Byron Bay Hinterlands, Australia
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While some locals have already declared Byron “over”, the NSW beach town is only just hitting its stride on an international stage, with Condé Nast Traveller calling it one of Australia’s hottest properties and Travel & Leisure listing it as one of “the world’s coolest beach towns”. Gaia Retreat & Resort consistently earns accolades and offers an impressive spa menu, but given the surroundings you can’t go past the Bay Sea Salt and Mineral Polish scrub.
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Ayurvedic medicine has been practised for more than 5000 years in India, but traditional treatments like oil pulling and ayurvedic cooking are becoming more mainstream in the West thanks to high-profile fans like Miranda Kerr and Gwyneth Paltrow. Kerala is the region best known for Ayurveda, and Kovalam boasts the world’s only ayurvedic hospital – located in close proximity to the lush rolling hills and serene backwaters that have made the area famous.
Jackson Hole, Idaho
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Idaho? Yes, really. US Vogue describes it as “Aspen in the ‘60s” and the recently opened Limelight Ketchum offers sleek accommodation in close proximity to the great outdoors – perfect for those who prefer an action-packed approach to staying fit. Summer is ideal for river swimming and hiking, but really it’s all about the skiing – some of the best the US has to offer.
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Bali isn’t the only Indonesian island worth visiting. As travellers venture further afield, Java is quietly making a name for itself as a place to retreat in the true sense of the word. The region’s Jamu medicine was born from a long history of contact between locals and Chinese and Arab traders, drawing from Ayurvedic, Chinese, Greek and Arab healing practices. Jamu philosophy underscores all the treatments at MesaStila’s award-winning spa, with many of the ingredients grown on site.
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Since US travel restrictions were relaxed, Cuba has shot to the top of many travellers’ bucket lists. The home of rum, cigars and all-night parties may not seem like an ideal place to relax and rejuvenate, but that all changed this year with the opening of Havana’s first five star hotel, Gran Hotel Kempinski La Habana. With a 1000-square-metre spa and eight treatment rooms, mojito-ed out guests can indulge in everything from the hotel’s myriad of pools and saunas to a manicure, massage or even a haircut.
Bhutan Six Senses
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Thailand may be the spa capital of Asia, but Bhutan has the monopoly on meditation retreats, with many travellers heading for the Himalayas in search of inner and outer peace. Foot traffic will only increase in 2018 with the opening of not one but five of Asia’s most hotly anticipated properties. Six Senses’ collection of luxury lodges (the resort is due to open in early 2018) is specially designed to work in unison and be experienced as a single journey across the country.
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Given Denmark and Sweden’s reputation with design lovers, it was only a matter of time before neighbouring Finland finally got its time in the spotlight. The home of sauna has truly turned sweating into an art form with its tradition of Sauna Aufguss – or sauna theatre. The city’s newest and most architecturally pleasing sauna, Loyly, boasts waterfront views and is a social affair -- complete with sauna-meisters who provide entertainment to their towel-clad audience.
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
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Rugged natural beauty, fine dining and a vibrant cultural scene have put Tassie firmly on domestic and international travel itineraries in recent years. After a day of bushwalking, soak tired legs at The Waldheim Alpine Spa at Peppers Cradle Mountain. The spa overlooks the Tasmanian forest in addition to housing a steam room, sauna, hot tub and plunge pool. Image credit: Chris Crerar
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From the ubiquitous Moroccan oil to its legendary hammams, Marrakesh has been a power player in the beauty world for centuries. Recent visits from the Beckhams and Jennifer Lopez have helped cement the city’s reputation as the place to indulge. For maximum glamour, check out the bath house at La Mamounia, the storied hotel of choice for Yves Saint Laurent, Marlene Dietrich and Winston Churchill.
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Borneo is famous for its lush, tropical jungle and exotic wildlife. With the Borneo Eagle Resort set to open in early 2018, visitors will be able to get up close to both while enjoying a holistic approach to health. Some of the resort’s luxurious villas even come with private pools and built-in spa facilities, so you needn’t leave the room to be pampered.
Queenstown, New Zealand
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Aotearoa is better known for adrenaline sports than spas, but the spectacular Southern Alps (aka Middle Earth) are just as great for hiking and meditation as skydiving. The hydro and solar powered Aro Ha was founded two years ago by teachers from LA’s notoriously hard-core weightloss retreat, The Ashram, and makes up for its gruelling schedule of treks with deliciously healthy food, an indulgent spa and breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu.
Sao Miguel, Portugal
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This volcanic island village off the coast of Portugal is home to the largest concentration of thermal waters in Europe and is roughly a two-hour flight from the city du jour, Lisbon. Soak away your worries at the Furnas Boutique Hotel, which puts the region’s healing water to use with several natural pools and 10 treatment rooms.
Emerald Coast, Nicaragua
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Vibrant colonial cities, idyllic beaches and an abundance of smouldering volcanoes and pristine lakes have made Nicaragua a hot destination for surfers, hikers and yogis. There’s no shortage of beautiful locations at which to embrace “la pura vida”, but the eco-friendly Aqua puts you amongst it with luxury treehouse accommodation, a private beach cove, healthy food and an extensive menu of wellness treatments and programs.
Palm Springs, California
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Already a Mecca for architecture and music, this desert town is fast becoming the wellness capital of the US. Its proximity to LA, surreal desert landscape and rich Native American history have made it one of the coolest detox destinations for the gyp-set. Celebrity favourite We Care Spa does juicing with a side of spirituality, while Two Bunch Palm Springs is built around a series of healing mineral pools.
Nosy Ankao, Madagascar
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It’s not the first place that springs to mind when you think ‘African safari’, but 75 per cent of Madagascar’s wildlife can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. The plush, recently opened Miavano on Nosy Ankao offers underwater safaris and lemur-spotting treks in the jungle, as well as swimming, snorkelling, and a healthy detox-friendly menu.
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Paris is a perennial favourite for anyone looking to get pampered and, as any pharmacie devotee will tell you, it’s a city obsessed with skincare. Forget the gym and go straight for the haute facial treatments at the world’s first Chanel spa (inside The Ritz, no less) or the members-only Bain de Lea, a health club and beauty institute in one.
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Kaga offers everything from traditional bath-houses to opulent onsen with views of the area’s natural beauty. Even better, you won’t encounter the crowds of more tourist-friendly hot spring towns like Hakkone. Dotted with Meiji-era houses and ancient trees, it’s the perfect place to unplug and soak away the stress in traditional Japanese style.
Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
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Long favoured by the elite for its discreet and exclusive Brando Resort, Tetiaroa was thrust into the limelight when Obama vacationed there after leaving the White House. (Remember how happy he looked kite-surfing?) The Brando’s nest-like spa is suspended among the treetops and offers traditional Polynesian massage therapies.
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Mexico’s rich mix of indigenous and European cultures is reflected in everything from the country’s religious practices to its food, music and, yes, wellness traditions. Temezcal, an ancient Mayan medicine that involves sweating inside a stone igloo during a shaman-guided ceremony, is making a steady comeback with locals and tourists alike. You can do one most places in Mexico, but it’s particularly popular in hip Tulum.
Julian Alps, Slovenia
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Named one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 places to visit in 2018, the fairytale peaks of the Julian Alps are poised to welcome more visitors with increased accessibility, treks and tours. Early adopters will be breathing the mountain air at Spik Alpine Resort, which offers massages under a cascade in the relaxation pool or on massage benches; Turkish, Finnish and herbal saunas; a squash and cardio centre; and a beauty centre.