Around the world and back again, as we explore spa travel trends
By Carrie Hampton
Are you looking to get healthy while enjoying a nice getaway? More and more top establishments are offering wellness expertise alongside a chance to escape busy lives and hectic schedules. Here, we discover a few local and international wellness escapes that are bang on trend.
What most people want from a spa is pretty simple; passive pampering and active participation. Passive pampering is where you take no active part and just lie there while a therapist pampers you in many and varied ways. Active participation is with result-driven outcomes for mind and body, like yoga and meditation, weight-loss and detox programmes and muscle toning.
If you are not a total hedonist, you’ll probably opt for a bit of both. Destinations are catering more and more towards a mix of active and passive. Head to the forests of Costa Rica and combine equal amounts of activity and relaxation with a three kilometre hike from Rio Perdido Hotel to a nearby healing spring that tastes like Alka-Seltzer. Or get down and dirty—in a romantic sort of way—by painting your partner in mineral-rich volcanic mud, then rinsing it off in the hot river of this Central American thermal canyon region.
Upping the activity stakes in one giant leap, Club Med at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic collaborated with Cirque du Soleil. This means you take lessons in trapeze and acrobatics then put your newfound skills into practice in the circus ring. When you’ve contorted your body beyond what you ever thought possible, head for the Wellness Centre for a relaxing massage.
Island Style Detox
It’s the All-Inclusive Detox Package at The Sanctuary on remote Ko Phangan Island in the Gulf of Thailand that appeals to many spa-goers. Spend ten days at this beach location cleansing your system and indulging in pampering already prepaid in a spa package. Detoxing guests steer clear of the temptations and aromas of fragrant Thai curries coming out of the main restaurant and instead sip their juices and dine on soup.
Less devoted guests have the choice of many pleasurable experiences to help them attain the sense of peace that people come here for: yoga, pilates, meditation, massage, beauty treatments, walking and jogging trails, swimming and sea kayaking in perfect blue seas. To let off steam after all these worthy pursuits, travellers gather from far and wide for the Friday night party. Once a month this morphs into the famous Full Moon Party—an all-night affair to end all parties.
Age is a State of Mind...or Is It?
They say age is just a state of mind, but SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain—awarded the Best Medical/Longevity Spa in 2015 Seven Star Global Luxury Award—proves different. A combination of top-to-toe check-ups and 50 personalised genetic screening tests can assess your actual biological age, which—perish the thought—might be years older than you really are. And do you dare try the machine that assesses your age-related cognitive psychological brain function?
Good news is that by taking advice from Internal Medicine and Anti-Ageing expert Dr Vicente Mera, adding a determined dose of physical and emotional effort, and opening your wallet for the latest regenerative treatments (bio-identical hormonal supplementation and stem cell storage for example), you can return from your two week “vacation” feeling like a new person. There is a softer side to the strict clinical approach at SHA, through the inclusion of holistic techniques like yoga, meditation and mindfulness. But you will still have to undertake a regime involving psychological scrutiny, physical fitness training, macrobiotic eating and detoxing to one degree or another at most medi-spas, to get the full benefits of achieving the younger, slimmer, mentally well-balanced, beautiful new you.
Taking to the Waters
The Therme Val at 7132 Hotel in the Swiss Alps was designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor—known for his uncompromising minimalism. Its straight walls of quarried quartzite loom over an ancient Bronze Age commune, whose residents also probably enjoyed the 30 degrees Celsius thermal waters. Now it’s a venue for hotel guests and day visitors to rediscover the ancient rituals of bathing. Zumthor’s interpretation is far removed from the original Swiss-chalet style villa previously on this site, and his stone edifice is considered of such architectural import that two years after completion it was classified a Listed Building. There are indoor and outdoor Thermal Pools at 30-33 degrees Celsius, a Fire Pool at 42 degrees Celsius and the Ice Pool a startling 14 degrees Celsius. There’s also the Blossom Pool, Melodic Pool and Spring Grotto to dip into for various benefits. Massages come in the form of Balinese, Thai, Lomi Lomi (Hawaiian-style massage), hot stones and stress buster, along with mud therapies, body wraps, facials and everything that makes your skin glow.
South Africa’s Best Spas
You don’t actually have to travel to Switzerland, or even Thailand for that matter, to get an authentic Thai massage. You just have to visit Angsana Spa at The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town’s southern suburbs. The petite Asian therapists look too delicate to apply serious force to long-held knots. You’ll soon discover that the size of the therapist does not equate to the pressure they can apply. It’s all in the technique and Angsana train all their therapists in the age-old art of Thai massage. They will be sending some South African therapists to Thailand soon for training in the fine techniques required. You’ll find the 90-minute Angsana Massage delivers all it promises; a more relaxed, stress-reduced state with strengthened inner energy flow.
Another notable South African Spa—the One&Only Cape Town—is scheduled for a revamp next year to take it into the league of not just a great local spa but a top class international spa. Interestingly, their clientele is about 70 per cent local so you may struggle to get a mid-week appointment at the One&Only. The NuFace is one of their signature treatments that uses a little gadget that sends electrical impulses to tighten facial muscles. The treatment also includes a whole range of wonderful lotions and potions from the ESPA range (incidentally also used at SHA Wellness Clinic, Spain).
For the outdoorsy nature lover, sunlight and birdsong during a treatment trumps a darkened room and pan pipe music. While many safari lodges offer spa treatments, some take it to new heights. Karkloof Safari Spa, deep in the fecund hills and valleys of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, is renowned for extending VIP treatment to every guest. It’s got the most extensive spa facilities of all safari lodges in South Africa and beyond.
Another safari spa that’s beautiful and full of unexpected charm is The Waters of Royal Malewane Bush Spa in Thornybush Reserve bordering Kruger Park. It’s the pinnacle of taste within the boundaries of classic elegance. Spa luxury in its purest form; or as Royal Malewane describe it, “luxury run wild”.
So, for the sake of your health, wellbeing and the economy, take a load off and give yourself a well-deserved break.