50 amazing spa breaks for 2018
The start of a new year is traditionally when our thoughts turn to embracing a personal health and well-being programme, to readopting the essentials of self-care after the Christmas excesses, and there is no better way to kick-start a healthier existence than on a spa break.
But spas shouldn’t just be for January, which is why the number of wellness holidays we Britons take is increasing exponentially each year. Whatever you need, or think you need from a spa, you can find it – a new fitness regime, a diet overhaul, stress-busting techniques or just pure indulgent pampering. Most of all we now recognise that spas are no longer places for the wet and weedy, the soft and the spoiled, for they have established themselves as true holiday destinations with a defined purpose, and places where we can invest our time and money in our own health and well-being.
We are constantly reminded that most of us lead sedentary lives, that we eat too much of the wrong stuff, don’t move as much as we should and are in danger of an obese, diabetic- ridden old age. But the good news is that there has never been a better choice of fabulous spas worldwide to educate, entertain and yes, if necessary… pamper us. Most hotels offer a spa and a choice of programmes so guests can make well-being an integral part of their holiday. Spas themselves are aware of this and are constantly reinventing themselves, adding new programmes, researching different therapies, introducing new treatments. The best of the bunch have been swift to offer mindfulness and tai chi classes, sleep retreats, organic foods, stress-busting therapies and all manner of detox programmes to meet the growing need.
Spa-goers are now looking for help, not just for the body, but for stress, depression and anxiety, which is why yoga, mindfulness and meditation sessions are combining with wellness and dietary consultations – a healthy body needs a healthy mind. Getting back to nature is also key to alleviating stress and anxiety: guided beach walks, outdoor gyms, forest bathing, gardening sessions and wild swimming in lakes and rivers are just some of the new ways in which to align mind, body and soul. Holistic therapies such as reiki, cranial-sacral, tapping and acupuncture have all found a place in wellness holidays, along with the rise in interest in the preventive concepts of traditional Chinese medicine and ayurveda.
For the truly committed, hi-tech spas complete with their own medical units, doctors, physiotherapists, naturopaths and other specialists offer a range of services from blood checks and body scans, vitamin infusions, X-rays and, in some cases, DNA testing. These help devise individual programmes dealing with weight, stress and mobility issues, while other areas of the spa focus on cosmetic and dental treatments. It would seem there is a spa for everyone.
The rise of such spa holidays will only increase as we continue to live longer and take better care of our physical and mental health – using fewer drugs and opting for more holistic methods. Choosing cleaner, organic food, taking regular exercise and giving our brains a rest from the ceaseless demands of digital devices. Add to that the fact that we are on holiday, resting, being looked after and having fun… what’s not to enjoy?
Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand
Regain your emotional balance at this enticing holistic spa on a five or seven-night “embracing change” programme, when sessions with life enhancement mentors – who have lived a monastic life for more than a decade – can teach you how to let go of the past, manage stress or deal with anxiety and grief. Time your visit to spend time with Anna Collins, an advanced Rolfing practitioner, whose treatments are a perfect antidote to stress.
Vana, Uttarakhand, India
No expense has been spared at this beautifully crafted, contemporary retreat set within mango and lychee orchards, where health programmes are individually designed after a consultation on arrival. There are ayurvedic treatments, traditional Chinese medicine and Tibetan healing techniques on offer under the care of a doctor – the treatment menu is vast, and retreats attend to your emotional and mental well-being as well as your body.
RAAS Devigarh, Rajasthan, India
You’ll find it hard to leave this marble-clad palace perched high above the small town of Delwara. For proper TLC, book a three, five or nine-night Devi Blessings Journey at the Ila Only Spa, designed to help you reconnect with yourself with a daily two-hour treatment, yoga, wellness meals and time out to dream from the ramparts.
Santani, near Kandy, Sri Lanka
Hole up in one of 18 villas overlooking pristine forest and sort out your life at this ayurvedic spa in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. As well as general wellness programmes, there is a recovery programme for those who have suffered emotional losses or dealt with a trauma or illness such as surgery or cancer, and an addiction programme for those with a psychological and physiological dependence on substances such as alcohol, caffeine, drugs or food.
Fivelements, near Ubud, Bali
This transformative holistic spa clinging to the banks of the river Ayung offers a supportive, cocooning atmosphere, exquisite living plant-based meals and seriously gifted Balinese healers who bring generations of experience to their treatments. Balance body and emotions on healing journeys with stays of three to 21 nights, which combine deep bodywork with energy movement and meditation. Top it off with a fire blessing ritual, said to dispel negative thoughts and “bad spirits”.
Essential Ayurveda, Lincolnshire, UK
The empowering one-to-one sessions in creative counselling (a form of life coaching) are a highlight of any stay at this comfortable rural Lincolnshire retreat. Led by Andy Shakeshaft, an ayurveda therapist, they combine coaching with meditation and visualisation techniques to help bring awareness to outdated belief systems and behavioural patterns and instil lasting emotional change. Three or five-day retreats include ayurvedic treatments, dietary advice and simple, tasty meals.
Lime Wood, Hampshire, UK
At the elegant Herb House spa in the grounds of this chic country house hotel in the New Forest you can work out amid the trees, on the rooftop herb garden or in the excellent gym. Book a body MOT, a bespoke fitness break with personal training, or join group classes that include spin, pilates, kettlebells and circuits. Matt Roberts, a leading personal trainer, also offers fitness weekends.
Vigilius Mountain Resort, Tyrol, Italy
Lose yourself among the larch trees on stunning biking and hiking trails at this sleek eco haven, which sits high above the small village of Lana and is accessible only by cable car. There are gentle morning workouts, aqua pilates and core work classes, and personal trainers to book by the hour or week for more intensive motivation. The gorgeous spa has a spring water infinity pool and outdoor hot tub with forest views.
Deplar Farm, Troll Peninsula, Iceland
This converted sheep farm on the remote Troll Peninsula has an outdoor thermal pool with mountain views and a wellness spa. Visit year-round for local adventures and relaxation or join the new week-long active Iceland experiences in June and September. These mix activities such as sea-kayaking, orienteering, dry-suit snorkelling, daily restorative yoga, spa sessions, meditation and guidance on setting achievable personal goals for the future – be they work, health or home related.
Amanpuri, Phuket, Thailand
Aman’s very first hotel remains a delectable place to refresh 30 years on, and has a range of active programmes on offer, including Cardio on the Sea, which uses water based fitness toys such as Schiller bikes, SUP yoga and catamarans to improve cardio vascular health, and a three-day Muay Thai boxing programme.
Absolute Sanctuary, Koh Samui, Thailand
They’re particularly good at pilates at this affordable Thai spa. Book a five or seven-day Pilates Reformer Bootcamp to get long, lean and toned with two group reformer classes a day and one-to-one sessions. Or try one of the other group classes, ranging from aqua aerobics to rhythm cycling, yoga to walking. There’s an infinity pool, cleansing meals and plenty of treatments too.
The Golden Door, California, US
This Californian spa on 600 acres of wooded landscape offers up to 40 fitness classes a week for you to dip in and out of, 20 miles (32km) of private trails and lashings of personal attention from expert trainers. The decor is Japanese-inspired, the deep tissue massages second to none. Visit year-round for a tailored programme – there are also women-only and men-only retreats.
Yeotown, Devon, England
The year-round four-night (five-day) health and fitness Yeotox programme at this lush country retreat helps you lose weight, strengthen your body and find a relaxed mental state. Mix outdoor hikes (whatever the weather) with indoor activities, yoga, fitness classes and a detoxifying menu. All rooms are delightful, but book an eco suite for floor-to-ceiling windows with long countryside views.
The Ashram, Majorca, Spain
The insanely popular California-based boot camp pitches up on the mountainous north-west coast of Majorca each year. Based at a restored 17th-century olive farm far from the tourist crowds, the famously tough well-being recipe is based on rigorous hiking, minimal (if delicious) food with no caffeine, daily massage and twice-daily yoga sessions. Weekly from April 15 to June 24 – or catch them year-round in California.
Epic Sana, Algarve, Portugal
The week-long Insane Fitness break at this popular cliff-top resort includes five hours of intense exercise a day with upbeat and motivating personal trainers. Mix mountain bike rides, workouts, pilates, step and aquafit classes with time out to swim and de-stress. There are also 20 acres strewn with pine trees and nourishing treatments to enjoy. Ask for a room with a sea view.
Capri Palace, Capri, Italy
This 18th-century Neapolitan palazzo makes for a rarefied and charming place to lose weight. The Capri Beauty Farm offers an intensive medically led weight-loss programme that has been developed by Professor Francesco Canonaco, the hotel’s in-house medical director, in collaboration with the University of Milan. Guests can also sort out their pins at the renowned “Leg School” – for a series of treatments that tackle cellulite and vascular disorders.
Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Modelled on an ancient Mandalay palace, the spectacular Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre at this 60-acre landscaped Thai resort is a highlight of any stay here. Book a dedicated spa suite and sign up for the weight-loss programme (seven to 21 nights) to lose weight holistically with nutritional advice, supportive treatments, yoga and fitness classes. There’s also a hammam, rhassoul and watsu pool, and an encyclopedic range of decadent treatments.
Aro Ha, Glenorchy, New Zealand
Without deprivation or so much as a glimpse at a gym machine at this refined, eco-designed wellness retreat you lose weight and start to glow with new vigour. The signature six-day retreat includes hikes, yoga, mini juice fast days and sublimely good raw food, but the secret is the location – steep, untouched mountains from The Lord of the Rings which you walk daily, breathing fresh, clean air.
BEST FOR MEDICAL MATTERS
The Original FX Mayr, Lake Worthesee, Austria
On the banks of Lake Worthesee, the world’s first place to offer the Mayr Cure remains a warm, gentle and stylish home away from home that can help sort out nagging health issues. Meals and treatments are designed to clear out your gut, while cure coach Claudia Waldner is on hand to look after any mental and emotional effects. Forest walks and skinny dips in the lakes help too.
SHA Wellness Clinic, Alicante, Spain
This immaculate wellness clinic perched above the town of Albir fuses East Asian therapies with revolutionary Western medical techniques including regenerative and stem cell medicine. Programmes include detox, stop smoking, de-stress, help with fertility, and more. The European-Japanese fusion food is moreish, there’s an exceptional white marble spa and a rooftop terrace made for sun worship and swimming
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
The resort’s de-stressing thermal waters are pumped down from their original source in a nearby gorge to this vast and opulent spa resort, which offers access to top doctors and psychologists, healthy gourmet meals and revitalising treatments. The spa menu includes treatments for various skin conditions with Dr Brigitte Bollinger, a specialist in aesthetic dermatology. Look out for the new Heidi-themed family spa in April 2018.
Parkhotel Igls, Tyrol, Austria
Guests come to this stylish medical spa in a pretty Tyrolean village for a full medical check and intensive health reboot. Programmes overseen by the likeable Dr Peter Gartner are based on “Modern Mayr medicine” – a holistic combination of diet, exercise, naturopathic and modern medical methods pinned on the principle that illnesses and disease originate in the gut. Treatments are excellent, and you’ll be looked after by intelligent and flexible staff.
Bürgenstock, Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
This newly renovated hotel and spa resort set high above Lake Lucernehas opened a top-notch medical centre with a focus on healthy living. The Waldhotel offers general check-ups and help with everything from mobility and weight management to mental health balance and dermatology, all under the care of multi-disciplinary doctors.
BEST FOR YOGA
The Scarlet, Cornwall, UK
Personalised yoga breaks tailored to guests’ individual level are available year-round at this delectable adults-only, wood and glass eco-hotel overlooking the beach at Mawgan Porth. Enjoy group morning classes, private sessions, guided meditation, an ayurvedic consultation and a blissful, four-hour Scarlet Journey in tented treatment rooms. The yoga teacher Mara Blackburn mixes Somatics with her teaching and is particularly inspiring. Save time for the cliff-top hot tub.
Yoga Rosa, Ibiza, Spain
The soothing base of the exceptional yoga therapy teacher Rosa Klein is set in a lavender-scented pine forest with beautifully designed stone houses. Visit for daily yoga and meditation, pranayama and sound healing, and freshly prepared organic vegan meals. There are two swimming pools, a splendid outdoor covered yoga shala and massages available with visiting therapists. Open March to November.
Shanti Som, Malaga, Spain
This 14-room hotel is perched on a hill with views of Sierra de las Nieves. Book a stay for well-taught, twice daily yoga classes aimed at all levels, or enjoy a dedicated yoga programme. Classes take place in a super outdoor shala with country views, and there is an outdoor pool, a small gym, a spacious sauna and steam room.
Swaswara, Karnataka, India
The Swa Wellbeing programmes at this retreat in 26 undisturbed acres of forest mix yogic kriyas, yoga nidra, meditation and pranayama as well as physical asanas and a range of authentic and therapeutic ayurveda treatments. Art classes are available, and there’s plenty of time out to enjoy the nearly Om-shaped beach.
Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
In a jungle clearing, guests at this luxury spa resort can practice the joyful art of AntiGravity Yoga. Hammocks are used to suspend you above the ground, relieving stresses in your body and helping you practice inverted postures. Book private sessions, or try the resort’s 15-point Yoga Energy Trail – perfecting a tree pose overlooking the lagoon or doing sun salutations on the jetty.
BEST FOR AYURVEDA
The Clover Mill, Worcestershire, UK
The ayurvedic chef Julie Dent cares exceptionally well for her stressed guests at this delightfully renovated, 17th-century water mill in the Malvern Hills. Expect delicious home-cooked meals, authentic ayurveda treatments in warm, earth-toned rooms, steam sessions and yoga in a light-flooded studio. Guests sleep in contemporary eco-lodges in the grounds. Closed annually in January and February.
Ayurveda Parkschlösschen, Traben-Trarbach, Germany
This elegant art deco hotel is one of the most civilised places outside India to try authentic ayurveda. Combine treatments and gentle activities with meals tailored to your body type to cleanse and rebalance. Your morning ghee (clarified butter, to shift fat-soluble toxins) is served in a pristine sherry glass, while hot water bottles, rose-petal eye pads and knee rolls offer comfort during the treatments.
Kalari Kovilakom, Kerala, India
The minimum stay is two weeks for top-to-toe rejuvenation at this luxurious and serious ayurvedic hospital and retreat, set in an ornate 19th-century palace in the Western Ghats of India’s Kerala state. Dressed in white pyjamas, guests stroll gardens planted with more than 500 medicinal plants, zone out in yoga nidra and eat dinner in silence. The doses of ghee aren’t easy to swallow but you’ll thank yourself for it later.
Ananda in the Himalayas, India
This comfortable ayurvedic spa set in the grounds of a former maharaja’s palace offers exceptionally good, twice-daily classes in Vedanta, an ancient Indian philosophy that will help you get perspective on your life and learn the art of such things as parenting, marriage and letting go. Ananda’s superb ayurveda treatments and meals, together with daily yoga and meditation, will rebalance the rest of you. Stay from five to 21 nights.
Sonnhof Resort, Tyrol, Austria
This calm, family-run hotel – set in the pretty Tyrolean village of Hinterthiersee – offers a lovely range of ayurveda programmes, moreish ayurvedic meals and a set of saunas and steam rooms to suit different body types. Decor mixes local timber with rich Indian fabrics. Book the Ayurveda Plus programme to detox, lose weight or boost the immune system with ayurveda treatments and complementary medical methods.
BEST FOR DETOX
COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali, Indonesia
Come here for a tailored cleansing programme in a simply spectacular setting above the Ayung Gorge, surrounded by massive trees and thick jungle. You’ll have your own personal assistant, an immaculate wood and glass villa, and cleansing meals and treatments tailored to your goals. Join daily exercise classes, go for walks and guided treks, or just hang out by the pool. Stay from three nights to two weeks.
Rancho La Puerta, Baja California, Mexico
The 14-day group detox and cleansing retreats at this feel-good spa in the foothills of the sacred Mount Kuchumaa combine a seven-day organic juice cleanse with spa therapies and private consultations with Dr Michael Finkelstein, frequent guest and author of the book Slow Medicine. There are more than 60 fitness classes, marvellous hiking trails and inspirational daily lectures too. Book in for a specific scheduled retreat, or come whenever you want for a bespoke stay.
The Farm at San Benito, Batangas, Philippines
The all-vegan, plant-based cleansing food is astonishingly good at this holistic wellness spa in the Philippines, set on a glorious coconut plantation strewn with tropical plants. Detox programmes include optional live blood analysis and colonics, holistic treatments are excellent, and there is advice and care from a team of doctors led by Dr Marian Alonzo, for whom nothing is too much trouble.
L’Albereta, Lombardy, Italy
At this cosy, intimate haven set among the hills and vineyards of Lombardy, the sometimes challenging business of cleansing is softened courtesy of its Espace Chenot spa. Personalised programmes are based on the Henri Chenot method, which fuses Chinese and Western medicinal techniques to tailor treatments and meals to your goals. The 14-night advanced detox is a boon for the seriously committed.
Lefay Resort & Spa, Lake Garda, Italy
Set above the charming village of Gargnano, this attractive Italian eco-resort offers an effective five-day detox programme that combines Chinese medicine with Western techniques. It includes diverse treatments such as foot reflexology, tuina massage, mud wraps, moxibustion, detoxifying massages and meals specially configured for their cleansing properties. You will no doubt want to spend oodles of time in the outdoor heated saltwater pools as well.
Buchinger Wilhelmi, Lake Constance, Germany
A family-run spa on the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance that offers supported therapeutic fasting programmes with the attentions of doctors, naturopaths, massage therapists, counsellors, nutritionists and personal trainers. Lose weight, clear your mind and gain perspective with 10 to 28-day programmes. During 10 days you’ll typically fast for six days, then spend four days reintroducing fresh, organic food. Activities to help you along include yoga, meditation, music concerts, art classes and pampering treatments.
Adler Thermae, Tuscany, Italy
The mineral-laden thermal water pool is a dream at this friendly spa hotel in the Val d’Orcia, where heat experiences include a steam room built into a grotto and an olive wood sauna set on a small lake. Go for the Adler Med programme to detox, which includes a consultation and testing with an in-house doctor and a personalised holistic plan.
BEST FOR DIGITAL DETOX
VanaVasa, Karnataka, India
VanaVasa literally means “forest stay”, and this latest addition to CGH Earth’s roster is a wondrous chance to be alone but still looked after. Stay for at least three nights to digitally detox and unwind at a simple, comfortable house specially prepared for you and surrounded by quiet nature. Guests have healthy meals delivered, and space to simply be. A stay before or after at sister retreat SwaSwara is recommended.
Eremito, Umbria, Italy
This “contemporary monastery” for solo travellers is set on a densely wooded hill and has no TV, Wi-Fi or mobile signal so you can truly switch off. The 12 pared-back, impeccably designed rooms are deliberately styled like monks’ cells and seasonal evening meals are eaten in silence. Enjoy a sauna, steam room, hot tub, relaxing oil massages and yin yoga. There is also a chapel in the tower for reading or meditation.
Villa Stephanie, Baden Baden, Germany
At this chic 15-room renovated former home of a German duchess, bedrooms can be digitally disconnected at the touch of a button to reduce “electronic smog” and help you sleep. The villa has its own private spa facilities and is connected to the medical spa at neighbouring Brenners Park Hotel so you can enjoy a private, integrated approach to health supervised by a doctor – they’re particularly good at non-invasive face lifts.
BEST FOR STRESS BUSTING
The award-winning thalassa spa at this family-friendly beachside resort offers five-day wellbeing programmes and a tempting roster of pampering and holistic treatments. Choose a water wellness programme that combines exhilarating water-based activities with healing thalassotherapy using seawater pumped directly from nearby Chrysochou Bay, or kick back and enjoy a sky-lit indoor pool, saltwater pool, saunas and steam baths.
Amangiri, Utah, US
Amangiri’s vast spa is designed to reflect the lines of the deep canyons and high plateaus that surround the hotel. Opt for hydrotherapy treatments at the water pavilion, where terraces blend with the rock face, or try colour therapy in the flotation pool, which has its own open-air relaxation terrace, hot plunge pool and day bed. There are hikes through the dramatic landscapes, daily fitness classes and fabulous treatments too.
Song Saa, Koh Rong, Cambodia
This serene, eco-chic island in the Gulf of Thailand has a hugely impressive sustainable ethos, holistic ila rituals to indulge in and massages using cold-pressed organic coconut oil prepared by the local community. Have them in wonderfully rustic outdoor shalas or in your gorgeous room. There’s also ocean-side yoga, Buddhist blessings with local monks, kayak trips through the mangroves and a fusion menu stacked with sustainably caught fish from hand-dived scallops to barramundi.
Fregate Island, Seychelles
It’s easy to relax deeply on this tropical eco-island, peppered with lush greenery, granite rocks and free-roaming Aldabra giant tortoises. Go barefoot to the cliff-top Rock Spa for its treatments that use products made from ingredients grown on the land, from breadfruit anti-ageing facials to rosewater mists – or have them on a secluded beach or in your villa surrounded by frangipanis and wild fig trees. There’s private yoga too.
Villa La Coste, Provence, France
La Muse, the two-floored, soothing spa at this marvellous hotel, offers signature aromatherapy and clay scrubs, wraps and massages and (from February 2018) a thermal suite with a hammam, salt sauna, steam, Vichy and dry float rooms. Be sure to leave time during your stay to amble around the stunning estate gardens and the amazing collection of art installations. New holistic wellness retreats start here in April 2018.
Lucknam Park, Wiltshire, UK
This refined, romantic hotel is a Palladian mansion with an unexpectedly contemporary spa in its fairy-tale grounds, one of only three ESPA-branded spas in the UK. Come for a delectable range of beauty and holistic treatments, a huge lap pool which is firelit on cooler days, an inside-outside hydrotherapy pool and thermal cabins that include the gentle Amethyst room, an aromatic steam room and a classic sauna.