The pursuit of wellness once had a direct correlation to New Year’s resolutions. After 12 months of unhealthy living, each January we collectively took the opportunity to recalibrate our lifestyle, set new goals and break bad habits. The month was marked by thronged gyms, swimmer-brimming pools, waiting lists for self-help classes and fridges full of low-calorie fare. But by February, most new regimens came to an end. Unwholesomeness, fed by stress and fatigue, reigned again — until January returned, and the cycle repeated itself.
But a new era has dawned. People want to commit to wellness and mindful living. Most, nevertheless, need a nudge. Enter wellness travel, a genre which includes spiritual retreats; hotels that showcase rejuvenation programs or amenities; trips that teach a new skill, digital detox and mindful repose. From better sleep to hypnosis to quell smoking or overeating, including meditation, yoga and deep connections to nature, wellness-seeking vacations of various kinds augur a more salubrious future for all. Where to go? The following retreats promise to enhance your mind, body and spirit — not just in January, but all year long and beyond.
HAWAI’I STANDS out as a premier retreat and boasts one of the hottest wellness hotels to open in recent months: Sensai Lāna‘i, A Four Seasons Resort. This all-inclusive, adults-only, Japanese-inspired haven occupies an art-filled garden on upcountry Lanai. Conceived as a “reboot” luxury camp by owner Larry Ellison, in collaboration with Dr. David Agus and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the resort introduces a new concept: Sensei Retreat. Under the guidance of a well-trained sensei (wellness coach, if you like), guests partake of customized, goal-oriented itineraries which include unlimited spa treatments, yoga and meditation practices, fitness classes and off-property experiences from snorkeling to hiking. Meals by Nobu, transportation from Oahu on Ellison’s own fleet of planes, Hawai’ian soul and adult beverages complete the adventure.
TEXANS LOVE lake houses. Let multi-award-winning Lake Austin Spa Resort, located on 19 acres of waterfront nature, welcome you like family to its sanctum. A workout buff ’s nirvana, offering more than 100 diverse spa treatments and abundant fitness classes, the elegant hideaway smacks of a health seeker’s year-round summer camp. Eschew stress when you enjoy its Ripple Effects, a water-inspired program which capitalizes on the healing effects people reap when cavorting around H20. Take part in such watery programs as wake surfing, paddle boarding and sunset (read: wine) cruises. Even just reading from a lakeside hammock ensures transformation. Light, savory cuisine and affable staff accentuate the magic of your stay.
WELLNESSING — THAT’S A THING. Do it at Mexico’s various Velas Resorts, all-inclusive, opulently appointed properties near Cancún, in Cabo and along Riviera Nayarit. Holding annual wellness-focused conferences for true aficionados, the resort group long has led the charge to include healthy options as part of its indulgent daily repertory. Foremost on the list, its astonishing spas draw from Mexican culture, incorporating indigenous products from cacao to organic mud — even corn cobs — in treatments. Complimentary fitness classes, even one-on-one training, are part of the package.Choose a Wellness Suite (guestroom) equipped with fitness and well-being amenities such as a minibar stocked with healthy snacks and a Life Fitness recline bike.
AMID EYE-POPPING NATURE, anchored among lava fields, The Retreat Hotel at Blue Lagoon lies on the shores of Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction, the storied Blue Lagoon. A wellness hotel defined by its surrounding healing thermal water pools, The Retreat reigns as a destination in itself or a bookend to any planned tour of the island nation. Perks include access to private, milky-blue pools, entrance to the public lagoon, a stunning labyrinthine spa, a yoga room with floor- to-ceiling windows, complimentary activities (such as hiking), stellar restaurants and the chance to wear your bathrobe 24/7 — if your heart desires. Book the Lagoon Suite with its own geothermal pool.
IMMERSE IN AYURVEDA, one of the world’s oldest sciences, at Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, overlooking the Indian Ocean in Sri Lanka. A system of holistic medicine born in India, ancient Ayurveda prescripts promote the balance of mind, body and spirit. At Peace Haven, a stylish beachside outpost, enroll in three- to seven-day bespoke retreats designed to pursue weight loss, learn yoga, address sleep issues, fight stress or detox — among other possibilities. Under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic doctor, you’ll follow itineraries that combine nutrition, Ayurvedic spa treatments and exercise to achieve blissful harmony. During your free time, tuck into your butler-helmed villa, lounge by the pool or explore some of the country’s eight outstanding UNESCO World Heritage sites.
SOME SAY THE ANCIENT Greeks devised the concept of spas. They called them Asclepions, temples that capped mountains to be as close to the heavens as possible, surrounded by water and trees, designated for healing. Located in the Peloponnese’s Mystras, a UNESCO World Heritage site near the legendary city of Sparta, the stylish Euphoria Retreat delves deeply into the region’s storied powers. Embracing Greek philosophy (“Let food be thy medicine,” to quote Hippocrates) and Chinese medicine, both of which rest on the concept of Earth’s five elements, the wellness refuge creates customized programs for guests. From Kneipp water therapy to a speleotherapy salt room to yoga classes, the four-story spa promises to give solace. Its signature pinprick 3GL test allows nutritionists to create individual menus and suggest activities from hikes to rock climbing, including lazy repose among the olive groves.
STOP THE NOISE. Sometimes all you want is some peace and quiet. To immerse in hush-full stillness, sign up for the Sound Off Quiet Retreat at Calistoga Ranch in the heart of Napa Valley’s wine country. Reconnect with your inner voice (it has been begging you to listen) at these minimum three-night retreats, designed to connect guests with nature’s largesse amid vineyards and oak and pine trees. The option to pre-order meals with set delivery times to avoid staff interaction, guided meditation classes, forest bathing, maps for hiking — even a “sleeping bag” for your electronic devices — constitute an adventure certain to help you learn to love your inner dialogue. Ready to speak or be social? This once-in-a-lifetime hotel has a buzzy pool and unforgettable restaurant, and its location between St. Helena and Calistoga ensures bedazzling wine tasting adventures off-property.
PEACOCKS AND MONKEYS on 100 acres of a former maharaja’s palace might lower your heart rate enough. But the views of the sacred Ganges River below and the robust Himalayan peaks close enough to touch join to act as a portal to rehabilitation and renewal at Ananda in the Himalayas, a luxury yoga, meditation and spa resort in northern India. With a 25,000-square-foot-spa; access to holy Rishikesh (known as the place where The Beatles embraced Transcendental Meditation and yoga); and Ayurvedic-trained staff, yogis, nutritionists and therapists, this unique haven provides programs as diverse as yogic detox and stress management. You’ll love the spa cuisine, which can be customized to your dosha (body type): pitta, kapha or vata.
Adventure tour operator Explore Worldwide recently conducted a study to find the most underrated travel experiences around the world. The operator analyzed more than 350 lesser-known destinations and experiences across more than 130 countries, ranking them based on how high its Trip Advisor score fared against how many people actually reviewed the activity and how many Google searches the experience received.
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