Best spas in the world for fitness, strength and weight loss


Palácio Estoril Hotel, Estoril, Portugal


This grand 1930s hotel has hosted royalty, heads of state and spies in its time (while, rather fittingly, serving as a backdrop for the Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) – but don’t be deceived by its traditional appearance. Beyond the liveried staff and velveteen lawns lies a vast and modern mega-spa: with three floors of medical wizardry and the only Banyan Tree Spa in Europe (complete with terrific Thai therapists). The seven-night Physical Rehabilitation programme stands out: for while the words ‘holistic’ and ‘360-degree care’ are often overused in wellness, at Estoril, each practitioner – osteopath, physiotherapist or masseuse – is fully up to speed with each guest’s case and progress, sometimes spookily so. Not needing to explain aches and pains from scratch is gratifyingly efficient; and for that reason, treatments are targeted and ailments improve in double-quick time. Dr Paulo Fonte is the star man in Chinese medicine and postural re-education, advocating yoga, aqua Tai Chi and gentle spinning sessions in the pool to remedy stiff backs, misaligned joints and other weaknesses. Meals are taken in the dining room with delicate, doctor-prescribed portions for the weight-loss programme, along with a calorie-counted or à la carte menu for the other packages, such as the Sense of Rejuvenation or even Surf (the Palácio is by the beach) and Relax. A glass of Albariño? Go ahead, perfect with a bowl of glorious gazpacho and delicately sparkling local water. On that note, bring a glamorous Eres one-piece: built on a private spring, rich in minerals, healing hydrotherapy is key, building on the longterm strength gained at the Palácio, where East firmly meets West. Healing Holidays (healingholidays.com) offers a seven-night physical rehabilitation programme from £1,599, including breakfast, British Airways flights and transfers.

ARIJIJU, Laikipia, Kenya


Hidden in the dense bush of the Borana Conservancy is this private residence of cloistral calm, with sun-streaked verandahs, vaulted stone archways and elegant interi- ors. But beyond the thick linen drapes and lantern-lit infinity pool sits the Lewa Marathon: 26 miles of untamed Kenyan Highlands – an endurance runner’s dream. It’s the perfect backdrop to the new Sportsman Programme, overseen by Kenya’s Crossfit champion, Sheena Miller. Guests head out at sunrise on a high-altitude running safari, flanked by armed rangers; perform circuits under the thatch of the outdoor gym; and canter on horseback while tracking the elu- sive black rhino, before retreating to the spa for a massage using scrubs derived from olive bark and oils made from wild herbs. Days draw to a close with sunset vinyasa on the canopy-level yoga deck, as elephants roam below, and a nutri- tious feast (snapper with crushed butternut) is prepared by a private chef. All that remains is to sink into bed, ready to attempt the gru- elling race with big game eyeing you from behind every bush. Arijiju (arijiju.com) offers stays from £6,915 per night, full board, on an exclusive basis for up to six guests, including game drives, spa access, wilderness experiences and transfers.

DEPLAR FARM, Troll Peninsula, Iceland


An escape at the edge of the world, Deplar Farm is off-grid glamour defined. Buried in the Fljotvalley, this former sheep ranch from luxe adventure group Eleven Experience is a game changer. Spend days power walking along volcanic shorelines, hiking vertiginous cliffs and axe-throwing (a mindfulness-derived exercise, said to be grounding). Sound baths and flotation tanks unlock creativity, the Viking Sauna awakens dormant energy; drifting in the hot spring pool, while the Northern Lights illuminate velvety skies, sharpens the senses. In the land of fire and ice, a place of magical thinking, where horses have a unique fifth gait and locals see faces hidden in lava fields, the spectacle of nature is therapy in itself. Guests leave feeling fitter, saner – and refreshed in the absence of the outside world. Double, from £1,750, full board, including transfers (elevenexperiences.com).

THE SPA AT EQUINOX, New York City, USA


The Spa at Equinox

Jesse Dittmar

Finding peace in the city that never sleeps is no longer a quest, thanks to The Spa at Equinox. Over 27,000sqft of inky-grained marble and brushed gold, it’s the fitness giant’s first standalone hotel in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. At its beating heart? A high-performance, medical-grade approach to wellness. Jet lag dissolves on the NASA-grade Quantum Harmonics table (which deploys military-tested sound technology to deliver three hours of REM sleep in 30 minutes, while clients snooze beneath a cashmere blanket); metabolism fires up in the oxygen-based cryotherapy chamber, burning an extra 800 calories per day while repairing worn muscles (cult spinning studio SoulCycle is in residence). But down in the sultry spa is where true recovery takes place – try the innovative ‘E-massage’, which blends CBD and magnesium to accelerate healing and calm in- flammation (though just as remedial are the spacious, sound-proofed bedrooms, overseen by personal sleep coaches). Peak performance starts here. Double, from £538 (equinox.com).

YEOTOWN, Devon, UK


Guests walk into the kitchen of this country-chic cottage, and think they’ve taken a wrong turn: the dining room is lined with empty magnums of Montrachet, the relics of a life well-lived by owner Simon Sieff. Though there’s no alcohol involved, this is not your average retreat. There’s no schedule, no miniscule portions, no white-coated doctors administering enemas. Instead, it’s about laughter and sharing, with hearty tofu scramble at breakfast, joyful group singing classes (to encourage better breathing) and roaming the great outdoors. Hikes – 50km across four days – trace the wild North Devon coastline, dotted with quaint seaside towns; a 37km bike ride meanders through soaring coastal rocks and inland highlands (ignore the twinkling of the ubiquitous ice cream shops). Twice-daily yoga, with the gorgeously effervescent Mercedes Sieff, is a huge draw – as is the shiatsu, the osteopathy and the bone-crunchingly good massages. The five-day programmes might have all the trappings of a relaxed country weekend, but the transformation is extraordinary. Guests arrive tired and listless, and leave brimming with energy, with a roadmap for the way forward. Double, from £1,950, for a five-night programme (yeotown.com).

FX MAYR, Lake Wörthersee, Austria


FX Mayr is famed for gently, yet effectively, rebooting worn-out bodies. Some guests come to tackle weight loss, others to recover from injury: though its die-hards (many of whom book in at the same time each year) are here to reset their gut. Cue an emphasis on proper chewing, bowls of healing broth and time for reflection (don’t be surprised if buried emotions bubble to the top). However, the latest lure is the new Immunity Boost programme. Designed to strengthen the the intestines and spur new energy, the cure incorporates intermittent hypoxic-hyperoxic therapy (interval breathwork, using low-level oxygen to boost respiratory performance); nasal reflexology (to clear colds and congestion) and immune- boosting drips. Vigorous exercise is out (resting while detoxing is key), but sessions of water biking raise the heart rate, and the UltraTone body treatment is a revelation (a half-hour session is akin to a two-hour workout). After a week, the physical sensation of lightness is unmistakeable – but so is the sense of strength. FX Mayr offers a one-week Mayr Basic Cure, from £2,334, full board, including all treatments (original-mayr.com).

LEFAY RESORT & SPA, The Dolomites, Italy


Calling ski fanatics in pursuit of serious post-exertion spa-ing: head straight to the new sister to the outstanding Lefay Lake Garda. Dazzling in its Unesco location, it boasts a state-of-the-art ski shop, ski butler and on-demand moun- tain shuttle – so there’s no excuse not to explore the 150km of powder-blanketed pistes. Inside, a cosy alpine metaphor is omnipresent: welcoming fireplaces, suites tricked out in granite and wood, and a candle-lit forest of a restaurant serving alpine trout and nettle gnocchi. The philosophy marries Chinese tradition with western medicine, emphasising the preventive powers of a life lived in balance (cue a wine cellar, with over 500 labels). But the calling card is the spa. Languid lengths in a pool of electrolysed water eases wound-tight muscles – then sink into a hot tub of horse chestnut, olive oil and honey before a massage with hot poultices. Otherwise, bring the outside in with therapeutic ‘journeys’ based on the seasons – and end a stay truly appreciating the healing power of nature. Wellbeing Escapes (wellbeingescapes.com) offers three nights from £1,100, including breakfast, four treatments, flights and transfers.

ONE&ONLY REETHI RAH, North Malé Atoll, Maldives


At this Maldivian island (the Beckhams’ hideaway of choice), the water shimmers, the sand is silken and the sunsets streak the sky with gold – but the Nirvana-like refuge is also a place for sculpting one’s behind while bronzing. The Reethi Raw workout is as intense as it sounds: hammers lie waiting on the beach, ready to be beaten against nearby tyres (the perfect bikini booster, it chisels waistlines and turns triceps to steel); before sessions of squats, and swinging from palm trees by TRX cables. And when fatigue sets in, the twinkling Indian Ocean awaits (along with a cold superfood juice, courtesy of the impossibly charm- ing staff). Over in the glorious ESPA spa, the new Sleep and Wellness Journey brings broken bodies back to life, with a reviving Bastien Gonzalez foot massage (the world-famous pedicurist occasionally swings by) and a slumber-inducing ritual that lightens heavy limbs through Shiatsu-like stretches, breathwork and meditation. Head to bed immediately. Guests report sleeping here like never before, the only sound the rhythmic lapping of the waves. Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a four-night Sleep Collection package from £6,945, including spa treatments, mindfulness diving or snorkelling, breakfast, flights and transfers.

LANSERHOF AT THE ARTS CLUB, London, UK


Lanserhof at the Arts Club

Lanserhof is synonymous with uber-slick service; modern monasterial design and proven Mayr medicine programmes. And their latest London outpost (in partnership with The Arts Club on Dover Street) follows suit. But this is no ordinary day-spa: this is a high-tech temple to wellness spanning six, light-filled floors; with the single goal of rendering clients (and their bodies) bulletproof. Its focus is still on prevention (cue, MRI scanners, a futuristic ‘Movement Lab’ and dedicated ‘Spine Lab’ in a diagnostic, Bond villain-like lair in the basement). But it’s also big on rehabilitation: which means a state-of-the-art gym where Techno-gym machines adjust to individuals’ programmes with the swipe of a wristband; and the Icarus – a virtual-reality ‘flight’ simulator – which tests core strength like never before. Recover in the dual-chamber cryotherapy pod, with a vitamin infusion, or in the hands of their expert team of osteopaths, acupuncturists and masseuses. Otherwise, book into the treat- ment rooms for an Augustinus Bader facial (the stem cell scientist’s famed creams leave skin feeling as supercharged as bodies). Annual membership starts from £4,000, plus joining fee (lanserhof.com/en/london/membership).

THE RANCH MALIBU, California, USA


Visitors to The Ranch feel they can walk forever, no matter how long the trail (and meagre the sustenance – a few almonds and a pinch of salt), thanks to the joy of passing great mountains and dense forests of bush, and brushing against fragrant herbs (flannel-soft sage, sweet lemon verbena). It’s just one of the reasons why those in the know return year after year. Their best-loved 4.0 retreat bottles the power of the great outdoors with daily, up-to-25km hikes, which not only blast hundreds of calories and blow away the cob- webs, but provide that elusive thing: time – and space – to think. Back at the Four Seasons Westlake Village (base for the four-day programme), feet are restored with talc and bandages; muscles softened with powerful, in-room massages and bodies stretched with daily classes (yoga, spinning, HIIT). Mealtimes are an unexpected joy, with hearty vegan fare (like the Ranch’s famous granola, and exceptional cauliflower crust pizza), all eaten in the airy, garden-view glasshouse. Losing five pounds in one stay is not out of the ordinary – unlike the sense of calm and renewed focus that guests return home with. Four nights, from £3,250 (theranchmalibu.com).



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