Setting Refresh for 2020: Wellness Experiences Worth Travelling For

Greta Samuel / © Culture Trip
Greta Samuel / © Culture Trip
Photo of Josephine Platt
Global Travel Writer13 January 2020

Ringing in the New Year in a not-so-fit state, and endeavouring to make this the year of fitness, is an all too familiar trope. What wellness means, however, is subjective.

Wellness can take on many forms, be it taking to a surfboard and doing sun salutations on Bali beach, sitting cross-legged, solitary, in a Canadian monastery or sweating out your sins while boxing under the Thai sun. If that sounds like a reset you would welcome, read on for six experiences that will help you to find wellness and be your very best self.

Detox retreat at the Susanne Kaufmann Spa, Austria

December can see some of our bodies become what seems like 80 percent alcohol, give or take. Come January, this very often paves the way for going teetotal with a month’s abstinence from booze, which we affectionately call ‘dry January’. What we ought to be doing, to clear away the excesses of Christmas, is a full-blown detox to reset and reboot ourselves for the year ahead. Spanning 10 days, the Susanne Kaufmann Spa Bezau at the Hotel Post in Austria focusses on rest, recovery and sleep, and purification through foods like soups and salads (along with copious amounts of herbal tea), to bring the body back into balance. Founded by organic skincare aficionado Susanne Kaufmann, the programme has been developed to encompass medical nutritional consultations, lymph drainage treatments, detox baths, daily qigong (breathing, postures and meditation), and liver wrap treatments. The 10 overnight stays are inclusive of meals, and the programme is wrapped up with a follow-up examination to ensure you’re on track.

Susanne Kaufmann Spa focusses on rest, recovery and sleep | © Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Silent retreat at Gampo Abbey, Canada

Meditation is often at the top of resolution lists – burnout makes people crave clarity – but for hardcore meditators, this place is is about as Zen as it gets. To deepen an existing practice (it’s not one for beginners), the Western Buddhist monastery Gampo Abbey, in Pleasant Bay, Canada, holds a space for you to sit quietly with your thoughts. And when we say quietly, we mean silently. The retreat is carried out in solitary confinement; there is no contact with other Abbey residents. With this solitary retreat, in particular, you’ll need to have completed a group retreat beforehand.

Spiritual Warrior package at Sen Wellness Sanctuary, Sri Lanka

Dating back 5,000 years, it’s fair to say that India’s ancient holistic healing system of Ayurveda has been tried and tested. It’s a philosophy rooted in identifying your mind-body type (known as doshas in Ayurveda), and working to find harmony through tweaking your diet and lifestyle choices. To immerse you in this way of living, Sen Wellness Sanctuary in Sri Lanka hosts a seven-day package, the Spiritual Warrior, which is designed to leave you with “a deeper sense of self for long-lasting well-being”. They go about it through a full consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor, herbal Ayurvedic medicine, acupuncture, daily Ayurvedic therapies, daily yoga and meditation led by a Buddhist monk, topped off with aftercare via Skype. Namaste.

Sen Wellness Sanctuary was designed by architect Adriana Arbex | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Boot camp fitness and Muay Thai at PhuketFit, Thailand

Following a fitness test on arrival, PhuketFit is all about getting straight down to business, with its jam-packed schedule of back-to-back fitness classes. The days are bookended by either slipping on a pair of boxing gloves for traditional Muay Thai, or getting yourself into downward facing dog on the beach, while the bulk of the day is blocked out by classes dubbed ‘body blast’, ‘strength development’, ‘HIIT the gym’ and ‘endurance’. You’re invited to pick and choose your activities throughout the day – it boasts a ‘no need to book, just show up’ policy – with daily workshops on nutrition, mindfulness, health and fitness happening throughout. Meanwhile, all three meals are catered for, along with two protein shakes to help you reach your goals.

Muay Thai classes start at 7.30am at PhuketFit | © John Michaels / Alamy Stock Photo

Surf therapy and yoga at Mad to Live, Morocco

Adventure, movement and female connection are at the core of Sophie Everard’s community, Mad to Live. A manifestation of all that self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie Sophie is passionate about, Mad to Live centres its retreats on getting out in nature and having fun. Morocco, Portugal, Costa Rica and the UK are where you’ll find her existing retreats – with Bali a new destination for 2020. Taking Morocco as an example, the itinerary goes something like: surfing with expert tuition, hiking through Paradise Valley palms, yoga in a rooftop shala overlooking Banana Beach, sand-boarding on sand dunes and swimming in the ocean. A trip to a proper souk – with its spices, sounds and endless bartering – is also on the agenda, for an authentic experience of Moroccan culture.

Mad to Live retreats are all about getting out in nature | © Hannah Edy

Hiking through New Zealand’s World Heritage parks with Aro Hā

Aro Hā Wellness Retreat’s signature programme prides itself on helping you to find respite through movement and connecting with nature. Set in an idyllic New Zealand landscape of sub-alpine terraces overlooking Lake Wakatipu, hiking and kayaking are the natural ways to spend time in the terrain. Along with five hikes – following a health and fitness consultation – the retreat offers five dynamic movement classes, five therapeutic massages and daily yoga and meditation. Elsewhere, there’s unlimited use of its water therapy suites, and the rooms come fitted with recycled timbers and unadulterated views of the scenery.

Aro Ha Wellness Retreat overlooks Lake Wakatipu | Courtesy of Aro Ha

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