6 Outstanding Wellness Retreats to Escape to in 2019
Wellness tourism is now a $640 billion industry, according to the Global Wellness Institute, an industry research group. But with new trends—CBD massages, forest bathing—popping up every day, how do you find the right retreat for your needs? Here are six options that really deliver.
Lefay Resort and Spa, GARGNANO, ITALY
Classical Chinese Medicine Meets la Dolce Vita
Nestled on 25 acres in the hills overlooking northern Italy’s Lake Garda, Lefay Resort and Spa opened in 2008 as the first property from aviation entrepreneurs-turned-hoteliers Domenico and Liliana Leali (their second will open several hours away in the Dolomite Mountains later this year). The spa program borrows heavily from classical Chinese medicine—think acupuncture, gua sha massage (also known as scraping), daily tai chi and qigong classes—and offers intensive 5- and 10-day detox and weight management programs, if that’s what you’re interested in. But even for those looking for something less rigorous, Lefay’s breathtaking scenery, extensive spa menu and light Mediterranean cuisine will leave you feeling refreshed—and the wine selection and cigar lounge mean indulgence is still allowed. After all, this is Italy.
Chatham Bars Inn, CHATHAM, MASS.
A Historic Escape Steps Up Its Game
New Englanders have long escaped to Cape Cod in the summer, and Chatham Bars Inn has catered to well-heeled guests since 1914, when it opened as a hunting lodge. More than 100 years later, Chatham Bars has quietly established itself as one of the area’s foremost wellness destinations. The treatments it offers have a local twist: “We harvest honey from our farm to make the lavender honey we use in our treatments and are working on a cranberry scrub,” says spa director Majka Kendall. “It’s almost a ‘farm-to-spa-table’ concept.” Last year, Chatham Bars opened 12 spa suites, rooms set above the property’s spa that each has its own steam shower, sauna, jacuzzi tub and fireplace. Guests of the spa suites can visit the main building for treatments and fitness classes or can have treatments or training sessions right in their rooms. The concept is luxurious, for sure, but is also a way to establish Chatham Bars Inn as a year-round destination. Kendall says the spa suites have sold out many weekends, even in the winter, when the property is starkly beautiful but much quieter than in summer months.
Como Parrot Cay, TURKS AND CAICOS
Where East Meets West
Singapore-based Como Hotels and Resorts is best known for its Bali and Maldives resorts, but Como Parrot Cay is far more accessible for North American travelers: Turks and Caicos’ main airport, Providenciales, is a 15-minute car transfer and 35-minute boat ride from the 1,000-acre private island. If you’re looking for a secluded retreat that values privacy, there are few better places to relax than Parrot Cay (which is part of what makes the 26-year-old resort so popular with high-profile clientele). If you stay in a villa, you’re unlikely to encounter any other guests at all—unless you head to the main property to partake in water sports, play tennis, take meditation, yoga or Pilates classes or get a spa treatment at the Como Shambhala Retreat (which you absolutely should). A week here leaves you feeling like you’re returning from a far more far-flung destination.
Rates start at $795 a night for guest rooms in low season and $1,200 in high season. One-bedroom beach villas start at $2,500 a night in low season and $4,200 in high season. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 649.946.7788, comohotels.com/parrotcay
J Bar L Ranch, LIMA, MONT.
An Off-the-Grid Spot for Self-Reflection
When Peggy Dulany bought a 30,000-acre cattle ranch in western Montana in 2000, it came with five cabins that had been used by homesteaders in pioneer times. After restoring, upgrading and in some cases completely rebuilding the homes, Dulany started using them to host retreats for members of her global philanthropy network, Synergos, and as vacation rentals for families, groups and individuals who wanted to explore the Wild West. “We began to realize that people often came there with a yearning to find themselves in the wild,” Dulany says. “But some of them didn’t exactly how to go about it, so over time we’ve gathered people on the ranch who are knowledgeable about that.” One such person is Barb Holliday, who started offering massage therapy at J Bar L and has expanded the scope of her work at the ranch to include wilderness guiding and somatic coaching (a personal development technique that encourages people to see their “narrative self, emotional self and physical self as one whole,” she says). Holliday has led retreats for members of Synergos and this year will gradually add guided retreats to J Bar L’s offerings. Dulany and Holliday are quick to point out that this type of retreat isn’t for everyone—the closest paved road is 20 miles away, and the nearest town is more than an hour away. “For people who really want to disconnect from the noise and demands of life and let themselves be quiet amidst great beauty, it offers something really unique,” Holliday says.
Sha Wellness Clinic, ALBIR, SPAIN
A Pioneering European Property
Great wellness clinics abound in Europe, with 100-year-old retreats in Austria, Switzerland and Germany long seen as the leaders in the space. But from its futuristic (and immaculately groomed) headquarters on the eastern coast of Spain, 10-year-old Sha Wellness Clinic appears poised to enter their ranks. That’s thanks, in part at least, to the groundbreaking work Bruno Ribeiro has been doing for the last five years in Sha’s cognitive development unit. The customized four- and seven-day programs cater to a host of clients—smokers who want to quit, chronic insomniacs, burned-out executives and people trying to lose weight or return to fitness. And Ribeiro, a university professor who is trained as a neuroscientist and psychologist, offers a sort of brain boot camp for guests who want to build it into their programs. Examples of people who have benefitted from the treatments he offers, which were developed by researchers at the UK’s University of Cambridge, Harvard Medical School and NASA, include executives who need to be able to focus for hours at a time during complex meetings and Hollywood actors who can’t remember their lines.
Program rates start at €1,500 per person for four days and €2,900 for seven days (accommodation not included). Room rates start at €330 per night. Contact: email@example.com, 34.922.214.171.124, shawellnessclinic.com
Six Senses Bhutan
A Journey Back in Time
The Six Senses brand is synonymous with excellence in the wellness space, so its 2016 announcement that the company was opening not one but five properties in the remote and hard-to-access Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan was met with intense anticipation. More than two years later, Six Senses Bhutan is finally debuting this spring. The setup is unique: Six Senses Bhutan comprises five small lodges scattered across the country. As part of your stay, you journey between the lodges, each of which features different design elements and experiences. The first three, in Thimphu, Punakha and Paro, open this spring, while the final two, in Bumthang and Gangtey, will open later this year. Getting to Bhutan is a journey in itself: Only two airlines fly into the country, most visitors must have a visa and each guest is mandated by the government to spend between $200 and $300 a day and have a prepaid and preplanned itinerary, a way to control the number of tourists who visit every year. But while you’re there, visit 12th-century Buddhist temples, hike to ancient monasteries and traverse the mountainous country as you take in one of the most unspoiled and undeveloped places on earth.