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Wellness treatments that can’t be missed in 2021

As we start thinking about life after the pandemic, spas are throwing open their doors with a new sense of purpose. Gone are gimmicks. With good health and robust mental wellbeing more valued than ever before, their focus is on delivering the therapies they know truly work. That means slimmed-down menus of meaningful, tried-and-trusted treatments that have visible, palpable results, genuinely boost wellbeing and thereby strengthen our immunity. Wellness expert Adriaane Pielou looks at this year’s most beneficial therapies


What: Guerlain facial
Where: Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives

After staring slack-jawed at screens for a year, many of us might be shocked at our sagging faces – and, short of surgery, only massage can help restore our former contours and sense of self. New gadgets can help – NuFace, Aduro – but nowhere as quickly or effectively as a well-trained facialist with an intuitive touch who can gently pinch and press, rhythmically working away on fascia, muscles and the lymphatic system to help skin become firmer again. Ideally, you’d have their ministrations on a daily basis or learn the technique yourself. But you could kickstart this new-you regime in immense style at the Guerlain spa in LVMH-owned Maldives resort, Cheval Blanc. Guerlain facialists are some of the best in the world, impeccably trained and with first-class products at their fingertips. And you couldn’t hope for a more sublime spot than the spa, set on its own tiny island. A dhoni takes you across and, presumably, back again. But, after a two-and-a-half-hour Orchidée Impériale Prestige facial in a fragrant, immaculate villa by the lapping ocean, you might be too blissed out to notice.

Take off to the Maldives

What: full-body MOT
Where: Bürgenstock Resort, Switzerland

Lockdown has affected everyone differently. Some have been run ragged with family duties, others bored rigid. What’s certain is that there are few people now who wouldn’t benefit from a top-to-toe MOT. Fortunately, the Bürgenstock Resort’s Waldhotel clinic and medi-spa is running a seven-day Post-Covid Bounce Back Programme, with ultrasound, blood and lab tests, vitamin infusions and full-body examination. Though you can also stay at the clinic, it might be more fun to base yourself at the spectacular Bürgenstock hotel itself, which was once home to Audrey Hepburn. Situated high above Lake Lucerne, here glass-walled rooms of slate, wood and stone with open fires look down on to the well of water. And, as a final treatment, not much beats a sauna and swim session in its Alpine Spa. After 20 minutes in a sauna, sliding into an icy plunge pool for a minute or two, then – skin still tingling – swimming out into the outdoor infinity pool (an architectural marvel cantilevered over the mountainside) should leave you feeling on top of the world. Even the journey from Zurich or Geneva is exhilarating: a seamlessly Swiss-efficient trip by train, shuttle-boat, then old-world mountain funicular.

Take off to Geneva

What: night-time massage
Where: Amanpuri, Phuket, Thailand

Uninterrupted sleep has eluded many of us this last year, and it’s a key component to a happy, healthy body. A tropical holiday can help provide a reset: waking up to birdsong, having a meditative tea in the open air, then going for an early-morning run on the beach. After a year of lockdown, that’s a soul-nourishingly way to start a new day in our new life. Increasingly, retreat-like resorts are finding we want to end the day in a quiet, healthy way, too – not with a long dinner but in nature, exercising, meditating or with a treatment. As part of their ‘altered way of travelling in a changed world’ programme, Aman resorts now regularly schedule 90-minute treatments at 7.30pm each evening. Settling yourself on to a massage table in a candlelit treatment room at Amanpuri, closing your eyes, and listening to the sounds of the jungle all around as the barefoot therapist pads about before starting to work on your feet for a reflexology session, say, or Thai massage, provides a memory that will stay with you. You sleep better afterwards, too, having eaten at lunch rather than dinner. And sleep, of course, is the simplest and best night-time treatment of all. Aman has also launched Buddhist monk-led Journey to Peace retreats, with 90-minute meditation and chanting sessions every evening.

Take off to Thailand

What: a week’s fast
Where: Buchinger Wilhelmi, Lake Constance, Germany

Fasting is an ancient technique that seems new, thanks to the trend for intermittent fasting. However, only the iron-willed have been able to practise that – leaving 12 or even 16 hours between meals – while stuck at home during lockdown. Comfort eating, weight gain and snacking 24/7 is far more common. A full fast would be impossible to do at home. Supervised by a doctor and in a clinical setting, however, living on mugs of thin broth for a week can result in weight loss of 10lb or more – definitely a quick way to banish the pounds put on in the last year. But the traditional function of fasting is to improve the immune system and let the body deal naturally with illness. That’s why Buchinger Wilhelmi, one of Europe’s few clinics to offer therapeutic fasting and with a staff of seven doctors practising integrative medicine, is now offering a Covid-specific Immunity+ programme. It’s aimed at strengthening the immune system of guests on a fasting or non-fasting wellbeing stay. Run by the great-grandson of founder Dr Otto Buchinger – wheelchair-bound with rheumatism until he undertook a three-week water fast – the clinic’s specialities range from naturopathy to diabetes and can also help with long Covid.

Take off to Zurich

What: full-body massage
Where: The Original FX Mayr, Austria 

Being massaged by a physiotherapist feels distinctive from the second they first lay hands on you. Somehow you instantly intuit the brisk purposefulness and professional expertise, the sense that you’re literally in good hands. Have a massage with a physio here, and you will not only emerge taller and straighter but probably having had your stomach and intestines worked on, too. This is the original of what’s become a string of Mayr clinics in Austria and Germany (Lanserhof, Vivamayr, etc) based on the 19th-century doctor FX Mayr’s belief that much ill-health is due to a clogged colon. Recent research into gut bacteria confirms he was correct. Almost every treatment here focuses on improving digestion and supporting the intestines, which Mayr doctors maintain is where up to 80 per cent of immune reactions occur. Excellent for a lifestyle reset as well as weight loss, and with astonishingly delicious healthy meals once one has passed the famous dry-rolls-and-yoghurt stage, the Mayr also has a setting to lift the spirits. Forest-backed and on Lake Wörthersee, it’s ideal for Attenborough-prescribed walks in nature or a chilly swim with the odd passing duck.

Take off to Austria (via Ljubljana – the nearest airport)

New arrivals

Our ‘special mention’ spa treatments set to rejuvenate