Leo Bear wraps herself in towelling to test the latest luxury spas across the globe
SPA REVIEW ®LAVA SPA AT ION HOTEL, ICELAND
Surrounded by pristine white snow and black lava rocks with a backdrop of volcanoes, Ion Hotel is a monochromatic masterpiece of industrial-chic interiors and an earthy elemental vibe. With no neighbours bar a disused geothermal power plant, its surroundings might sound bleak but this spa goddess has rarely felt more connected to nature.
Despite temperatures of -7C during my February stay I was gadding around like a lamb, scaling glaciers, horse-riding through lava fields and swimming in steaming-hot rivers – all of which made returning to the little spa more delicious.
With just one treatment room, it’s definitely on the bijou side, but Ion’s therapists are skilled in blending local volcanic ash into nourishing wraps and masks. Furthermore, there’s Ion’s outdoor sauna and geothermal pool to enjoy.
Stepping barefoot onto ice and snow before sinking into water heated to 40C by the earth’s core...what a thrill! Post-treatment, spa-goers can curl up in sheepskin blankets and drink in the epic views with a cup of ginger tea.
Later on, there’s wonderfully eccentric Icelandic cuisine to sample – native reindeer carpaccio, anyone? Delicious actually, and lots of Nordic story-swapping late into the night. An excellent choice for a weekend.
Must-have treatment: Healing by Icelandic Nature (90 minutes, £130) – a deeply warming treatment involving a body scrub, a heated body wrap under a thermal blanket, a face and foot massage followed by a full body massage.
Wow factor: If you’re lucky, watching the northern lights dance across the sky from the comfort of the hotel’s bar, which is a glass box on stilts – very cool.
DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT
In the spa at Hotel Tannenhof in St Anton, seasonaires can abandon their usual massage and try something more romantic, like a silver quartzite massage or a raindrop massage. The latter is new and combines aromatherapy with massage – warm peppermint, wintergreen and oregano oil is dropped like raindrops onto the back and feet and rubbed into pressure points. The spa has a wonderful wood cabin sauna, a stunning swimming pool and excellent lunch is provided.
Good old Mayr Clinic, it always comes to the rescue. This winter sees the launch of its winter vitality programmes designed to help spa-goers boost their immune systems and push through the cold and flu season. With a roster of alkalising baths, nasal reflexology, bracing outdoor walks, medical testing and immune infusions, the programmes are certain to strengthen the weak – ideal for waif-like souls who spent their summers detoxing in places much like this. Winter Vitality programmes are available at the FX Mayr Health Centre until the end of February.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
For clients who love a good splash, Galgorm in Northern Ireland has unveiled a glorious and elaborate new thermal spa. Located on the banks of the river Maine, it has all manner of indoor or outdoor heated pools, steam rooms and saunas to enjoy. There’s also Ireland’s first snow room, cooled to a teeth-chattering -15C. For softer sorts, wood‑fired hot tubs on the banks of the river can be hired by the hour – champagne and nibbles optional.
London-based healthistas are flocking to James Duigan’s new deli counter at Fenwick. The Bond Street department store offers shoppers ‘Clean and Lean to go’ with fresh shakes, organic coffee, granola bowls and quinoa salads to take away. Also in the pipeline from the bright-eyed Bodyism brigade is an all-singing, all-dancing gym and cafe in Westbourne Grove – where the pertest of bottoms can sign up for pilates or sip coffee in designer sweats. More intel as it comes in...
ILA GOLD CELLULAR AGE-RESTORE COLLECTION
This Ila anti-ageing Gold range is made from some of the world’s rarest ingredients including Boswellia extract, ethically harvested frankincense and three types of gold from Ethiopia. And there’s a sonic wave wand that can be used in conjunction with the collection’s face serum to visibly plump the skin.From £40, exclusively at Harrods
Forget sun salutations, it’s all about moon salutations now. At the Four Seasons in Bali, yogis can try their hands at Purnama yoga under the glow of a full moon. Said to cool down fiery impulses and hot emotions, a forthcoming riverside session will be taking place on December 25 – a pretty cool way to see out Christmas day, don’t you think? Classes are complimentary for guests and £14 for visitors.
Closer to home, the Mandarin Oriental Marrakech has finally flung open its ornate doors. Surrounded by 20 hectares of fragrant roses and century-old olive trees, the property oozes luxury and Berber-style beauty in equal measure. It’s gone straight to the top of my wishlist for its vast spa suites (with infinity pools) and healthy detox menus. I reckon a darn good scrubbing in a steaming hot hammam is just what the doctor ordered, don’t you?
NEW YEAR, NEW YOU
Lucknam Park has recruited life coach extraordinaire Jayne Morris to help release spa-goers from their January funks. Sign your clients up to a two-night Rebalance Retreat (January 19-21), and they will emerge new people thanks to a mix of group coaching sessions, holistic pampering, sunlight therapy and invigorating woodland walks. I can’t think of a better way to start the year.
By far the best-looking activity tracker on the market, the Withings Activité performs well too. A unisex watch, I was concerned it might feel chunky on a dainty wrist, but my fears were unfounded. The clockface is fashion-forward and has a small extra dial to track how you’re doing on your daily step count. Unlike the Jawbone UP, which I road-tested last issue, it doesn’t buzz at inopportune times, you don’t need to charge it, it’s waterproof so you can wear it swimming, and it looks infinitely more elegant than a rubber wristband. £320.
The Pullman Hotel in St Pancras has teamed up with alkaline goddess Natasha Corrett to launch an ‘Intelligent Breakfast’ menu. The Honestly Healthy founder has come up with five probiotic-packed dishes (among them a chia and turmeric omelette; plum and kuzu bircher muesli and ‘green teff’ pancakes) and two brain-boosting smoothies to be rolled out to commuters this January.
At a recent Global Wellness Institute round‑table, experts discussed how technology has become a double-edged sword when it comes to wellness in the workplace. While exhausting staffers with 24/7 communications – it is also delivering tools that can help improve physical and mental health. According to the panel, the future lies in telemedicine: invisible, ingestible nanotechnology that captures your biometric data 24/7. Sounds neat to me.
My favourite London spa, The Bulgari, has come over all holistic for winter with a range of exotic Mauli rituals grounded in Ayurveda. Using all-natural ingredients including saffron, lotus flowers, sandalwood and turmeric leaves, each ritual is an intoxicating blend of massage, aromatherapy and spirituality. Treatments end with a wish for wellbeing and the gift of a sacred Mauli thread. Promoting warmth and wellbeing, your clients are certain to thank you for transporting them a world away from noisy drizzly Knightsbridge – albeit temporarily.
SUN, SAND ... AND SPA
Thanks to a new Six Senses spa at the fortress-style Al Bustan Palace (a Ritz-Carlton hotel), Muscat has a new reason to visit. The spa, spread across three levels, is an impressive feat of Omani architecture. With 17 treatment rooms and the whole ‘wet’ shebang (saunas, steam, ice, hammam), it will be one of the most luxurious spas in the Middle East.
IT'S A FACT
According to new research by Spafinder Wellness 365, Asia is the fastest-growing global wellness travel destination, with Thailand ranked first, followed by Bali/Indonesia and India.
SPAFINDER’S TOP 3 WELLNESS OFFERS FOR WINTER
1. Best of the Best Spa Experience
From: The Dolder Grand, Zurich, Switzerland, from CHF840
Includes: One night’s bed & breakfast, a 90-minute treatment, free parking, late check-out and use of the Dolder Grand Spa facilities.
2. 80/20 Package
From: Sianji Wellbeing Resort, Bodrum, Turkey, from €140
Includes: Body analysis, consultations, seminars, detox juices & salads, teas, classes, plus full access to spa facilities.
3. Revive Spa Break
From: Fistral Beach Hotel & Spa, Cornwall, from £423
Includes: Two nights including full English breakfast and a three-course dinner both days, a 55-minute ESPA treatment and full use of the facilities.
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