and antique shops. I would run through the vineyards in the morning and sit down to diner with Aurora, her husband and sons for a meal we prepared earlier in the day and stay up sharing stories and drinking incredible wine. Aurora decorated each of the rooms with a mix of antiques and furnishings she found while living in Indonesia. The copper bathtub was impossible to resist. I was actually thankful the one day it rained because I got to cozy up in my dreamy room all day.
Q: favorite hotel brands, if any?
A: I am a huge fan of Lark Hotels, which is a newer hotel brand that started off with a focus in New England but is slowly expanding westward. They’re affordable and offer a really personalized experience and have a great design aesthetic. They also always have the most killer complimentary breakfast. I think Rosewood does an incredible job at combining luxury with local cultural experiences. The wellness offerings at Rosewood Mayakoba are a great example of that. I also really like the new eco-conscious 1 Hotel brand because they make green relevant again in a fresh, fun, stylish way.
Q: Beach or mountains?
Q: Luxury or Adventure?
A: Adventure (with a dose of luxury at the end as a reward)
Q: Surf or Snowboard?
Q: English-speaking or foreign language?
A: Foreign language
Q: Boutique or big name hotel?
Q: Health or nightlife driven?
A: Health (but that doesn’t mean wine and beer can’t be involved!)
Q: Remote or urban?
* Check out a few of our other favorite travel photos, all from Jen's instagram: