When I first started reviewing spas way back when, they fell into two main camps. The ‘destination spas’, big old institutions dedicated to your wellbeing, run by owners who were as brilliant and progressive as they were eccentric and well-meaning. They were frequented by very old rich people whiling away their twilight years doing grapevines on loop in shouty group fitness classes (it was all right for them, they were half deaf) or by supermodels there to detox before a big campaign in between nipping out to sunbathe and puff away in the smokers’ garden (was that part of the appetite suppressant therapy?). Even the really ‘glamorous’ ones were to be endured. Going home was the highlight.
And then there were the hotel spas, grotty little establishments at the back of beyond, down a forgotten corridor that, towards the end, would have a light flickering on and off for added impending doom. The treatments? Glorified high-street beauty salons at best – except a lot more expensive and lot less fun.
Cut to now, and holidays with health at their heart are becoming the trendiest break to book. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism grew from a $563 billion market in 2015 to $639 billion in 2017 – more than twice as fast as tourism overall. And by 2022 it will be approaching a $1 trillion market. So the spa industry has had to upgrade in keeping with the wants and needs of its guests.
Today’s best destination spas are post-modern marvels, like smart, gleaming hospitals with fabulous interior design. Some are super-clinical and state-of-the-art, almost space age, others more down to earth, homely and hotel-y. The new-gen hotel spa, on the other hand, is a gleaming temple to self-worship and self-care, staffed by mindful spiritual teachers and body workers who bring a lifetime of learning, wisdom and time-honoured tools to preserve mind, body and soul.
Either way, the really, really good spas have more wellness acumen and world-class medical experts than a first-world teaching hospital. If you do as you’re told, they may save your life, but will certainly prolong and enrich it. I have curated a list of contenders in the detox/weight loss and medical spa categories below, many of which are located in Northern Europe like Germany and Austria where detox and the annual ‘cure’ is part of the culture. Generally speaking, the more ‘spiritual’ countries like India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali and Vietnam are still the home of yoga, meditation and the more mindful aspects of wellness and you’ll find them in the yoga and meditation categories.
Unlike many conventional hospitals and a tragically crumbling NHS, today’s top spas are a little like health fortune tellers. If you get there before things have started to ‘go’ too much, they will look at your entire being, analysing not just body, but also mind and emotions, the root of so many ills. We are all living longer, but it’s now about health-span – and the smart money is on spa programmes promoting longevity via prevention, diagnosis and early detection. It’s about self-preservation to try to combat our modern, sedentary and anxiety-filled lives and stem the rising numbers of people with type 2 diabetes, dementia, depression, cancer, obesity and stress caused by modern, sedentary and anxiety-filled lives.
The health holiday uses time off to embark on a healthier diet, do some exercise and see a doctor who really knows what he or she is talking about, has more than 10 minutes and is clearly, personally into wellness her or himself. Let’s call it health rather than wealth management: invest well and you’ll get the best ROI going.
My advice is that any spa needs to be matched to you with absolute precision. Do your homework: ask to book a call with the spa director or lead wellness director, or book through a specialist tour operator who can call on their clients’ numerous case studies – healingholidays.co.uk is the leading expert and go-to for medical spa and serious wellness breaks; www.compareretreats.com book a large number of couple spa trips, while wellbeingescapes.com are a good choice for the more alternative, independent properties.
Note: Prices correct Jan 8 2018 to give you a gauge.
Detox & Weight Loss
BollAnts Spa, Germany
Prepare to get naked in public at this family-run holistic health resort in the forested Jugendstil park. Their famous Felke Med therapy combines fasting and daily mud baths or wraps in the local purifying mineral-rich mud. The great outdoors informs everything, from private jetties and segregated nude bathing in the wildlife garden to a yoga terrace on the river, plus meditation and forest walks. Acupuncture and the superb hybrid Nian massage continues natural detoxing. Naked bodies doing aquagym quickly become the norm.
Rooms from £117 (00 49 6751 9339; bollants.de)
FX Mayr, Austria
Targeted fasting and conscious abstinence happen here via a highly personalised programme, the FX Cure, devised with physicians and therapists to bring together nutrition, movement and treatments. This means small portions, giving gut a rest, simply prepared food such as buckwheat rolls, sheep’s milk yogurt, creamy soups and mindful, even silent, stress-free eating – as they say, optimal digestion begins in the mouth. The centre itself is far from spartan: rooms feature blond wood, big windows and lake views.
Rooms from £158 (00 43 4273 25110; original-mayr.com)
This Devon retreat beautifully balances activity with varied plant-based food and superb holistic treatments. Cosy eco cottages with wood burners may suggest holing-up, but the five-day Yeotox is a compulsory back-to-back itinerary of coastline hiking, outdoor circuits, archery, sea kayaking, wild swimming and surfing. Yet the emphasis is firmly on the positive – taking control of your physical and mental health. Action is counterbalanced by mindful Vinyasa flow yoga with super-yogi and Yeotown founder Mercedes Sieff, yoga nidra, meditation, massage and Epsom salt baths.
Four-nights from £1,950 (01271 343803; yeotown.com)
La Reserve, France
St Tropez va va voom backed by Swiss science, Nordic walking (with optional sea bathing) along the stunning Cote d’Azur coastline and a superbly light personalised Better-Ageing Mediterranean menu adds up to highly effective programmes based on the medical expertise of the Nescens brand and the Center for the Prevention of Aging in Switzerland. Daily two-hour guided walks (with an extra hour and personal training on the five-day programme) are integrated with beautiful bespoke spa treatments, including Better-Aging body massage.
Rooms from £769 (00 33 49444 9444; lareserve-ramatuelle.com)
Ayurveda Parkschlösschen, Germany
India meets the Alps in this value-packed gem of a hideaway. Sonnhof’s European Ayurveda adapts the principles of Indian healing to Western tastes with intensive detoxification and rejuvenation. Calm efficiency combines with bells and smells, including daily yoga and meditation and delicious vegetarian food. Specialist Gaurav Sharma uses pulse diagnosis to identify your dosha (body constitution) before prescribing suitable treatments: bask in the heavenly Mukha Abhyanga massage that targets insomnia and anxiety, sweat out toxins in the bio herbal-clay sauna and enjoy a Padabhyanga foot massage before bedtime meditation.
Rooms from £193 (00 49 6541 7050; ayurveda-parkschloesschen.de)
Rancho La Puerta, USA
Set up 77 years ago by founder Deborah Szekely (now 96 and still working at the ranch and lecturing weekly), the ranch is spread over 4,000 acres of sun-scorched wilderness. The range of fitness activities and group classes here is vast and there’s literally something for everyone (from salsa to Pilates and more obscure activities like pickleball – a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis) However it’s the hikes you should come for: three-, five- or seven-milers that take you up sheer, sun-bleached mountain paths, or through scrubby flatlands at the base of Mount Kuchumaa. Book one of the new larger villas, which come with a gym, in-room spa treatments and your own personal butler.
Seven nights from £3,075 (001 800 443 7565; rancholapuerta.com)
Viva Mayr Altaussee, Austria
The top Alpine medics here follow the renowned detox programme that FX Mayr developed nearly 100 years ago, believing all ailments stem from a dysfunctional intestine. Swallowing healing and cleansing local Glauber salts and magnesium citrate encourage good gut activity (golden rule: don’t venture far from a loo) and address sluggish liver, high cholesterol and stress eating. As they say “Weight loss isn’t our aim, it just happens.” But there’s a softer side – aerial yoga, lake hikes, mountain climbs and soul-soothing views.
Rooms from £162 (00 43 3622 71450; vivamayr.com)
Buchinger Wilhelmi, Germany
With intermittent fasting now advocated by many gut specialists for biome brilliance, this monastic clinic on Lake Constance is where founder Dr Otto Buchinger devised his fasting method a century ago to cure his rheumatoid arthritis (physios and osteopaths are on hand to tackle niggles such as back pain). Vegetable broths, juices, herbal teas and laxatives are the only things to pass your lips, progressing to more solid food from 7-10 days. Take your mind off comfort food with yoga, hiking, meditation and music: you’ll feel slimmer and more energised on departure.
Rooms from £381 (00 49 7551 8070; buchinger-wilhelmi.com)
Bawah Reserve, Indonesia
A castaway archipelago marine conservation area where you can kayak over coral, snorkel in a turquoise lagoon or explore the rainforest in search of a 2,000-year-old tree – such island adventures even come with complimentary daily yoga, coconut scrubs and toksin massages. Visit the huge bamboo, conch shell-shaped Aura spa, where rose-scented facials mingle with Garden of Deep Calm massage and snooze-inducing foot mapping. Feast on barbecued seafood, vegetarian nasi-goreng and soba noodles.
Rooms from £1,577 (00 65 9678 8639; bawahreserve.com)
Alpine nature is the star here, with sumptuous steam baths, panoramic saunas, hot tubs and 35°C outdoor infinity pool as well as an Alpine eco pool with variable temperature; ideally, follow a dip with a treatment using wonderful Susanne Kaufmann products, inspired by Alpine nature. Medical consultations precede cryotherapy, biotherapy, fasted training and Bürgenstock Colour Cuisine to create your nutritional profile. Stay at the Bürgenstock – a modern symphony of stone and walnut with lake views from the luxe double bathtub – or wooden chalet Taverne 1879.
Rooms from £201 (00 41 4161 26000; buergenstock.ch)
Babylonstoren, South Africa
The eight-acre garden at one of the Cape’s most beautifully preserved Dutch farms is surrounded by Franschhoek’s mountains, with neat rows of vegetables, orchards and butterflies, as well as donkeys and roaming tortoises. The newly extended Garden Spa, with lap pool and jacuzzi, is set among sunlight-dappled greenery and full of herbs, freshly picked from the garden. Enjoy the Water Ritual in the hammam, body wraps, bespoke facials use local organic products and Dr Hauschka and wonderful massages, some using bamboo rollers to smooth away tension.
Rooms from £267 (00 27 02130 03908; babylonstoren.com)
Capella Ubud, Indonesia
Bali’s most fanciful new destination has to be a Dutch-style tented camp set in an emerald rainforest above the sacred Wos river, backed by shimmering rice paddies. There may be dimpled teak floors, ultra-comfortable beds and hotel-standard bathrooms, but nature is up close and personal: the magical dawn chorus of tropical Balinese birds as the sun creeps across the forest floor is hugely healing. The jungle is interwoven into The Cistern outdoor rainforest pool, spiritual and sound healing, while gung-ho guests can take part in jungle bootcamps, mountain bike tours and paddy field workouts.
Rooms from £668 (00 62 36120 91888; capellahotels.com)
Chablé Resort & Spa, Mexico
This nature-centric spa in a tangle of jungle in the Yutacan is magical and mystical: huge, twisted trees, fireflies, iguanas and massive Lilliputian leaves. Centred around a natural, spring-fed cenote or freshwater pool, believed by the Mayans to access the underworld, Chablé oozes spirituality; a temazcal ceremony promises to shake off any bad karma. Even during treatments, nature is just beyond the glass-fronted windows and guests can make their own herbal compresses from seedpods and camomile. Oh, and Chablé houses Mexico’s largest private tequila collection, the other way to reach nirvana.
Rooms from £775 (00 52 55 4161 4262; chableresort.com)
San Luis, Italy
Soaring Tyrol mountains may seem nature hit enough, but why not take things to a new level by staying in a luxury treehouse with private sauna or lakeside chalet with private hot tub. The Italian mountains, dense pine forests and lake provide instant serenity, with more conscious immersions in nature via forest therapy: primordial barefoot walking, lake swimming, hikes. Inside the wooden spa, open fires and black slate bring a stunning aesthetic. Gertraud Gruber products are out of this world too, as is a treatment with resident physiotherapist, Francesco Caputo.
Three nights from £810 (00 39 04732 79570; sanluis-hotel.com)
Nihi Sumba, Indonesia
Adventurous types will relish the 90-minute hike through the jungle to the resort’s off-grid spa, perched on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. Half-day or full-day spa packages offer unlimited treatments spanning blissful hair smoothies and Lulur body exfoliation to facials using coconut oil, mint leaf and green tea picked from the island. Treatment rooms are open-sided and surrounded by towering palm trees. The private beach cove is a blissful spot to relax.
Rooms from £602 (00 62 361757149; nihi.com)
Rudding Park, North Yorkshire
Here, in this hotel near Harrogate, a town long renowned for its spa heritage, natural waters are drawn from within the grounds then filtered and piped throughout. Thermal waters are used liberally: in the indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pools, steam room with hammam-style mosaic dome and as part of the daily Aufguss sauna ritual in which water poured onto hot stones is enriched with essential oils. It’s one of the hottest trends in the wellness world and Rudding Park is one of only a handful of British saunas doing the practice properly. It’s surprisingly uplifting and quite the spectacle: the saunameister enters the hot box and waves a towel (often red, matador-style), wafting the oil-infused air. Afterwards, there’s a rooftop spa and garden with sundeck to visit, plus classy cuisine at the Horto restaurant
Rooms from £203 (01423 844822; ruddingpark.co.uk)
Doctors in the House
Overseen by Dr Isaac Mathai, described by Deepak Chopra as ‘one of the most brilliant holistic doctors in our world today’, Soukya is rated as the best holistic health centre in India (perhaps why The Duchess of Cornwall has stayed here). The centre treats people from over 90 countries using natural healthcare systems like Ayurveda, naturopathy (both excellent for detox and slowing accelerated ageing) and homeopathy, plus over 30 treatment therapies. There’s also an emphasis on helping women to achieve balance between career, family and health.
Rooms from £155 (00 91 80280 17000; soukya.com)
Clinique La Prairie, Switzerland
Since 1931, CLP has been a pioneering (and eye-wateringly expensive) five-star medical retreat, combining innovative cell therapy with holistic wellness and Swiss hospitality. The reputation of the medical team is second to none, with 50 doctors and two operating theatres, as well as detailed medical testing followed by advice on ridding the body of toxins. Views of the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva make this an ideal spot for recuperation; aerial yoga, Pilates and power walking are just some of the activities on offer. A stay here is worth it for those who can afford it.
Two nights from £3,264 (00 41 2198 93311; laprairie.ch)
Lanserhof Tegernsee, Germany
Guests flock to Alpine-pretty Lake Tegern for the unique LANS Med Concept: a gigantic state-of-the-art health clinic for serious reboot and recharge. Based on the Mayr Cure, combining intestinal cleansing with rest (tea-and-water), detoxification (no sugar, alcohol and raw food) and training (chewing thoroughly), individualised meal plans optimise digestive function; there are also programmes for weight loss, detox and holistic health, mental training, movement therapy, preventative capsule endoscopy (a pill camera records your intestinal health) and comprehensive gene and DNA testing.
Seven nights from £1,552 (00 49 8022 18800; lanserhof.com)
Eco-friendly Lefay has a focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine and its leading medical experts and therapists include one of Italy’s sharpest acupuncturists, Dr Carlo Barbieri and nutrition expert Dr Jader. Put yourself in the hands of wonderful senior therapist Teddy for an energy-balancing tu’ina massage or moxibustion (hot ash applied to meridians). Activities include yoga, lakeside energy work via qi jong and t’ai chi or healing walks in the energy gardens, from highly charged summer red phoenix to the calmer autumn white tiger.
Rooms from £262 (00 39 03652 41800; lefayresorts.com)
Sha Wellness Clinic, Spain
Looking like a giant intergalactic ship that has landed in some sleepy Spanish suburb, SHA offers a wide range of programmes and specialists. But a stand-out is their Mind & Body unit overseen by leading neuropsychologist and clinical psychologist Professor Ribeiro do Couto. A gamut of gadgets helps manage a super-stressed mind (Vladimir Putin is reputed to have visited) by way of intensive onscreen tests including brain photobiomodulation to increase oxygenation, attention span, recollection and reaction time via sensors attached to the head.
Rooms from £281 (00 34 966811199; shawellnessclinic.com)
Villa Stephanie, Germany
Super-personalised programmes are at the heart of this grand former royal residence in Baden-Baden. Dashing doctor Dr Harry König is passionate about integrative medicine – encompassing the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient and focusing on the whole person. Then, informed by evidence, healthcare professionals and disciplines aim to achieve optimal health. Hence the hotshot medical team here for a head-to-toe MOT, supreme detoxing and diligent diagnostics including everything from naturopathy for gynae issues, pioneering organ cell therapy, aesthetic skin rejuvenation and weight-loss programmes with body and metabolism analysis.
Rooms from £452 (00 49 72219 00602; oetkercollection.com)
Park Hotel Igls, Austria
Circled by the Tyrolean Alps, Igls is a serious detox and medical clinic. Like many in these parts, it follows the Mayr principle of gut health, good nutrition and exercise with cutting-edge medical testing, alternative procedures and internationally renowned experts from Innsbruck’s university hospital to focus on preventative medicine. They also incorporate locally grown, organic ingredients in their kitchen, gentle exercise in the surrounding countryside and personalised treatments such as daily hydrotherapy Kneipp treatments followed by hot abdominal wrap or liver compresses.
Rooms from £133 (00 43 5123 77241; sporthotel-igls.com)
Six Senses Kaplankaya, Turkey
Overlooking five beaches, Six Senses Kaplankaya is a fitness freak’s dream: vast state-of-the-art gym, yoga studio, socking great squash, tennis and basketball courts. They offer Bod Pod body density calculations (also used by NASA), while director of exercise physiology, Erkan Günes, offers an evaluation worthy of a professional athlete, with bespoke workout plan. Soothe aching limbs in the Watsu pool, salt grotto or igloo experience and rest a busy mind in the meditation walk lined with chakra crystals.
Rooms from £345 (00 90 25251 10030; sixsenses.com)
Canyon Ranch, USA
Strenuous exercise in the Arizona desert may sound crazy, but this life-changing resort provides world-class facilities and top wellness experts offering weight loss and stress management to spirituality and kick-ass fitness. The exercise programme is extensive: as well as metabolic exercise assessments and trainers to push you beyond your limits, you can crunch those abs, hike, bike, swim, work out in the cardio training room, go horse-riding, learn survival skills, enjoy high ropes or try an underwater treadmill. That ‘can-do’ American vibe has never come in more handy.
Rooms from £868 (00 1 800 742 9000; canyonranch.com)
Fitness indoor and out is on tap at Preidlhof. As well as the South Tyrol’s finest mountain hikes, vineyard trails and a complimentary Vespa to explore the area, there are punishing back-to-back indoor workouts: HIIT circuits, abs sessions, TRX, ropes, agility ladder. For recovery, the spa tower has 16 steam, sauna and relaxation options with eucalyptus-scented and salt-infused heat rooms, as well as a rooftop pool. Exercise, then indulge in the Gault Millau-starred restaurant (you can’t miss out on that wonderful local lamb, herbs, cured meats and cheeses).
Rooms from £143 (00 39 04736 66251; preidlhof.it)
This eco-conscious, family-friendly destination is a sporty spa dream, offering holistic personal training, water bath, sports massage, shiatsu, tennis, football, swimming academies and a championship golf course. The centrepiece stone-and-glass spa has four thalassotherapy pools and a hammam. Enjoy watersports in the pool (one of Europe’s largest). Even the food puts fitness first, with smoothies and energising cuisine.
Rooms from £216 (00 39 06328 88630; roccofortehotels.com)
Turquoise sea, tropical forest and pink granite boulders form a backdrop to the stunning Amanoi, where 36 villas with pool decks attract birds and butterflies to your door. Exercise sessions take place around a magnificent lotus pool, with t’ai chi in the open pavilion. Spa facilities include a Russian banya or hammam. Once you’ve recharged those batteries, a sunrise hike via a cactus and wild flower-lined trail to Goga Peak, teeming with wildlife, is an unforgettable way to immerse yourself in nature.
Rooms from £972 (00 84 25937 70777; aman.com)
Cugo Gran, Menorca
A unique retreat at this country house surrounded by vineyards and sweeping sea views will kick-start deep internal changes that sow the seeds of long-term wellness and contentment. Wellness experts have combined many mindful movement experiences including Pilates, yoga, barre, HIIT, cardio, stretch classes, gentle meditation, massage and nutritionally sound menus. The four-day programme is shaped by Silver Linings founder Chrissy Sundt, pilates, yoga and butt lifting barre instructor and ex ballet dancer who trained at the Royal Ballet School.
Rooms from £271 (00 34 6734 62309; cugogranmenorca.com)
Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia
It’s difficult to remain stressed around Bali’s magical energy. You can go back to source with a psychic reading from the flame-haired Love Guru, then massage in a tropical flower-shaded bale between by a waterfall, or the Anata Heart Chakra Opening ceremony of a rose and tuberose bath with warm rose oil poured across your chest. Tour the garden’s 300 shrines and visit Goa Gong cave temple for an uplifting water purification ceremony with a Balinese healer.
Rooms from £553 (00 62 3617 01010; fourseasons.com)
Euphoria Retreat, Greece
Ex-banker Marina Efraimoglou retrained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has now opened an architecturally stunning wellness retreat in the Peloponnese, fusing East and West TCM, theta healing with meditation and biomedicine among more ‘out there’ programmes. Molecular nutritionist George Leon offers his innovative 3GL Eucrasia test, looking at the influence of lifestyle on individual gene expression. (Purists will need willpower to swerve the chocolate pot desserts on the non spa-goers’ menu!) But as Marina says, the aim, ultimately, is to become your own healer.
Three nights from £592 (00 30 27313 06111; euphoriaretreat.com)
This destination spa has quickly established itself as a genuine world leader in mindfulness, attracting extraordinary experts. Set in the Himalayan foothills, its soothing wellness architecture – curved walls, floor-to-ceiling windows with forest views and decluttered vibe – is therapy in itself. The meditation programme does the rest…and all of this at a price that isn’t extortionate. In addition to abhyanga massage and shirodhara, you’ll be chanting and staring into candle flames during trataka or trying Tibetan meditation in an attempt to tame that monkey mind.
Five nights from £1,655 (00 91 13539 11114; vana.co.in)
With a spa built around an ancient meditation cave and stress-management mentors who are former monks, Kamalaya offers a physical, spiritual and mental revolution as therapists, gurus, yogis and life coaches reset daily habits through breathing techniques, meditation, exercise and inspiring lectures. The popular Embracing Change programme restores balance in cases of grief, relationship issues and anxiety. And it’s Thailand, so soul-stirring massages, dream spa-food from antioxidant-rich green power juices to spicy green mango and prawn salad also create a super-natural high.
Rooms from £228 (00 66 0774 29800; kamalaya.com)
Asaya in Phuket is where to find Steve, who sounds like a character out of a film – a straight-talking Glaswegian Ayurvedic doctor who has worked with Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle and a host of A-list celebs. He says, “We don’t do detoxes here. The body knows how to detox itself – that’s what your liver’s for.” The aim instead is mindfulness around how, when and why we eat, drink, smoke or gobble up social media. Life coaching, Emotional Freedom Technique, kinesiology, yoga and Pilates combine with plant-based menus and wonderful aromatherapy massages using ingredients from the garden.
Sen Wellness Sanctuary, Sri Lanka
Regarded as one of the world’s best yoga retreats, there’s a huge yoga shala overlooking lush treetops that can hold up to 30 people – or take a class by ozone-laden waves on the beach. Visiting yogis of the highest calibre offer a wide programme to release, detoxify and relax. Alignment is key so there’s also highly personalised treatments from world-class osteopaths, alongside Ayurveda specialists. Acupuncture resets the body’s meridians, while elemental base energies – doshas – inform your personalised Ayurvedic programme.
Rooms from £210 (020 7486 3373; senwellnesssanctuary.com)
India is, of course, the ancestral home of yoga and Ananda takes the practice very seriously, bringing every aspect of mind, body and soul into alignment. The comprehensive holistic five-, seven- and 14-night programmes cleanse and detox through asana (posture) and pranayama (breathing), while achieving physiological, psychological or spiritual goals. They’ve just introduced new yoga retreats, for groups up to 15 people: daily morning yoga, afternoon meditation, talks, Ayurvedic therapy, spiritual ‘kirtan’ sessions and healthy wholesome menus.
Three nights from £1,770 (00 91 12445 16650; anandaspa.com)
COMO Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos
Yoga is intrinsic to this wonderful resort set on its own private island with a mile-long beach. Choose from complimentary daily classes and private instruction with a top-notch yoga instructor, plus five-day yoga retreats, some of the world’s most respected yoga stars like Elena Brower. There’s also pilates, t’ai chi, meditation beach workouts and a low-level spa overlooking the North Caicos Channel and the island’s wetlands. In-house experts give talks and transformational one-to-one.
Rooms from £955 (001 64994 67788; comohotels.com)
Es Saadi, Morocco
New yoga retreats with Yin Yoga expert Camille Satya from Paris are an antidote to fast living, holding poses longer for better focus, sleep and digestion. Retreats include two daily yoga sessions, hammam treatments (maybe trade these: there are far better in this hammam-happy city), detox juices and infusions, alongside ‘slow food’. The new uber-tech hair analysis from Phyto Paris is brilliant – like yoga as it checks out hair and scalp health, flexibility and strength, while the rose and argan oil facial is sublimely pampering, using gorgeous La Sultane de Saba products.
Rooms from £270 (00 212 5243 37400; essaadi.com
Grotta Giusti, Italy
The only hotel in the world with an underground thermal cave and hot spring lake, the 19th-century Tuscan villa’s new two-night spa package includes floating therapy in the grotto’s natural steam room – a deeply relaxing way to relieve pain and combat stress – or scuba-diving in the underground lake. But a unique draw is thermal yoga: asanas practised in this naturally warm, mystical underground labyrinth amplify sensations and raise body temperature, allowing guests to benefit from the cave’s thermal vapours.
Rooms from £130 (00 39 0572 90771; grottagiustispa.com)
Santani, Sri Lanka
Reconnect and slow down at newish kid on the block Santani, already picking up awards as one of the best natural hideaways in Sri Lanka. Retreats specialise in yoga, detox, anti-ageing and weight loss, with mountain-biking, trekking and kayaking to take in the area’s beauty. The vibe is eminently harmonious; accommodation is simple and rustic-style. The seven-night yoga retreat is brilliant for newbies as it’s an accessible all-rounder combining two daily yoga and meditation sessions, three spa treatments, diet plan, nutrition workshops and cooking classes.
Rooms from £574 (00 94 1125 59755; santani.lk)
Grayshott Hall, Surrey
The 7-day health programme at this classic country house – a diet of healthy fats, moderate protein and gentle fibre, along fermented food and probiotics – focuses on restoring good gut function by addressing liver health, gut bacteria, sleep and stress management. This hugely benefits women during peri- and menopause as good gut bacteria eliminate excess hormones, especially oestrogen – the cause of hot flushes, night sweats, abdominal fat, disrupted sleep, breast tenderness and even anxiety. Take walking shoes, as you’ll want to make the most of the glorious, peaceful 47 acres of gardens and grounds, and book a cosy Manor House room in the charming old original part of the building.
Rooms from £320 (01428 602020; grayshottspa.com)
Palácio Estoril, Portugal
Head of the Estoril clinical team is ‘hormone king’ Dr Manuel Pinto Coelho, whose new Anti-Ageing Programme has politicians, actors, celebrities and countless women of a certain age jetting in to cure hot sweats and flagging libidos via high-tech medical diagnostic tests (including biofeedback and blood tests). Nutritional advice and alternative treatments address tiredness, stress, lack of libido and incontinence – the latter via a mix of massage, physio and weights to strengthen down-there from the inside out. They’re thorough.
Rooms from £120 (00 351 2146 48000; palacioestorilhotel.com)
Palace Merano, Italy
Don’t be fooled by the grandeur: Palace Merano is one of the world’s most high-tech spas, Espace Henri Chenot, the mastermind of 75-year-old Henri Chenot. When taking part in the detox programme, many also seek help with the menopause: hormones are fully analysed, along with hemato-chemical tests and the blood’s fatty acid profile. Advice is given on supplements and hormonal imbalance, as well as increasing physical exercise, reducing meat and alcohol intake, with hydrotherapy and cupping for drainage and detox.
Five nights from £1,623 (00 39 04732 71000; palace.it)
Grand Resort, Switzerland
Still the ultimate in world-class health resorts, Bad Ragaz celebrates its 150th anniversary this year with the opening of the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre, offering top-notch sports physiology. Yet the healing thermal waters from the mountains in the Tamina Valley are still one of the main draws, piped directly into Bad Ragaz. The spa makes full use of them with public-access thermal baths from 17-39°C: you can even swim from the inside out to be greeted by stunning, life-affirming mountain views.
Rooms from £458 (00 41 0 8130 33030; resortragaz.ch)
Les Prés d’Eugénie, France
The thermal springs at Eugénie-les-Bains have long attracted those in search of healing. But these days purist pilgrims are just as likely to head to Les Prés d’Eugénie for its many baths and showers such as the diluvial hydromassing thermal shower which involves being showered by multiple jets of thermal water. Or how about a thermal Turkish bath, hot springs bath activated with herbs, or citrus milk lustral bath with essential lemon, grapefruit and orange peel oils. Clean and most definitely serene.
Rooms from £243 (00 33 05580 50607; lespresdeugenie.com)
The Retreat Hotel, Iceland
The new ultra-luxe Blue Lagoon Resort features a super-slick subterranean spa, geothermal lagoon, hotel and restaurant. But the lagoon’s unique geothermal seawater is the real star, originating in volcanic aquifers 2000 metres deep and circulating through layers of lava to cleanse, heal and rejuvenate. In-water treatments include massage and slathering your body with potent silica, algae, and minerals for the ultimate in exfoliation and revitalisation, or donning a float suit to enter a womb-like state in the lagoon’s warmth.
Rooms from £1,029 (00 354 420 8800; bluelagoon.com)
Gainsborough Bath Spa, Bath
With its Roman-style pillars, this spa offers a contemporary take on an age-old tradition. A spa circuit includes dipping in three natural thermal pools of varying temperatures, saunas, steam room, thermal water fountain and ice alcove. Spa Village Bath integrates the thermal waters with personalised aromatherapy, award-winning Asian therapies and in-bathroom access to the thermal waters. Even yoga gets in on the aquatic act with Aquasana – suspended stretching enhanced with t’ai chi and karate to improve balance, mobility and flexibility.
Rooms from £285 (01225 358888; thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk)
Borgo Egnazia, Italy
This retreat at Vair Spa, a hushed, 2000sq metre, candlelit spa with female therapists in floor-length nude-coloured gowns, is said to enable women to express their emotions and feel empowered. At the heart of it all is an ancient purifying Apulian dance, the Tarante. According to folklore, a tarantula bite sent a local woman half-mad and the villagers danced and sang with her and cured her. Hence it is believed that dancing can be a cure-all, particularly for anxiety and depression. Today’s retreat centres around this traditional rhythmic dance, Mediterranean diet and personalised treatments with shared villas for emotional bonding. For potential bravehearts.
Four nights from £225 (00 39 08022 55850; borgoegnazia.com)
Ocean Soul, Indonesia
Like-minded women come together for collective empowerment and to encourage a more balanced life at this nurturing retreat. On the yoga retreat, guests rise with the sun for yoga followed by breakfast and surfing before massages and more chilled-out yoga sessions before dinner. Pilates happens in an open-sided sala; would-be surfers catch the waves, while sybarites sink into Bali bliss with positive change therapy, reflexology and Balinese healing. There are gourmet meals, constantly flowing coconut water and coffee at this chilled-out yet challenging female experience
Rooms from £516 (00 61 4072 15854; oceansoulretreat.com) Book through www.compareretreats.com
Kurhotel Skodsborg, Denmark
Denmark’s oldest wellness hotel, a sanatorium-turned-spa, offers an ultra-cosy interior of reindeer-skin throws, log fires and candles, a corking spa with great therapists (book a Bioeffect facial) and prolonged sessions in the sauna followed immediately with dips in the bone-chilling Baltic. Steely Vikings with hearts of gold will transform you, including ex-pro handball player and alpha female Rikke Hoerlykke who leads a fantastic female empowerment retreat (and what a role model she is, toning your mental attitude as much as your butt!). The two of you will match your personal goals with a tailor-made workout to take home.
Rooms from £167 (00 45 4558 5800; skodsborg.dk)