From spa-faris and snake massages to hay baths and wine soaks, which introduce an element of fun to your quest for well-being—these unique wellness experiences should be on your bucket list this year! By Parvati Mohanakrishnan
Royal Bath with Live Indian Ragas:
Do you enjoy listening to music when you’re in the shower? Well, what if you were given a bath to soothing, live music like the royals of Gwalior? The ‘Mangal Snan’, a deep-cleansing bath, was taken before coronations and weddings. If you want such pampering, all you need to do is book yourself a bath at JIVA Spa at Taj Usha Kiran Palace, Gwalior. The 180-minutelong treatment includes deep cleansing, exfoliation, and a massage with traditional spices, herbs, and oils. This is followed by a bath in saffron-, mogra- and gulheena-infused water. And while you enjoy the ministrations of your therapist, a group of musicians serenades you with Indian ragas!
On a Bed of Hay, in Italy:
Farmers would sleep in hay while working in Alpine pastures, and this was believed to instantly relax them. Based on this age-old practice is the ‘Hay Bath’ offered at Hotel Heubad in Italy. You spend 15–20 minutes wrapped in warm and damp hay, and then relax on a lounger for another 30 minutes. It helps detox and revitalise your body, and sweating in hay is said to strengthen your immune system.
In a Salt Mine in Poland:
Although it draws from salt therapy, ‘Subterranotherapy’ at Wieliczka Health Resort in Krakow is unique in itself. You spend the night in the underground salt mine of Wieliczka. And when you sleep in such a therapeutic microclimate of salt excavations, where there is no pollution, and allergens and bacteria are absent, you find relief from respiratory problems such as asthma, as well as from allergies.
Between Sound Waves in Vermont:
It is no secret that sound has therapeutic benefits—we all vibrate at different frequencies, and sound can be used to re-tune us in case our energies are not in sync. Try the 80-minute ‘Full Body Tuning’ at Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa in Vermont, during which sound waves created by tuning forks are used to release tension and anxiety after careful diagnosis of the problem areas.
Sweet Dreams in a Private Jungle:
There’s no doubt that sleep is therapeutic. And if you were to combine sleep with an
extraordinary setting and rejuvenating massage, you’ll have the ‘Om Supti Night Spa Ritual’ at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. The treatment is performed in a private jungle at night, and the outdoor bath and swinging bed add an element of excitement to the relaxing ritual.
Tropical Treasure in Fiji:
Island-style well-being and luxury come together to pamper you in Fiji. Private beaches, idyllic surroundings, warm tropical weather, and stunning views add to that experience. For a unique holiday, visit the exclusive Laucala Island, where you can indulge in traditional Fijian therapies in a serene setting. You can even pick your own spices, herbs, flowers, and fruits to create a signature essential oil, soap, or lotion at the Spa Kitchen. Another exciting way to spend time in Fiji is to try your hand at watersports—the mild water temperature here ensures a full year of activities. At Sheraton Fiji Resort, you can try kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, luxury boat cruises, and much more.
Chant It Out with a Shaman:
Dating back to when the Mayan civilisation was flourishing, temazcal is a practice in which you enter a stone igloo with little or no clothing, and sweat it out while a shaman (a Mayan with spiritual connections) chants. The session can go on for anywhere between 45 minutes and two hours, and helps detoxify and de-stress.
With Sea Shells in Pune:
Strategically located in Pune, Sheraton Grand Pune Bund Garden Hotel is home to Shine Spa for Sheraton. On offer here is a variety of treatments, but what’s unique to the spa is the ‘Lava Shell Massage’. During this relaxing treatment, your body is massaged with tiger-striped clam shells from the Philippines. These shells are an alternative to hot stones that are commonly used in spa treatments. The therapist inserts a sachet of minerals, dried sea kelp, algae, and sea water in a hole in the shell and then seals it. The chemical reaction between the ingredients heats up the shell, and the treatment helps you relax and soothes muscle pain without using too much pressure.
A Fire Facial in China:
Fancy playing with fire? We dare you to try the ‘Fire Facial’. This dangerous sounding treatment, which is gaining popularity in China, involves covering your face with a towel dipped in alcohol and a beautifying cocktail, and then setting it on fire. Fret not! The
towel stays on fire only for a few seconds. Apparently, the result is younger looking skin
and fewer wrinkles.
Lit in Switzerland:
It’s a surreal sight: sail-shaped structures rising out of a terraced slope, as majestic white peaks soar all around. The Tschuggen Bergoase spa facility, built next to the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa, is an architectural marvel created by Mario Botta. The massive spa is a masterpiece of organic geometry. Set inside the mountain rock, illuminated by light streaming in through the glass façade of the steel sails, the spa offers an unmatched ambience. Its open-air pool offers breathtaking views. There’s a nail spa within the premises, and holistic treatments include the five-in-one ‘Tschuggen Massage’ that works like magic.
There’s nothing quite like an invigorating massage set to soothing music. And The Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland takes its music very seriously. So much so that the spa here offers the 45-minute ‘Violin Touch’ treatment with a private live violin performance by artist Debora Vonwiller. You can also explore the wellness offerings at Massachusetts’s Sutra Studio, which features an in-house band, The Bhakti Collective.
Take a break from spa experiences in luxury hotels, and try one on a cruise. Mandara Spa on the Norwegian Cruise Line offers over 50 speciality treatments. From rejuvenating facials and massages to acupuncture, this spa has it all. The Thermal Suite here is based on the concept of Turkish baths, and has heated ceramic lounge chairs, a thalassotherapy pool, hot tubs, a steam room, a sauna, and tropical rain showers.
Celebrities swear by it. The high-end dermatology clinic near you offers it. And it is touted to be the facial that can turn back time. We are talking about the ‘Placenta Facial’. Performed with sheep (and sometimes human) placenta, the facial involves infusing stem cells into the skin with the help of microdermabrasion. A placenta is loaded with nutrients, minerals, and proteins, which are proven to give you acne-free and younger looking skin.
Cup of Life:
Dating back to ancient Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures, fire cupping is an alternative healing practice. In this technique, small glass cups or bamboo jars are heated and used to create suction on the skin. The cups are gently moved all over your skin. It is a great way to improve blood flow, relieve back and neck pain, and treat stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, and migraines.
The Steal in Oslo:
All angular designs, play of light, and textured surfaces, The Thief Spa in Oslo oozes Scandi-cool. The intriguing name comes from the island that it sits on: Tjuvholmen, or ‘thief islet’, which was once thronged by people who were up to no good. The ceiling above the spa pool recreates the night sky with tiny specks of light; the cutting-edge design is softened by the use of candles and natural building materials. The spa features the city’s only Turkish hammam, plus ‘Moroccan Rhassoul’, ‘German Aufguss’, and the ‘Carita anti-ageing facial’ with real diamond and tourmaline powder, among other
treatments that it unabashedly claims to have stolen from spas around the world!
A Spa-fari in Africa:
Making its mark on the wellness map is Kenya. The wildlife in the African country is diverse and has become an important extension of the wellness offerings here. To get a taste of this truly unique experience, try a spafari. A mix of spa and safari, the experience involves animal spotting while you experience a relaxing spa treatment. At Sanctuary Olonana, a luxury camp on the banks of Mara River, you can try a signature therapy, performed with indigenous African ingredients, as you watch the wild things roam.
Japan’s Geisha Facial:
As eccentric as it may sound, the ‘Geisha Facial’ is huge—the likes of Victoria Beckham, Tom Cruise, and Harry Styles swear by it. The powdered droppings of nightingales native to the Japanese island of Kyushu are used in this facial. Believed to have anti-ageing benefits, it is the secret behind Japan’s geishas’ flawless skin.
Snake Break in Israel:
This one gives visitors serious bragging rights. Snakes on your back, snakes on your face, snakes at your feet—if you can get through this, you’re sure to connect with a part of yourself that’s hidden under those grimy layers of modern existence. The snakes used for the various massages at Ada Barak’s Carnivorous Plant Farm are all harmless, of course. Carnivorous plants were once the farm’s main attraction. But after visitors revealed how soothing it was to hold the reptiles, the snake spa was born. Letting them slither over you can be very relaxing once the initial shock wears off.
In a Chamber of Ice in Texas:
The use of ice or extremely low temperatures is the basis of cryotherapy. During the three-minute treatment, you enter a closed chamber kept at an average of -120 degree Celsius. This stimulates the production of enzymes and hormones, and accelerates the self-healing process. Try it at Restore, Austin.
Adventure Spa in Kerala:
Ayurveda has the answer to all that ails your mind and body. For an authentic
experience, head to Neeleshwar Hermitage in Kerala. Here, Ayurvedic treatments are practised in collaboration with Sahayadri Foundation, a 100 per cent organic herbal medicine manufacturer. As many as 20 Ayurvedic treatments are on offer at the property’s Priya Ayurvedic Spa. The airy and well-ventilated spa’s surroundings add to your overall experience here. Plus, all the treatments are preceded by a consultation with an Ayurveda doctor, and complemented with activities as well as appropriate food.