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RUMOUR has it... It is time for some TLC

Written by Victoria Zakova


Posted on July 28 2015

More and more of us are reassessing what it means to live well. We work, we travel, we go from meeting to meeting, we squeeze in precious moments with our children, we urgently check our phones, we frantically plot and plan - dinners, parties, tightly timed catch-ups, sessions in the gym. So many of us seem to be in a constant battle against time... We only realise that we haven't taken care of ourselves until we start struggling. Time to pause, to step out of the wirlwind is not just a luxury, it is essential. Here are our ideas of the world's top spas and retreats that can become a real life saver.
Best Destination SPA
CHIVA SOM - Hua Hin, Thailand
Once hooked, guests return year after year for their annual MOT. Each time you visit there are new classes, new visiting experts, new programmes that really do make a difference. The range of treatments is so all-encompassing and the doctors, therapists, fitness instructors and nutritionists so entirely on-the-money that it's easy to forgive the fact that the public beach is a tad disappointing.
Most Progressive Set-Up
The intensive Eucrasia Total IMMOT* programme at Elounda's Six Senses Spa is something to get seriously excited about. They even analyse your hair and saliva a couple of months before you arrive to get a full picture of toxin levels and intolerances. There is a lot of personal care and attention here. The medical team join the group for every meal, so you tap into their expertise continuously. The schedule is demanding. Much of the exercise is outdoors: hiking in the hills; walking along the seashore; rock-climbing in the canyons. Accompanied by what feels like a small army of fitness specialists, you wear a heart monitor for each expedition. On non-hike days there's yoga, ta'i chi, qigong and aqua sports.
Best for Active Weight Loss
This £15-million hydro- and solar-powered wellness retreat, built into the snow-capped mountains (a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Sydney), is the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Its founders, Chris Madison and Damian Chaparro, were devotees and teachers at LA's The Ashram (hardcore slimming for CEOs hoping to avoid a heart attack) and the five- or seven-day programmes aim for radical lifestyle changes. The staff are top calibre. Fitness practitioners (mainly yoga teachers) take a tough-love approach. Complaining is ignored so don't bother. If you favour variety, Aro Ha may be particularly challenging; days feel repetitive, but that's by design. The programme constantly pushes you, physically and mentally, to inspire changes that last beyond the stay. Luxe touches don't go unnoticed: Vaude rain gear, citrus-scented towels post-hike and organic-cotton bedding.
Best Holistic Hideaway
THE ARRIGO PROGRAMME - Somerset, England

It's a chance to step away from the BlackBerry for a few days, hunkering down in a farm cottage in the countryside. Before you arrive, there's a 20-minute telephone consultation with Fiona Arrigo who drills down into your exact requirements. Then she arranges a tailormade series of sessions (an incredible four a day), which take place in the comfort of guests' private treatment rooms. There's Five Elements acupuncture to release the trauma in your lungs, qigong meditation sessions, Tibetan pulsing (a gentle type of bodywork that rebalances energy) and transformational breathing, a revelatory technique that makes your fingers tingle. And there's sparkly Lasare Maloney, whose healing massage is akin to blowing great gusty waves through dusty corners of your past.

Go Zen in Ibiza
KU RETREATS - Ibiza, Spain

In the lush, green valleys of Santa Gertrudis at the very heart of Ibiza is Ku, a yoga retreat that hums with the sound of ceaseless cicadas and aims to kick-start an extensive lifestyle overhaul. The emphasis is less on luxury and more on action, so don't expect lavish, pamper-fuelled days, but do prepare to have any conceptions of healthy living and diet transformed.

Most Indulgent SPA

This is a spanking new big hitter in the Swiss Alps and nothing can prepare you for the extravagance. Surrounded by mountains in the Urseren Valley, 90 minutes from Zürich, it is a bold and beautiful hotel that has it all: the looks, the location and a great spa. The 105 rooms are gargantuan, with heated stone floors, open fireplaces, piles of cashmere rugs, iPads that control everything (blinds, music, lights, fire) and fabulous Acqua di Parma-filled bathrooms. The food is finger-licking perfect - the awe-inspiring floor-to-ceiling glass temple of cheese in the middle of the dining room is not to be missed (not that it can be). But with 10 treatment suites that are bigger than most London flats, plus huge dressing rooms and private steam showers, the spa is the real winner here. The therapists are friendly and typically Swiss-efficient. Ila, Ren and Alpienne are the organic brands of choice. Massages will leave you woozy and happy. Opt for The Chedi Oriental Ritual, a top-to-toe treatment which includes reflexology, a Ren facial, Himalayan-crystal body polish, a bathing ceremony and everything else in between.

Best Sunshine Boost
D-HOTEL MARIS - Marmaris, Turkey

Occupying a large slice of southern Turkey's Datça Peninsula and presiding over five spectacular white-sand beaches, this place is more private island than posh hotel. Like Maldives on the Med with added elevation and pine trees. The spa isn't much from the outside, but once you're through the doors it's a high-styled haven created with perfectionists in mind. And now that James Duigan of Bodyism (the well-being movement du jour) has arrived, supermodels and starlets are flocking here, choppering in from Dalaman or breezing ashore on megayachts.


Best Bespoke Overhaul
BODHIMAYA - Provence, France

At the turreted 16th-century Château de Robernier there's a sweet turndown service of the canopied beds. But instead of a chocolate on your pillow, a bottle of Evian is left on the bedside table. You are here for a serious detox, after all. The idea behind the storybook setting - tinkling chandeliers, marble staircases, gilded furniture and suits of armour - is to make guests feel as if they are in another world. Run by ever-smiling brothers Daniel and Cornelius O'Shaughnessy (a Harley Street-based nutritionist and mind expert), the transformative programme combines yoga and meditation with a scientific approach to detoxing.

Family-Owned Haven

Set amid the wild beauty south of San Diego, this retreat was established in 1940 by Edmond and Deborah Szekely, and is named after two arching oak trees in a spot that became a simple campsite. La Puerta today exudes all the authenticity of an ancient sanctuary. Once here, to resist jumping off the hamster wheel of modern-day life is futile. With over 25 miles of dusty hiking trails and ever-present wide open spaces, come here to slow right down - perhaps even drop off the radar. The stunning vista of Mount Kuchumaa is a serene backdrop reflecting an orange glow as the sun rises each morning. There are plenty of intimate reading areas adorned with swings and hammocks - ideal spots to get lost in a good book. Pristine pools and soothing hot tubs are great places to cool off and unwind after a long hike. The fitness and lifestyle programmes are thorough and intensive, including an impressive variety of classes, whatever your preference.







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