Refresh, recharge, reset

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental and physical wellbeing, with more travellers looking for experiences that relax the body, nourish the mind and embrace self-care, says Jessica Pook

Whether it’s cutting down on screen time or doing the couch to 5k, maintaining a healthier lifestyle is a top priority for many this year. 

But a traditional spa break is now just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some much-needed R&R, with resorts offering treatments ranging from a digital detox to a menopause retreat.

Natural highs 

Hilton’s trends report found that one in two (47%) travellers in 2023 are seeking out resorts with fitness amenities like gyms or activities and Florence Wong, Communications Manager at More Life Adventures, an independent fitness retreats company, agrees: “More of us are now using holidays to relax and recover, but in a productive way that matches their lifestyles,” says Wong. “Exercising is no longer seen as a chore, but an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, so good workouts and facilities are key aspects of a holiday.”

A new women-only wellness trip from Wilderness Scotland to the Isle of Skye puts this into practice with wild swimming, hiking along soaring sea cliffs, a private yoga session and foraging for seaweed and shellfish all part of the experience.

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Remember the great bicycle boom of 2020? Well these pedal enthusiasts are taking their hobby across the globe with cycling tours selling well into 2023. 

“Cycling through a remote wilderness is a  great way to be at one with nature which, in turn, is medicine for the mind,” says Nick Van Gruisen, Managing Director at The Ultimate Travel Company. 

“Our clients are keener than ever to get under the skin of a country and discover its true heartbeat through interesting and active ways. We are seeing a significant rise in trekking and walking holidays in Nepal, Peru and Machu Picchu, walking safaris in Zambia and private cycling safaris in Botswana,” adds Van Gruisen.

Slovenia has launched a dedicated Green Wellness cycling route to cater to rising demand. It is made up of 16 stages that circle the country’s diverse landscapes and connect with the best Slovenian spas and natural health resorts along the way.

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The digital detox 

In order to combat burnout and stress, some resorts are enforcing a ‘digital detox’ whereby guests are encouraged to deposit their phones upon arrival in order to fully switch off and embrace nature. 

One property that asks guests to leave their devices at the front desk is the adults-only boutique hotel Sunrose 7 in Bohinj, Slovenia, near Lake Bohinj.

The hotel’s ‘digital detox concept’ means there’s no internet, television or multimedia entertainment in the rooms and instead guests are encouraged to venture out into the surrounding nature.

Set on the edge of dense forest hills, Hoshinoya is a riverside resort in Japan’s former capital, Kyoto, where visitors can book a one-night, two-day digital detox programme that focuses on nature and local culture. After depositing all digital devices, guests will immerse themselves in their local surroundings, with grounding experiences such as incense ceremonies, zen meditations and stretch sessions.

And at the Camp’d out Joshua Tree Experience guests are transported to a desert hideaway in Greater Palm Springs for a one-night glamping experience in a no-service spot in Joshua Tree National Park. Campers sleep under the stars in luxury Spanish-style casitas. 

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Remote retreats 

Yoga and meditation are commonplace at wellness retreats, but resorts are increasingly offering courses specialising in mental, nutrition and holistic therapies. 

Brijesh Sarsar, Authentic India Tours, says it’s not just physical health that travellers are looking for post-pandemic, it’s also mental wellbeing. 

“That’s why our wellbeing holidays are growing fast in popularity, with travellers wanting to get away from it all before returning home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated,” he says.

The company’s best-selling eight-day programme at the SwaSwara Wellness Retreat in Gokarna, Karnataka, includes consultations with doctors and yoga instructors, therapeutic massages, group and private yoga sessions, meditation, art therapy, nature trails, interactive cooking classes and healthy gourmet cuisine. 

With a particular focus on men’s mental health, Scarlet and Bedruthan Hotels in Cornwall is hosting dedicated retreats this year with dates in April, June and October. Anthony Mullally, a former Ireland international rugby league footballer known as the ‘Vegan Warrior’, will guide participants on how to build resilience, adapt to adversity and enable better management of stress using temperature exposure and breathwork.

New for 2023, the Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence at Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne in Switzerland has partnered with fertility expert Zita West to offer the first ‘Fit for Fertility’ retreat in March, combining the best medical care with a holistic approach to preparing for fertility.

Also in March, PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness in Catalonia, Spain, will host a five-day ‘Rebalance’ Retreat at its new Wellness Centre, aimed at menopausal and perimenopausal women. The class combines movement, naturopathic and holistic therapies, and state of the art technologies to garner results and mitigate symptoms, from anxiety and fatigue to bad sleep and weight gain. 

And for something completely unique, clients can try newly-launched horse therapy retreats for 2023. Retreat And Conquer claims that spending time with horses can help with issues ranging from anxiety to post-separation heartache to eating disorders. Heading overseas for the first time, the retreats will be located in remote locations including Nihi Sumba in Indonesia, the private island of Mustique in the Caribbean, as well as Arabia and Africa.

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Healing powers 

Estonia is showcasing its wellness culture by naming 2023 Year of the Sauna. With nineteen sauna varieties on offer including smoke, igloo sauna and honeycomb saunas, the practice is said to reduce stress, improve sleep and flush toxins. 

Spas have developed new ways to enhance wellbeing with treatments that include natural healing remedies, in-house medical teams and sound and heat therapy. The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert in the UAE emirate offers a luxury resort experience inspired by nature, culture, and tradition. Signature treatments use local herbs and healing traditions while The Rainforest experience combines European hydrothermal culture with Middle Eastern bathing rituals.

Due to open in 2023, Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai in Thailand will offer a medical-level programme complete with an in-house doctor and ‘master healer’ who will assist guests in achieving optimum wellness and balance through holistic approaches.

And Italy’s Palace Merano, has a ‘live life longer’ mantra featuring The Revital Detox for Longevity Programme which aims to revitalise the body and free it from toxins. 

Where to book it

The Ultimate Travel Company has a six-night guided Natural Selection Botswana cycling experience in the Okavango Delta, the first cycling safari of its kind in the country, priced from £5,735pp. Highlights include peddling through Moremi Game Reserve. theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk