Healing holidays: the rise of wellness tourism
It’s a fact: holidays are good for you. Studies have shown that time away can do wonders for your wellbeing, whether you’re soaking up rays by the pool, breathing in crisp, mountain air on an alpine hike or gazing at vine-entangled temples in a timeworn town. But now more than ever, people are seeking more opportunities to invest in their mental and physical health and ‘healing holidays’ are fast becoming a new trend. We’ve whittled down a few of our favourite wellness retreats where you can revel in all the joys of a holiday, with the added bonus of a good-for-you boost.
Indulge in a daily spa treatment at BodyHoliday, Saint Lucia
The BodyHoliday resort certainly lives up to its name; a stay here is all about reviving your body, mind and spirit. The idyllic setting alone is enough to melt away your worries, cocooned on a white sand beach with waves breaking and palms gently swaying in the breeze, but there’s more here to nourish your soul than pretty scenery. Your all-inclusive package includes healthy dining and a daily 50-minute spa treatment – think lime and ginger body scrubs, aloe wraps and coconut oil massages – plus there’s a smorgasbord of activities from calming yoga and t’ai chi to invigorating Zumba classes. If you like to keep active, hit the courts for a round of tennis or tee off in the golf academy, and water babies can don masks and flippers to explore Saint Lucia’s spectacular dive sites.
Activities are optional, so feel free to dip in and out of whatever pursuits you choose – a glass (or two) of Champagne can be equally mood-boosting. We love the relaxed, sociable vibe; fellow BodyHoliday-ers are a mix of couples, groups and solo travellers, many of which are repeat guests. It’s easy to make new friends over drinks in the Clubhouse Bar, which comes alive after dark with entertainment, dancing and cocktails – wellbeing is about balance, after all.
Stay at a spa island in the Maldives
There aren’t many destinations as well-matched for wellness as the Maldives – if you can’t relax here, it’ll be tricky to find anywhere you can. Recently-opened Kagi Maldives Spa Island is the archipelago’s first resort dedicated to wellness and is causing quite a buzz; both the trendy travel publications and returning guests are singing its praises. The island has just 50 rustic-chic villas nestled on the sand or over the lagoon, all with a private infinity pool overlooking cornflower-blue views of the ocean.
The crowning glory is the halo-shaped Baani Spa, where you can wake up with sunrise yoga on the floating pavilion and end the day with evening wave meditation. Try unusual treatments such as a Himalayan super-fruit body peel or a gemstone facial and discover why sound therapy is the latest wellbeing craze. There's also a state-of-the-art fitness studio to work off the canapes and Champagne on arrival (a treat for all-inclusive guests). Refuel at the Spa corner, which has tasty plant-based dishes and fabulous sushi platters or head to poolside Ufaa for healthy poke bowls and fiery ceviche.
After an afternoon of sun, spa-time and snorkelling on the incredible house reef, top it off with a sunset dolphin cruise – which isn’t just an exhilarating experience, spending time in blue spaces is a proven antidote for stress.
Escape to the countryside in Mallorca
While a dose of sea air is proven to have health benefits, so does being immersed in countryside scenery. At Fontsanta Thermal Spa & Wellness Hotel, you get the best of both worlds – this rural retreat is tucked away in a blanket of greenery on the edge of a coastal nature reserve. This is a place for adults-only escapism. There are plenty of spots to bask in the Mallorcan sunshine with a good book; relax by the infinity pool and drink in the tranquil views, sip tea at a table in the pine and lavender-scented gardens or take in the country vistas from the terrace of your airy room or suite.
But the real draw is the destination spa, where all of your wellness whims are catered for. The secret to this spa’s magic is in the water; it’s the only one in the Balearics that uses mineral-rich, thermal waters direct from an underground spring, valued for its healing properties since Roman times. Once you’ve had your fill of the spa (if that’s even possible), head to the gourmet restaurant and the chef will whip you up healthy and creative cuisine incorporating ingredients fresh from local markets.
Hideaway in a Small Luxury Hotel of the World in the Italian Lakes
‘You don’t have to go far to find yourself’ is the motto of Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda, and it certainly rings true. This eco-friendly enclave is just an hour and a half from Verona, which means you can leave the UK’s grey skies in morning and be in the spa by lunchtime. A member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World, this leafy oasis is hidden in a nature park, cloaked by fragrant alpine trees and olive groves and showcasing soul-stilling views of Lake Garda. The hub of the resort is the award-winning spa, where you’ll find a labyrinth of swimming pools, saunas, lakes and grottos, as well as a cutting-edge gym and a range of energising fitness classes. Beyond the spa walls, there are running tracks and woodland trails to make the most of the peaceful surroundings.
Take your pick from an innovative menu of massages and treatments, which combine ancient Chinese medicine with western scientific research – we especially love the Perfumes of the Lake ritual, a sensory experience that incorporates local scents like lavender and sage. When you’re not surrendering to spa therapy, fill up on traditional Mediterranean fare at a duo of restaurants, where the concept of Lefay Vital Gourmet focuses on the health aspects of food.
Find serenity in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka may be most known for its beautiful beaches and cultural attractions, but it’s also a serious contender for a holistic holiday – the ‘teardrop of India’ has recently been ranked number four of the world’s top wellness destinations by the Global Wellness Institute. We’re not surprised, with a history deeply rooted in spirituality, breathtaking landscapes and a wave of hotels focusing on Ayurveda treatments, yoga and meditation. One of our favourites is Santani Wellness Resort & Spa, a boutique mountain bolthole nestled on a former tea plantation. Home to Sri Lanka’s first full-fledged destination spa (complete with a floor dedicated to hydrotherapy), Santani translates to ‘harmony’ and this is embedded in the concept with its inspiring environment, wellness packages and life-enhancing pursuits.
There’s no set structure; your wellbeing journey is tailored to you, whether you’d like to focus on detoxing, stress or sleeplessness. You could start your day with meditation or a swim in the infinity pool and then set out to hike through the cloud forest followed by a muscle-soothing massage. In the evening, tuck into nutritious, customised dishes in the restaurant before retiring to your minimalist chalet with views over the patchwork of paddy fields or mountains.
Unwind in an Ayurveda sanctuary in India
If you're looking to kick-start a healthy lifestyle or you need respite after a grand Indian adventure, you'll be pushed to find a more rejuvenating spot than Carnoustie Ayurveda & Wellness Resort. This stylish and sustainable beachfront oasis oozes wellbeing from every corner. You can simply soak up the ambience and let the surroundings work its magic. Relax on the white sands of Marari beach, cycle into the local villages to explore serene temples, cruise through the Keralan backwaters and nourish yourself with balanced, flavoursome cuisine – fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in the on-site garden. There's no alcohol served here, so you can be sure of a fresh start each morning, as well as a delicious menu of organic juices and mocktails.
For those looking to delve deeper into wellness, there's a team of experts who're on hand to offer guidance and personalised treatments; programmes specialise in weight-loss, detoxing and naturopathy, to name a few. And of course, a wellness retreat in India wouldn't be complete without yogic therapy; there's an incredible seven types of yoga to master, including Hatha, Vinyasa and Kundalini.
This feature was published on 2nd November 2021. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.