The top health and wellness retreats to start the New Year
Jini Reddy, CNN , Anthea Gerrie, CNN
10:02 AM, Jan 3, 2014
CNN - Wellness is the buzzword for people seeking a healthy getaway -- retreats that give you a medical overhaul while you sun, swim and eat gourmet fare that's good for you.
These 20 spas and wellness retreats relax body and mind while giving smartphones and gadgets a rest.
1. Terme de Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort (Italy)
This Tuscan spa has some of the world's most exotic facial treatments, using diamonds, gold and Antarctic ice as ingredients.
Also on offer are Craniosacral Attuning, Micronized Nasal Showers and Physiokinesiotherapy.
It all sounds pretty invasive, but we're assured the effects offer a blissful experience. Or something close to it.
The spa sits beside an ancient thermal spring said to have healing powers, and is also awash in waterfalls, pools and Roman baths.
There are two restaurants, an 18-hole golf course and 53 treatment rooms on site.
Terme de Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort, 58014 Saturnia (Grosetto), Italy; +39 0564 600 888; room and breakfast from €375 ($515) per person, per night, treatments extra
2. Six Senses Zighy Bay (Oman)
How many spas can you paraglide into?
Zighy Bay's Bond-ish arrival option ranks as one of the coolest on the planet.
After that adrenaline charge, the resort is geared toward relaxation and repose, with a dedicated spa.
Located on the Musandam Peninsula, with mountains to one side and beach on the other, it's got a grand setting.
Three-, five- and seven-day detox, fitness, de-stressing and adventure programs are available with customizable options.
Six Senses Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula, Dibba-Musandam 800, Oman; +968 26735 555; three-night pilates retreat from $3,173
3. Simply Healing (United Kingdom)
Ever wanted to try a juice fast, but not the type who suffers privation easily?
Simply Healing specializes in personalized juice detox programs at Alliblaster House, a retreat located in a 19th-century Georgian mansion, less than two hours from London.
The ambiance is smart but far from formal.
Therapeutic treatments are among the best you'll find in the UK, the juices are delicious and staff kind.
Founder Vivien Kay is a veteran traveler, and rooms are scattered with art and curios from her adventures.
Simply Healing, Hillhouse La, Horsham, United Kingdom; +44 1403 822117; five-day Essential Juice Detox plan from $2,162
4. Sha Wellness Clinic (Spain)
The world's only macrobiotic spa, this white temple of minimalism brings Oriental style and philosophy to Spain's Costa Blanca.
Guests are offered reiki -- a treatment that aims to balance your energies without the therapist actually laying hands on you -- and a session in a private "floatarium," a dimly lit room containing a shallow pool of salty water.
Guests can expect a lot of brown rice and absolutely no meat, eggs or dairy.
Sha Wellness Clinic, Verderol 5, El Albir, Alicante, Spain; +34 966 811 199; rooms and all meals from $410 per person, per night, treatments extra. Double that for a two-day package including access to classes and three treatments
5. Ananda (India)
High above the Ganges in the Himalayan foothills, this retreat is renowned for its Ayurvedic healing programs, yoga and meditation, daily vedanta (philosophy) classes, wellness packages and spa.
In Sanskrit, "ananda" means "bliss," and spa addicts worldwide rave about the magical qualities of the place -- the tranquil setting, crisp mountain air, lush scenery and view of the Ganges.
Clients are well catered for with excursions, safaris and whitewater rafting.
Ananda Spa, Narendra Nagar, Uttarakhand, India; +91 1378 227500; seven-night Ananda Detox package from $540 per night
6. Clinique La Prairie (Switzerland)
This clinic on the shores of Lake Geneva came to fame for its sheep-embryo injections, said to have rejuvenated scores of the rich and famous.
The shots have been replaced by an extract that's now consumed after a comprehensive medical examination -- this must be the only spa in the world with 60 in-house specialists and its own MRI scanner.
"Out there" treatments include Lomi-Lomi, a Polynesian healing massage, and Sat Asanas, during which you're massaged while assuming different yoga positions.
When not receiving treatments, you can walk round the lake or explore the lakeside resort of Montreux. The spa cuisine is superb.
Clinique La Prairie, Chemin de la Prairie 2, Clarens, Switzerland; +41 21 989 3311; weekly programs only, six nights and full board, full medical checkup and a tailored program from CHF 10,370 ($12,175) per person
7. COMO Shambhala Estate (Indonesia)
One of Bali's flagship wellness retreats has become a blueprint for a whole series of Como properties.
But it's hard to beat this original, set among the rice paddies outside Ubud, where an osteopath, chiropractor, physio, psychologist, nutritionist and Ayurvedic doctor are all on hand to sort out your chakras.
Energy healers, life coaches and "influential thinkers" visit, but at all times there are yoga, pilates, meditation, aquatherapy, mountain biking and hiking, plus sublime spa treatments and outstanding cuisine.
COMO Shambhala Estate, Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar, Ubud, Indonesia; +62 361 978 888; three-night minimum package including room and all meals, wellness consultation, massage, classes and return airport transfers from $1,830 per person
8. Longevity Wellness Resort (Portugal)
A combo resort and medical spa, Longevity Wellness Resort is located inside a nature reserve about 20 minutes and a world away from the touristy beach hub of the Algarve.
Nutrition, relaxation, beauty and anti-aging experts iron out the creases and you can take off for hikes in the hills, birdwatching trips and excursions to swim with dolphins.
Themed retreats -- with titles such as "Total Balance and Awareness" and "Personal Power" -- are available.
Longevity Wellness Resort, Lugar do Montinho, Monchique, Portugal; +351 282 240 110; two-night Longevity Welcome Ritual from $280
9. La Quinta Resort & Club (California, United States)
Rarefied spa treatments include a rose-quartz facial, a massage with "sacred stones," a body polish with the seeds of wine grapes from the Napa Valley and an oxygen "power lift" for the complexion.
There's a kids' spa (where young athletes can get a sports massage) golf and tennis, and 41 swimming pools.
La Quinta, 49-499 Eisenhower Dr., La Quinta, California; +1 760 777 8772; rooms from $169, room only. WellMax checkup including skin laser treatments as well as full diagnostic package $3,500
10. Fordoun (South Africa)
Dr. Elliot Ndlovu is a Zulu spiritual healer and director of Fordoun, one of South Africa's top-rated spas.
The family-owned retreat is located on a former dairy farm in the hills of Kwazulu Natal province's Midlands and surrounded by a working cattle farm.
Its motto is "Ubuntu," a Zulu phrase that roughly translates as "treat others as you would like to be treated."
The indigenous-themed treatments, walks, birdwatching and trout fishing are all restful, but the star attraction is a session with Ndlovu, who a few years back traveled to the Oscars in L.A. to give readings to a bevy of A-list stars.
Fordoun, Nottingham Road, South Africa, +27 33 266 6217; two-night stress relief package from $350 per night based on single occupancy
11. Carmel Forest Spa (Israel)
This eyrie high above the Med near Haifa was once a center of emotional healing for Holocaust survivors.
Now, some of the world's top massage therapists deliver divine salt, vanilla and lavender peels or shiatsu.
Reiki, physiotherapy and reflexology are all on tap.
A wine bar dispensing Israeli vintages distinguishes this place from most wellness centers.
You can work off the large meals with walks in the forest, on the tennis courts or with a swim in expansive indoor and outdoor pools.
Carmel Forest Spa, Haifa, Israel; +972 4 830 7888; double rooms from $480 including full board and activities, treatments extra
12. Kamalaya (Thailand)
Kamalaya garners consistently rapturous reviews.
It's on the island of Koh Samui, built around a cave once inhabited by a Buddhist monk.
That pretty much sets the tone.
There's an impressive roster of therapists and visiting experts, as well as three different 14-day wellness programs, including ones devoted to stress and burnout and sleep enhancement.
Yoga, pilates, meditation, a library, swimming pool and landscaped gardens provide more ways to find peace and quiet.
Kamalaya, 102/9 Moo 3, Laem Set Road, Na-Muang, Koh Samui, Thailand; +66 77 429 800; five-night Sleep Enhancement program from $2,866
13. Carnac Thalasso (France)
Thalassotherapy (the harnessing of seawater and seaweed to improve health) was developed more than a century ago in the westernmost French province of Brittany.
One of the best thalasso spas is at Carnac, with a huge indoor-outdoor seawater pool and New Age waterbeds that beam out color therapy as they gently rock you.
Other treatments include wraps in warm seaweed, floats in a salty hydrotherapy bath and massages delivered while tepid seawater drips on your back.
Then it's time for the passive but deeply therapeutic experience of staring out at sea and sky from a sybaritic relaxation room.
Carnac Thalasso, 6 Allee Fleur de Sel, Carnac, France; +33 2 9752 5354, double rooms from $121 including access to therapeutic baths. Treatments extra
14. Spa Eastman (Quebec, Canada)
In Quebec's Eastern Townships, an hour from Montreal, Spa Eastman is one of Canada's top spas and also one of its more affordable.
It's in a beautiful location, with unobstructed views of Mount Orford and good hiking.
Aside from a selection of therapies, fitness offerings and guided walks, the spa specializes in "thermotherapy," with a Turkish bath and outdoor pools.
This is one of the few spas to offer Watsu, a sort of warm water, balletic massage that's positively stupor-inducing.
Guests attend lectures and workshops on the art of healthy living.
Spa Eastman, 895 Chemin des Diligences, Eastman, Canada; +1 450 297 3009; five-night health and wellness immersion package from $1,547
15. Blue Lagoon (Iceland)
This full-service, indoor-outdoor spa is built atop the largest of the country's many natural hot springs and lies conveniently halfway between the airport and the capital, Reykjavik.
Research shows bathing in geothermal water may offer significant benefits to the skin as well as the psyche.
You can slather on the rich mix of minerals, silica and algae provided in buckets along the sides of the huge outdoor pool, or get a professional massage; there's also a clinic for psoriasis sufferers.
The Blue Lagoon has its own hotel, restaurant, shop and line of skin-care products; it's worth paying extra for access to the VIP club as a day visitor.
Blue Lagoon, Grindavík 240, Reykjavík, Iceland; +354 420 8800, double rooms including breakfast and lagoon access from $315; entrance-only $45
16. Transformational Retreats (Costa Rica)
These eight-day retreats in the hills above the Pacific coast, or at an eco-center deep in the jungle, are the only ones in the world that specialize in "neurofeedback."
The non-invasive therapy has been used with apparently great effect to reduce anxiety and improve concentration, confidence and well being by monitoring brain activity.
Some of those who've tried it call it a hotline to the deep state of relaxed alertness people seek through meditation and yoga.
The retreat offers mentoring, yoga and meditation, hikes, fresh food, therapies, massage and the pristine silence of the rainforest.
Subtropical Byron Bay is home to this award-winning retreat and spa.
Olivia Newton-John is one of its founders.
With just 19 bedrooms and views of the Pacific Ocean, it's a magnificent healing space.
The retreat attracts some of Australia's finest healers, therapists and fitness experts, and there's everything from hypnotherapy to sound healing, acupuncture and even tennis coaching alongside the usual spa stuff.
Stays are tailored for guests looking for a "personal, purpose driven retreat."
Gaia Retreat and Spa, 933 Fernleigh Road, Brooklet NSW, Australia; +61 2 6687 1216; two-night spa retreat special from $1,019
19. Lifehouse (United Kingdom)
After half a century of health farms, Britain has its first true wellness retreat in Lifehouse.
This contemporary, light-flooded spa set in gorgeous gardens once beloved of Queen Mary offers traditional treatments such as facials, pedicures and both Western- and Eastern-style massage.
You can get cranio-sacral therapy, acupuncture, personalized flower remedies, reiki, kinesiology, spiritual and psychic healing and even a virtual gastric band.
Food is healthy, innovative and excellent; there are yoga and exercises classes.
As with every great wellness spa, just hanging out in beautiful, tranquil surroundings is a major part of the experience.
Lifehouse, Lifehouse, Frinton Road, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, England; +44 1255 863468; two-night package including all meals, transfers from railway station, access to classes and two treatments from $491 per person
20. Amangiri (Utah, United States)
Rising from the desert like a movie hideaway, remote Amangiri has welcomed starry guests including, reportedly, the Jolie-Pitts.
Located in the dramatic Canyon Point area of southern Utah, the spa was designed to blend into its sand and rock-strewn surroundings.
Local Navajo culture and healing therapies have influenced the spa menu, there's a flotation room, fitness center, yoga pavilion (for private and group classes) and good trails on the vast property.
Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks are easily accessible.
Amangiri, 1 Kayenta Road, Canyon Point, Utah; +1 435 675 3999; from $1,100 per night