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The world’s ultimate

Transformative retreats

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

Hotels and their wellness centres may currently be shut due to local Covid restrictions. Please check individual websites


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. 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 the bar before dinner, where one of the water sommeliers will help you pick from over 25 carefully selected types of the soft stuff – all with different tastes, chemical makeups and benefits. Our favourite? The Swiss-made, liquorice-hued Beneva Black Water, which contains active carbon to absorb toxins and support weight loss. Bottoms up…

Take off to Zurich

Kinkara Luxury Retreat, Costa Rica

Nothing is quite as it seems at Kinkara Luxury Retreat, tucked away in the heart of tropical Costa Rica. For a start, you’ll be camping – but at Kinkara, 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 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

Deplar Farm, Troll Peninsula, Iceland

Pack your thermals, because the temperatures at Deplar Farm in northern Iceland can plummet down 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 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