New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep, particularly those involving changes to health and lifestyle. But the path to self-improvement need not be filled with deprivation, why not add a little pampering to the mix, and get some space to focus on your goals with a soothing spa getaway?
In the UAE, we’re lucky enough to have some of the world’s best spa retreats on our doorstep, but their burgeoning numbers can be overwhelming. We’ve cherry-picked seven of the world’s best resorts, all of which come highly recommended
and within comfortable travelling distance. Let the journey to a new you begin...
1. Natural healing
Where: Natur-Med Thermal Springs and Health Resort, Davutlar-Kusadasi, Turkey.
What to expect: Set among pine, olive and tangerine trees on the Aegean coast in an area rich in natural hot springs, this is a nature lover’s dream. Turkey’s first medical spa, the range of treatments is amazingly broad and there are programmes for anything from weight loss and anti-ageing to dealing with chronic illness, skin diseases and depression. The spa uses a holistic approach – in addition to the springs-based therapies, there are ozone and magnetic-field therapies, saunas, massages, hamams, mud treatments, yoga and exercise and healthy eating plans, to name just a few. The structured days begin early, with a healthy hike through the Samson Mountains, followed by activities such as breathing exercises, Pilates, water gymnastics, visits to the springs and treatments.
Accommodation: Prices vary depending on treatments and there are discounts for longer stays, but expect to pay upwards of 160 Turkish lira (Dh330) per person, per night, including treatments.
Getting there: Emirates Airlines flies to Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir for Dh2,570 (including connecting flights) return. The resort is 100km from the airport.
Extend your stay: Nearby are the beaches and bays of the National Park, traditional weekly bazaars and ferries to the Greek island of Samos.
2. Luxe pampering
Where: Aphrodite Hills, Paphos, Cyprus.
What to expect: In addition to the Greco-Roman Retreat Spa, this award-winning resort houses holiday villas, the five-star InterContinental Hotel, an 18-hole championship golf course, a tennis academy, beach club, nature and bike trails and an abundance of restaurants. The Retreat Spa has 27 treatment rooms, a health club, thermae rooms, a pool, sun deck and garden.
You can choose from four focused five-day rejuvenation packages, ranging from 1,010 to 1,170 euros (Dh4,900 to Dh5,675), excluding accommodation, which include lunches and dinners, a personal trainer and a range of pampering treatments like massages and facials.
All packages include two 75-minute Thermae Experiences – this involves making
your way through a series of rooms with progressively increasing temperatures, interspersed by ultra-cooling showers and ice shavings, promising the ultimate cleansing and relaxation experience.
And if all the pampering gets too much, you could just contemplate life next to the exquisite pool overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Accommodation: from 110 euros (Dh490) per person, per night, excluding spa treatments.
Getting there: Emirates Airlines flies direct to Cyprus from Dh2,310 return.
Extend your stay: Paphos is near the Tomb of Kings, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and several archeological places of interest. It also has facilities to amuse sports enthusiasts, from undersea walking to diving. Nearby Lara Beach has a turtle sanctuary with beautiful views.
3. An Epicurean experience
Where: The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Thailand.
What to expect: For pure sensual indulgence, Mandarin Oriental’s Mind Body and Culinary Heaven package combines the best of all worlds, offering pampering, culture and even a Thai-cooking class.
The Oriental Spa is set in a Thai-style teak house in a tropical garden on the Chao Phraya River. Hotel guests are ferried to the cooking school, restaurants and spas on private boats. Facilities include 15 treatment rooms and suites, an Ayurveda penthouse, two outdoor swimming pools, a fitness centre
and an outdoor jogging track.
Perfect for relaxation, detox and self-discovery, the package includes a t’ai chi or Pilates session, a 90-minute Oriental Signature Massage, a 90-minute yoga and meditation session, a private cooking class, a set dinner and a 60-minute boat trip to the Temple of Dawn at sunrise or sunset.
Accommodation: Mind Body and Culinary Heaven package costs from 24,929 baht (Dh2,990) per room, per night.
Getting there: Emirates Airlines flies to Bangkok from Dh2,760 return.
Extend your stay: There is, of course, plenty to do in Bangkok, from exploring architecture and the frenzied night markets, to day excursions – a trip to the Sampran Riverside is a wonderful way to learn about Thai culture.
4. Complete relaxation
Where: Ashiyana, Goa.
What to expect: If a boot-camp regimen is not your style, this yoga retreat might be just your thing, and it offers great value for money. With drop-in classes and no previous yoga experience required, you are free to do as little or as much as you want.
Located on the unspoilt Mandrem Beach in the North of Goa, the resort has a river running past it, providing an oasis-like feeling, yet it is still close to the beach.
While you can simply relax in one of the many chill-out areas, you can also join in activities like meditation, walks, sun salutes on the beach and impromptu gatherings and workshops. And you don’t have to forgo any of the traditional spa getaway treats, as there is a full menu of massage and holistic therapies in the treatment centre.
Accommodation: Choose from a wide range of accommodation, from beach huts to luxury, starting from 275 euros (Dh1,330) per person, per week, including two large buffet meals (brunch and dinner), all scheduled drop-in yoga classes
and all creative classes.
Getting there: Emirates flies to Goa from Dh2,680 return (including connecting flight).
Extend your stay: Nearby are the Dudhsagar Falls, spice farms, national parks, a zoo and some stunning Portuguese churches and architecture to explore.
5. The ultimate detox
Where: Chiva-Som, Hua Hin, Thailand.
What to expect: This resort has earned an impressive list of accolades, and offers various relaxing retreats including The Art of Detox.
Set in seven acres of lush tropical gardens, the beachfront health resort’s facilities include 70 treatment rooms, a kinesis studio, gym, Watsu pool, flotation pool and a bathing pavilion with Kneipp bath. It also has its own garden with organically grown fruit and vegetables, which you can enjoy in the fine-dining Emerald Room or the Taste of Siam restaurant by the sea.
Detox-promoting therapies are included, such as pranayama breathing, super stretches, oriental scalp massages, flower remedies, a cleansing cocoon and a detox cooking class to help you to maintain your healthy eating plan.
The Art of Detox package includes five daily massages, a cleansing diet, manual lymphatic draining and a pranayama session.
Accommodation: Prices start from 90,000 bhat (Dh10,800) per person, sharing, excluding spa treatments, for five nights.
Getting there: Emirates Airlines flies direct to Bangkok from Dh2,760.
Extend your stay: Nearby are the Phra Ratchaniwet Mrigadayavan summer palace and Chatchai market, and adventure tours are available.
6. A family-friendly break
Where: Taj Exotica, Goa, India.
What to expect: This five-star resort is on the Southwest coast of Goa, in tropical gardens along a 700-metre stretch of Benaulim Beach.
With a children’s activity centre, which includes daily games and activities for the whole family, you can while away the hours at one of the resort’s two spas or the private beachside spa pavilions.
Taj Exotica blends contemporary spa therapies with traditional Indian wisdom, and treatments range from facials to Ayurvedic cures.
For the more energetic, there is a nine-hole executive golf course, tennis, boating and archery.
Accommodation: Until March 31, 2013, the spa is offering a Spa Sojourns package from 68,250 rupees (Dh4,570), based on double occupancy, plus an extra 2,900 rupees for children aged five to 12 and 5,000 rupees for extra guests above 12. This includes accommodation for three nights, breakfast and lunch on one day, yoga or meditation sessions and a choice of treatments at the spa.
Getting there: Emirates Airlines flies to Goa from Dh2,680 return (including connecting flight). The hotel is a 45-minute drive from the airport.
Extend your stay: Nearby, there are bird sanctuaries, a spice plantation and churches and temples to explore.
7. A no-fly break
Where: Six Senses, Zighy bay, Oman.
What to expect: Located on the Northern Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman, this resort offers a variety of Wellness packages.
The village-like atmosphere, with narrow passages between villas, reflects traditional Omani lifestyle, and the scenery is spectacular, with the dramatic Hajar Mountains on one side and a 1.6-kilometre sandy beach on the other.
Your wellness package can focus on detox, functional fitness, destressing, adventure or an indulgent Omani experience. Each includes a personal consultation on arrival, access to complimentary daily activities and various facilities, as well as pampering rituals.
The five-day Sense of Detox package (Dh3,709) includes detox massages, herbal steams, detox yoga, personal training sessions and hot-stone-massage therapy.
Accommodation: From Dh3,240 per villa per night, based on two sharing (excluding spa treatments).
Getting there: It takes about an hour and a half to drive there from Dubai.
Extend your stay: Musandam is often called The Norway of the Middle East, due to the fjord-like impression created by the Strait of Hormuz.
The area is extremely popular with residents of the UAE for its diving and camping. Website: www.sixsenses.com