The best spa destinations are in sight: if you're planning a relaxing getaway in 2020, we've got you covered with this guide.
Sonop, Karas Region, Namibia
Who goes: Angelina Jolie likely gets first dibs at this exquisite new desert destination. A fan of owner Arnaud Zannier’s Phum Baitang resort, in Cambodia, Jolie suggested he check out Namibia.
Why: Savvy travelers can combine a stay at Sonop, which may be the fanciest tented desert camp ever, with a few days at Omaanda, the hotelier’s first Namibian property. There, you’ll find the Shiloh (!) Wildlife Sanctuary, where rhinos and elephants with poaching-related injuries are nursed before being released back to the reserve.
Food: Dinner is lavish and romantic, lit by a zillion candles and served banquet style.
Setting: Golden sand as far as the eye can see.
Rooms: Out of Africa meets Four Seasons.
Standout feature: Massage treatments use ingredients like silky dune sand, marula, mopani and myrrh oils, and Namibian sea salt pearls.
Don’t go if: The sound of silence (punctuated by the occasional screech of a jackal or brown hyena) unnerves you.
Kokomo Private Island Fiji
Who goes: Reclusive honeymooners, sea-sports enthusiasts, crazy rich Asians, fancy Australians. Oh, and a Victoria’s Secret supermodel or two.
Why: Treatments at the Yaukuve Spa Sanctuary, such as the Pacific Mastery Massage, are just an added bonus—everything here promotes communion with nature.
Food: Dock–to–sushi bar—the daily catch usually includes tuna, red snapper, or wahoo; vegetables are grown on the property.
Setting: Kokomo is surrounded by its own stunning coral formations, ideal for snorkeling. For divers and fishermen, the Great Astrolabe Reef—one of the most pristine in the world—is minutes away by boat.
Rooms: With just 21 villas and 5 luxury residences—each with its own pool—this is as close as it gets to having your own island.
Standout feature: Marine biologists tend to a garden of heat-resistant corals that help repopulate reef areas affected by global warming.
Don’t go if: Flying is not your thing. Fiji is not exactly around the corner, and the hop from the mainland is by private seaplane or helicopter.
Shou Sugi Ban House, Water Mill, New York
Who goes: Wellness-obsessed Hamptonites can take part in one-, four-, or six-day retreats at this luxurious new retreat 90 miles from Manhattan.
Why: It’s like a phoenix risen from the ashes. After fire destroyed a barn on her three-acre Water Mill property, the owner and Japanophile Amy Cherry-Abitbol was inspired to rebuild when she discovered a haiku by Mizuta Masahide: “Barn’s burnt down—now I can see the moon.” The retreat takes its name from the ancient technique of charring cedar planks to render them impervious to fire and pests, and the architect Debbie S. Kropf incorporated elements of the charred wood throughout the compound.
Food: Plant-based cuisine by the Noma cofounder Mads Refslund, who works with local growers.
Setting: Overlooking a cherry orchard and surrounded by gardens of local grasses and flowers, Shou Sugi Ban House is peaceful and serene—no mean feat in the Hamptons.
Rooms: The 13 wabi-sabi-inspired studios feature handmade wood furniture, fireplaces, soaking tubs, and plush organic mattresses and linens.
Standout feature: Water-based healing is an integral part of the experience. Choose from the saltwater swimming pool, hot and cold hydrotherapy pools, and a Watsu treatment pool.
Don’t go if: A quiet time in the Hamptons for you means the Surf Lodge on Saturday.
Euphoria Retreat, Mystras, Greece
Who goes: High-flying, yacht-owning Greeks and Euros who want super-stylish healing experiences.
Why: Visitors benefit from the personal journey of the founder, Marina Efraimoglou: A survivor of cancer in her late 20s, she went on to become a successful investment banker, but later struggled with burnout. She attended retreats all over the world, studying Chinese medicine and transformational healing. Euphoria is the product of her travels.
Food: Customized Mediterranean menus based on guests’ metabolic needs and glutathione levels, which are established with optional blood testing.
Setting: Located outside the medieval archaeological site of Mystras, which is near Sparta, Euphoria Retreat is close to Mount Taygetus, the tallest peak in the region.
Rooms: Appropriately, Spartan chic.
Standout feature: The Emotional and Physical Transformational Retreat is an immersive week-long experience filled with group lectures and top-notch energy and body work, while the Spartan Spirit of Adventure Retreat is for outdoorsy types who prefer to sweat it out.
Hot tip: Try the Byzantine Hammam Ritual, followed by a dip in the spa’s domed Sphere Pool.
Don’t go if: Your idea of therapeutic water is seltzer.
Deplar Farm, Troll Peninsula, Iceland
Who goes: Fly-fishing enthusiasts, heli-skiers, and solitude seekers who want to bask in geothermal pools while watching the northern lights.
Why: Deplar Farm’s new wellness program, Eleven Life, centers around “marginal gains,” the principle that by making small, incremental lifestyle adjustments, guests can improve their overall health. Think sea kayaking, wilderness walks, and mental-resilience exercises.
Food: Much of it is either foraged or greenhouse-grown by the executive chef Gardar Kári Gardarsson, Iceland’s 2018 chef of the year.
Setting: Words like “epic” spring to mind. Nestled in the Fljót Valley in the northern Troll Peninsula, the converted sheep farm’s black timber cladding and grass roof help it blend into the staggering landscape.
Rooms: Nordic coziness.Standout feature: The Viking sauna combines drumming, breath work, and hot and cold plunges in the pure Icelandic water.
Don’t go if: Troll tales freak you out.
Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti, Pinzolo, Italy
Who goes: Devotees of the original Lefay resort, on Lake Garda (Irina Shayk, Alexa Chung), have been waiting to descend on this new retreat, located in Trentino.
Why: Lefay Resorts’ commitment to sustainable building and energy practices is impressive. Its motto: Personal wellness should never overlook environmental wellness.
Food: Pasta is mandatory. Just kidding. But you won’t be able to turn it down.
Setting: If you are feeling antsy, the region boasts the best skiing in Italy.
Rooms: Who knew sustainable, natural materials could feel so luxurious?
Standout feature: The World of Water and Fire sounds like a Game of Thrones tribute band but actually involves soaking and saunas.
Don’t go if: You are offended by the occasional waft of cigar smoke or grappa. Detox in Italy is a relative concept.
Clinique La Prairie, the Private Chalet, Verbier, Switzerland
Who goes: Client lists are not divulged here, but the roster has included Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and Pope Pius XII.
Why: Clinique La Prairie is known for its famous revitalization program, initiated in 1931. The secret sauce—an elixir made from the fetal livers harvested from specially raised sheep—is said to regenerate cells and combat the negative effects of aging. But now guests can have the treatments in their own private chalet.
Room and board: The chalet has a master suite and four bedrooms and comes with a chef and waiter, driver, personal trainer, and spa therapist—not to mention the indoor pool, hammam, gym, and entertainment room.
Setting: Vistas that give The Sound of Music a run for its money.
Standout feature: La Prairie is not just about pampering—it’s a full medical facility. Aside from the revitalization program, the clinic provides detailed blood analyses, doctor consultations, genetic testing, and body composition tests.
Don’t go if: You’re scared of needles.
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