July 3, 2022


Keep Fit & Healthy

Eight wonderful wellness breaks around the world for 2020

9 min read

Want to reset your mind, body and soul? These wellness trips will leave you pampered, pummelled, or… errr, personal trained…

This seven-day ‘Life Transformation Programme’ lives up to its promise, and then some… Housed in a sleek rural villa, groups of up to 20 people (often including a smattering of celebs – Jodie Kidd and Emma and Matt Willis have all been) follow a strict but fun timetable that balances life-coaching sessions with yoga and Pilates, beach trips, plant-based cooking demonstrations – and bags of hardcore exercise, including circuits, boxing and fitness tests.  The vibe is more jolly and than ‘drill sergeant’, though we did sweat buckets and lose a few pounds and several inches along the way. Days start before sunrise with morning circuits at the villa, followed by a packed schedule that takes you out and about, including to a meditation retreat for a breathwork session. Group dinners are a highlight: three hearty plant-based meals a day, with two scrumptious snacks in between, including a deliciously moreish seeded bread with cashew cheese (a must try). We weren’t hungry once – in fact, no one was, as guests can choose one of three portion sizes. Plus the schedule is cleverly structured so the therapy-type coaching sessions take place when you’re physically exhausted, meaning everyone (even the cynics) really open up. We arrived expecting a bit of exercise and a health kick… and left feeling astonishingly transformed – and dying to return.

Stella loves: The Baywatch Beach Workout, which involves circuits (squats, burpees, press ups, sprints and lunges) on the sand to classic club anthems – beats a clubnight in Amnesia any day.

Out and about: This full-on schedule doesn’t allow for solo exploring (though down-time is factored in) but you still get to see lots of the island. On the last day the group goes on an outing to Ibiza Town to buy an ‘anchor’ (or small gift) to help remind them of their stay and new life goals set at the camp. There are also two gruelling but awe-inspiring mountain hikes – one of which was done in utter silence, prompting reflection… Truly inspirational.

One week’s stay from £1,500 and includes the programme (which runs Saturday-Saturday), accommodation, all food and drink; thebodycamp.com. The season starts on 4 April 2020.  

This place is as Instagrammable as they come… picture a lush, coconut tree-lined estate of chic airy bungalows with private infinity pools, each one huddled around a soft white-sand beach, plus you have a butler on call. It’s just a hop and a skip from the historical town of Hoi An, awarded Unesco World Heritage site status. And a 20-minute boat ride from the harbour are the Cham Islands, famous for their bean cake cooked in bamboo leaves.

Stella loves: The Heart Of The Earth Spa, which comprises eight treatment villas floating on a lotus pond – worth visiting for the views alone. We had a two-and-a-half-hour treatment featuring a massage, Vietnamese scrub and bath using herbs from the hotel gardens and an ‘eight-octave singing bowl set’. Heavenly.

Out and about: Book a Vespa tour – hold on tight and you’ll be whizzed round the back streets of Hoi An to the eateries that backpackers never see. Sample Vietnamese classics of Banh Mi (pork rolls), Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) and Hoanh Thanh Chien (fried wontons). There’s also a fishing tour where you can watch the boats coming in and locals sell their freshly caught haul – worth signing up for despite the 4am start.
From £545 a night, b&b; fourseasons.com/hoian. Flights to Da Nang with Qatar Airways from £671; qatarairways.com

Read the full expert review: Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai

Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam

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Bliss Sanctuary for Women, Seminyak, Bali

Best for… finding your inner zen

Located in the heart of Bali’s vibrant coastal surf resort Seminyak, this women-only retreat is a tranquil haven. Arrive to a welcoming and invigorating smoothie and fresh frangipanis strewn over your bed. Some bedrooms come with outdoor bathrooms so you can shower under the stars. Our garden retreat room had a whopping king-size bed, gorgeous traditional Balinese furniture and a stone bath, perfect for soaks after a long day of, errr, meditation. Start early, with yoga in the outdoor studio overlooking its lush gardens. Afterwards, soothe aching muscles with a hot-stone massage at the poolside beds or a reflexology session in your suite. Bliss by name, and by nature.

Stella loves: The exquisite Indonesian fusion food – like heavenly banana pancakes and rice-paper rolls with peanut satay sauce.
Out and about: The retreat is a stone’s throw from white sandy beaches, including Double Six Beach, which is great for paddleboarding, surfing and other watersports. Or book a driver at Bliss and head further afield to the Uluwatu Temple, a Balinese-Hindu sea temple that is gorgeous at sunset. While you’re there, watch the traditional Kecak fire dance from the temple walls.
Seven nights from £1,955 per person, all inclusive, including unlimited spa treatments, massages, yoga and a personal driver service; blisssanctuaryforwomen.com

Bliss Sanctuary for Women, Seminyak, Bali

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The Roseate Ganges, Rishikesh, India

Best for… a spiritual escape

At the end of a heartstopping, winding drive into the foothills of the Himalayas, you arrive at this serene refuge. Perched on the banks above the Ganges, it combines modern design (think concrete and brass, and mid century-inspired furniture) with traditional values. The boutique Aheli spa will soothe tired muscles and minds using intensely scented Ayurvedic oils, while dawn yoga on the private beach will give you an appetite for the delicious, delicately spiced treats at the Chidya Ghar restaurant and bar. Just be sure to find time to soak in the infinity pool, which has perhaps the most restful view we’ve ever seen.

Stella loves: The in-room fireplaces and other thoughtful touches, like a woolly blanket which appeared on a chilly night.

Out and about: Head to the bustling town of Rishikesh, known as the yoga capital of the world. Don’t miss the Ganga Aarti ceremony (held at sunrise and sunset), where songs are sung, incense is burned, prayers are said and floral tributes are set sail on the river. Join the pilgrimage to the Beatles Ashram (marking the band’s visit to Rishikesh in 1968) now in splendid ruin. If you’re feeling brave, book a rafting trip – from which your baptism in the bracing water is almost guaranteed.

Rooms from £360 a night; roseatehotels.com. For more information about the region visit hcilondon.gov.in; to consult India Tourism, call 0207 437 3677 or visit incredibleindia.org

Read the full expert review: The Roseate Ganges

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Grand Hotel Quellenhof, Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

Best for… old-school luxury

As wellness retreats go, this 150-year-old hotel, part of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, nestled at the foot of the Alps, is a lesson in traditional luxury. Book one of the new junior suites and you’ll firnd elaborate marble bathrooms, office areas and private balconies with stunning views – the perfect spot for breakfast. And this is an ideal place to flop if you’re burnt out, there’s a spa (including dedicated kids’ spa) and medical centre. Book in for the Tamina Flow massage, which sent us to sleep… Our highlight, however, was the food. There are eight restaurants at the resort, including Memories, where we had the 12-course tasting menu, artfully composed of local ingredients.

Stella loves: The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, IGNIV – and in particular its to-die-for dessert cart.

Out and about: Drive or cycle up the Alpine hairpin bends behind the resort to Pfäfers Abbey for an impressive view of the Tamina Bridge, the highest arch bridge ever built in Europe. Be sure to tour the vineyards in Grisons or, closer to the hotel, explore the many foot and cycle paths along the Rhine. E-bike rental is available for hotel guests.

Rooms from £677 a night, based on two people sharing, b&b (including welcome aperitif, use of the spa, and daily fitness and relaxation sessions); call 00 41 81 303 3030 or visit resortragaz.de/en

Read the full expert review: Grand Hotel Quellenhof

Grand Hotel Quellenhof, Bad Ragaz

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The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Best for… blow-the-budget opulence

This striking hotel, set in sprawling lava fields beside the shimmering Blue Lagoon, has some of the most stupendous views ever, and comes with a private entrance to the lagoon. Up the bliss factor with an in-water massage – you’ll float gently in the geothermal seawater while your masseuse applies mineral oil to aching muscles. Afterwards, head to the saunas and spa carved into the 800-year-old volcanic rock. Don’t miss the complimentary Blue Lagoon Ritual (think mineral scrubs, a silica mask and an algae mask, which you can apply to face and body). For dinner, book the seven-course, wine-accompanied tasting menu at the Moss Restaurant – try the pine-smoked beef with horseradish snow. Next morning, breakfast is equally exquisite, with smoked salmon and pancakes.

Stella loves: The hotel’s bath service where staff draw you a bath with water directly from the springs – soak with a glass of wine from the complimentary minibar.

Out and about: Sign up for a guided hike through the volcanic landscape and explore the 2,000-year-old lava field, Selskógur forest and Thorbjörn Mountain. You can also view the vistas from above on a helicopter tour and take a whale-watching trip. Five minutes away from the hotel, the unassuming Cafe Bryggjan serves a world-class lobster bisque (with free refills).

Rooms from £1,029 a night, based on two sharing, b&b; bluelagoon.com

Read the full expert review: The Retreat at Blue Lagoon

retreat at blue lagoon

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Longevity Health & Wellness Hotel, Algarve, Portugal

Best for… high-tech rejuvenation

This new hotel in the pretty town of Alvor is one of three Longevity Wellness Worldwide centres in Portugal and concentrates on integrative and regenerative medicine, with state-of-the-art facilities and beautiful surroundings. Its 70 rooms are sleek and beautifully designed. Therapies include detox, anti-ageing, weight loss, sleep optimisation and stress management, and among its facilities are a Iyashi Dome (for detox and stimulating metabolism), hyperbaric oxygen chambers (where you’re baked in a blisteringly hot cubicle) and a floatation room (45 minutes in here apparently has the equivalent benefit of four to six hours of sleep). It’s ideal for those with specific health problems that have evaded conventional treatments… but those who just want to relax are catered for too, with massages, delicious food and an inviting rooftop infinity pool.

Stella loves: The ‘chill out and relax’ tearoom, with its comfortable day beds and range of delicious health-giving teas.

Out and about: The beach and harbour at Alvor is lovely for walks, with a boardwalk which goes right through a nature reserve. The estuary is excellent for birdwatching. There are many good local restaurants, including Casa Do Rio, which has a delightful view of the waterfront and A Lota, named after the old fish market, which is close by. Afterwards head to lively Mourisco Cocktail Bar for excellent negronis.

Rooms from £170 a night based on two sharing, b&b; longevityalvor.com/en

Longevity Health & Wellness Hotel, Algarve, Portugal

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Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Best for… fitness fanatics

Whereas most holidays result in putting on a few extra pounds, this resort has everything you need to leave feeling fitter than ever. It’s home to fitness studio Bodyism and offers some terrific (if hardcore) classes, including the signature Blueprint, which mixes interval training with yoga, leaving you feeling both strong and relaxed. Personal trainers also offer one-on-one sessions in the hotel gym. Afterwards, the Majlis Cafe has the most indulgent –but guilt-free breakfasts; don’t miss the protein pancakes. Later, flop on the beautiful beach, moments from the hotel… it’s no coincidence that Saadiyat Island translates to ‘Happiness Island’.

Stella loves: The hotel’s eco-friendly focus, with reduced single-use plastics (they offer re-usable water bottles and have water stations across the resort).

Out and about: Head to the beach and watch out for the Hawksbill sea turtles, which come to nest there each year. For some serious glamour and shopping, visit luxury shopping mall, Galleria on Al Maryah Island – stop off for a coffee at the Armani Café and take in the city views.

Rooms from £275 a night, based on two sharing b&b; jumeirah.com

Read the full expert review: Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort  

Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Edited by: Laura Powell. Reviews by: Kate Bussmann, Anna Clarke, Eilidh Hargreaves, Lucy Dunn, Laura Powell, Sophie Foster, Jessamy Calkin and Rachel Matthews

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