There was a time when wellness and travel were put in separate boxes; where wellness solely meant fitness, workouts and diet, and travel meant escaping the routine and swapping health for indulgence. Even today, travel has a different meaning for different people. Some like to travel for adventure, others to explore. But for most travellers, the idea is unwinding and relaxing. And although sitting by a beach or on a mountaintop sounds appealing, it hardly compares to a wholesome wellness experience.
Wellness tourism isn’t new; however, it is one of the fastest-growing industries today. According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the wellness industry today is worth an estimated US $4.4 trillion, a value that remains unhinged despite the effects of the Covid pandemic. The GWI further predicted the value of the industry to grow steadily reaching approx. US $7 trillion by the year 2025.
There are a number of factors that seem to have promoted wellness tourism. Three years later, industry experts still credit the pandemic for the boost in global wellness tourism. In fact, over 50% of travellers today are swapping leisure trips and getaways for a more fruitful, wellness experience, many of which step outside the routine spa experience. Today, there are medical wellness centres that focus on individual well-being, laying emphasis on building immunity, treating ailments, and even emotional healing.
One of the biggest after-effects of the Covid pandemic is the importance given to one’s health, and building immunity has become an important aspect of people’s everyday lifestyle. While many practice healthy immunity-building habits every day, others find it difficult to do so given their busy work schedules. And so, taking a wellness break focused on immunity-building techniques and treatments has proven to be most beneficial for them.
Immunity-building programmes often last anywhere between two weeks to three months depending on the type of programme and person in question. The process usually begins with a complete check-up conducted by expert medical professionals which is then followed by strict regimes advised by doctors, nutritionists and personal trainers. Immunity-boosting programmes are a good option for anyone, especially those with susceptible immunity or auto-immune conditions.
You know when a well-meaning parent says, “Your phone is the cause of all your problems”, they might not be entirely wrong. Digital technology devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets have all had significant negative effects on one’s individual health. An over-exposure to digital devices has been shown to affect sleep patterns, and cause overwhelmingly high-stress levels, leaving you with strained eyes, a distracted mind and a tired body.
Now we know it is impossible to completely detach yourself from the online world, given that this is the digital age. However, taking a break once in a while can be quite beneficial to your physical, mental and emotional health. And a digital detox getaway is the ideal way to take a break. During these getaways, travellers are required to momentarily disconnect from the online world and connect with the world around them. Wellness centres that offer digital detoxes usually pair the programme with mindful practices like yoga and meditation to help individuals reconnect with their surroundings along with healing therapies and relaxing spa treatments to release stress and restore balance within the body.
Wellness is not just about one’s physical health anymore, but about mental and emotional health too. After years of stigma, mental health is finally getting its due space with people discussing the problem, promoting awareness and encouraging healing. Emotional healing retreats often target emotional disturbances like stress, anxiety and trauma, which can affect one’s everyday life making it difficult to carry out even the simplest of tasks. These retreats provide tools to live happier and healthier lives; to process emotions, and painful life experiences, accept and move on.
Emotional healing retreats and programmes will utilize comprehensive wellness experiences like yoga, mindfulness, shadow work, regression therapy and spiritual psychotherapy among other treatments to jumpstart the healing process. Additionally, the retreats will combine use nutrition and exercise to enhance the experience in a meaningful and lasting way.
The number of people switching to a plant-based diet has significantly increased over the years thanks to the information regarding animal cruelty which has forced people to take a hard look at their dietary choices. However, switching to a plant-based diet can be difficult, especially for newly vegan and vegetarian individuals. And so, wellness resorts around the world have begun incorporating special vegan programmes that not only teach you about vegan and vegetarian swaps, but also show you the ropes on a healthy, nutritional vegan lifestyle.
Whether your goal is to eat healthily or practice sustainability, vegan resorts will help you put focus on both wellness and health. Plant based retreats often incorporate healthy lifestyle changes including yoga and exercise, along with relaxing spa treatments and of course a selection of healthy but delicious eating options.
Best Wellness Retreats Across The Globe
Aro Hā Wellness Retreat — Glenorchy, New Zealand
A multi-award-winning retreat, Aro Hā’s isolated setting is perfect for those looking for some healthy me-time. Tucked in the Southern Alps, the property is surrounded by 8.5 hectares of rugged landscape overlooking the Lake Wakatipu. The name, ‘aro ha’ translates to “in the presence of divine breath” in Te Reo; breath is a foundational practice of life and so, the retreat uses it as an entry point into the mysticism of the present.
The eco-friendly retreat is powered using solar and hydro-energy making it the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Keeping in line with the element of peaceful isolation, the property houses a small cluster of accommodations fit for a group of no more than 32 guests. The interiors at Aro Hā take on a rustic theme with neutral toned wood, stone, and glass features that enable the resort to seamlessly blend into the natural landscape, allowing guests to reconnect with themselves and the environment.
While Aro Hā has quite a few different retreats, its main focus is kaupapa or purpose to regenerate the mind and body and improve overall health. This includes everything from mindfulness to healing bodywork; Aro Hā also encourages guests to switch off from technology to further improve and renew one’s awareness. A wellness retreat at Aro Hā is an all-inclusive journey between 5 and 7 nights. The days usually begin with the chiming of Tibetan bowls and dynamic flow yoga to waken the mind and body followed by a healthy, hearty breakfast. The kitchen at Aro Hā lays emphasis on garden-to-table with its plant-based menu which is essential for a wholesome mind, body and spirit cleanse. Regardless of the package you choose, the retreat lays great emphasis on fitness, and so they will incorporate several activities both indoors and outdoors followed by a therapeutic massage and spa experience.
BodyHoliday — Cariblue Beach, Saint Lucia
A wellness getaway in the Carribean sounds like the perfect package, and Saint Lucia’s BodyHoliday is touted to be one of the best resorts in the destination. While not completely isolated, the destination does have an exotic vibe to it. If you’re looking for a wellness getaway that incorporates a relaxing holiday like experience, then BodyHoliday is a worth a visit.
Boasting an idyllic setting, the resort sits on 200-yard-long crescent-shaped beach and is surrounded by 32 acres of lush tropical gardens. No matter where you look, the view is pristine. BodyHoliday, like most wellness retreats, believes that relaxation and a good night’s sleep are key pillars of any wellness holiday. And so, the accommodations at the resort are designed keeping in mind a relaxing ambience in tones of blue, white and beige. Guests can choose from an array of accommodations, each offering a splendid view of the island, these include garden view, ocean view and oceanfront villas, rooms and suites.
When it comes to the wellness aspect of the retreat, BodyHoliday does it with a certain finesse. Here, there are no rigid diets and strict schedules; instead, the experience is personalised according to each guest’s preferences and requirements. However, regardless of the program, the retreat will find a way to incorporate fitness into the guest’s schedules; this could be anything from yoga to pilates along with a bunch of outdoor activities including swimming, trekking along the island, spoga which is a combination of spinning and yoga, tai chi, tennis, and more. The resort also has a Wellness Center replete with a skin clinic offering restorative beauty treatments, spa and therapy treatments. Aside from the wellness centre, the resort has about 36 different treatment rooms which include a thalassotherapy pool, Ayurvedic temple, yoga decks, spa treatments rooms, a body science clinic and more.
Clinique La Prairie — Clarens, Switzerland
One of the oldest and most exclusive health and wellness institutions in the world, Clinique La Prairie first opened its doors back in 1931, and has since worked towards providing science-backed, holistic solutions to wellness. The location of the retreat is one of its biggest highlights, located in the postcard perfect town of Montreux in Clarens where you can get undisputed views of the Swiss Alps and the Lake Geneva.
The design and ambience of the resort resemble a charming old world hotel with contemporary décor and a few statement pieces thrown here and there. Wanting to keep it quiet and peaceful, the hotel has only about 38 lavishly designed accommodations; as one would expect, the view from every room is simply stunning.
The programs at the resort come under four main pillars – longevity, wellbeing, beauty, and medical all of which are built on pillars of evidence-based medicine, wellness, nutrition and movement. While each of these offerings are praiseworthy, it is the resort’s specialisation in longevity that has been most applauded. In fact, the resort even won the “Medi Spa of the Year” award at the Destination Deluxe Awards in 2019. This incorporates a revitalisation programme that focuses on genetic testing and stem-cell therapy, and a modernisation process that includes a range of ultra-luxe longevity supplements.
To further the wellness experience, the resort combines state-of-the-art medicine and technology, coupled with innovative wellbeing and nutrition plans which include delicious, vegan and Michelin-star-worthy food, curated as per each guest’s own nutritional requirements.
COMO Shambhala Estate — Bali, Indonesia
A mystical experience, Bali’s COMO Shambhala Estate sits right in the middle of nature, atop the Ayung River surrounded by 23 acres of lush tropical forest. There’s nothing but peace and tranquillity here, isolation in the middle of nature; the closest town from the resort is Ubud which is located about 10kms away.
Keeping with the theme of nature and natural surroundings, the resort opts for a rustic theme for the ambience – indigenous plants and trees, local wood and stone, and traditional décor, all of which echo Balinese culture and tradition. For accommodations, guest can choose from standalone villas and multi-suite residences. Each of the five residences come with a private pool, a communal lounge area, and a fire pit, while the villas feature private lounges and open-air soaking baths.
COMO Shambhala offers three distinct programs – Cleanse, Ayurveda, and Be Active retreats. They also have an additional Bespoke package that is customised for each’s individual needs. The programs here are designed to help with a range of problems including stress management, weight management and diet change, detoxification etc. And so, activities such as yoga, pilates and treks through rice paddies are organised to help guests be more active while treatments like meditation, hydrotherapy, massages help them relax and rejuvenate. Food is the most important part of any healing journey, and the resort’s main restaurant, Glow, offers a selection of locally sourced choices that are both healthy and delicious.
Kamalaya — Koh Samui, Thailand
Kamalaya is probably one of the most famous wellness retreats in Asia, and it is also among the best. A beautiful hillside property on Koh Samui’s serene coast, Kamalaya is where you go for the ultimate meditation retreat. The location of the resort – the sacred hillside is said to have been frequented by Buddhist monks for decades, further proving the tranquillity and peaceful nature of the destination.
Being a five-star retreat, Kamalaya boasts some spectacular contemporary interiors in neutral tones with a significant selection of rustic elements to blend the indoors with the outdoors. Staying true to Thai culture, you will find thatched-roofed villas, breezy pavilions, tumbling waterfalls, lotus ponds, and of course, the resort’s very own ancient meditation cave. For those who prefer open air to caves, the resort has a number of quiet corners that make for a peaceful meditation spot. Guests are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodations; choose from – sunny hillside suites with balconies to split-level villas and cavernous beachfront villas perched on giant boulders with outdoor bathrooms and private infinity pools. The latter is one of the best and most comfortable abodes.
Being one of the best wellness retreats in Asia, Kamalaya has a generous selection of wellness programs to choose from including detox, stress and burnout, emotional balance, yoga, weight loss, sleep enhancement, resilience and immunity, and wellness sabbaticals as well as a bunch of tailormade retreats. Each of these programs are conducted with consultation from experienced naturopaths, traditional Chinese medicine doctors, therapists and health practitioners that contribute to each guest’s own personalised itinerary.