TOP 10 Best Massage and Spa Retreats Across the world
1. Aro Hā Wellness Retreat
Overlooking the otherworldly expanse of Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Aro Hā is an intimate 20-room lodge offering holistic practices (such as yoga and meditation) meant to invigorate the body and recalibrate the spirit. The self-sustainable property’s biggest draw is its epic setting between colossal sapphire lakes and snowcapped peaks—all of which the minimalist-chic cabins seamlessly blend into. Mindfulness is a core mantra here, and, with a setting like this, you'll get plenty of practice at it.
2. Lake Austin Spa Resort
Set on a picturesque hillside of its namesake lake, this all-inclusive destination spa attracts relaxation seekers from all over—you'll see them, buffed and polished from their treatments and eager for more, strolling the grounds all day in their robes. Beds are extremely soft, and the lavender-scented products in the bathrooms are from the resort's own line; in fact, they're the same ones used in your spa treatments. Speaking of, all the spa's products are grown on the grounds (wildflower and organic honey are used in the facial scrubs) and some treatments take place in semi-open settings.
3. Vila Vita Parc
The stunning natural beauty and bracing sea air of Portugal’s Algarve region are medicine on their own. But taking it up a notch is the spa at Vila Vita Parc, which occupies its own, dedicated building and has been designed by French spa leader Sisley. With a brand like that behind the place, it’s no surprise that skincare is a focus, calling upon products that incorporate botanical extracts and essential oils. Expect pore-tightening facials, toning body treatments, and medical-grade pedi-cures (get it?) from legendary podiatrist Margaret Dabbs. On the activity side of wellness, there are personal trainers on hand for custom workouts and deep dives into the HYPOXI Method, which is said to combine vacuum therapy with a moderate workout routine and balanced nutrition plan to eradicate stubborn fat deposits, eliminate fluid retention, tone the skin, and accelerate metabolism. The spa takes a holistic, body-soul-mind approach to wellness, and to that end, it has a garden yoga pavilion for private, group, and aerial classes.
4. Six Senses Zil Pasyon
Felicité, the fifth-biggest island in the Seychelles, is considered one of the country’s most beautiful. Giant granite boulders lie scattered atop hills, like the remnants of a pétanque match amongst the gods, and the sand is so fine that it squeaks as you step into the clear aquamarine shallows. Amongst this near-otherworldly splendor is a man-made retreat just as spectacular: the Six Senses Zil Pasyon. The 30 glass-fronted rooms are set among boulders and trees, with wide decks and plunge pools outside, and furnishings in ocean-inspired hues inside. At the beach bar, giant hammocks are strung over the water. For breakfast, there are green smoothies, rainbow-colored fruit platters, and oysters; at night, it’s French Champagne and fire-cooked lobster, followed by rum tastings in a cozy bar. In between, there are hills to hike, reefs to dive around, and palm trees to lie beneath. Oh, and there’s a spa tucked between boulders by the sea, and a yoga platform where an instructor leads daily sun salutations.
5. The Ranch Malibu
Tough love is the order of the day at this health retreat. The core program is seven days of rigor, though four- and ten-day options are available at a spin-off at the nearby Four Seasons Westlake Village. But go for the core—if you’re ready for a challenge. Nothing is optional: not the 5:30 wake-up knocks (they will persist until you answer), not the 6am yoga or stretching sessions, not the hours of morning hiking, nor the afternoons spent in the gym or the near-vegan eating plan. If you wonder why people pay for this, you aren’t alone. But if you’re among the people who get it, then it’s the sort of yearly wellness tune-up that you'll look forward to. The Ranch tends to attract type-A personalities, so there can be competition on the hiking trail, but the guides are supportive and encouraging for guests of all levels. And the payoff is a few pounds of lasting weight loss, better muscle tone, glowing skin, and a well-earned sense of accomplishment. It helps that the lodgings are sublimely comfortable, there are daily massages, and the food—pared down as it may be—is of the best organic ingredients and beautifully presented.
6. Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot
“Health for life” is the guiding motto at this wellness resort in the Dolomites. The accommodations are lavish and comfortable, with 100 rooms and suites in a grand, historic building with chandeliers and parquet floors. The wellness component follows the Chenot Method, a system that was developed by Catalan-French biologist and naturopath Henri Chenot nearly 50 years ago. That means a strong focus on bio-enegetic medicine—meant to get the body’s energy flowing freely along the meridians defined by traditional Chinese medicine—and detox, accomplished via lymphatic drainage massage and a plant-based diet heavy on hypo-allergenic food. The fitness component is mostly gentle, including floor exercises like pilates and nordic walking outdoors.
7. Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
Wellness seekers have flocked to the thermal mineral springs of this Swiss wellness resort since the 13th century, when Benedictine monks first discovered them. The water is said to have therapeutic effects on the metabolism, heart function, rheumatic conditions, and diseases of the nervous system—or, in other words, many of the afflictions of modern life. Regardless of whether the springs live up to all their claims, they’re soothing nonetheless, and they represent a focal point of what is now a lavish resort with outdoor and indoor bathing facilities (in a natural cave and a grand hall with faux frescoes, respectively), a center for Eastern and Western spa treatments, medical facilities with doctors whose specialties range from dermatology to sports medicine, nearly a dozen restaurants and bars, and a casino. This isn’t an eat-your-peas kind of place, either; the activities include golf, shopping, and even winery tours and tastings.
8. Schloss Elmau
Talk about a room with a view: comprising two five-star hotels, this luxury resort sits some 60 miles south of Munich in a verdant valley of the Bavarian Alps. Built between 1914 and 1916 at the behest of Dr. Johannes Müller, a renowned Protestant theologian and philosopher, Schloss Elmau was originally intended as a cultural, communal respite from the outside world—a status it maintains today. The castle complex frequently entertains yoga retreats, world-renowned classical music concerts, and international conferences like the 41st G7 summit, which it hosted in 2015.
9. Lanserhof Tegernsee
One of Europe’s most modern health resorts, Lanserhof Tegernsee combines uplifting architecture with breathtaking nature, and has more than 20,000 square feet set aside for holistic treatments that promote spiritual and physical well-being. Some of the programs on offer are quite rigorous, including a fasting retreat and detox according to the principle of F.X. Mayr, but there are also gentler programs focused on better sleep and preventing burnout. The design of the accommodations is meant to welcome guests with open arms—a sentiment expressed with flowing forms, harmonious colors, and plenty of warm, natural light.
At Cal-a-Vie, you could mistakenly believe you were somewhere in the bucolic French countryside, rather than forty-something miles from San Diego. Suites are simple and rustic, and the experience is straightforward: wake to a sunrise hike and follow it up with any combination of spinning, water volleyball, or piloxing (dance, pilates, and boxing). Soothe your sore muscles with a trip to the world-class spa, where the massages are particularly memorable. Pair your deliciously pampering treatments with an on-site nutritionist, and you’ll leave feeling like a million bucks.