From rejuvenating salt pans in Slovenia to calming Japanese hot springs, welcome to the luxury breaks putting your health and wellbeing at the top of the agenda - explore the gallery below to discover our favourite health-conscious destinations.
Words: Suzanne Duckett
Photography: Getty images, Valdis Kaulins, John Van Lent, Bernhard Ingimundarson, Dejan Nikolic, Philip Edwards
Soak in the salt of the earth
In the natural setting of Secovlje Salina Nature Park (an eight-minute drive from Portorož Airport) an open-air grid of pools, pebbles, decking and billowing calico is dedicated to the healing power of raw salt from the Bay of Piran. Combining traditional thalasso therapy (the use of fresh seawater) with salt, soft clays and mineral-rich brine, these natural remedies are used to treat ailments such as rheumatism and degenerative joint diseases via body wraps, massages and dips in the brine-rich pool. The thalasso therapy accelerates sweat and toxin secretion, and helps to tone and firm the skin. “The scrubs, wraps, massages and different-density brine dipping pools are rich in bromine, iodine and magnesium, good for chronic inflammatory conditions, as well as boosting the immune system,” says Sophie Benge, author of Healing Sources – Spas And Wellbeing From The Baltic To The Black Sea. “The density of the brine puts a gentle pressure on limbs to aid lymph drainage.” A panacea for breathing easily, softening skin and clearing physical and emotional blocks, a 20-minute float treats the body and mind.
From £15 for a two-hour admission; thalasso-lepavida.si
Wallow under the stars
The Roman city of Bath is renowned for its healing water. For thousands of years, people have taken the water (both bathing in it and drinking it) to alleviate arthritis, rheumatism and even gout. “The thermal waters contain over 43 minerals, including sulphate, calcium and chloride, which aid bone growth, digestion and rebalance skin conditions,” says Angela Bonner from Thermae Bath Spa. The three-hour Twilight Package is magical: bask in the warm water as the sun sets before enjoying a meal in Springs Restaurant.
£47 per person; thermaebathspa.com
Soak up a sunset meditation
Every day at sunset, crowds gather on the steps of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh – regarded as the yoga capital of the world – on the banks of the Ganges for Aarti, a devotional fire ritual. According to Turner, this experience alone is worth the trip to India. “It’s a place to discover the authentic practices [of yoga] beyond the physical classes we’re used to and is a surprisingly emotional, life-affirming experience, which feels transcendent beyond rational thinking.”
Have the bath of all baths
Onsen (hot springs) are revered in Japan for healing muscular and joint disorders, reducing stress and rejuvenating skin. One of the most beautiful onsen towns is Kinosaki in the west. Guests stroll to the town’s seven public bath houses wearing yukatas (light kimonos that allow you to undress quickly before bathing naked). “If you’re feeling shy, stay at Nishimuraya Honkan to gain confidence at a spring with just a few guests before going public,” advises travel writer Sybil Kapoor.
From £231 a night for two sharing; nishimuraya.ne.jp/honkan/english
Take a happy hippy hike
The mystical rocky island of Es Vedrà in the north-west is reputedly Ibiza’s most magnetic point, with an energy similar to that of the Pyramids, said to cause navigational instruments to go haywire and making it a popular place for meditation and spiritual practices. “Take a moment to soak up the peaceful, spiritual vibe before sliding down soft sand dunes,” advises wellness writer Catherine Turner. “The effort of the hike gets thighs and calves burning. While breathing in the fresh salty air is incredibly blissful.”
Hide out in healing caves
A visit to the healing caves in the remote Gastein Valley in the north west entails reclining in caves for Gastein Curative Therapy, where naturally occurring radon gas, combined with the caves’ perfect humidity and 41.5°C temperature stimulates the body’s self-healing process. “This unique combination supports the immune system, increases blood circulation and heals skin irritations,” says Dr Liane Weber, GP and traditional Chinese medicine doctor.
Four-night packages from £214; gastein.com
Take the plunge
Icelandic pools have the convivial atmosphere of a pub and many enjoy a daily dip on their way to or from work. Less touristy than the famed Blue Lagoon, Landmannalaugar, in the southern highlands, is a spectacular region of volcanic landscapes, lava fields, geothermal and glacier waters. After a 4X4 trip up into the mountains, rejuvenate tired muscles with a dip in the 40°C water. You may find yourself in a heavenly slip stream, where cold glacier and hot geothermal water meet, offering an intense mental and physical reset.
Purify with amber
The healing powers of amber are reputed to aid everything from sexual potency to soothing babies’ gums and this Baltic country is home to the largest known deposit. According to Benge, “Recent studies on amber’s high levels of succinic acid show that it is a powerful skin-repairing antioxidant.” Head to the Amber Spa Hotel in Jurmala for a restorative holistic treatment. The real gem is the Beauty Of Amber Ritual: a series of body and face treatments harnessing the power of amber.
Diving is an even deeper experience when it becomes harmony diving, which combines scuba with meditation and yoga. “Underwater you automatically concentrate on your breathing and develop meditative focus,” says Dr Mahendra Shah, founder of Zen Harmony Diving in Bali. Zen-style massages and yoga back on land add to the sense of peace. The East Coast dive packages include a visit to Manta Point or USAT Liberty shipwreck and sunset yoga in the Zen garden.
From £42; zenharmonydiving.com