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Check into these super-charged wellness retreats

Looking for a spa break that goes beyond your average cleanse and massage? From sweat ceremonies in Costa Rica to sub-zero surfing in Iceland, these boundary-breaking wellness escapes offer a restorative journey into the unique, the unconventional and the irresistible

01/03/2021Updated 03/01/2024

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, St Gallen

Just an hour’s drive from Zurich, there’s certainly something in the water at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz – it’s perched on the banks of the Rhine on Switzerland’s eastern border, where the thermal waters from nearby Tamina Gorge have been serving locals since the Middle Ages. There are dedicated Spa Suites to stay in, and many tailored NEWYOU Method® packages to kick off your healthy living goals, while star of the 6,050sqm spa is the hotel’s historic Helena Pool, where the special mineral composition and temperature of the water is said to stimulate metabolism and blood circulation, improve heart function and soothe everything from rheumatism to anxiety. After a stress-relieving soak, head to one of the four bars before dinner for an unboozy cocktail (or something a little stronger if you feel you’ve earned it). Bottoms up…

Take off to Zurich

Kinkára Luxury Retreat, Costa Rica

Nothing is quite as it seems at Kinkára Luxury Retreat, tucked away in the heart of tropical Costa Rica. For a start, you’ll be camping – but at Kinkára, the spacious, white tents surrounded by rainbow eucalyptus trees and a jaw-dropping mandala garden feel more opulent than the swishest hotel room. The treatments are similarly offbeat but brilliant: think calm reflection on the waterfall-facing Meditation Rock and yoga in the garden temple. Try the temazcal-inspired sweat ceremony, led by trained healers around hot volcanic rocks: several hours of restorative song and steam are said to help aid blood flow, clear the skin and give you an emotional reset.

Take off to Costa Rica

Buchinger Wilhelmi, Marbella

Think fasting is based on the maxim no pain, no gain? When it comes to the signature programme at Buchinger Wilhelmi, think again. Built around tried and tested methods developed by founder Dr Otto Buchinger way back in 1920, it combines top-notch medical care with holistic treatments and dawn hikes through the southern Spanish countryside. If you’re feeling stressed out, the range of therapies on offer is truly astounding. Tibetan sound baths (said to help with conditions such as depression and anxiety) coupled with autogenic training – a desensitisation technique developed by German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Shultz – will leave you feeling profoundly relaxed. Best of all, for a fasting experience, you’ll hardly notice the restricted food intake, thanks to the delicately made vegetable soups and freshly pressed juices on offer.

Take off to Malaga

COMO Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos

Those searching for a wellness retreat that also offers tip-top privacy, a perfect beach and sublime food should look to COMO Parrot Cay. An A-list gem of a wellness retreat hidden on a Caribbean island, COMO Parrot Cay combines glittering, top-tier luxury with a mind-blowing restorative experience. Book one of the celebrity owned, butler-equipped Parrot Cay Estates (you’ll be in good company – Keith Richards, Bruce Willis and Christie Brinkley own properties here) for ultimate gloss and head straight to the COMO Shambhala Retreat for a list as long as your arm of Asian-inspired treatments and therapies. Be sure to try the Pranayama breathing classes – shown to improve sleep, enhance brain function and even reduce any niggling cravings – and a session with the ‘intuitive counsellor’ for semi-psychic guidance. You’ll leave sun-kissed and fully blissed out.

Take off to Turks and Caicos

The Ritz-Carlton Tenerife, Abama 

This Moorish-inspired terracotta palace, cascading down a hillside in the quieter southwest of Tenerife, is a wellness destination in a league all of its own on the island. Sure, it has a championship golf course, tennis courts, a sheltered sandy cove reachable via gondola and a series of hidden swimming pools, shaded by leafy plants and trees brimming with chirping chiffchaffs. But your transformation takes place in the spa. Soften your muscles in the rosemary-imbued steam room, Turkish hammam and generous sauna before a ‘wellbeing and resilience’ massage that’s designed to improve respiration. It starts with a clove, eucalyptus and black-pepper muscle balm, aided breathing exercises and reflexology, followed by tapotement (that’s the karate chopping technique) on pressure points around the back of the lungs. It closes with a face and scalp massage using eucalyptus oil that clears out the airways, and an advice sheet on how to continue your new respiratory health regime for the rest of the stay and beyond.

Take off to Tenerife

Deplar Farm, Troll Peninsula, Iceland

Pack your thermals, because the temperatures at top-ranking Deplar Farm in northern Iceland can plummet to -30°C. Luckily, the outdoor pool (also opening image) is heated geothermically, so you’ll be guaranteed a toasty dip (and maybe even a cocktail from the swim-up bar) amid the ice. The Eleven Life at Deplar Farm wellness programme is packed full of bracing benefits. Prepare for the great outdoors with one of the signature facials, designed to support skin in extreme weather using Icelandic, plant-based products, then get your heart rate up with cross-country skiing and sea kayaking. Afterwards, test yourself in the outdoor Viking Sauna, which contrasts intense heat and ice-cold plunges to challenge you physically and mentally, while getting the blood pumping in your brain to reduce inflammation. Don’t miss a break in the seriously relaxing flotation tank and – if you’re lucky – catch the most wonderful show on earth come nightfall, courtesy of the northern lights.

Take off to Iceland

Kamalaya, Koh Samui

If you’re hoping for 40 truly restful winks, then look no further than Kamalaya, with its pristine, cobalt beach views to one side and verdant, unfettered rainforest on the other. If lazy days spent beachside in a hammock aren’t enough to send you into a deep slumber, the Sleep Enhancement Wellness Programme will do the trick. Combine traditional Chinese medicine, massages and herbal remedies with a few visits to the steam caverns, proven to aid circulation and breathing, for a peaceful night’s rest. If you fancy working remotely while getting all the benefits of a high-level spa (and, let’s face it, who wouldn’t?) book the Wellbeing Sabbatical, which lasts for at least 21 days. Including a personal consultation, weekly mentoring sessions and a plan tailored just for you, it’s an immersive experience that’ll properly bust burnout.

Take off to Koh Samui

Palmaïa, The House of AïA, Mexico

When Palmaïa says it’s all-inclusive, that doesn’t just mean unlimited access to (mainly) plant-based food and libations prepared by world-class chefs. No, this luscious beach enclave in Yucatán’s Playa Del Carmen also takes an all-inclusive approach to its guests, aiming to unlock their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual ‘interior doors’, ensuring that the soul is pampered with the same generosity as the body. In short, wellness is everything here. In-house healers will guide your through a timetable of activity that’s more barefoot bliss than bootcamp. Think yoga, sound healing, soul readings, ancient Cacao ceremonies, Mayan fire rituals, art classes, meditation and immersive experiences under breathtaking canopies on the white sand beach and in the tropical jungle. And, when you’re not on your path to cosseted self-enlightenment, you can swim in four infinity pools, submerge yourself in a natural cenote or simply float in the clear, warm sea.

Take off to Cancun