Forget Paris. Travel to a "love surprise."

Several years ago, I surprised my wife with a trip to Paris for Valentine’s Day.


It seemed like the most romantic of gestures, but I’ve long since realized that I could have been much more daring and original. And, truth be told, Paris was more for me — the Francophile in the family — than her.


So, if you’re looking for something more adventurous and original, consider these “love surprises” suggested by Lonely Planet. The travel guide publisher came up with six romantic Valentine’s getaways — most of them to places you’ve probably never considered, and some you still might not consider. But they make for fun conversation. They are:


Canterbury. The southeast England city is the setting, of course, for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. But it’s Chaucer’s epic 700-line poem, “Parlement of Foules,” where the idea of St. Valentine’s as a special day for lovers is first suggested. And you thought Hallmark was behind the holiday.


Northern California. A drive north along the California coast from Sonoma County to Mendocino’s rugged peninsula will provide plenty of “couple only” time. The reason? This stretch north of San Francisco is “almost completely undeveloped with no stoplights to break up the bliss,” Lonely Planet says.


Cartagena, Colombia. Lonely Planet describes this Caribbean town (the unnamed setting in Gabriel García Márquez “Love in the Time of Cholera”) as one of the most romantic cities in the Americas. Cobbled alleys, horse carts to ride, good food and flowers hanging from balconies help with the romance. (Beware: The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for Colombia.)


Churchill, Manitoba. Sounds counterintuitive to suggest a trip north in the thick of winter, but you can take the Love Train from Winnipeg to Churchill and witness the spectacular Northern Lights. The two-day trip has been dubbed the Love Train because of its popularity with Japanese couples who believe the light display aids fertility.


 Iceland. It’s a short trip from the East Coast and you’ll almost forget the frigid air while soaking in a geothermal pool. Iceland also offers good viewing for the Northern Lights.


Valentine, Nebraska. Named after a congressman and not the lovers’ holiday, this Nebraska town is the site of the coronation of the King and Queen of Hearts on Feb. 14.


Lonely Planet offers details about each destination as well as recommendations for hotels and other activities. Go to Lonely Planet to find out more.


Greg Tasker
Greg Tasker is Detroit News Arts and Entertainment Editor and has been writing about travel for more than a decade. His travel stories have appeared in AAA Living, Frommer's Budget Travel, Scouting, AMC Outdoors, Vermont Life and Island Life.