The growing trend of wellness holidays

There’s a new style of vacation gaining popularity, and it’s focused around self-care and wellbeing.

Hike the great outdoors or find your inner-calm across this range of wellness retreats. Image credit: Mii Amo
Hike the great outdoors or find your inner-calm across this range of wellness retreats. Image credit: Mii Amo

Wellness holidays, often referred to as “wellness retreats”, are focused on improving your physical, mental, or spiritual health. Wellness retreats come in a variety of forms and are designed to combat the symptoms of a busy lifestyle, whether you’re looking to kick-start a new exercise regime, learn to manage stress, or improve your day-to-day habits with expert guidance.

The concept of wellness and self-care has been gathering steam for a while now and looks set to play an important role in the future of tourism. According to a report by UK travel trade association ABTA, wellness tourism is now worth an incredible 639 billion USD globally and is growing at more than twice the rate of traditional tourism.

Twenty-somethings are trading in cocktails and nightclubs for yoga retreats, while parents with young kids have more opportunities to find tailor-made wellness packages for families. There are holidays that fuse golf and meditation, and bachelor parties are taking a healthy twist, swapping out tequila shots and drinking games for the great outdoors and craft beer tastings.

Are airports wellness destinations?

While airports aren’t traditionally associated with health and wellbeing, they’re fast becoming a surprising benefactor of the wellness movement. The addition of high-end spas, health-focused restaurants, and elaborate gym and pool services are turning many airports into wellness destinations and giving travelers an excuse to arrive early for a little pre-flight pamper-session.

Emirate’s Timeless Spa, with three locations across Dubai airport, offers a dizzying array of treatments from body wraps, facials, and anti-aging treatments, to teeth whitening and hair styling. A number of U.S. airports, including San Fran SFO, have even installed complimentary yoga studios for travelers who’ve cleared security.

However, the best airport to stop at for a self-care session is Frankfurt International Airport, rated number one for wellness according to research from flight and travel site Netflights. Airports were scored based on a range of factors, including the quality and availability of spa services, quiet spaces for meditation and relaxation, and access to dedicated exercise areas.

The success of wellness outlets across airports can perhaps be measured by Paris-based startup Be Relax, which recently acquired 20 million Euro (22.4 million USD) for their chain of airport wellness retreats. Their ability to secure such significant funding suggests that wellness tourism, both in the airport and beyond, will be a driving force in the industry’s future.

For those considering a wellness retreat in place of a standard holiday, we’ve selected a few excellent options from around the globe. And don’t forget to check out the wellness facilities at your departure airport, for a little self-care head-start.

Spiritual retreats

Mii Amo, Sedona, Arizona – For the spiritually inclined

Located within the jaw-dropping red rock landscapes of Sedona, Arizona is Mii Amo, a self-care sanctuary offering a range of all-inclusive “wellness journeys”, curated for you upon arrival by one of their wellness experts.

The Mii Amo philosophy is heavy on spirituality and according to their website, their goal is to guide guests in their quest for inner peace, inspiration, and reconnection with nature. Particular emphasis is placed on the lodge’s location, which is “steeped in the sacred Native American culture of the Southwest desert”, and informs many of their practices.

Thanks to the variety of activities and treatments on offer, Mii Amo is a great choice for wellness holiday first-timers, who aren’t sure where to start. Guests can explore crystal healing, take a guided meditation, practice mindfulness, stargaze, or pamper themselves with a variety of Native American inspired spa treatments.

Take a break from soul searching with a variety of seminars based around nutritional health and sustainable living, or hike the surrounding nature trails which offer excellent bird watching opportunities.

Inside a casita at Mii Amo. Image credit: Mii Amo
Inside a casita at Mii Amo. Image credit: Mii Amo

Santani, Dambara, Sri Lanka – Destress through Ayurveda and yoga

Santani is a purpose-built wellness resort, located within a 48-acre former tea plantation in Dambara, Sri Lanka. Surrounded by pristine forest, and overlooking the magnificent Knuckles Mountain Range, Santani helps guests restore the balance between their mind, body, and spirit, through programs rooted in ancient Ayurveda.

The resort offers general wellness packages, as well as a range of more specific programs for stress, improved sleep, and addiction treatment. Guests can partake in yoga and meditation, spa treatments, along with learning seminars and sessions with visiting spiritual masters. Ayurvedic treatments are prescribed by an ayurvedic healer and are based on “doshas”, or mind-body types. Treatments may include massage, herbal remedies, or lifestyle changes.

Rooms are chic, minimal, and zen, with large glass windows and balconies overlooking the lush forest surrounds or rugged mountain ranges. Equally stunning views can be enjoyed from the resorts infinity pool, open-air pavilion, or ayurvedic fine dining restaurant – where guests will enjoy specially prescribed “dosha-balancing” meals.

A room with a view. Image credit: Santani
A room with a view. Image credit: Santani

Fitness breaks

Mountain Trek, British Columbia, Canada – Fresh air and the great outdoors

Improve your energy levels, fitness, and confidence by embracing the great outdoors with The Mountain Trek program. The breathtaking mountain ranges of British Columbia are a magnificent setting for sunrise yoga sessions, Nordic-style wilderness hikes, and evening fitness classes.

This wellness holiday isn’t for the faint-hearted, with a daily schedule which runs from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., including up to eight hours of hiking per day. Nature lovers who are up for a challenge might just be in paradise exploring the rugged Purcell Mountains and Kootenay Lake area. After a long day in the wilderness, guests get to enjoy a healthy dinner, followed by an evening spin class, an extra dose of cardio at the gym, or a weights session.

The nights are free for guests to make use of the luxury lodge’s extensive spa facilities, which include an outdoor hot tub, ice-cold plunge pool, steam room, infrared sauna, and massage services. The program is alcohol and caffeine-free, so be prepared to let go of your vices if you take up the Mountain Trek challenge.

Soul & Surf, Portugal – Fitness on the Algarve Coast

Let your days be led by the tides and swells of the Atlantic Ocean, at Soul & Surf on Portugal’s Algarve Coast. A combination of surf lessons, yoga, and meditation form the basis of this fitness-focused wellness holiday, which aims to inspire guests to live a more active and healthy lifestyle. The Portugal retreat is Soul & Surf’s first European location, after successfully running retreats in India and Sri Lanka.

Soul & Surf is best suited to social types, as there is a focus on community. The week-long semi-inclusive holiday is their most popular option, which includes wetsuit and surf gear hire, surf theory and feedback sessions, as well as daily yoga and meditation sessions. Most meals are included in the package and are a social affair. Guests dine together in the communal garden area and enjoy nourishing meals made with local Portuguese produce.

Soul & Surf is about good times, restoration, and fitness-in-moderation. The scheduling is up to you, and if you feel your mind and body is best served by spending hours curled up reading your book in a hammock, feel free.

The area around Soul & Surf Portugal. Image credit: Soul & Surf Portugal
The area around Soul & Surf Portugal. Image credit: Soul & Surf Portugal

Health & nutrition holidays

Fivelements, Ubud, Bali – The antidote for a busy lifestyle

Balancing a busy work and social life can take a toll on the body, both physically and mentally. If you’ve been neglecting your 30 minutes a day, and fueling your hectic lifestyle with convenience foods, then Fivelements wellness retreat in tropical Bali will help you to regain control over your health.

Fivelements have a signature cleansing program, which combines a healthy plant-based vegan diet with traditional Balinese healing therapies, to assist in the purification and detoxification of the body. Fivelements’ all-inclusive detox packages also include spa sessions, yoga, meditation, and plant-based cooking classes with the retreat’s team of vegan chefs.

Guests on the quest for a healthy lifestyle will be in the lap of luxury, staying within gorgeous riverside villas nestled in the Balinese jungle. Fivelements’ private villas have a luxury treehouse feel, constructed with bamboo, wicker, and traditional Balinese textiles. Guests can relax in their own private open-air, river-view tub, and enjoy the sounds of the jungle at night from their gloriously super-sized four-poster bed.

1440 Multiversity, Scotts Valley, California – A retreat led by experts

Within easy reach of Santa Cruz and San Francisco is 1440 Multiversity, an immersion learning campus nestled within the majestic California redwoods with a concept that differs from your typical wellness retreat. Instead of offering fixed programs, the team invites a diverse range of experts to make use of the on-site facilities to host their own three to five-day workshops or learning holidays.

You can learn to cook plant-based meals, discover the paleo lifestyle, or learn techniques for living with chronic pain. Improve your posture, learn how to be a better friend, or discover alternative ways of dealing with anxiety. In particular, 1440 is an excellent option for yoga enthusiasts, as they run a wide range of specialist and advanced courses by well-known yogis. Check their schedule to see upcoming wellness retreats.

The 1440 Multiversity campus itself is the perfect spot of rest and relaxation between classes, with beautiful outdoor living spaces, an infinity hot tub, and multiple yoga rooms and meditation areas. Lodge accommodation is cozy (premium rooms come with a fireplace), and the on-campus restaurant serves hearty, locally sourced dishes with a view of the redwood forests.


Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.