Asia Ancient Wisdom, Modern Amenities: Wellness Retreats Reach New Heights
Perched on a hilltop at the foot of the Himalayas, the former royal palace of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal is a grand sight. Built in 1895, the spectacular hundred-acre estate overlooks the Ganges River and was once a favorite destination of Indian royalty as well as such well-known luminaries as Mahatma Gandhi. Today, the illustrious palace is home to Ananda in the Himalayas, one of the most luxurious wellness retreats in the world.
Here, world-weary cosmopolitan types gather to practice yoga and meditation while indulging in traditional Ayurvedic therapies at the hotel’s opulent spa. What makes Ananda unique, however, is the hotel’s unwavering dedication to the comfort of its guests. Every detail, from the perfectly appointed guest rooms to the organic cuisine and lush gardens, is perfectly calibrated to reinforce the hotel’s mission of holistic rejuvenation.
A RENOWNED EXPERIENCE
Ananda isn’t alone in melding ancient healing practices with luxurious amenities. As the popularity of wellness travel continues to grow, leading hotels and tour operators around the world are seeking to differentiate themselves by adding immersive wellness programs to their already lavish offerings. Whether that be studying yoga in India or partaking in the centuries-old ritual of onsen bathing in Japan, these retreats, often lead by world-renowned wellness experts, can now be undertaken while ensconced in some of the world’s best properties.
Famed for its one-of-a-kind minimalist design and strong cult following, Aman Hotels & Resorts, for example, offers an array of individual and group retreats. Three properties in particular—Amanpuri in Thailand, Amanbagh in India and Amanoi in Vietnam—offer three- to 14-night individually tailored immersions that integrate traditional therapies with the renowned experience of staying at an Aman property.
At Amangalla, a historic Sri Lankan resort set within the 400-year-old Galle Fort at the southwestern tip of the island, The Baths spa focuses on the therapeutic balance between food and water. Their Ayurvedic doctor personally tailors a nutrition plan to reset your doshas, while the spa’s transcendent hydrotherapy chambers artfully combine a sauna, steam room and plunge pool in a peaceful setting. The serene scene is complemented by the yoga pavilion and garden-framed swimming pool, creating a true oasis.
Amanjena, a fabled rose-hued resort just outside of Marrakesh, meanwhile, offers a three-day small-group Moorish retreat that focuses on movement and alignment. Working with in-house and visiting experts in the hotel’s opulent hammam, guests seek to achieve fluidity and mindfulness while indulging in traditional Moorish therapies such as Argan oil head massages and full-body masks that utilize natural clay sourced from the nearby Atlas Mountains.
AN INTIMATE JOURNEY
In keeping with this trend, Abercrombie & Kent recently introduced a series of wellness-inspired small group journeys. Limited to 18 people, and led by one of their distinguished tour directors, these nine- to 13-day journeys offer a variety of inspiring experiences in locations as diverse as Southeast Asia, India, Kenya and Peru. Uniquely tied to the destination, activities range from running with the Maasai in Kenya to offering sunrise alms to Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Long celebrated for their discernment, Abercrombie & Kent hand selects hotels for these small group journeys based on their wellness amenities, healthy cuisine and serene ambiance. Leaning toward smaller boutique properties, the hotels are often set in breathtaking landscapes and feature world-class spas. In keeping with the spirit of the trip, guests are given ample unstructured time to enjoy spa treatments and yoga and meditation sessions, along with active adventures such as a bike ride through Angkor Wat.
Abercrombie & Kent’s Spirit of the Incas itinerary, for example, includes early-morning walks through the ruins of Machu Picchu, a sacred earth-blessing ceremony with a local shaman and a hike with a medicinal plant expert. At every point, guests are joined by renowned scholars and local guides who add depth and context to the experiences, making them all the more profound. The journey includes a stay at the Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, an elegantly restored palace in Cusco built on Inca foundations, where you will enjoy the city’s first outdoor heated swimming pool and unique, indigenous healing treatments in the spa.