On The Road
The Relaxing Retreats To Book In Early 2019
From Botswana to the Maldives via Hampshire, places where you’ll find peace of mind
Heckfield Place, Hampshire. Photograph courtesy of Heckfield Place
This is a time of amplified obligation. To family, to work, to friends, to social media and all the myriad connections that spawn all the distractions we labour under. It’s partly down to the internet, partly to an uptick in the pace of life. In the age of the buzzed-out man, the time of the harried guy, the period of the tired, escape becomes essential, not just advisable. A moment of pause gives clarity. A week in a retreat might even give enlightenment. To help you find inner peace, we present seven of the best restorative retreats in the world.
Photograph courtesy of L’Albereta Relais & Chateaux
Sitting in rolling hills with sweeping views over Franciacorta and glistening Lake Iseo in northern Italy, L’Albereta is surrounded by breathtaking scenery. If charming, off-the-beaten-track hotels tick your boxes, you’ll fall in love with this beautiful ivy-clad 19th-century country pile and its acres of surrounding vineyards. Whether you’re strolling through wisteria-covered archways or admiring the Alpine views from the sprawling terrace, the estate seems to have been designed with tranquillity in mind. Cycle through the vineyards, enjoy peaceful guided walks, indulge in some treatments at the Espace Chenot spa, or enjoy one of the four in-house restaurants, including the gourmet Leon Felice and a new pizzeria, La Filiale, with a menu created by chef Mr Franco Pepe.
What to pack
Es Saadi Marrakech Resort, Morocco
Photograph courtesy of Es Saadi
If you like your wellness with a side of opulence, you would be hard pressed to find anywhere better than Es Saadi Marrakech Resort. With its Assyrian lounges, ornate fountains and plush furniture, it’s unsurprising that the palace’s traditional Moroccan interiors were used as a backdrop in the 2016 BBC adaption of Mr John le Carré’s novel The Night Manager. The resort boasts a casino and a night club, but these are entirely avoidable if the fitness room or Palace Spa, complete with a range of massage treatments and an Oriental Thermae, is more your bag. It has one of the largest swimming pools in Marrakech and also offers yoga retreats if you really want to switch off. Es Saadi’s approach to wellness is not evangelical, and it does a good job of creating a healthful atmosphere without proselytising. Situated close to the variegated souks that populate the area and the Medina, Marrakech’s bustling walled town, this is a retreat that doesn’t stray too far from the rest of civilisation.
What to pack
Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona
Photograph courtesy of Enchantment Resort
Hidden within the majestic surroundings of Sedona’s Red Rock Canyon you’ll find Enchantment Resort, a former ranch turned spiritual healing place. Inspired by the ancient traditions and practices of the indigenous people who once roamed this land, the resort taps into sacred ancient traditions through stone medicine wheels and tipis integrated into the landscape, with Native American motifs in communal spaces, adobe-like casitas fitted with beehive fireplaces and decks that open out onto the Mars-like structures of the Red Rock State Park. There’s little need to leave the resort, either, with Enchantment’s signature restaurant, Che Ah Chi. Or, try the southwestern-themed Tii Gavo, where the Baja fish tacos are particularly good. If you want to switch off entirely, visit the hotel’s Mii Amo spa, an adult-only (it’s not what you think) destination that has just been named the best in the US by Travel + Leisure. Try the “Morning Ritual” resort activity to set you up in the day, and one of their healing massages to ease you into a good-night’s sleep when the sun goes down. Enchanting, indeed.
What to pack
The Lodge At Feline Fields, Botswana
Photograph courtesy of Feline Fields
Lions, leopards, herds of elephants and packs of African wild dogs may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of getting away to somewhere restorative, but it turns out a safari in Botswana can be just the thing to refresh and reset. Located deep in the semi-desert Kalahari and along the verdant banks of the Khwai River, The Lodge at Feline Fields is an African idyll that provides an opportunity to escape your day to day and immerse yourself in the natural world. It facilitates everything from bush walks, horse riding, spa treatments, golf and tennis, game drives, high tea, helicopter rides and baths under probably the starriest sky you’ve ever seen. The thatched wooden suites are fit for a king, yet in no way compromise the natural beauty of the bush.
What to pack
Careys Manor Hotel, UK
Photograph courtesy of Careys Manor
If you live in a 24-hour, unforgiving city, such as London, checking in to a hotel with a focus on relaxation is a decent way to switch off for a few days. To make the most of your down time, you need to leave the city and head somewhere off the beaten track, where there is no such thing as a Tube delay, people don’t queue for coffee and low-level, non-specific anxiety is not the default mode of its inhabitants. Bringing us nicely to Careys Manor Hotel, which, before you’ve even entered its doors and felt the first waft of steam from the Senspa, scores points simply for being in the rather beautiful New Forest in Hampshire, a mere two-hour drive from the big smoke. Once you arrive at this former hunting lodge, you can expect grand staircases, large cosy bedrooms and award-winning treatment facilities, replete with herbal sauna, crystal steam room and some things we can’t even pronounce. Oh, and the food is up to scratch, too. Dine at Cambium if traditional British fare is your thing, Zen Garden for Thai or Le Blaireau if you want French dishes.
What to pack
Photograph courtesy of Joali
There are few more relaxing sights and sounds than a gently undulating mass of blue sea, so anywhere that is completely surrounded by the briny stuff has got to be very much a good thing. To fully appreciate Joali in the Maldives, we must delve a little deeper than simply appreciating its position on the castaway island of Muravandhoo. Amazing, though it is. First thing to consider at Joali – which only launched in December of last year – is its health and wellness credentials. The Espa holistic spa combines indulgent spa treatments (conducted using on-site medicinal herbs) with specialised fitness programmes. Then, there are the opportunities to see wild marine life. Once you have tired of the spa (being massaged can be terribly trying), why not sign up for the freediving lessons on offer and swim with a turtle or a manta ray? But if that sounds all too much – and we are here for R&R, after all – you can simply lay back in one of the hanging “Heron head” art pieces, which double as loungers, overlooking the azure water.
What to pack
Heckfield Place, UK
Photograph courtesy of Heckfield Place
Upon arriving amid the secluded 400-acre grounds of Heckfield Place near Hook in Hampshire, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed within of a novel by Ms Jane Austen. Indeed, the author of Pride And Prejudice lived in nearby Chawton. But more than just a backdrop for upper-class 18th-century hook ups, today the rather handsome estate lends itself to unwinding. Sure, there’s still the opportunity to sit in magnificent chambers taking tea, but you probably shouldn’t miss the fare from culinary director Ms Skye Gyngell, the chef behind Spring and the Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries. Meanwhile, The Little Bothy spa boasts indulgent treatments as well as fitness sessions with Bodyism trainers, while a larger spa and infinity pool is promised for later in the year. The hotel is also home to The Assembly, a space featuring monthly workshops, talks and masterclasses on everything from wine tasting to spoon carving. And if that’s not enough to shake off the worries of the modern world, don your tweeds for a yomp through the walled gardens and beyond.