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Europe’s healing hotels: The best spa retreats with holistic practices

European spa and wellness retreats now rival Asia’s when it comes to meditation, yoga and Ayurvedic treatments.

Madeline Hoskin rounds up four of Europe’s finest.

SHA Wellness Clinic
Alicante, Spain

Food is at the heart of SHA’s European spa and wellness philosophy – good news for those who want to feel healthier but don’t want to deprive themselves of delicious meals. SHA believes the basic concepts of seasonal eating, macrobiotics and nutritious, unprocessed food have been largely forgotten, and this is precisely what the creators of the clinic’s sumptuous and healthy menus aim to remedy – it’s all about healing from the inside out. SHA combines personalised diets with advice from clinical experts and devises detox, anti-stress or exercise programmes based on what you want to achieve from your stay. The clinic is a masterpiece designed for relaxation by prestigious architects Carlos Gilardi and Elvira Blanco Montenegro. Perched high on a hillside with prime views over Alicante to the Mediterranean, it’s a gleaming white wonderland brimming with unique spaces for healing – meditation, hydrotherapy, medical consultations and treatments, Zen gardens, waterfalls and more. The refined suites are spacious and filled with natural light to enhance the restorative experience.


Abano Grand Hotel
Padua, Italy

If all you can squeeze into your busy schedule is a short break to rejuvenate and recharge, why not indulge in a completely luxurious spa experience? The lavish Abano Grand Hotel near Venice offers three large thermo pools and a series of hydrotherapy pools set in expansive parkland with abundant olive trees, palms and tropical plants. The bromine iodine spa water is cooled to between 29 and 36 degrees, depending on the season. One of the big drawcards to this hotel is the Anti-Aging Thermal Spa. It’s the only hotel in the world that combines such a spa with bio-thermal clay therapy and anti-aging medicine to leave you looking and feeling more youthful. Expect a tailored programme focusing on hormone rebalance, nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction. An anti-aging check-up is also offered to see how your body is really aging. Louis XV-style rooms and gourmet dining in refined restaurants complete this feel-good experience.


Ayurveda at the Parkschlösschen
Traben-Trarbach, Germany

The traditional Bavarian exterior of this deeply nourishing hotel reveals nothing of the magic that happens within. It is the only five-star Ayurveda hotel in Europe and this ancient healing philosophy is applied everywhere from the personalised treatments to the organic, vegetarian food and even the room design. The 2000sqm spa and wellness area includes a thermal swimming pool, two saunas, fitness centre and ayurvedic yoga studio. As for treatments, be sure to request the ‘synchronous massage’ where four hands work in unison to provide profound relaxation. The spa has won a string of esteemed accolades, including a recent World Luxury Spa Award.


Image courtesy Ayurveda at the Parkschlösschen

La Clarière Bio & Spa Hotel
Alsace, France

Contemporary design and holistic therapies blend divinely with French refinery in this forest-shrouded retreat. The focus is on living harmoniously with nature to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life. Guests are encouraged to experience all five elements through the five senses via the programmes on offer: you’ll smell the rich scent of the earth in the woods; taste the spa’s mineral-rich water; sense the fire in saunas; listen for near-silent sounds and let the air touch your lungs. Whether your goal is to lose weight, detox or de-stress, you’ll be well on your way to achieving optimal wellbeing. Although the menus here are ultra-healthy, the hotel has an English pub serving local beer and organic wine when it’s time to take a break from such virtuous living.


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