Find serenity in 2024 at these new wellness retreats

0

For travelers, wellness now means more than just getting a massage at the hotel spa. (Though a good rubdown can feel like a mini-vacation, too.) It’s about plugging into healthful habits, eating local food, and de-stressing—or taking a heart-pumping hike—in fresh surrounds.

For our annual Best of the World list, National Geographic’s global community of editors, writers, photographers, and explorers found the latest, greatest, and most innovative places and experiences to help you relax and rejuvenate. Any one of these spots might help you bring a new outlook home.

U.S. & Canada

QC NY Spa, Governors Island, New York City

Dip into indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, and steam baths—some with postcard views of the New York City skyline—at this day spa carved out of a 1930s army barracks. A quick ferry ride from the southern tip of Manhattan lands you on car-free Governors Island where you can also hike and bike before your soak or massage.

Othership, Toronto, Canada

Sober-curious travelers will appreciate that founder and CEO Robbie Bent leaned on his own experiences in recovery when developing this pair of unique bathhouses in Toronto’s Yorkville and Adelaide neighborhoods. Guests are encouraged to replace alcohol consumption with other “shift your state” activities, from steamy saunas and ice plunges to sociable classes where participants try to find balance via breath work, chants, and grooving to house music.

Kosa Spa, Madison, Wisconsin

One of the signature offerings at this artful Ayurvedic spa is abhyanga, a full-body massage using two bowls’ worth of fragrant, warmed oil from Kosa’s own line of skincare products. “In Sanskrit, the word for oil is sneha, which also translates to the word love,” says founder Shilpa Sankaran. “So, you’re really saturating your body in love.” Located in Madison’s historic Garver Feed Mill, Kosa also serves post-treatment seasonal foods and detoxifying teas made using the principles of Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old wellness tradition that originated in India.

Caribbean

Cayo Levantado Resort, Dominican Republic 

Guests can choose one of four wellness paths—like “relax” (yoga and meditation) or “refresh” (boot camp sessions and adventurous hikes)—at this new all-inclusive resort on a private island in the Dominican Republic. Named for the Indigenous Taino word for whale, the thatch-roofed Yubarta center designs physical and spiritual fitness programs for each guest. 

Amenta Wellness Journeys, Antigua and Barbuda

On daylong “nature walkabouts” around Antigua’s volcanic highlands, hike to the top of Green Castle Hill before stopping for a yoga class and vegan picnic on Seaforth Beach. Founders Ashante Lindsay and Malique “King” Williams conceived of the tours as a way to introduce guests (and residents) to lesser known parts of the island. “We spend a beautiful day sharing stories, eating, and liming [hanging out] like a local,” says Lindsay.

Rockhouse Hotel, Negril, Jamaica 

At this storied resort’s new wellness pavilion, two-hour meditative experiences incorporate psilocybin, a psychedelic mushroom often consumed for its temporary mind- and senses-enhancing effects. (Jamaica is one of the few countries in the world where the hallucinogenic mushroom is legal.) In the lush hotel garden, participants nibble on a chocolate square infused with psilocybin before being guided through breath work and an immersive sound bath created by a therapist who “plays” brass bowls and other instruments.

Mexico & Central and South America

Banyan Tree Veya Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico

Banyan Tree’s signature “eight pillars of well being” (including rest, mindfulness, and nourishment) set the tone at this resort in Mexico’s biggest wine region. (Grenache grapes grown here are blended into vino at the onsite winery.) Guests can indulge in massages and hydrotherapy incorporating local medicinal plants (hoja santa, white sage) or participate in movement and grounding rituals. Just a 90-minute drive from the United States border, the property holds 30 bungalows designed by modernist Mexican architect Michel Rojkind. 

The Shack, José Ignacio, Uruguay

Teachers prompt poses in both English and Spanish at this yoga center in the chic Uruguay beach town known for its sea-to-table restaurants and booming wine scene. The Shack recently relocated to the Bahia Vik resort on Mansa Beach, meaning that its American-Uruguayan owner Isabella Channing can now host weeklong themed retreats like February’s “Yoga for Bad People.” Classes take place three times a day in a barn-like, wood-lined studio with views toward the wild Atlantic Ocean.

Hotel Nantipa, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Many residents of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula live to be one hundred thanks to a healthful diet and active lifestyle, making the region one of the world’s five Blue Zones. This new hotel and retreat leans into that designation, serving fish- and veggie-forward cuisine in its restaurant, hosting yoga classes on the sand, and offering stress-reducing surrounds (guest rooms decorated with natural wood and stone, massages in open-air cabanas). Also on offer: guided hikes to the nearby Montezuma waterfall and volunteer opportunities at a turtle hatchery, where guests can identify nest locations or help baby terrapins reach the ocean.

Back to top.

Europe

Six Senses Rome Spa, Rome, Italy

Experience modern twists on ancient bathing rituals at the new Six Senses Rome Spa, where guests dip in and out of a caldarium, tepidarium, and frigidarium (hot, warm, and cold plunge pools) to soothe jet lag or sore feet worn out by all of Rome’s cobblestones. The hotel, located within a 15th-century palazzo near the Trevi Fountain, has treatment and meditation rooms in a columned, marble-lined space where programming also includes sound baths, yoga, and potion mixing with a local alchemist.

Forest Lagoon, Akureyri, Iceland

Adventurers use the northern Icelandic city of Akureyri as a jumping-off point for whale watching and hiking to icy waterfalls. This new thermal day spa provides a steamy respite from the cold with tree-framed hot spring pools overlooking Eyjafjörður, one of the country’s longest fjords. Geometric wood-clad buildings hold a Finnish-style sauna and a restaurant serving smoked fish and pastries around a circular fireplace.

Göta Canal Trail, Sweden

Pedal past rural farms, crumbling castles, and historic locks on this new 137-mile biking trail snaking along southern Sweden’s Blå Band (blue ribbon). Rent wheels from Sustainable Stella or join a guided trip along the route, which skirts the 19th-century canal connecting the Baltic coast to bird-filled Vänern Lake. “Cycling is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the canal,” says Anna Adolfsson, marketing coordinator for the Göta Canal Company. “You can watch boats going through the locks, pet sheep, or stop at a café.”

Bad Ischl, Austria 

It was salt that made Bad Ischl—a European Capital of Culture for 2024—a popular wellness destination in the 1800s. People flocked to the Austrian town’s spa hotels to enjoy the mineral’s therapeutic benefits, found in the Salzkammergut region’s 7,000-year-old salt deposits. Visitors can still take the waters, but the great outdoors beckons as well: strike out on the BergeSeen Trail—a 230-mile chain of hikes that weaves through the mountains—or, in winter months, go snowshoeing and ice-diving in the frigid waters of Attersee.

Middle East & Africa

Kisawa Sanctuary, Benguerra Island, Mozambique

At the thatch-roofed wellness center of this Indian Ocean resort, facials with local coconut oil, Indian Ayurvedic massages, and Chinese foot reflexology draw on Mozambique’s multicultural history. Guests can also book yoga and tai chi sessions or take a guided hike to spot some of the 150 local bird species such as lilac breasted rollers or curlew sandpipers. Kisawa founder Nina Flohr says she aims for “a feeling of reconnecting, rather than disconnecting.” 

Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som, Al Ruwais, Qatar

Treatments at the largest spa resort in the Middle East (three million square feet) include the Al-Batin (a stomach massage meant to aid with digestion) and the Al Ras (a jade stone rubdown addressing the head and abdomen). “We’re targeting mind, body, and spirit by assisting with stress, negativity, and releasing tension,” says Bibi Ayesha Lockhat, a Traditional Arabic and Islamic Medicine (TAIM) specialist at the Qatari resort. Wellness offerings aimed at families include nature walks and cultural storytelling.

Asia

Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand

Set on the white sand beaches of Thailand’s second largest island, Kamalaya has been offering Asian healing programs with a focus on spiritual health for 40 years. Its new initiative aimed at women, Radiant Bliss, addresses issues including fertility and menopause with treatments such as traditional Chinese cupping and Indian Ayurvedic shirodara, in which warm oil is slowly dripped on the forehead to promote relaxation. “We also teach effective ways to better care for your health once you return home,” says founder and chief wellness officer Karina Stewart. 

Soulshine, Bali, Indonesia

This new “sound and wellness resort” set amid tropical gardens in Bali, Indonesia, harnesses the healing power of music with concerts, DJ dance parties, and tuneful meditation. American funk and soul artist Michael Franti says he created the boutique hotel “for the seeker, adventurer, and soul rocker in each of us. Travelers find togetherness and reflection in a rice field, within the yoga room, or on the dance floor.” Guest rooms, named for musical icons from Prince to Bowie, are furnished with local textiles and state-of-the-art Marshall speakers. The spa offers yoga and Balinese massages, or guests can go biking or hiking on nearby Mt. Batur.

Adventure Therapy Treks, India

Licensed therapists lace up their hiking boots to lead group hikes infused with meditation and mindfulness in the foothills of the Himalayas. These new multiday treks from India Hikes are “short, immersive experiences that give you the energy lift required to take you on your journey,” says program leader Izzat Yaganagi. Trips combine some of the theories of shinrin yoku (Japanese forest bathing) with heart-pumping summits, journaling, and one-on-one talk therapy.

Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

The Great Rides Network, Rotorua, New Zealand 

The first new cycle trails in over a decade have just been added to New Zealand’s Great Rides Network, which first launched in 2010. The Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is a 20-mile-long trail where mountain bikers can pedal past native plants and California redwoods with an eye out for Māori carvings. The new 27-mile-long Lake Dunstan Trail takes riders across the Cromwell Gorge, a historical thoroughfare for Māori hunters, farmers, and gold miners. Along the way interpretive signs share information about the region.

Cunnamulla Hot Springs, Queensland, Australia

Visitors to this Australian Outback retreat set along the Warrego River can soak in one of seven hot-spring pools filled with water from the Great Artesian Basin, one of the world’s largest, deepest underground freshwater resources. In the gardens surrounding the springs, local Indigenous groups host frequent food and storytelling events. “The hot springs provide a hub for wellness and the transfer of cultural understanding between local First Nations peoples and visitors,” says local tourism advocate Paul Harper-Green.

Bora Hiking Explorer, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The first-ever guided hikes on lush Bora Bora take visitors past ancient temples, historic sites related to World War II, and through jungles fragrant with flowers. Guide Django Edwards lets guests sample tropical fruits from trees along the way and reveals local legends and lore. “My goal is not just walking,” says Edwards. “It’s also learning, sharing, having fun, and helping [visitors] better understand our Polynesian culture.”

Back to top.

Reporting by Heather Greenwood Davis and Connor McGovern.

T


link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *