Taking the high road to wellness
Whether it’s a yoga retreat in the Himalayas or a fitness-focused safari, here are five of the best luxury wellness breaks to place you at the heart of your holidays.
Whether economic turbulence or the always-on nature of 21st-century business is to blame, the world is a stressful place. And all too often we don’t give ourselves the space to rest, recuperate and refocus. Sometimes, we need to put wellness before wealth creation, pack our bags, and seek out new horizons – and some much-needed perspective.
Little wonder then that wellness has become one of the most talked-about niches in the global travel industry, as discerning travellers increasingly place wellness at the heart of their high-end travel plans. The numbers don’t lie: wellness tourism is now a $639 billion industry, according to the Global Wellness Economy Monitor released by the Global Wellness Institute earlier this year.
‘Wellness is absolutely a reason to travel – in fact, it’s almost becoming a necessity,’ says Lylie Moolman, Managing Director of bespoke travel business Giltedge Ocean Islands. ‘With today’s stresses and time constraints it’s imperative to take time out and reset. Not only is this important from a physical aspect, but also for spiritual and mental well-being.’
‘People are looking to wellness travel to alleviate their stress and anxiety,’ adds Lara Delafield, Wellness Strategist at Giltedge and a member of the Global Wellness Institute.
‘We’re seeing massive growth in wellness tourism both worldwide and in Africa.’
‘Wellness holiday’ used to mean an abstemious week in a health hydro, but times have changed. The market has evolved to recognise the demand for a well-earned break without asceticism, and a wide variety of journeys to suit time constraints and personal tastes.
Crucially, the market has picked up on the desire for authenticity. Across the continent, and the planet, travellers with an eye for wellness are spoilt for choice when it comes to exclusive transformative escapes.
You don’t have to commune with monks in far-flung Nepal to find a little serenity. A holiday focused on wellness can be as simple as a regional spa getaway, soaking up the comforts of a five-star hotel and a few bespoke treatments. It’s the perfect mini-break to reboot the soul.
On that score the Cape winelands is your friend, with a host of high-end hotels recently revamping their spa facilities. Top of your list should be Delaire Graff, where the revamped spa draws inspiration from Eastern philosophies, incorporating everything from Koshi-chime sound therapy to organic oils. The gorgeous views from the luxurious suites atop the Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch are just as revitalising, and the relaxation room boasts original artworks from Laurence Graff’s personal collection. In Franschhoek, Leu Estates is the most exclusive room in town, where the multilevel spa is as inspiring as the estate’s fine wines and cuisine.
FITNESS IN THE WILDERNESS
Across southern and east Africa, savvy safari lodges have also taken wellness to heart.
‘Health and fitness shouldn’t have to be put on pause just because you’re on safari,’ says Dave van Smeerdijk, co-founder of luxury lodge operator Natural Selection, where fat bikes and walking safaris are available for guests looking to keep in shape.
‘We’ve seen a strong increase in demand for more active safaris,’ agrees Gordie Owles, Group Sales Director for Asilia Africa. The group offers a range of walking trails in the Ngorongoro, while in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy keen runners can join the anti-poaching rangers on their morning exercises.
It’s a unique experience, allowing guests to make a meaningful contribution while gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges facing this corner of African wilderness.
Safari lodges are also taking notice of the demand for world-class spa facilities. Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe is worth seeking out – their brand-new spa is superb, and offers a range of Africa-inspired treatments and products.
Islands have rest and recuperation written all over them, but which to choose? Our vote is for the intimate Six Senses resorts, which offers upscale wellness-focused facilities worldwide. At Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives you’ll find a private Ayurvedic treatment pavilion for dedicated wellness treatments, while Six Senses Zil Pasyon in the Seychelles offers personalised wellness regimes, often led by leading practitioners from across the globe.
Serious about catching some zzzz’s? Upgrade your escape with the Sleep with Six Senses programme. Developed with sleep expert Dr Michael Breus, it uses bespoke bedding, room scents, acoustic inputs and wearable tech to help travellers learn to sleep better.
There’s no shortage of yoga ashrams across southern Asia, but it’s with good reason that Ananda in the Himalayas is spoken of in hushed tones among clued-up travellers. Perched high in India’s Himalayan foothills, this exclusive hotel and spa is set on a 100-acre estate overlooking the Ganges River valley, with daily yoga sessions held in the estate’s idyllic pavilions. Be sure to book one of the multi-day curated wellness programmes.
You could also look further east to Bali. Avoid the backpacker haunts around Ubud and soak up the understated luxury at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. While classic yoga classes across a range of popular disciplines are available daily, you’ll also have the chance to discover the likes of laughter yoga, hot stone yoga and antigravity yoga.
TAKE A HIKE
While yoga and spa treatments sound like nirvana for some, for others it’s all a little too, well, specific. The solution for a more accessible wellness escape? Take a hike. A walking holiday combines cultural immersion, fresh air, home-cooked cuisine and – most importantly – time out for your mind to slow down a gear.
UK-based On Foot Holidays is one of Europe’s leading walking holiday operators, with 32 self-guided trails in 13 European countries. They take care of the logistics, so all you have to do is lace up your shoes and revel in the healing powers of nature.
Whichever wellness escape you choose, don’t delay – put your health first, and those deadlines second. ‘We need to remember that as humans, we all seek happiness, joy and well-being. When we’re not in a state of well-being, it can impact every area of our life,’ Delafield says.