Plan your new year spa break with help from the C&TH Spa Guide 2017, your complete guide to the best luxury spas in the UK and around the world. See our comprehensive collection of spas – from family friendly UK bolt-holes to luxe retreats in Italy and Alpine ski breaks in Switzerland…
Pampering is possible even with the kids in tow – these spa destinations have fantastic facilities for families and room for relaxation.
Four Seasons, Nevis, West Indies
For those seeking exotic family downtime and rejuvenation, this hotel is perfectly tailored to give you and your children the most wonderful, summery holiday. The excitement beings with a 40-minute boat ride on the resort’s private catamaran from St. Kitts to Nevis where you will be met by warm and welcoming hotel staff who happily take care of your every need. The resort is bright and beautifully furnished, lots of space and light with a calm sense of relaxed luxury. Glorious child-friendly, ground floor rooms and suites open out onto lush garden areas meaning easy access for prams and dashing toddlers and supervised morning play.
Whether you choose a glamorous ocean view at dinnertime or the more casual setting by the pool, delicious meals suit even the pickiest of palettes whilst those with more daring tastes can enjoy locally caught delicacies and fine wines. The complimentary Kids For All Seasons Club will keep your brood entertained with activities including snorkelling, sailing and junior golf, whilst the grown ups are able to enjoy some quiet time in the award-winning spa surrounded with views of the mountains, lush greenery and the scent of flowers in full bloom. Skilled therapists custom blend home-grown herbs, plants and sands into heavenly face and body treats and carry out bespoke massage and wellbeing treatments in private spa huts housed in a tropical garden of paradise. Make sure not to miss a trip to spy giant sea turtles swimming freely in the clear West Indian waters.
Verdura, Sicily, Italy
Verdura offers one of Italy’s newer spa arrivals, but wow does it pack a punch. It’s almost the size of Sicily – a whopping 4,000 sq/m of dreamy, creamy marble – with views that stretch lazily over the Med, hills and olive groves. While you’re being busy spa bees, the bambini can happily slop paint in the kids’ club. As you’re blissing out having a massage – the sprogs are learning how to make Spaghetti à la Norma, and eating the evidence. For the spa junkie, there’s Dr Eccles’ (preventative health whizz) Vita Health programme – think zappy treatments like pulse light therapy for the war on cellulite, alongside diet and fitness. There’s also a hammam big enough to fit a party of Italian babes, an indoor pool and four al fresco thalassotherapy pools. When you’ve finished in the state-of-the-art gym, you can scoff-lite on juices and spa meals at Broccoli and Friends – the spa’s zingy café. Don’t miss out on the Sicilian aroma massage with olive oil and orange bio-energy essential oils- the therapists have magic hands and temperaments to match.
Hillside Beach Club, Fethiye, Turkey
If you’re after the happy combination of an occupied family and proper down time, this one’s for you. A glittering private bay encircled by three beaches, restaurants, tennis courts and pools make up this smart resort. There’s a Kids’ Club and the food is fantastic. Once everybody’s occupied, settle down in one of two spas. The Sanda Spa rocks a sleek, minimalist vibe, while the Nature Spa is all bare wood rooms amidst the trees and tinkling waterfalls. Both offer rose oil massages, wraps and scrubs with avocado, honey or sea-salt. The treatments are brilliant, but the real escape may just lie in the no-need-to-think, something-for-everyone vibe that comes with this super beach club hotel. Make sure to catch a (kid-free) supper overlooking the bay. The food’s delicious and the view out over empty miles of sparkling sea, even better.
Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire, UK
A 14th-century country house in the heart of the Cotswolds, Calcot Manor ticks all the boxes for your brood. Ten family rooms have all the equipment you need for little ones (they also offer a baby-listening service). Spend days playing tennis, swimming or borrow the hotel’s bicycles for a fresh air fix exploring some of the 220 acres of meadowland. Then, when you want some me-time, drop them off at the playzone, an Ofsted-registered crèche, or The Mez, where over-eights can spend hours doing all the activities you try and limit at home (playing on games consoles, watching back-to-back films). Head to the spa and laze in the outdoor hot tub, hit the steam room or book in for treatments that range from reiki to reflexology. You can get serious with the Rodial Crash Diet Cleanse or stick to the mellow magic of an Aromatherapy Associates massage. Don’t go without getting the Rodial Sculpt facial – it’s a far less invasive alternative to dermal fillers.
Find some calm in the beautiful British countryside at these world-class spas that lie right on your very own doorstep.
Archerfield Estate, East Lothian, Scotland
Take one grand 17th-century country house and set it in one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland barely 40 minutes from Edinburgh. Then add a villa or two, some cottages and a few pavilions, complement it with a couple of golf courses and enhance the whole thing with an enchanting spa and you get Archerfield. Luxurious but cosy, Fletcher’s Cottage Spa is like no other. Filled with sofas, flowers, wood-burning stoves with reclaimed natural materials used throughout, the spa has 12 individually styled treatment rooms as well as two standalone wooden bath huts. Add to that a thermal area with a marine steam room, an aroma sauna (using handpicked herbs from the garden) and rasul mud cure room, a healing Himalayan salt room and you have everything on hand to beautify the body.
The wooden bath huts are quite unique, located in the walled garden they come with their own butler who will organise the dreamiest bath for you – seaweed, rose aromatherapy, marine salts… accompanied by anything from a herbal tea or hot chocolate to a glass of champagne or a hot toddy. When the sun is out take a bracing coastal walk for one of the best beauty treatments ever… and when it is sulking, then Fletcher’s Cottage is the only place to be. There is a wide choice of body and beauty treatments from Aromatherapy Associates and Voya, the marine beauty specialists with seaweed massages and wraps and Cornish skin specialists Spiezia Organics. Spoilt for choice? Choose the Seaweed Leaf Hot Stone massage, 90 minutes of soothing, and a great eye treatment – Open Your Eyes – great for dark circles and puffiness. Lastly, while you’re there you should forget the champagne – enjoy post-treatment hot chocolate, even better with a wee dram.
Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire
A slick, modernised Georgian retreat, from the same group as The Dorchester (so you can expect the service to be bang on), set in 240 acres – what an easy peasy escape from town to country. The spa is as effortless as the journey. It is the perfect balance between laid back rural relaxation and all the luxury and urban style you would expect from a first class city spa. You can choose how you wish to treat yourself, from a thrilling horse ride to the delicious home-cooked food – fresh fish and chunky chips will soon put paid to any hard work in the pool. In the spa, the aromatherapy treatments and the never-ending country views may be rooted in nature, but the all-white décor, state-of-the-art manicure stations and minimalist pool remind you that this spa is very much in the 21st century. During your stay make sure to treat yourself to the Face and Body Smoother Treatment – a full exfoliation, followed by an application of warm, nourishing oils and creams and finished off with a heavenly neck and scalp massage to remove every last bit of stress and leave you floating.
Limewood, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
It’s always been good, but this seriously stylish hotel in the New Forest has just got a whole lot better. With the sweeping away of the hotel’s stiff fine dining room and the creation of Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder’s gorgeous informal restaurant, Hartnett and Holder, Lime Wood, already glamorous, now has a warm heart and a laid back vibe. Along with the new courtyard bar, it makes the perfect place to round off a day spent in the hotel’s equally sybaritic Herb House Spa. Relax for the day or sign up for the Luxury Forest Fit Boot Camp – two and a half days of good-for-you pain including circuit training, hikes and bike rides and exercise classes such as yoga, aqua, kettle bells and spinning. At some point blow the diet and tuck in at the aforementioned Hartnett and Holder- they serve treats such as polenta ravioli with Dorset truffles and artichokes.
Ockenden Manor, Cuckfield, West Sussex
Rolling hills, polo fields and pretty country villages may be par for the course, but rural West Sussex isn’t generally known for its spas. But perhaps that’s because you’re so chilled out when you leave, you forget to tell anyone about them. Hidden away in the heart of Cuckfield, a picturesque Tudor village, lies this traditional country-house hotel with a big, stonking contemporary spa tucked away behind it. Designed as mini-destination spa, there are six suites located in the spa building, with big bedrooms and huge bathrooms opening out onto a shared terrace. It’s not particularly private as other guests can and will walk past your window, but all is forgiven when you get to the treatments. Using Elemental Herbology products, Ockenden Manor has taken a holistic approach to therapy. Before you go, don’t miss out on dining at the restaurant; it has great views, wonderful fish and killer desserts.
The Clover Mill, Worcestershire, UK
The UK’s first boutique ayurvedic retreat. Set in a restored 17th-century water mill in the rolling hills of Malvern, it’s all very idyllic here, with exquisite treatments, home-cooked food and log fires. And that’s before you’ve even got started on the spa, which is a stroke of genius. Programmes tailored to your dosha will make you leap with excitement, packed with ayurvedic treaments and yoga sessions, which take place underneath wooden beams. Take time out in the steam room, read a book beside the pond or put on your wellies for a stomp around the weir. Bed is an eco lodge, surrounded by woodland, kitted out with floor to ceiling windows that open out onto private decking, with a deep bathtub and walk-in shower and a super comfy bed. It’s a quiet retreat, with only six guests at a time, and that’s its magic – peace, quiet and solitude.
The Lakes by Yoo, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire
Super swanky Cotswolds haven The Lakes by Yoo has teamed up with a spate of wellbeing brands to spoil their villa guests rotten in the Kate Moss-designed Barnhouse. The wellness retreat includes a physio session with the Bosworth Clinic (as used by Team GB), treatments by Spiezia Organics and daily yoga with Clare Loughnane, the limber powerhouse behind Cheltenham’s prestigious Studio 13.
Tranquility at high-altitudes – these snow-capped spas are just a moment from the ski slopes…
Six Senses Alpina, Gstaad, Switzerland
The first Six Senses to open in Switzerland is a temple to relaxation and tranquility after a day swooshing down the woodland pistes of the Saanenland. Its no-expense-spared, yet warm and soothing ambience strikes the perfect note between jaw-dropping luxury and charm. At 2,000 sq/m, it forms a large part of the new CHF300 million (£210m) Alpina Gstaad hotel set into the mountainside above the alpine village of Gstaad. It’s the first luxury hotel to be built here in 100 years – take a horse-drawn carriage tour and you will see that the village is made entirely of chocolate-box chalets, many 250 years old and more. Using only recycled farmhouse beams and wood panelling, the grand chalet-style hotel is spacious (there is a modern art collection on the walls, including Tracey Emin’s And I Said I Love You), yet it feels warm and intimate with its low lighting, soft furnishings and all-natural materials – even the pillars are leather-clad.
A sweeping central staircase draws you in, where you are met with a roaring log fire in a softly lit open-plan lounge and bar. Gardens have been landscaped over the spa, and great lightwells spill daylight down into the pool and whirlpool baths. The Six Senses ethos of using natural materials and organic shapes has created a sense of calm and flow. Twelve treatment rooms and an extensive wellness menu offer everything from Ayurveda and Asian massage to hammam rituals and yoga. Three complementary spa brands have joined the portfolio. Ila, from the UK, uses organic ingredients ‘wild-harvested’ by indigenous producers; QMS Medicosmetics, from Germany, is a pioneering authority on skin ageing and regeneration based on the power of collagen; and Biologique Recherche is a high-end French beauty brand. Among the 60 treatments you’ll find a favourite or be adventurous and try something new. On a final note, if you’re an early riser make sure to catch this magical moment – on a winter’s day, take a dip at dawn in the outdoor heated pool and see the steam rising into the crisp alpine air, surrounded by mountains and fir trees.
Kulm Spa, St Moritz, Switzerland
St Moritz is shorthand for high altitude, athletic, élite holidays. This stylish £8m addition cuts into the mountain below a 100-year-old hotel and promotes the entire complex into a new league. Flanked by Alpine peaks, it overlooks a lake where thrill-seekers sail in summer and, in winter, it hosts polo championships on its snow-dusted ice. The hotel commands a sublime view – try and swag a lake-facing room. In the spa, an impressive indoor pool glows bright green and even sports a specially curated underwater playlist. The Finnish saunas and steam baths are a most blissful way to relax – only topped by the outdoor heated Jacuzzi with views to die for. Therapists are uber-informed – in five minutes they can tell you more about your posture and diet than you know yourself, and for massages they use glacial waters from local Alpine regions and lotions crushed from hilltop-dwelling plants.
Before you head home, make sure to grab a health check-up with personal trainer Joachim Pötschger. He can diagnose diet deficiencies and prescribe precisely what you should eat for maximum fitness potential. Amazing.
Alpina Dolomites, Alpe di Siusi, Italy
On a pristine plateau set against the severe Dolomite peaks sits this magnificent James Bond baddie lair – the most stylish, clean-lined bunker imaginable – complete with underground lifts, tunnels, inside/outside pools and a rotating instrument of human torture that is actually the latest ‘Space Curl’ training machine for fitness freaks. This is ski-in, ski-out as it really ought to be and just taking the air unburdens stress for most, but for relief from all known ailments there is also the Beauty Farm. Leading directly out to the slopes on one side and cut back into the mountain at the back, a whole floor is quietly decked out in local woods and stone creating a hushed space for treatments using the local alchemy together with Ayurvedic and Asian practices. Also, don’t miss out on the goat’s milk facial – it’s rejuvenating after spending all day under a harsh sun.
Gardena Grodnergof, Ortisei, Italy
A family-run hotel that retains a traditional, old-fashioned mood. Don’t expect swanky interiors, despite the recent renovations things are slightly stuck in a time warp – but who cares when the staff are so warm and smiley and there’s a cute little spa to boot. The sort of spa you could while away an afternoon in if the weather means you want to hibernate, or you’re too stiff for more skiing. There are pine oil baths (which eliminate dead skin cells) and goat butter baths which don’t sound too appealing but work miraculous results on dry skin. Massages cover a whole range – hot stone, Lomi Lomi and Thai, plus there are deeply effective Ayurvedic body treats too. With panoramic views across the Sud-Tirol (an autonomous region of north Italy bordering Austria), this area is little known to Britons, but is a well-travelled playground for its near neighbours and nurtures the best of both cultures. Dinner in the Michelin-starred Anna Stuben restaurant is also a must during your visit, however there are only four tables -be pushy!
Parkhotel, Igls, Austria
This diagnostic detox spa, which practises the modern Mayr Cure, feels zingy and fresh. Glorious alpine views counteract the dreary effects of ‘the cure’. Expect detox headaches while the brilliant team of German doctors get your intestinal tract firing again. You chew on stale spelt rolls until your teeth rattle, then snooze through daily hot compresses to detoxify the liver. If you suffer from a bloated stomach, book now. The German doctors perform a special treatment to activate toxin release and unclog the abdominal lymphatic system, so within days stomachs flatten as energy levels rise. Uniquely, there are eight levels of nutrition, so if you can’t face deprivation and need nutritional nurturing, you can savour mouse-like portions of outstanding food. The soups are prize-winningly original; mustard, horseradish or olive flavours. Health analysis is cutting edge: they even offer tests to see if you are predisposed towards dementia. The de-stress week includes craniosacral therapy, while ppsycho-emotionalstress is dealt with in effective talking therapy sessions with first-rate psychotherapists. This is top notch holistic health and healing.
Whether you’re in need of a diet detox, spiritual sustenance, a decent yoga session, or the whole works – these spas will help get your health in check.
Complete health overhaul…
In:Spa, Southern Spain
In the short term, you’ll come back with the fittest, sleekest body of your life, and a sparkling, positive mindset. But you might be even more impressed, several months on. Following one short week of yoga, fitness training and healthy eating, many in:spa-ers find they change their habits for good. If the regime sounds hardcore – no chocolate, sugar or coffee whatsoever, nor meat, dairy or alcohol, four or sometimes five activities a day – the secluded, sunny location is a giant distraction. Clients on the Southern Spain break are billetted in a ‘monastery’ that was actually built fairly recently to host weddings and parties, with cloisters, a scented, leafy courtyard, a big, luxy swimming pool and a yoga pavilion with windows showing deep blue sky. Every day starts with 8am yoga or a hike or run, but then you also end up with ample sunbathing/reading time in the afternoons – not exactly bootcamp, but hard enough. Your yoga teacher – often imported from one of the best studios in London – will be part of a highly qualified, tireless and genuinely friendly team, also including an excellent, non-extremist yet rigorous nutritionist, a pair of bouncy fitness instructors, an inspiring behind-the-scenes chef and a kind, powerful massage therapist.
The twice-daily yoga helps to even out stodge-withdrawal symptoms; even more helpfully, you’re likely to find yourself with a nice bunch of people, mostly urban professionals. Plenty of supportive humour and chat tends to transpire – especially during the group training sessions, in which guests are reminded exactly what burpees and pike drops are. The rooms are well-kept, with hunting prints, stout antique furniture and terracotta floor tiles. Everything is comfortable and quiet, but the luxury lies in the quality of the programme and service, rather than the accommodation. Meals are taken around long tables, the kind of food you’d eat every day if you had an expense account at Whole Foods: generous, fresh and delicious, with premium ingredients, such as unlimited chia seeds and cleansing smoothies at breakfast, aubergine caviar and copious, varied salads at lunch, and grilled hake or salmon at dinner. The nutritionist’s advice, both in the group talk, one-to-one sessions and chats during the week, is perhaps the clincher, in terms of justifying a luxury health break. The rules – to do with balancing blood sugar and eating high-quality protein – will sort out energy slumps a treat. This is a relaxing, restful yet super-active week, and if you get yourself there, you’re guaranteed to come back on top form, with several ideas about how to make your life better. However, take the chance to just chill out if you need to. You aren’t obliged to attend every training session, and lie-ins are OK.
SHA, Alicante, Spain
A sleek medical spa overlooking the Med, which looks the business and delivers too, with its seamless mix of cutting-edge Western science meets ancient Oriental therapies. Treatments cover everything from weight loss and insomnia to genetic testing and quitting smoking. And they pull out all the stops with programmes combining diet, phytotherapy (the use of plants for medicinal purposes) and a long list of therapies (Shiatsu massage, reflexology, reiki and lymphatic drainage massage). Don’t miss the stellar list of visiting masters – a session with naturopath, Karen Himlok, formerly head honcho at Chiva-Som in Thailand, is a must. Beauty issues are tackled too, including varicose veins, cellulite, frown lines and sunspots. There’s even a dentistry unit for hardcore polishing. The macrobiotic diet provides the backbone to this retreat. Wholegrains, vegetables, soya protein, seaweed and seafood are in. Dairy products, sugar, caffeine and alcohol are out. The best thing is that all this takes place in pretty perfect surroundings.
VANA, The Himalayas, India
When this 66-room retreat in North India opened in 2014, there was nothing like it – and there still isn’t. Vana refuses to be called a spa. Spiritual development is at the heart of this chic holistic retreat in the Himalayan foothills. Bold contemporary architecture is more European art gallery than ashram; the Ayurvedic organic menu resembles that of a fine-dining restaurant; and it’s the only health centre to practise this combination of therapies with such authenticity and integrity.
Your journey to wellbeing starts with a doctor’s consultation to create a bespoke programme. Their winning a ‘Best Life-Changing Retreat’ award had inspired high expectations. Floating from treatment to treatment in this tranquil forest-hugged compound, it was clear that the way in which Vana might change your life is different for each individual. Some come seeking medical fixes, others crave mental or emotional development. Whatever your ailments or ambitions, Vana eases you into its slow, soothing pace, insisting its kurta-pyjama-clad Vanavasis switch off for at least a fortnight.
There’s much talk today of finding balance and tuning into nature, but what does that mean? Time at Vana teaches you that everyone’s path to equilibrium is unique. Their detox retreats are a safe bet to get you on the road to enlightenment and the signature 21-night traditional Panchakarma cleansing programme is customised to individual constitutions.
But can Vana change your life? It can certainly help switch off the noise from life’s many distractions so that you can stop, slow down and truly process what the wise therapists tell you. They can inspire you to think intelligently about your own mental and physical wellbeing in a way that gives you a better understanding of causes and not just symptoms, so that you can live a life that better suits your health, head and heart. And if God is in the detail, it is a near-religious experience spending time in Vana’s five-star suites and amid this elegant sandy-toned palette, specially commissioned art and organic environment.
Espace Henri Chenot at Palace Merano, Merano, Italy
A game-changing, fat-busting, life-resetting retreat. The Henri Chenot method is designed to recharge the body, reboot digestion and reinvigorate the mind. Yes, people flock here for weight loss, but others come to tackle more complex issues, from insomnia to recovery from surgery. This is a deeply comfortable environment, a gilt-edged grand palace hotel with a gently institutional mentality – everyone sits at the same restaurant table for every meal. Portions are small but perfectly formed – slivers of fresh fruit, grilled baby vegetables, one precious serving of steamed fish during a week’s stay. Tea and coffee are offered misleadingly – herbal infusions and barley Americanos. There are mud wraps and hydro-aromatherapy baths, jet showers, aqua aerobics and PT sessions in the gym. More leftfield meridian energy therapies are balanced with clinical blood tests and IV drips. As well as shifting the pounds, there are all sorts of targeted programmes: energy promotion, cellulite busting and even hair loss.
For fitness fanatics…
The Residence, Tunisia
Same time zone, no jetlag: Tunisia is a no brainer for short haul sunshine. And the hush-hush Residence is another no brainer if you’re serious about shifting the pounds. Come for the Dukan diet (you know, the one where you can eat as much as you like of ‘authorised’ foods) and a special package of grin-and-bear it fitness and spa sessions (think less pampering, more Endermology, where a sort of mini hoover sucks up your fat). Stay here for the first and hardest ‘attack’ phase when you can only eat protein, but wow do you feel your energy levels soar. Yes, this place is by the beach and there’s an 18-hole golf course, but you probably won’t have time to go. You’ll be too busy bouncing from a multi-jet bath to being wrapped in seaweed, aqua pilates to fitness coaching. It’s brisk, it’s brutal but it gets results. Whilst there, remember to try the Martine de Richeville remodelling massage, which was devised by the therapist to the stars- it’s great for sorting out toxins and cellulite.
IN: SPA, Marrakech, Morocco
If you want to re-start, kickstart or just start a detox and healthy living programme, the In:Spa retreat, just 30 minutes from Marrakech, is an effective way to do it.
First-timers may not quite grasp what a healthy detox holiday means in practice until they find their bespoke agenda in their Berber-carpeted, Atlas Mountain-facing rooms. The schedule mixes up group circuit and fitness training (often two sessions per day) with two yoga sessions per day (on most days), as well as one-to-ones with Alli Godbold, author of Feed Your Health and the ‘resident’ nutritionist, and personal training with either Kath Beesley or Craig Carroll.
Your package also includes two very deep tissue sports massages with Frank Horstmann. His massages are not only welcome but essential and the only extra cash you may need on this trip are for a few extra sessions.
Although there can be between 14 to 20 people on these trips, the fitness and yoga groups never seem large as people are divided into two groups based on general level of yoga expertise. Taught by Triyoga teacher Alan Kelly, the yoga is a welcome stretch in the morning and very pleasant restoration at the end of each day of vigorous exercise.
For the two half-day hikes, the nutrition lecture and cookery class, as well as mealtimes, all the guests come together to swap notes and life stories on the yellow stone veranda that faces Mount Toubkal, behind which the sun sets each day. Six specialists are flown out to look after the guests but the real secret to the yoga and fitness mix is the menu free from red meat, gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Chef Sara Kempton is on hand to cook up nourishing meals full of flavour, each of which are tailored to any guest’s individual requirements.
Although not a boot camp, if the regime is taken seriously, you can see satisfying visible results, particularly if you start letting go of alcohol, caffeine and sugar before you get there.
Buchinger Wilhelmi Clinic, Lake Constance, Germany
Don’t be put off by appearances (the building resembles a clinic-cum-1970s accommodation block, but in any case the location makes up for it by perching above the glorious Lake Constance). Think instead about how you’re going to feel after a ten-day (minimum) fast, where you’ll be surviving on just 5,500 calories overall as you partake in the Buchinger Amplius Method (therapeutic fasting), like each of your fellow bathrobed guests/patients (some as fat as sumo wrestlers, others whippet thin). The answer is pretty bloody marvellous, in case you were wondering.
The Amplius Method was devised in 1918 by Dr Otto Buchinger, who cured himself from rheumatic fever after a 19-day therapeutic fast. And so, four generations later, the clinic attracts the biggest names in Hollywood and beyond who are on burn out and come to press the reset button; for some it becomes like a religion as they make their annual pilgrimage. And it’s easy to see why.
The rhythm of your stay here soon takes over. A glass of glauber salts to jig up the elimination process, morning weigh in with the nurse, a cup of herbal tea with honey (savour it), a couple of exercise classes (all excellent), a meeting with a doctor or a chosen therapy (everything can add up, so make sure you’re aware of the pricing structure), a nap with a hot liver compress, more herbal tea, a cookery demo, an art class or – the highlight – a guided 6-7km hike in the hills, forests and mountains surrounding Überlingen).
Results start showing around day three or four (whether it’s the downsides of fasting – headaches, disturbed sleep etc, or the lighter feeling of things beginning to shift). You’re also learning all the time, taking notes from talks, scribbling down cooking hints, gaining insights from nutritionists – there’s a lot to take in and it inspires you to make changes to your everyday lifestyle.
Buchinger is a streamlined, slick operation. There’s a quiet – and caring – efficiency at its core, where nothing is forgotten, you are never kept waiting for an appointment, the bill arrives in your room two days before departure, hot water bottles magically appear when you most want them; and staff are sweet, proficient and attentive. You lose weight, you find energy you thought long lost, you feel empowered and strong, heavy eyes are lightened, thoughts are clearer. As one guest said, ‘Everyone has a twinkle in their eye at the end of a stay at Buchinger.’
Cugó Gran, The Gut Makeover Retreat, Menorca
No calorie counting, no low fat, no deprivation. Just excellent, abundant gourmet meals. Who knew that losing weight was so much fun? Or who realised that the gut is the control centre of good health? That there are the on-going clinical trials that have used a gut-friendly diet to reverse early onset Alzheimer’s, improve diabetes and treat depression? And that you can sort out digestive issues and improve sleep and skin conditions with food? Welcome to The Gut Makeover Retreat
in Menorca. The brainchild of Jeannette Hyde, an erstwhile journalist turned nutritionist. And author of The Gut Makeover – a four-week programme to revolutionise your health. She’s evangelical about the gut – having burnt out ten years ago and, finally, healed herself with ‘real’ food.
The retreat takes place in Cugó Gran, a 19th-century sandstone villa with 11 bedrooms. Think manicured gardens, lavender fields, olive trees and a pool that looks out to sea. Inside is very Daylesford – uplifting and airy – with taupes, creams and exposed stone walls.
There’s lots of rest time. Sometimes you’ll do gentle pilates and yoga. Have a great Aboriginal-inspired ‘Kodo’ massage. A private consultation with Jeannette. Or attend informal chats on the gut: you’ll soon be well acquainted with the needs of the microbiome – the trillions of bacteria living in the gut and weighing 3.3lbs.
There are normally around 11 (Lululemon and upmarket beachwear clad) clients, including one or two men, and almost as many staff as guests, offering superb service in smart shorts. As for the food – superb. It’s all very colourful, a plant-based diet with protein at every meal. Breakfast is eggs from chickens that roam the property, and a bowl of fruit with coconut kefir – a fermented milk that’s beneficial to the gut. For lunch perhaps homemade gazpacho, prawn curry, and several super tasty salads with ingredients plucked from the garden. Dinner may include molten chocolate pots (with just a smidge of honey).
It’s so good you’ll hardly notice that you’ve given up caffeine, alcohol and sugar; have gone gluten, dairy and grains-free; are not snacking between meals; are chewing each mouthful 20 times to keep those gastric juices flowing; and are observing a 12-hour overnight fast. On a seven-day retreat, you’ll likely lose 3lbs. You’ll kick-start your health. Re-set your gut. And, best of all, feel as if you’re on holiday.
Bodhimaya, Cotignac, France
A storybook setting with a bespoke, scientific approach to detoxing run by Harley Street-based nutritionist Cornelius O’Shaughnessy and his brother Daniel. The turreted towers are lit up like a fairytale castle and princess-like rooms come with four-poster beds, crystal chandeliers and their own dressing rooms. After the first night’s three-course candlelit supper, there are two days of juices, tailored to each guest depending on their ailments, and packed with power foods such as red cabbage, spinach and pineapple. The programme is informal, so you can opt in or out of hikes, yoga and meditation sessions (do try some meditation though: Cornelius teaches breathing techniques to calm chaotic minds). There are also one-on-one nutritional-based consultations, group workshops and cooking demos where you learn to make sauerkraut and Indian favourite, ghee butter. On day three, you move on to smoothies before – yippee – reintroducing food with a tiny dinner (courgette and spinach soup with ghee). On leaving you get a nutrition plan and supplement suggestions, to make sure you keep on it for when you get home.
For yogis that want to seriously unwind…
Silver Island Yoga, Greece
Staying on this idyllic, family-owned island gives you a flavour of living on a private paradise. The downside is that heaven isn’t easy to reach; four hours door to door, including a coach journey from Athens, an hour’s ferry ride and, finally, a speed boat drops you at Silver Island’s tiny jetty. But the minute you walk through the undulating groves of a working olive farm, clocking the two pristine white beaches and realise that you have 60 acres shared among ten guests, any travel niggles melt away. There are five bedrooms, so all guests share a room and not all have en-suite bathrooms. This is eco-luxe, Greek style, with a profoundly touching attention to detail. Every table setting is different. Freshly picked wild cyclamen are placed on linen napkins, creating an atmosphere of nurtured beauty.
Silver Island attracts a brilliant roster of superb yoga teachers who offer week-long yoga retreats, from April to the end of October, with everything from yin to dynamic to postural alignment to vinyasa flow. Days are well planned with space in between yoga to sunbathe, kayak or swim around the island. The sea is Aegean perfection; glassily still and clear. With its impressive green credentials, you feel totally plugged into nature. There is no mains water or electricity on the island, as the island is 100% solar powered. At ten o’clock, lights go out, so it is essential to bring torches for night-time reading. With no pollution, the darkness is velvety and the stars blindingly bright.
The sensational food is a massive draw. Think the Hemsley sisters with a Greek twist. Every meal is a colourful take on clean eating with robust, zingingly fresh produce. Freshly squeezed juices for breakfast, with homemade granola and organic sheep’s yoghurt and local honey. Lunch is a riot of homemade flat breads and salads. Garlic bread with olive tapenade, homemade tzatziki, while a typical salad might be black quinoa, roasted baby beetroot, drizzled with pomegranate and fig syrup. Chocolate cravings are sated with nut-covered fig balls. Dinner is warming stews with an amazing array of vegetables; spicy aubergine casserole with stuffed peppers or vegetarian moussaka. You don’t realise until you leave, how deeply you have connected with yourself and nature here. It’s jarring to hit civilisation with all that halogen light. You crave the simplicity of Silver Island; a special, spiritually uplifting escape.
Rosa Yoga Retreat, Santa Eularia, Ibiza
‘An island within an island’ is how Rosa Klein describes her Ibizan retreat, a tranquil haven, set amid pine trees. Rosa, a beautiful, serene woman, turned to yoga after a car accident 12 years ago, and it transformed her health. Now her mission is to help others. Every morning begins with therapeutic yoga, held in the open-sided sala, surrounded by fragrant bushes. The session starts with sun salutations and continues with asanas – the repetition helps with your equilibrium. A sumptuous brunch follows with divine porridge, fresh eggs and imaginative smoothies. Afternoons are spent relaxing with massages and in hammocks. After an hour of meditation and pranayama, tuck into a magnificent three-course dinner with delights including courgette spaghetti with rich tomato and chickpea sauce and crema Catalana. Accommodation, beautifully plastered over roughly hewn stone walls, have timber rafters and red floor tiles and come with sitting rooms and fully-equipped kitchens. After a week at the retreat, Rosa’s gift is the rediscovery of your own wisdom and the confidence to continue your daily practice at home.
Far flung destinations that offer full on pampering – these fantastic spas will make the long journey worthwhile…
The Residence, The Maldives
Falhumaafushi Island, a castaway’s spit of sand in the remote, southern reaches of the archipelago, is home to the Maldives’ first and only Clarins spa. Linked to land by a wooden jetty, the six over-water treatment pavilions and meditation deck look out onto the stunning blues of the Indian Ocean. But the spa delivers a feast for all the senses, with five exclusive massages administered by a crack team of Balinese and Indian therapists, to go alongside Clarins’ plant-based moisturising, firming and contouring treatments. ‘Heaven’ will lull you into a state of utter relaxation with a delicious union of ylang ylang, rosemary, patchouli and lemon, and an ever-so gentle massage with hot basalt stones. ‘Pure’ takes coconut oil from a local family and uses Shirodhara techniques to banish any lingering headaches. Ultra-hydrating facials are a balm for sun-frazzled skin and there’s a hair salon to tame wayward locks.
Most of the Residence’s 94 thatched-roof villas have infinity plunge pools and all have made-for-sharing, ocean-view tubs. Away from the spa, you can be among the first to dive the pristine reefs of one of the world’s largest and deepest atolls. The coral teems with life and you can get up close to manta rays, turtles and all manner of rainbow-coloured fish on equally spectacular snorkelling expeditions. You won’t even have to leave your villa to see baby black-tipped reef sharks and pocket-sized eagle rays gliding through the shallows. Get active windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding, set sail on a creaky wooden dhoni accompanied by a pod of curious dolphins or spend your days in blissful indolence, flitting from day bed to lounger, plunge pool to ocean. Grab one of the Beach Bar’s double daybeds and a creative cocktail for front-row views of the sunset, before feasting feet-in-the-sand on the catch of the day, or indulging in lobster risotto on The Falhumaa restaurant’s terrace, with nothing but water and a star-studded sky between you and Indonesia. Make sure to also catch the complimentary yoga on the spa’s al fresco deck for the best sunrise and sunset views on the island.
Banyan Tree, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China
This has possibly the most dramatic entrance to any hotel – through a wooden archway the visitor is greeted by a floating pagoda behind which soars the magnificent Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. And once you have finished exploring the resort with its landscaped gardens, pools and fountains, all you will want to do is head for that peak. Barely 15kms away, it is a sacred place which has, for centuries ,protected the Naxi tribespeople… see it in the early morning tinged with pink for an unforgettable experience. Another day head for Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the Venice of the Orient for its canals, bridges, narrow streets and carved wooden houses. And be sure to find plenty of time to luxuriate in the spa. Opt for a Yunnan Bounty – a melange of herbal steam, pearl barley scrub, red rice and ginseng conditioner and a Gu Shi hot stone massage… bliss. Amongst all this relaxing, make time to take part in a traditional tea tasting in the old town which the hotel will arrange – it’s a real insight into local culture.
Neeleshwar Hermitage, Kerala, India
On the unexplored northern part of the Malabar coast and flanked by a freshwater lagoon is this near-perfect haven of peace and pampering. There are just 12 cottages, designed and built along the traditional fisherman’s thatched huts but each one with enough comforts to keep a five-star hotel groupie enthralled. The Priya (which means beloved in Sanskrit) spa provides ease and calm. After an initial consultation with the doctor, a tailor-made programme of traditional ayurvedic therapies will be prescribed although you can also have acupuncture, reflexology, facials and scrubs or even a Thai massage and a French manicure. Yoga is a speciality and is offered every morning. There is also guided evening meditation, which is wonderfully and deeply relaxing – you’ll leave like a zombie.
Four Seasons, Langkawi, Malaysia
It’s worth the trek to Langkawi off the North West coast of Malaysia, for the Geo Spa alone. This fabulous family resort inspired by a Malay village – all sprawling accommodation, mile-wide beach and cracking kids’ club – is slap bang in South East Asia’s first UNESCO Geopark. The Ila spa is outstanding; far from purely pampering, treatments are almost medicinal in their restorative qualities, while therapists are hand-picked for their intuition. In the feminine ritual you sit on a commode and have hot cleansing herbs wafted up your nether regions, while the treatment for men will boost your bloke’s masculine vigour using tongkat ali oil, a testosterone-enhancing herb. There’s even a family treatment where children can join you for scrubs, massages, a giggle-induced dip in a pool and a sweet bonding singing session. The Mangrove Safari is also guaranteed to please – this boat trip around the local mangroves pulsing with wildlife is fascinating.
Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico
Summer camp but for grown-ups. A 4,000-acre resort below Mount Kuchumaa, just over the Mexican border, it’s all about the great outdoors here. A fitness concierge helps you plan your week, which is good as the choice is staggering. It’s hiking central but these aren’t any old hikes – think an ‘intention voicing meditation hike’ or – if you are up for an adventure – you can thrillingly trek the 7.5 miles to the US/Mexico border (there’s no wall yet). Back at ‘The Ranch’, there’s no excuse not to get moving with six gyms and more pools than you can count. Boxing, circuits, ropes, weights, barre work, hula-hooping, H2O bootcamp… Cure your aching body with an indulgent massage. Eating is communal and lifelong friends have been made here. But if you’re not feeling it, give the silent dinner a go – you feel like you are tasting food for the first time. Flop at the end of the day into one of the Spanish colonial-style redbrick villas, set amid the sweeping gardens, bursting with wisteria and with fountains under olive groves. It’s three nights minimum but when it’s this good, don’t go for anything less than a week.
Chiva-Som, Hua Hin, Thailand
Twenty-one years old and still nailing it. This legendary spa retreat on the Gulf of Thailand is hard to beat. With a whopping 70 treatment rooms, it’s life on a big scale – and the perfect place for a life shift. All the classic programmes are here (stress relief, weight management, R&R) and treatments (including botox), then there are the workouts. Boy, it’s good, with world-class personal trainers, super stretch classes, hypoxic training (exercising with reduced oxygen), ta’i chi at sunrise, aqua aerobics and pranayama. Phew! Bring your heart-rate down by flopping beside the pool, walking along the beach or have a massage with one of the deeply intuitive therapists (the detoxifying balneotherapy, which withdraws toxins and attacks cellulite, is a highlight). Rooms are equally relaxing, coolly understated with triangular silk cushions, gilded ceilings and tropical wood floors. Food will leave you skipping for joy. There’s nothing about starvation here. Tuck into peppered tuna with Thai-herb mushroom salad. You skip off skinnier, rested and beaming.
Absolute Sanctuary, Koh Samui, Thailand
Sprawled over a hillside, less than a mile from the coast, this tropical retreat ticks all the boxes: feel-good food, beach walks, weight loss, all while being tended to by tip-top practioners. There are plenty of programmes to get stuck into but it’s the yoga to really get excited about, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or a limb-twisting yogi. Just take your pick: detoxing yoga (to stimulate digestion), hatha, hot flow, ashtanga, restorative (to help with stress and fatigue) and yin (where postures are held for five minutes, calming the pelvis, hips and lower spine). The Sanctuary has its own type of yoga, too – Absolute yoga, circuit-training in style, which hits your core hard. Book your stay for when yoga teacher Jana Brauer is in town – you’ll never have felt so stretched. There are lots of lovely treatments to break up the day – scrubs, wraps and delicious massages. The diet is happy-making, too – low carb and high in fibre so think super fresh soups, Thai-spiced salads and double-dark-chocolate cake made with cocoa, palm sugar and soy milk.
Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand
Overlooking the coast of southern Koh Samui, this spiritual retreat is all about self-discovery with a solid dose of relaxation on the side. Founded by former monk, John and his traditional Chinese medicine master wife, Karina, this is a place which knows its stuff and gets results. The hillside setting has you hooked from the get-go, with a cave at its centre that once served Buddhist monks as a place of meditation. It’s no longer used but the healing journeys continue here and many of the counsellors are former monks. A state-of-the-art diagnostic centre uncovers all your troubles and then you’re off on a run of spa treatments, therapies and holistic medicine: ayurveda for de-stressing, acupuncture for insomnia, cognitive healing to cope with loss and bereavement. Start the day feasting on museli with flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and goji berries then skip off to yoga, t’ai chi or a meditation session with Rajesh, where you experience peace like never before. Suites are equally zen-inducing, nestled amidst the tree with natural furnishings and sea views.
One and Only The Palm, Dubai
Intimate by local standards and regarded as the most elegant resort in Dubai, One & Only The Palm will definitely make an impression. But look further than the magnificent setting, private beach and fabulous restaurants, and it’s the Guerlain spa that will blow your mind. Therapists get to work with a series of rituals, inspired by a fusion of Arabic culture and French savoir-faire. Désert d’Orient is a typical journey, taking in a silky milk scrub followed by a cleansing body wrap and steam, topped off with a lush personalised massage. Where Guerlain triumphs in the treatment room, it’s One & Only that sets the bar in terms of service, with all staff expertly trained and sensitively informed to provide the ultimate spa experience.
Maximum relaxation with minimum time spent travelling – these amazing spas are just a short plane ride away…
D-Maris Hotel, Marmaris, Turkey
If you are of the persuasion that big is never beautiful, then this is the hotel to change your mind. It’s vast and sprawls over five beaches. But it’s also hugely beautiful – cool marble public areas, chic shades and a spectacular location where the Med meets the Aegean. Then it has its own motor and sailing yachts which you can charter to take you off around the islands, as well as its own seaplane and private helicopter. Add to that a cinema, dive centre, four restaurants, seven bars and, of course, a ridiculously luxurious Espa spa, and holiday heaven has arrived.
The beaches are all quite different apart from their allocation of the 250,000 tons of white Egyptian sand imported to make them even more pristine – one has a DJ, one is silent, one is for ‘executives’ with cabanas to prove it, and there are two where children are allowed! Perish the thought that you might walk to one of them – a cable car will take you down from the hotel to the water’s edge while speed boats wait to race you to the nearest bit of sybaritic sun lounger. From there it is almost too much of an effort to tear yourself away and head for the spa. But then pampering awaits, and awaits in grandeur – marble plinths, Romanesque columns, expansive sun deck for relaxation, indoor and outdoor pool, ice fountain, glass walled sauna and seven treatment rooms…not to mention a mouth-watering spa menu and a traditional Turkish Hammam. But its greatest asset is that the Datça Peninsula is said to have natural healing properties and the third highest concentration of oxygen in the world – this is the place for early morning breathing exercises! And because the area has a moisture rate of zero, it is also known to help rheumatism and asthma sufferers as well as those with poor circulation. All you need now is Espa’s Chakra Balancing Treatment for total wellbeing.
Lastly, don’t forget to explore the area either with one of their tours of the coastline (stopping off in private coves and tiny villages) or taking a heli-tour which offers eye-popping views.
Les Sources de Caudalie, Bordeaux, France
If you’ve heard that red wine can be good for you, then Bordeaux is a real tonic – and not just for quaffing the good stuff. Chateau Smith Haut Lafite makes outstanding wines that age beautifully, but its vineyards also hold secrets to looking and feeling young. As Mathilde Thomas, daughter of the chateau owners, grew up, she started to learn about the antioxidant properties of grapes. The pips contain active polyphenols, and using all this knowledge she created the French cosmetics brand Caudalie. Her home had a hot mineral spring too, la source, so the idea for a spa was born. Thomas developed a range of spa products and treatments using crushed pips, fresh grapes, grape-seed and grape-blossom oils, and arriving at the rustic wood-and-stone spa Vinotherapie Spa you could be forgiven for imagining you are on the film set of Manon des Sources. So romantic. As if all that wasn’t enough, you can also relax in an outdoor ‘barrel bath’ surrounded by vines. You simply couldn’t be anywhere else but Bordeaux.
Cliff House Hotel, Co Waterford, Ireland
With a glass wall stretching across the 25-metre pool room, couples’ treatment room and a relaxation area allowing uninterrupted views of endless pale blue sea, serenity is never far away here. When you’ve just indulged in an Anne Semonin massage followed by an ache-busting seaweed peat bathing therapy in an outdoor tub, then it’s very close at hand. And if you spend the rest of your stay at this scintillating seaside hotel exploring its beautiful and little visited surroundings, you may well achieve a perfect balance of exhilaration and mindful relaxation. As for the Michelin-starred food of Dutchman Martijn Kajuiter: befitting a man who’s written a cookbook called Let’s Go Disco, it rocks. Make sure to sample the tasting menu: its eight courses include West Cork scallops, Bantry Bay organic salmon and Italian truffles, all ingeniously prepared.
Harem Escape, Marrakech, Morocco
Sandra Zwollo believes women need a guilt-free place to relax, where they can rejuvenate both mind and body. So she created a women-only retreat set in an extraordinary house, where quirky art and designer furniture combine with shaggy, Berber rugs and a life-sized model giraffe. It’s no ordinary spa either. There’s no clock-watching – a gong announces communal activities – and the dress code is kaftan and Moroccan slippers. The aim is to slow down, reflect and recharge. Daily meditation, yoga classes and beauty treatments all aid the process. As does dining al fresco on Tara Stevens’ healthy and delicious fare, which makes the most of seasonal, organic produce. And you’re free to do as much or as little as you like. And to add to the feel-good factor, 80 per cent of Harem’s profits are donated to a local charity.
Also, don’t miss out on being soaped and scrubbed in the hammam – you’ll emerge with baby-soft skin.
Hotel Grand Tremezzo, Lake Como, Italy
It’s the family touch that makes the difference at hotels and this lakeside jewel is no exception, where the devil is in the detail and they know what you want even before you do. Eating and drinking is de rigueur but you can restore some balance: stroll through the Italianate gardens and head steeply upwards till you find Bobo the bear. Take a selfie with him, then bring it back and you’ll get your own mini version. There’s also the spa, not just any old spa, but an Espa spa, which boasts an infinity pool, hammam, yoga studio and some of the most effective treatments around. And if you’ve forgotten your togs, the hotel shop is to die for.
Epic Sana, Albufeira, Portugal
A spanking new – and already award-winning – resort of sprawling buildings, all white, modern and pristine. But the spa is the place to hang out. Book a week-long programme (weight-loss, fitness, yoga, mindfulness…) or simply indulge in the long list of treatments that range from bamboo massage to anti-ageing facials. There are excellent free morning and evening classes, too.
Château St Pierre de Serjac, Puissalicon, France
After a €25m revamp, you would expect this magnificent 200-acre château and vineyard in the Languedoc to be good. But it is even better. Re-opened last year by winemaker Laurent Bonfils and hoteliers Karl and Anita O’Hanlon, it’s a picture of grand historic splendour with whimsical turrets and suitably opulent furnishings. There are eight rooms – laidback chic with French grey walls, terracotta tiles and rolling views. But, wherever you lay your head, don’t miss the Mediterranean-inspired spa overlooking the vineyard. With treatments by French botanical skincare brand Cinq Mondes, the stress-busting Moroccan massage must not be missed.
Puente Romano Beach Resort, Marbella, Spain
Within earshot of crashing waves and within view of Marbella’s Golden Mile’s palm trees lies the Six Senses Spa at the heart of this resort located near Puerto Banús. And, wow, what a spa with dizzyingly good treatments such as a vitamin C and papaya enzyme facial and delicious Indian head massage. Post-treatment is fantastic, too – relax into your fluffy robe nibbling on fat medjool dates while sipping ginger and cinnamon tea. Then retreat back to your spacious spa suite by crossing the first century Roman Bridge.
Riad Farnatchi, Marrakech, Morocco
It’s hard to get much better than this ten-suite oasis tucked away in a quiet alleyway, created from five smaller riads. And now award-winning hotelier James Wix has even more to celebrate with a fantastic new spa. Boasting two marble hammams and four treatment rooms, indulge in blissful therapies from British spa brand ila and Moroccan aromatherapy line, Nectarome. Emerge into the tranquil collection of courtyards, adorned with bougainvillea and chill by the tiled pool scattered with rose petals (perfect for quick dips). But it’s at night where the magic really comes alive: dine on traditional fare in the courtyard to the flickering shadows of ornate lanterns accompanied by the soundtrack of the local mosque’s call to prayer.
These luxurious spas can be found right amongst the buzz of city streets, offering the perfect way to relax without going completely off-radar…
Shangri-La, Paris, France
Gleaming and new, yet rich in historical interest, this 81-room five-starrer occupies an hôtel particulier between the Trocadéro and the Palais de Tokyo, the former residence of Roland Bonaparte (grandnephew of the more famous Napoleon). The maniacally expanding Shangri-La group, based in Hong Kong, took on Pierre-Yves Rochon to decorate its first European outpost, mixing chinoiserie and on-brand luxury with empire splendour: here a stylised Chinese cloud pattern, there a listed 1900 staircase with glowing stained glass panels. The wellness centre looks rather more Grecian, its 15-metre swimming pool framed with alabaster-white pillars and deco friezes that reappear in the Carita treatment rooms. The intended USP here is the meeting of French discernment with heartfelt Shangri-La hospitality – it’s arguable that the Parisian side shines through, for better and worse.
The luggage trolleys are festooned with Céline, Chanel and Givenchy bags, and the bar has been designed with a nod to Napoleon’s camp style – militarily speaking. In the bedrooms, many of which come with Eiffel views, the style is plush, classical and well-appointed. On the more frivolous side, your welcome tea will turn up in a tiny, charming, hand-made hamper, and the bar snacks are lacquered in honey and sesame. The spa menu offers six facials and five kinds of body treatment, starting at €90 for 40 minutes of aromatherapy and escalating to €600 for the beauty day package, a leisurely two and a half hours of face and body relaxation, plus a luxury mani-pedi. Guests can choose between hot stones, exfoliating, draining (this sounds better in French), and anti-ageing body therapies, which take place in low-lit, sweet-smelling treatment cabins. The Perfect Gold facial is the top-of-the-range option for mature skins, 100 minutes of expert radiance-restoring, both hands on and via advanced beauty tech. For such a monumental hotel, Shangri-La Paris does have its intimate spaces, starting with the pair of exquisite salons flanking the main entrance. The spa isn’t the most beautiful in Paris, but it’s as sumptuously done as the rest of the hotel: the pool and its planted terrace are awash with natural light, and when the relaxation room and hammam/sauna are added, guests are likely to find it too relaxing to miss. The Révélation de Soie body treatment is a must-do: it’s a gimmick-free session of excellent massage during which silk balm is generously applied, leaving you feeling like a million euros.
Four Seasons on the Boshorus, Istanbul, Turkey
Flanking the Bosphorus with its huge, sprawling terraces and swimming pool, a sundowner at the Four Seasons – once an Ottoman palace – is one of life’s little luxuries (as is booking a room with river views). Looking out over to the ‘Asian’ side of Istanbul, this is truly where East meets West and a weekend in the city is a thrilling joyride of culture, history, eating, drinking – and shopping, the quality of which casts many a western European capital into the shadows. You should, of course, test out the traditional public hammams for a veritable scrub and hose down in front of your fellow tourists (albeit in magical settings), but don’t forgo a visit to the ginormous spa at the Four Seasons, which is where well-to-do local ladies go for their preening and primping. As well as a more modern (and private) take on the hammam, there are Sodashi facials, Vitamin C scrubs and hot stone massages. Perfect pampering pre a night on the Turkish tiles.
Rustled up an appetite after all those treatments? Feast on Kokoreç, a Turkish street food speciality of lamb intestines chopped and cooked in spices. Scrumptious.
Table Bay Hotel Spa, Cape Town, South Africa
Head to this waterfront hotel with its magical setting when you’re dying for some winter sun. After a day’s shopping (and magnificent eating) or a trip to sample wines at Stellenbosch, check in for a spa ritual that Balinese girls experience every day for 40 days in the lead up to their wedding. Starting with an all-over body massage, the treatment is then followed by a rice and tan-enhancing turmeric body scrub, before you are smothered in natural warm yoghurt. You are then left to bathe in a rose-petal bath. The result is butter soft, glowing skin and a zombie-like state of relaxation. Lastly, make sure to indulge in breakfast during your stay: Table Bay must hold the record for the longest breakfast buffet bar in the world – you can tuck in to everything from 30 varieties of fresh fruit to oysters and sushi.
Bulgari Hotel, Knightsbridge, London
There can be no better way to wake up. Having slept like a baby in a bed plump with comforters, pop down to what must be one of London’s biggest, and certainly prettiest, pools – lined with tiny green and gold tiles like a mermaid’s tail. Flop onto one of the huge sleek Bali-esque day beds to nibble on nuts and skim glossy mags. Maybe press a button to order a banana and honey smoothie. Tuck into the delicious healthy spring salad of quinoa, artichoke, asparagus and olives, perfect if you’re trying to keep trim. You could hang out here all day and that’s before you’ve even seen the spa menu packed with Espa’s best and an all-star cast of treatments. The therapists know what they are doing and the spa is open till 9pm. There’s also a Margaret Dabbs foot clinic. The restaurant is smart and polished; the lobby area is ablaze with cosy fires and armchairs, and there is even a help-yourself sweetie bar. The shiny, masculine look continues in the bedrooms with velvet fabrics, chrome fixtures, huge TVs and black bathrooms.
Hotel Café Royal, London
Next time you hurry across Piccadilly Circus, think about the healthful relaxation you could be having in a secret space right under your feet. The Café Royal, now a sleekly modern hotel with a calm, Eastern influence to its décor, has been a centre of London dining and entertaining for over 150 years and has conserved its ornate, gilded, Belle Époque public rooms. But the underground Akasha Spa has a 21st-century sense of luxury and serenity. Based on the four elements, with holistic treatments that link Western innovation with Eastern tradition, its natural materials, warm colours and fresh aromas exude wellbeing. Nine treatment rooms, including one for couples, a gym, fitness and yoga classes, a sauna and hammam and a beautifully lit pool with London’s first Watsu pool for private hydrotherapy sessions make this a place to linger.
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