Each year, The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) releases an annual wellness trends report relating to global health, personal health – and travel. With climate change very much on everyone’s radar, it’s little wonder that slow travel, sustainability and lung-cleansing vacations are gaining momentum. As the year draws to a close, Judy Chapman reflects on some of these wellness trends with retreat recommendations that delivered.
Prescribing Nature ‘put down the Prozac and pick up your walking shoes’
It’s incredible how the body responds to seven days of rigorous hikes, no coffee or alcohol, plant-based vegan cuisine and daily nourishing yoga and massages. Aro-ha in New Zealand is a stunning sustainable health retreat that covers all bases when it comes to current wellness trends including digital detox, slow travel and ‘nature as your prescription’. In my opinion, Aro-ha is the gold standard of a nature-centric vacation – results were so good that I’ve checked in here twice for a much-needed reset. Another favourite is Australia’s Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat where you stay in eco-cabins in the bush and surrender to several days of daily hikes, spa, workshops and pesticide-free organic food, no coffee and alcohol. Groups are big here so the atmosphere can feel very lively (social interaction is now regarded as one of the key contributors to longevity); that said, there’s plenty of space for downtime and the healing sessions I did here were profound. With limited wifi and so much incredible nature at both of these destinations, the last thing you’ll like doing is checking your emails. Pollution (indoor and outdoor) is now recognised as one of the top killers in the world – taking regular lung-cleansing holiday is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Wellness Takes on Over-tourism ‘choose a destination where sustainability is at the heart of your experience’
Excessive growth of visitors not only destroys the environment, damaging beaches and infrastructure, but can also negatively impact the lives of the local people. Choosing to stay at resorts and hotels that protect the local environment, people, culture and have a strong sustainability program in place, is really the only way forward now. Make sure you put Shinta Mani Wild Cambodia on your radar for an adventurous conscious getaway that will also improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. Hotel designer Bill Bensley actually identified the 800 acres of unprotected forest and it was purchased to save it from logging, mining and poaching, It feels so magical to sleep in luxury tents surrounded by wilderness. The Indiana Jones safari-inspired vibe during the day including zip line, jungle jeep exploring, river cruises and more. Feast on locally foraged food and reconnect with nature through educational adventures led by the resident Botanist or join Wildlife Alliance rangers on anti-poaching patrol missions.
Extreme Bathing ‘an antidote to our modern lives’
While the use of hot and cold bathing is as old as spa itself, ‘extreme bathing’ is a fast growing trend around the globe and with good reason. For a day retreat, I highly recommend the new ‘Fire and Ice Ritual’ at Peninsula Hot Springs in Melbourne Australia where you journey between hot saunas, sub-zero Ice caves, a deep Freeze Chamber, cold plunge pools and geothermal hot springs. ‘The combination of extreme heat and extreme cold help ‘reset’ the body back to homeostasis,’ says Charles David, co-founder of Peninsula Hot Springs. ‘Extreme bathing increases circulation and brings the mind and body to a heightened sense of being present and alive.’
Another recommendation is The Istana Bali opening in October that will be one of the first dedicated ‘extreme bathing’ destinations in the world. The luxury cliffside retreat features whole body cryotherapy chambers, hyperbaric chambers, infrared saunas, sensory deprivation tanks, yoga, meditation and more. World-renowned Prof. Marc Cohen is also leading Extreme Bathing retreats around the world including Komune Resort Bali and Maruia Hot Springs New Zealand.
Wellness Sabbaticals ‘vacations to rediscover the truth in yourself’
One of the latest trends identified by the Global Wellness Institute is where more people are choosing to take month-long vacations to rediscover themselves, and purpose. One of the best in the world for a wellness sabbatical right now is VANA in India. This luxury five-star ashram retreat is positioned as a ‘refuge for all beings’ and recommended when you feel depleted and can no longer ignore that niggling feeling that you may be on the ‘wrong’ path in life. The minimum stay is five-nights and their highly-personalised programs consisting of traditional medicines, meditation, yoga and other proven Eastern medicine disciplines are centered around an ethos to teach one how to ‘live’ again. Give your being over to their expert team, shed layers, and be nurtured back to a state of inspired wholeness.
Nutrition Gets Very Personalised – the era of one-size fits all is well and truly over!
Bali is leading the way with this wellness trend and one of my favourites is Oneworld Ayurveda, a boutique retreat offering 7-28 day Panchkarma detox programs that are one of the most results-oriented cleanses you’ll ever try. All your meals, treatments and therapies are prescribed personally by the physician so no two programs are ever the same. The spa here is outstanding and unlike most Ayurvedic retreats, you receive not one but two incredible treatments here per day. You can also choose to do your Panchakarma in silence and meals can be taken on your verandah – it really is an amazing place to escape the world.
Revivo Resorts is another retreat in Bali offering year-round wellness programs in elegant surrounds. They recently introduced preventative genetic testing as an add-on to their retreats – you are sent the test prior to your arrival which analyses how your body metabolises carbs, fats, and protein as well as understands predispositions for weight-gain, caffeine sensitivity and lactose intolerance. A REVĪVŌ Wellness Coach then creates a tailored program with a nutrition and lifestyle plan specifically to you – delivering better results than your average retreat program would.
Another destination very much on trend is SANGHA Retreat by OCTAVE Institute. Situated in Suzhou, a beautiful area outside of Shanghai, the luxury lakeside retreat is rumoured to be a next-level wellness destination for mind, body – and consciousness. You receive a customised wellness program with prescribed meals based on evaluations by the team of physicians, physiotherapists and nutritionists. Plus they are delving deeper with a team of high-calibre advisors to guide you in spiritual growth and personal transformation. With a healing sound dome, the best in spa, hydrotherapy and fitness, as well as stunning minimalist accommodation, everything is geared to help you achieve optimal wellbeing.◼
© This article was first published in Oct-Nov 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.