Now that you’ve dipped a toe into the new year and are working off some of that festive fill-out, it's a great time to take things up a notch and treat yourself to a life-changing health kick.
Whether you want to wind down or whip it up, stay close to home or jet off, there’s a spa for you. From the home-grown talent that is Soho Farmhouse, the members’ club/boutique hotel in Oxfordshire that mixes Little House on the Prairie-style cabins with boho chic and a blissful Cowshed Spa, to heavy-hitting Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps, host to a G7 summit and purveyor of an extensive menu of treatments, sporting and cultural activities, these chosen few all have serious spa power. Want a challenging yoga experience in the tree tops? Try Portugal’s Six Senses Douro Valley. Prefer something more holistic? Uber-wellness retreat Vana Malsi Estate in India is the place for you.
Spa breaks were once overly heavy on the no-pain, no-gain philosophy, now they’re life-enhancing experiences that nurture every bit of you. Just what you need to make for a truly sweet 2019...
The lowdown A premium resort loved by global leaders and families alike.
Best for Luxury treatments, clean cuisine and hot hits of culture.
Located in a nature sanctuary in the Bavarian Alps, Schloss Elmau is spa central. Housing no less than five spas, including an oriental hamman, bathhouse and family spa (bedtime bliss guaranteed), no wonder a stay here could chill out a world leader! As well as ‘yoga without dogma’ for grown-ups, there are 13 massages on the menu, including the innovative underwater Physio Floating Massage, as well as physio treatments such as craniosacral therapy. Plus, there’s a kids’ programme that includes a chess academy for bright sparks and a cultural agenda that treats super-chilled guests to concerts by classical and jazz greats.
The rooms are big on contemporary comfort, with a focus on natural materials and warm colours. And with nine restaurants, lounges and terraces, the food is a truly cosmopolitan affair. Talk about a superpower...
sIX seNses DouRo ValleY
The lowdown A 19th-century manor house set among abundant vineyards.
Best for Health-minded hedonism in a heavenly location.
From its own organic produce plucked from the surrounding gardens through to the naturally hypoallergenic mattresses, Six Senses Douro Valley offers high-end healing 24/7.Livingetc loved the signature treatments, such as the hot stone and almond- oil massage.
We also checked out the gym, nail bar and pavilion for yoga and Pilates (and headed into the woods for aerial yoga!). Indeed, the pampering on offer was such that we barely had time to explore the stunning local area.
Rooms feature oak floors and earthy tones, with locally made lemon grass soaps adding a citrus scent throughout. The food ranged from peach gazpacho to sweet basil ice cream – and even when we succumbed and had one of the region’s award-winning ports after dinner, it was purged from the system before we knew it.
Book itDouble rooms from £167
Vana malsi estate
The Lowdown A wellness retreat that’s big on spirituality and ecology.
Best forAnyone in need of a powerful holistic experience.
With its unique vision, Vana Malsi Estate has become a celebrated wellness centre, famed for its customised treatments and health-giving menu. The 21-acre estate is located close to the Himalayas and has its own fragrant mango and lychee orchards, all of which adds to the dreamy feel. As well as Ayurveda and yoga in their purest forms, Vana offers holistic oriental and aqua therapies, Tibetan healing and meditation and upon arrival, a doctor will create a powerful personalised programme for you that will nourish the body and nurture the soul.
The 66 rooms and 16 suites reflect the retreat’s passion for ecology and the emphasis is on natural materials and unshowy style in a neutral palette. Food-wise, think ‘mindful’ cuisine crafted from local organic ingredients and tailored to your Ayurvedic body type by some of the top chefs in India – meaning it tastes amazing and does wonderful things for you.
The lowdown Laid-back luxe set in 100 acres of rolling countryside.
Best for A country spa experience without stepping out of your comfort zone.
Looking for a spa break, upstate-New York cabin-culture style, without leaving the UK? You’ll find it and the extra-curricular activities that add up to a townie’s idea of country living at Soho Farmhouse. Choose to stay in your own cabin, or hire the 18th-century farmhouse, for a modern-country meets plush-vintage style experience.
The spa, on a hidden island, offers steam, sauna and ice baths, plus pampering Cowshed treatments including an indulgent, but worth it, massage for two. Activities abound – everything from tennis and horseriding to walking (wellies supplied) and bicycling; there are 100 acres to explore, after all. Bob along in a rowing boat or while away the afternoon at the Electric Barn cinema.
Food, locally sourced, is delicious and varied. Try the Pen Yen Japanese grill (sea bass with sancho pepper, anyone?) or the Main Barn (perfect for Sunday roasts). The cherry on the top? Milk floats converted into cocktail bars that come to your door...