With more exotic and unusual spa treatments to choose from than ever before, 2014 is the year of the spa trek. Award-winning spa reviewer Jessica Baldwin gives us a whirlwind tour of this year’s must-visit wellness destinations.
With everything from caviar hair masks to chocolate body wraps hitting the headlines, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to finding your perfect spa break.
Those in need of a detox are spoiled for choice with hotels and spas around the globe offering everything from macrobiotic diets and fitness breaks to detoxifying wraps and purifying massages. But despite all of the newest innovations, sometimes it helps to go back to basics.
Sweating and purification have been associated around the world for centuries. Head to Moscow and you will find an unbeatable range of traditional Russian baths. These baths have played an important role in Russian culture for centuries and are often visited in groups. Otherwise known as banyas, the heated rooms provide a hot and steamy environment to encourage sweating, which releases toxins from the body and extracts excess water and salt to promote weight loss. Bathers alternate between the hot room and an ice-cold pool, shocking the body.
Having worked up a sweat in the banya, your companion briskly strikes you with a bundle of damp birch or oak branches to stimulate circulation. This may sound torturous, but it is totally invigorating, leaving you relaxed and energised. Many Russians also believe that banyas are the perfect place to cleanse the mind of stress, recover from injuries, and heal illnesses. Moroccan hammams and Turkish baths offer similar cleansing qualities.
Alternatively, to give your immune system a much-needed boost, head to the northernmost province of Italy, where citizens of South Tyrol have been bathing in steaming hay baths for nearly 200 years. The baths, which see visitors covered up to their necks in damp local hay and left to sweat in temperatures reaching up to 60˚C, are believed to restore energy, boost the immune system, and ease aches and pains.
The benefits were discovered by 19th-century farmers who slept in hot hay barns, high up in the mountains after a long day’s work and yet always awoke to feel strangely restored and invigorated the next morning. Even today, despite being framed by the dramatic Dolomites and awash with tranquil lakes and forests, it is still the area’s intriguing spas that pull in the crowds. Alternatively many spas also offer more indulgent treatments which use local produce such as wine, apples, and fragrant pines from the mountains.
If utter relaxation is your aim, then head to the Indonesian island of Bali. Carpeted in lush tiered rice paddies ridged by steep ravines, and scattered with countless ancient temples, this deeply spiritual island is ideal for those seeking total relaxation and restoration.
Away from the busy beach resorts, in the centre of the island is Ubud: an artistic hotbed of spirituality and creativity. The colourful streets are filled with offerings of fragrant incense and delicate flower petals.
Nowadays, Balinese massage is on almost every spa’s treatment list, but experiencing it on the island itself, whilst surrounded by its unique floral scents and spiritual energy, cannot be beaten. The unique fusion of massage techniques, including kneading and skin rolling, works deep within the muscles to repair damage, ease stress, boost circulation, and re-balance the body. The island also offers various treatments which incorporate the local flora and fauna, such as black rice exfoliations, cinnamon rubs to boost circulation, and mineral-rich volcanic-clay masks. Many of the Indonesian islands, such as neighbouring Lombok, have created their own massage styles, so for a really relaxing break, take in a few of the nearby islands to experience a variety.
However, for sheer decadence it has to be the 24k-gold facial. For centuries the Egyptians, Japanese, and Romans used gold in their skincare regimes. Gold is one of the softest metals, absorbing easily into the skin. It is said to enhance elasticity, accelerate cell renewal, and of course give a priceless glow. It is also a fantastic natural anti-inflammatory, soothing skin irritations. Once this lavish treatment was only used by the likes of Cleopatra, but today it is available around the globe. I experienced this facial in Tuscany and was amazed at how soft it left my skin.
So, what are you waiting for? Whether you want to turn back time, eliminate toxins, or simply relax, the perfect 2014 spa trek is waiting for you!
Sanduny Bath House
Sanduny Bath House is Russia’s most famous banya, and it has attracted everyone from Naomi Campbell to Roman Abramovich. Located in Moscow, the elaborate bath house was originally founded in 1808. Once an aristocratic men’s club, today it welcomes everybody. The eclectic décor features frescoed walls, Grecian columns, and ornate Turkish tiles.
Hotel Heubad in Fiè allo Sciliar has offered hay baths since 1903. Their hay comes from unfertilised meadows above 2,000m altitude and boasts 40 different types of grass and flowers.
Terme Di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort
Set within the Tuscan countryside, this hotel of 140 rooms and suites is located alongside a thermal spring. Maintaining a temperature of 37.5˚C, the sulphurous water boasts a range of health-giving properties, from easing breathing difficulties and skin complaints to cleansing the liver. In summer the medicinal springs are open into the evenings and are surrounded by candles. This hotel also offers the 24k-gold facial.
SHA Wellness Clinic
The multi-award-winning SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante is one of the world’s leading wellness clinics. The stylish property offers a Mediterranean/Japanese fusion approach to macrobiotic cuisine, and the treatments on offer have a more scientific, results-led approach than relaxation-based treatments. The clinic is split into various areas addressing everything from stopping smoking and improving sleep to anti-ageing.
On the outskirts of Ubud, overlooking the emerald-green Ayung Valley, Amandari is a stylish 5-star hotel with a fantastic spa offering an expansive range of traditional Balinese treatments. One of the spa’s strengths is using local ingredients: from banana-leaf body wraps and black-rice scrubs to fresh coconut-milk baths.