The Healthiest Holidays On The Planet
Photograph courtesy of Canyon Ranch
Seven escapes designed for recharging both body and mind in style.
The start of each new year is a time for reflection – and resolution. But if you want to stick to those resolutions for longer than two weeks, you’re going to need some help. That’s why we’ve scoured the world for the very best luxury fitness, health and wellbeing retreats for 2017. So, as another year unfurls, you can face it with your best foot – and body and mind – forward. If you want to make positive changes this year and upgrade yourself and the life you lead, then these are the destinations to head for. It’s time to seize those life goals in style (and, preferably, in the sunshine).
BEST FOR DE-STRESSING
Lefay Resort & Spa. Photograph courtesy of healinghotelsoftheworld.com
Lefay Resort & Spa, Italy
If James Bond ever got truly burnt out, this is where he’d come to rebalance. In the mountains above Lake Garda, Lefay pushes both relaxation and luxury to new levels. Sweeping views over one of the most picturesque settings in Europe are combined with an extensive list of facilities and treatments designed to help you embrace “complete calmness” (the spa has a full complement of pretty much every Western and Eastern therapy ever conceived).
The process (generally two, three or five days) involves a series of treatments tailored to your needs (such as the signature haemolymphatic massage, designed to improve blood circulation and speed detoxification). When you’re not floating in one of the luxury infinity pools overlooking the lake or tucking into the Mediterranean-influenced menu, that is. Leave your troubles at the gate. Nobody ever remembers to pick them up on their way out.
When to go: May or September are ideal. You can expect temperatures in the low thirties, but fewer crowds, cheaper flights and better deals.
Book this room: the Prestige Junior Suite has a spacious private terrace with beautiful views of the lake.
What to wear
BEST FOR BUILDING MUSCLE
Como Shambhala Estate. Photograph courtesy of Como Shambhala Estate
Como Shambhala, Bali
On the outskirts of Ubud, Bali’s cultural capital, one of the island’s finest hotels has added some muscle to proceedings. Como Shambhala Estate’s Be Active programme combines a detox diet with daily physical training – both in the Balinese jungle and the resort’s outdoor gym, with its beautiful wooden equipment – to send you home stacked as well as tanned. Along with daily workouts, participants are expected to complete a “guided challenge” during their stay. These range from white-water rafting along the neighbouring Ayung River to climbing nearby Mount Batur at sunrise. The property, surrounded by peaceful paddy fields, which insulate it from the buzz of artsy Ubud, is worth every one of its five stars and then some (the food, too, is world-class, particularly the traditional breakfast, served in a treehouse-style restaurant). Keep an eye on your fellow guests. Como Shambhala has been responsible for getting a number of A-listers into fighting shape in recent years, including Mr Robert De Niro and Mr Tony Blair.
When to go: May to October is Bali’s dry season and the best time to travel, weather wise.
Book this room: a Retreat Villa gives you your own private corner of paradise. Some have their own treatment rooms, too.
What to wear
BEST FOR IMPROVING YOUR MIND
Canyon Ranch. Photograph courtesy of Canyon Ranch
Canyon Ranch, US
Hollywood’s go-to destination in the run-up to red-carpet season, Canyon Ranch is, quite frankly, an extraordinary place, as evidenced by both the waiting list for accommodation and the sheer weight of A-list celebrities queuing up to sing its praises.
The breezy resort, situated just outside Tucson, near the Mexican border, prides itself on genuinely life-changing programmes, and the latest addition is its Brain Health week, designed to help guests strengthen their cognitive function and improve everything from their memory to their sleep. During the six-day programme, Canyon Ranch targets these through a series of tutorials, exercises and activities (from gym-based high-intensity training to increase blood flow to the brain, to carefully designed breathing drills taught in the classroom), which will leave you sharper, calmer and wiser. Even the food is geared towards a healthy mind, with head-friendly eggs, oily fish and broccoli front and centre. Consider it a bootcamp for your brain. And whose grey matter couldn’t do with tuning up?
When to go: Canyon Ranch’s Brain Health Retreats for 2017 take place from 18 to 25 June and 3 to 10 December.
Book this room: rooms in the 720s offer luxury poolside accommodation next to the Life Enhancement Centre, where the Brain Health Retreat is based.
What to wear
BEST FOR GETTING PROMOTED
Chateau de Mailly. Photograph by Mr Oote “Joe” Boe
Chateau De Mailly, France
Based at the fairytale Chateau de Mailly deep in the Burgundy countryside, Ms Julie Hosler’s Personal Strategy Retreats are rapidly becoming the stuff of legend in both business and creative circles. The American strategist and coach specialises in personal and professional improvement, all delivered in a relaxed environment at the luxurious 17th-century chateau (exposed stone walls, wood beamed ceilings, four-poster beds with fur blankets and open fireplaces in every room). There’s even a heated pool made from local massangis limestone, perched atop the cliff edge, which is an outstanding place to start the day, as the mists roll off the river and the village below.
Healthy eating be damned. The four-night retreats are fuelled by rich French-fusion cuisine – think bœuf bourguignon, sweet potato poireaux roulade and tarte tatin – and a number of excellent local wines, particularly the rich pinot noirs for which the region is famed.
The overall objective of the retreat is to pin down your personal “story” (your bigger vision for your life and career), then work out the best way of telling that story when you return to the real world. Expect to leave recharged, refocused and reinvigorated, and consider this the most enjoyable investment in your future you’ll ever make.
When to go: the next Personal Strategy Retreat is 5 to 9 April.
Book this room: room 12 in the 19th-century wing has views of the chateau’s immaculate grounds on one side and the expansive Burgundy countryside on the other.
What to wear
BEST FOR AGILITY
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. Photograph courtesy of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
Whether you’re thinking of running a marathon in 2017, returning to the football fray or simply looking to tune up your squash game, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is where you need to be. A prince among health resorts (just ask the many Olympic teams that have stayed there), the medical centre will iron out any strains, sprains or niggles before the fitness team gets to work on making you leaner, stronger and faster.
Based high in the Hediland region of the Swiss Alps (where author Ms Johanna Spyri was inspired to write her 1881 children’s classic Heidi), the award-winning five-star property is built around the “akrato” waters of Tamina Gorge, a Greek word meaning “pure, hot springs”. Swimming in these delicious 36.5°C natural waters at the wellbeing oasis is an outstanding way to start each day, while doing the same thing by candlelight is a brilliant way to end it (the transdermal magnesium massage for muscle recovery and joint suppleness is highly recommended after a full day of exercise).
When to go: January to April is ideal, to combine with skiing at nearby Pizol or Flumserberg (the resort also offers ski and wellbeing packages).
Book this room: the Spa Suites come with a private hot tub, steam room and sauna, personal butler and daily fitness lessons.
What to wear
BEST FOR SLIMMING DOWN
Kamalaya. Photograph by Mr Thomas Zerlauth. Courtesy of Kamalaya
Forget fad diets and their unsustainable weight loss; Kamalaya on Koh Samui (hidden beside a private lagoon at the quiet, southern end of the island) is all about establishing permanent habits for healthy day-to-day living, while shedding pounds in the sunshine. Its one- to two-week programmes include everything from a carefully balanced diet (seasonal and vegetarian-based to aid the detoxification process) to personal training outdoors with world-class body builder, martial artist and former Hollywood stuntman Mr Mario Joseph.
The whole place comprises airy, thatched villas scattered down a sheltered ravine, full of tropical plants. There’s plenty of opportunity for relaxation during your programme, too, around the pool or on the small private beach.
Expect impressive results. Kamalaya throws in plenty of curve balls and additional extras to help you gain a headstart on your waistline, from naturopathy and acupuncture to Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis and Chi Nei Tsang abdominal massage. Throughout the process, you’ll be educated in the necessary tricks and shortcuts to keep the weight off for good once you get home.
When to go: December to March for the best weather at the best price.
Book this room: Villa Sea View has a private balcony and a double day bed that’s perfect for enjoying the natural beauty around you.
What to wear
BEST FOR BREAKING BAD HABITS
Lanserhof Tegernsee. Photograph courtesy of Lanserhof Tegernsee
Lanserhof Tegernsee, Germany
Halfway between Munich and the Austrian border, you’ll find Lanserhof Tegernsee, the state-of-the-art medical spa where bad habits come to die (just ask Mr Roman Abramovich, a big fan). Whether it’s smoking, drinking or general overindulgence, this holistic haven is the place to conquer it in five-star luxury. Even the hygge-oriented design by celebrity German architect Mr Christoph Ingenhoven feels healing; it’s all clean wooden space, muted colours, smooth fabrics and leather banisters.
Lanserhof describes the process as “a journey to yourself”, but essentially it’s a tailor-made wellbeing programme in sleek, modern environs that vows to build a better you.
On the cutting edge in terms of medical research (you can even swallow a pill that contains a minuscule camera to film your intestines), it combines the best new treatments with an emphasis on relaxation, tranquillity and the natural environment. Pack your trunks for the last bit – it’s positioned on the banks of the astonishingly beautiful Lake Starnberg.
When to go: spring (March to May) here is stunning, when the countryside around the lake bursts into life, but there’s still snow on the mountain peaks.
Book this room: the Somnium Suite has panoramic views of the pool, bath house and distant forest, with three private balconies from which to enjoy them.