With wellness tourism worth $932 billion annually, it’s hardly surprising that health retreats are more sophisticated and diverse in offerings than ever. From the spiritual to the scientific, here are seven providing a holistic approach to healing, writes Natasha Dragun.
Santani Sri Lanka
Set among 20 hectares of tea plantations and lush vegetation, this place is about getting in touch with your inner self. Between the 20 architecturally edgy villas (inspired by Buddhist meditation caves), you’ll find the incredible wellness centre, where everything from weight loss and anti-ageing to joint pain, exhaustion, trauma and depression is addressed. Following an assessment to determine your dosha, you’ll be whisked away for thermal salt baths, yoga, Ayurvedic detox and guided meditation walks.
© Santani Sri Lanka
Andronis Concept Wellness Resort, Greece
As if being on an island as beautiful as Santorini wasn’t enough to whisk your worries away, Andronis Concept then delivers just about every blissful respite you could imagine. The cliffside retreat revolves around water, from its caldera views to private pools and a cave plunge with waterfalls. The spa menu is dedicated to specific issues, rather than body parts. Sleep deprived? Order a facial with blue LED. Hormones out of alignment? Try the Holistic Massage to even things out. You can also sign up for Hair Profiling Tests, hammam sessions and guided meditation hikes.
© Tryfon Georgopoulos
Gaia Retreat & Spa, Australia
There’s magic at work in Byron Bay, and it floats all the way up to the hinterland where Gaia sits atop emerald-green hills, enveloped by fragrant frangipani and jacaranda trees amid native bushland. People come to this gorgeous hippy hangout for a lifestyle rethink. They wander to the spa for tarot readings and craniosacral balancing therapies. They practice yoga and tai chi. And they eat nourishing food, prepared using ingredients plucked straight from kitchen gardens. The rooms and suites inspire calm as well – check into a Komala Villa for an enormous tub and outdoor saltwater pool.
Fivelements Bali, Indonesia
While many Bali visitors are after plain old good times, many more come seeking solutions to the anxieties of modern life. The latter head to Fivelements, a spiritual retreat crafted from bamboo. Treatment rooms overlooking the Ayung River offer every conceivable energy-healing, negativity-clearing, auriccleansing, emotional-rebalancing ritual imaginable: meditate in a sacred cave, drift through hydrotherapy sessions, or try a Fire Blessing Ritual, overseen by a priest. The vegan food is a revelation: 80 per cent of it is raw.
Fusion Phu Quoc, Vietnam
With white-sand beaches backdropped by dense jungle, Vietnam’s largest island is also its most idyllic. Time stands still in Phu Quoc’s small fishing villages – you won’t want it to pass either once you check in to the all-inclusive Fusion resort. Like its Vietnamese sisters (Maia Da Nang and Cam Ranh), Phu Quoc comes with personal concierges known as ‘Fusionistas’, on call to manage your wellness journey, whether that’s organising morning tai chi or making time for spa treatments. Therapies utilise local ingredients such as black pepper, turmeric and coconut; try the Tradition of Vietnam, incorporating age-old massage techniques from across the country.
Aro Hā, New Zealand
A dramatic haven built into the snow-capped mountains of New Zealand’s South Island, Aro Hā’s five- or seven-night programs aim for radical lifestyle readjustments. The schedule is intense, from the 6am wake-up call for Vinyasa flow yoga to the sub-Alpine hike that follows; in the afternoon, there are spa treatments, pilates, yet more yoga and wellness seminars. The agenda pushes you, physically and mentally. But you’ll leave inspired to make lasting changes.
With the slogan ‘Sleep once and wake up forever,’ Awakening bills itself as the world’s first resort dedicated to creating happiness. Opening in 2020 in the jungle on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the retreat’s indooroutdoor wellness cocoons are already making us smile. These sleek, pod-like structures are quite possibly the coolest resort rooms you’ll ever sleep in, allowing you to be at one with nature while you drift off to sleep, gazing at the stars. The property is home to eight jaw-dropping cenotes (sacred cave pools), and your daily experiences revolve around four pillars: Adrenaline (active sports), Awakening Passion (emotional and spiritual awakening), New Perspectives (cultural insights), and Just for You (personalised programs).
The Austin outlet of this famed wellness brand is set across 90 hectares of gorgeous landscaped gardens, its 117 rooms designed to inspire Zen, from the meditation cushions to the Tibetan singing bowls. As nice as the accommodations are, the real reason you come here is for the healthy eating (organic) and healing treatments: the Life in Balance Spa offers more than 75 skin and body rituals. And then there are the activities, which have a distinct Texan flavour: Tex Zen Yoga (local tunes while you salute the sun), equine therapy and astro-forecasting among them.