Ten Chic Retreats

From ancient healing rituals to contemporary wellness innovations, the finest luxury hotel spas of 2010 dazzle guests with exciting new treatments, unique designs and a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Jodie McLeod discovers ten of the best.


Wellness and Nature Spa at The Kranzbach Hotel & Wellness Retreat, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (main picture)

Nestled in the stunning Elmau Valley in Bavaria, The Kranzbach’s Wellness and Nature Spa harnesses the purity of the Alpine air to rejuvenate and revitalise guests. Encased in walls of glass, the 2,500m² spa provides spectacular views from most of its 25 treatment rooms. Guests can gaze contemplatively out toward the surrounding forests and meadows from the comfort of a range of saunas, relaxation rooms, hot pools and outdoor fire-warmed sun decks, whilst sipping water from The Kranzback’s very own spring. Outdoor exercise programmes such as Nordic Walking adventures are offered alongside traditional relaxation and sophisticated cosmetic treatments by French beauty range Thalgo (based on Thalasso medical therapy) and Italian spa brand Piroche Cosmetics, which has origins in traditional Chinese medicine.

Bodyna Spa at Hospes Maricel, Mallorca, Spain

Along with a traditional menu of luxury spa treatments of Asiatic and European origin, Bodyna Spa at Hospes Marciel has ventured to new depths of wellness, introducing a ‘Learn to Sleep’ spa package in 2009. The programme, created in partnership with sleep disorder specialist Dr Estivill, is designed to help guests regain control of their sleep patterns and enhance overall wellbeing. Lasting four to seven days, it includes sleep analysis, lifestyle advice, beauty therapies, siestas in special chill out rooms, snooze-enhancing cuisine and activities designed to create alertness. Treatment and relaxation beds are the stuff of dreams, framed by 13th century stone arches with unobstructed views out to sea. The ‘Learn to Sleep’ programme will roll out in other Hospes hotels in 2010.

The Dorchester Spa at The Dorchester, London, England

This most elite of British hotels reopened its spa in May 2009 after a £3.2m refurbishment. Designed by award-winning London based architects, Fox Linton Associates, the revamped interior exudes 1930s art deco glamour with a contemporary edge. Nine spacious and sound-proof treatment rooms including two double suites, a mani-pedisuite and sleek relaxation room are the setting for signature facials by internationally renowned super-facialist Vaishaly and sumptuous UK beauty line Carol Joy London. Treatments, including an extensive menu of massages, are offered by European skincare brand Kerstin Florian for the first time in London alongside acclaimed British brand, Aromatherapy Associates. The icing on the cake is the sweetly-named ‘Spatisserie’, which serves light lunches, afternoon tea and champagne in a glitteringly elegant high-tea setting.

Raison d’Etre Spa, The Grand Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden

"Traditional spa favourites complement some lesser-known therapies, including structural integration (also known as ‘rolfing’) and naprapathy."

Open since November 2009, this world-first by spa consultancy Raison d’Etre Spa is already making waves in Europe for its unique approach. The design of the spa and its treatments pay homage to centuries-old Nordic bathing traditions. Guests can try a bucket shower against a mosaic-tiled Swedish archipelagos scene, relax in spa suites with views to Sweden’s Royal Castle, and breathe in the scents of local herbs and flowers such as birch, which permeate the spa’s own range of body products. Guests answer a series of conceptual questions before being guided by a consultant to find their ideal ‘your own’ treatment. Traditional spa favourites complement some lesser-known therapies, including structural integration (also known as ‘rolfing’) and naprapathy (a massage combined with joint manipulation). A fitness club, health cuisine and an overall sustainable approach round off this exclusive spa experience.

Bath House, Green T House Living, Beijing, China

Green T House is designed by the glamorous musician, tea connoisseur and trend-setter JinR, who has brought life’s most beautiful elements – art, performance, tea, cuisine and (since May 2009) the spa experience – together into one experiential venue. Located in Beijing’s downtown Chaoyang district, this 15,000m² pavilion includes a 900m² Bath House, inspired by that of a Tang dynasty emperor. Guests can bathe in a teaspoon shaped, granite green tea infused steam bath, sample tea-inspired cuisine around a tree-trunk communal dining table, or try the stuff of spa mythology — a Ten Hands Massage — which guests can receive in a variety of settings: under moonlight in a rooftop Hot T bath, or on a four-poster bed enveloped in velvet drapes. The overarching philosophy here is for guests to relish in the relaxation that comes with the ritual of drinking tea.

The Spa at The Dolder Grand, Zurich, Switzerland

After a $400m renovation, the spa in this luxurious Swiss resort now sports a futuristic chill out room, where guests can dangle in suspended basket chairs, a sleek gentlemen-only spa area and a Japanese Tsunaburo warm pebble bathing experience. Branded ‘Classic traditions with a techno beat’, the revamped offerings derive from European and Japanese wellness practises. An exorbitant treatment menu features products by Switzerland’s La Prairie and experiences by UK spa line Kerstin Florian, based on natural resources. Active guests get their fitness hit with personal trainers and guided mountain bike riding tours, while the cosmetically-inclined can receive medical wellness treatments by specialists from Aesthetic Link consultancy, including plastic surgery, anti-aging and preventive medicine, aesthetic dermatology and laser medicine.

Sequoia Spa at The Grove, Hertfordshire, England

A concoction of ancient Ayurvedic-inspired healing ceremonies lure worldwide wellness pilgrims to Sequoia Spa at The Grove in Hertfordshire. Intoxicating offerings by ESPA promise to balance mind, body and emotions, from the Ama Releasing Abhyanga ritual, to the Dosha Specific Hot Stone Massage and Wrap, or the Shirodhara treatment – where oil is poured over the ‘third eye’ (brow chakra) and massaged through the scalp and head. All spa guests receive a Padabhyanga welcoming foot ritual, personal consultation and two-course lunch before luxuriating in the crystal steam room, sauna, blitz colour shower or vitality pool. Massaged limbs can be stretched in the workout room or by exploring the surrounding 300 acres of parkland and woods. An evening spa programme offers unique food and pamper packages, such as the Sushi spa experience, for the ultimate nightcap.

The Spa at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, England

"Other TCM therapies add spark to the treatment menu, such as tongue diagnostics, acupuncture and herbal medicine."

A long-time UK favourite, The Spa at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park launched a new range of signature spa treatments and products in 2009, adding a new level of exclusivity to the Eastern-inspired spa. Developed by Aromatherapy Associates and with origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each signature therapy combines the power of oriental meridian massage with custom-blended essential oils. Other TCM therapies add spark to the treatment menu, such as tongue diagnostics, acupuncture and herbal medicine. Guests can relax in separate male and female relaxation areas such as the Amethyst Crystal Steam Room, whose centrepiece is a large crystal, said to invoke inner peace. Other areas include the Sanarium, Vitality Pool and Zen Colour Therapy Relaxation Area, where guests can unwind on specially-designed Azumi beds to a calming soundtrack.

Qin The Spa, Four Seasons Hotel, Shanghai, China

Ancient Chinese mythology and astrology meet with exotic spa treatments in this unique 762m² spa designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates. Open since October 2009, Qin The Spa (pronounced ‘chin’ and meaning ‘to affect deeply’) includes eight treatment rooms, a manicure and pedicure room, a consultation space for acupuncture and a separate domain for foot reflexology. Both the interior design and treatments are grounded in philosophies of balance, from the treatment rooms, whose interiors reflect the eight natural phenomena of the I Ching system of symbols, to the 37 treatments, which are derived from the Four Celestial Seasonal guardians found in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Enticing Oriental titles such as the ‘Red Dragon’ polish and cocoon, or ‘Journey of the Lotus’ facial, add dimension to a menu by Futuresse of Germany, Uspa of Australia and Qin The Spa’s own line.

Six Senses Destination Spa Phuket, Thailand

Life-long enrichment is the focus of this award-winning, 3,000m² destination spa, which opened in Phuket in 2008. Holistic health and wellbeing is achieved through a vast range of Chinese, Thai, Indian and Indonesian-inspired therapies. Wellness programmes called Life Passages target specific problems (weight loss, stress, detoxification) using conventional and alternative integrated health techniques. Traditional wellness and beauty regimes might be supplemented with Functional Insight Training (a philosophical and physiological approach to fitness), iridology examinations, live blood analysis, nutrition consultation, or even a Chi Nei Tsang massage or Colonic Hydrotherapy treatment for digestive health. Edible landscaping, nutritious spa cuisine and the Wellness Wheel (an online component that enables guests to continue the spa experience after they have left the resort) put this spa in a class of its own.