10 Hyperlocal Wellness Experiences Around the World
Floating on the surface of the Dead Sea's hyper-salty water is about as surreal and relaxing as it gets | © Teksomolika / iStock
A visit to any new city can be fast-paced and exhausting, which is why it’s important to find different ways to relax or escape the crowds. These guided tours have an original touch that will not only leave you feeling energised and refreshed, but also deeply connected to the local culture in ways you might never have imagined.
Whether it’s floating on mineral-rich water, hiking through unspoilt countryside or taking a dip in a Japanese onsen, there’s plenty you can do around the world to enrich your body and mind – all while experiencing the true essence and culture of the country you’re visiting. To prove it to you, here are 11 wellness experiences curated especially for global travellers.
ActivitiesThermae-Yu Hot Spring, Tokyo
With more than 100 active volcanoes dotted throughout Japan, it comes as no surprise that the country is one of the most volcanically active on the planet. One major benefit of this (besides the stunning views) is the abundance of natural hot springs – known locally as onsens – spread throughout Japan. This includes Tokyo, so you won’t have to venture far from your accommodation to find one. The capital’s very own Thermae-Yu is located in the heart of Shinjuku, housing six different baths, one open-air bath and two saunas. Soak up the geothermal goodness, relax in the highly carbonated water – said to work wonders on the skin – and enjoy this quintessential Japanese experience loved by the locals.
ActivitiesMount Bukhan Hike and Korean-Style Spa, Seoul
Hiking might not be some people’s idea of wellness – but when combined with stunning natural beauty and a rejuvenating spa experience, it’s unlikely you’ll feel anything but better afterward. Led by a local guide, you’ll climb the rocky slopes of Mount Bukhan, passing crystal-clear streams and soaring granite peaks along the way. There’ll be time for lunch after your exhilarating trek before the main reward: step into a jjimjilbang – an authentic Korean spa that will instantly relieve any aches and pains. Your hot bath will be followed by a full-body scrub known as a seshin, an oil massage, a cucumber facial and shampoo by an expert practitioner. Then, there will be time to visit a ginseng centre on your way back to the city.
ActivitiesHammam Experience at Palais Amani, Fez
The traditional hammam scrub is a ritual of bodily and spiritual purification that dates back centuries in Morocco. This luxury spa – located in the Palais Amani in the historic city of Fez – allows you to experience the practice firsthand, with a range of treatments available. A candlelit hallway will lead you into an atmospheric space that consists of a hot room, an exfoliation room, showers and a relaxation chamber. Your assistant will administer your chosen treatment, ensuring that you leave feeling cleansed and relaxed both in body and spirit – but not before a cup of hot mint tea in the relaxation room.
ToursHiking in the Tuscan Hills, Florence
Like a giant carpet of rolling hills and verdant vineyards, Tuscany is first-rate postcard material – and great for relaxing the mind and soul. Head out on a hiking tour with a local guide to experience the very best of this beautiful landscape, from pea-green olive groves to tiny hilltop villages and Chianti’s medieval towns. You’ll learn about the history of each area before stopping at a local winery to enjoy a traditional Tuscan lunch and see how Tuscany’s famous wine and olive oil are produced.
ActivitiesFlower Foot Bath and Foot Massage, Kyoto
From Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to imperial palaces and an otherworldly bamboo forest, there’s much to see and plenty of ground to cover in Kyoto. Thankfully, there’s a novel and completely gratifying solution to aching limbs and tired feet caused by all that walking. The flower foot bath salon, located next to Arashiyama Station, lets you dip your feet in a wooden bucket filled with warm water and fresh scented flowers. During your 15-minute soak, you can drink tea and nibble on pastries before the heavenly finale: a foot massage administered in authentic Japanese style.
ToursMasada and the Dead Sea Day Trip, Jerusalem
This full-day tour from Jerusalem starts with a journey through the barren Judean Desert. Along the way, you’ll pass the site of the New Testament’s famous parable the Good Samaritan before reaching Masada – a remote mountain that’s home to two palace ruins. A cable car will bring you to the peak’s summit, where you’ll set out on a guided tour before beginning your descent toward the famous Dead Sea. Relish the surreal experience of floating on the surface of this salty water – believed to be very healthy for the skin – and finish off with a therapeutic mud bath.
ActivitiesOlympic Games Workout Session, Athens
Feeling restless? Put your Olympian credentials to the test in this two-hour workout session and competition held inside the historic Panathenaic Stadium. Beforehand, you’ll learn about how athletes of the past trained and revisit the events that led to the first ‘modern’ Olympics held in 1896. Then, along with the rest of your group, you’ll get to claim your own moment of Olympic glory with a pentathlon-style training session. Learn to throw the javelin, the best techniques for long jumping and how to get off to the best possible start in a race on the main stadium’s hallowed track. After the session, catch your breath before exploring the marble stadium at your own pace.
ClassTai Chi / Kung Fu Class, Beijing
In this one-hour private class, you’ll learn the basics of tai chi – the ancient Chinese martial art said to benefit the body’s overall health – and a few kung fu moves for good measure. Your English-speaking master will guide you through each slow movement step by step, ensuring you remain focused while breathing deeply. He will also help you to understand the rich yin and yang and Taoist cultures behind tai chi, and how to obtain qi – a natural and spiritual energy – as you learn. The class is designed for people of all ages, whether they are looking for meditative benefits or simply to learn more about historical Chinese culture.
ActivitiesTurkish Bath at Ağa Hamami, Istanbul
Ever since the age of the Ottoman Empire, locals in Istanbul have been taking what the rest of the world refer to as Turkish baths. It’s rooted into Turkish culture and on its most basic level guarantees a purifying and rejuvenating body scrub. The Ağa Hamami concept is a bit different. You’ll get the basic treatments, plus the option to add an oil massage, a face mask and a full-body massage lasting 20 minutes. The spa includes separate rooms for women, and each experience is complemented with free towels, slippers and a cup of hot apple tea.
ToursForest to Fjord Nature Walk, Oslo
There’s nothing like being in the middle of nowhere to make you feel completely relaxed, especially when surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. On this tour, a local guide will lead you by metro to the lush green forests and mighty fjords on the outskirts of Oslo. Listen carefully, and you might be able to make out birdsong or the rustling of the trees. Other than that, the only sound you’ll hear will be the quiet chatter of your guide and fellow hikers as you walk from one mesmerising viewpoint to the next. You’ll stop at Holmenkollen ski jump and the historic Frognerseteren café and restaurant, and there’ll also be some free time to go swimming in a nearby lake.