Certain destinations are just innately better at enhancing wellbeing. Some have a helping hand from nature—a climate that encourages outdoorsiness and an abundance of fresh produce—while others have a spiritual legacy conducive to profound experiences. If you’re looking for a vacation with effects that last longer than your tan, these global health hotspots should be on your 2018 hit list.
Sure, Croatia was one of 2016’s most popular partying destinations, but it’s also a country with an entire island dedicated to health and wellbeing. It’s called Obonjan, and every summer it hosts an extensive festival of music, Ted talk-style lectures, and healthy persuits.
At the start of the season wellness experts from all over the globe converge on the island to give educational talks and therapeutic treatments to guests. Greet the day with sunrise yoga, book a session of reiki or hypnotism in the Zen Den, hit the outdoor forest gym, or try wild swimming (clothing optional). And if you’re thinking that all sounds a bit too wholesome, don’t fret—there are cocktails and nightly DJs, too. After all, you need something to detox from.
The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica is one of the world’s official Blue Zones—a community that lives to age 100 at 10 times the rate of the general population. And it’s not only that specific region that’s health conscious—the entire country lives by the motto pura vida, the pure life.
The Costa Rican lifestyle is laid back, uncomplicated and braided with nature. Hike the Cloud Forest in search of sloths, learn to surf on wide palm-fringed beaches, or sign up for a yoga retreat—living healthily is virtually effortless here.
From their longevity-promoting diet of fresh fish, to their close community bonds and desire to define a life purpose, known as an Ikigai—the Japanese naturally prioritize wellbeing, and all its various nuances.
Some of the country’s wellness trends are pretty out there—like the therapy known as “adult swaddling”, which involves being wrapped head-to-toe in fresh linens and rocked like a baby—while others hold more mainstream appeal. Forest bathing, for example, is a walking meditation which involves consciously focusing on your sensory experience—the scents, sounds and all-encompassing ambience of the woodland. It’s the perfect way to hit your reset button.
Vertiginous orange rock and spiky cacti make this Arizona town special, but the thing that defines Sedona as a wellness bucket list destination has nothing to do with its striking aesthetic. It’s said to be the site of a vortex—a place where energy is spiraling from the universe to the earth and back again, making it conducive to spiritual transformation.
A whole community of psychics, healers and yogis have migrated here, hoping to benefit from proximity to the vortex. Scale Cathedral Rock or Boynton Canyon—energy hotspots—dabble in bizarre things like “fairy readings”, and browse crystal shops the size of shopping malls.
Bali—Indonesia’s sole Hindu enclave—is known as “the Island of the Gods”, and attracts visitors as much for its spiritual culture as for its abundant natural beauty. Healers, known as balians, are everywhere here, and will give you personalized protocols to cure whatever ails you, be it physical, mental or spiritual.
Ubud, the hilly town that forms the backdrop to Elizabeth Gilbert’s autobiographical novel Eat Pray Love, is the wellness epicenter—a kind of Disneyland for yogis, full of vegan cafes, cheap massage parlors, and open air yoga studios.
Australia consistently ranks high on lists of the world’s healthiest, happiest countries, thanks in no small part to their famously stellar weather. Aided by sunshine, outdoor exercise and locally grown food are a way of life here.
Sydney, possibly the only place in the world where one can find employment as an avocado taster, has all the buzz of a cosmopolitan city with the bonus of a perfect crescent beach. Bondi has a swell that draws surfers in droves, ocean-fed Iceberg pools (you’ve probably seen them on Instagram) and hip cafes serving the healthy, pretty breakfasts Aussies do so well.
Forested foothills and the green water of the Ganges form the perfect backdrop to “the yoga capital of the world”. Rishikesh, which became famous after the Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 60s, has an exceedingly high concentration of ashrams and yoga lessons, even for India.
The town’s mystical quality, natural beauty and resident yoga gurus and sadhus (holy men) make it the ultimate destination for spiritual seekers.
To call the Swedes “outdoorsy” would be an understatement. They love nature so much “freedom to roam” is codified in the constitution.
Earlier this year the tourism board launched “The 72 Hour Cabin” project—a series of glass cabins situated on the island of Henriksholm, that offer unobstructed views of the Swedish countryside. The premise is that 72 hours of immersion in nature is enough to disintegrate the symptoms of stress and leave guests feeling calm, content and generally blissed out. Book a three-day retreat at the cabin, then road trip around the country with a tent and you’ll return home feeling as good as new.