It used to be that going on a vacation for rest and relaxation meant flying to an island paradise and planting yourself on a beach. But contemporary travellers are much more proactive about their R&R, and the goal of relaxation has become one of rejuvenation—of the body, mind and spirit.
Enter wellness travel, whereby you seek out destinations, accommodations and experiences meant to improve your physical and mental wellbeing through fitness, healthy eating and other “mindful” pursuits. Tour operators, hotels and all manner of related businesses increasingly cater to this soon-to-be billion-dollar slice of the travel industry, so whether you’re looking for a luxe spa stay, a spiritual retreat or a multifaceted tour mixing yoga, nature walks and cooking classes, there’s a wellness vacation for everyone—almost anywhere in the world. Here are a few destinations that make us say Om.
It’s said that Sedona is home to several “energy vortexes” that promote rejuvenation of the mind and body amongst the area’s iconic red sandstone buttes and ponderosa pine forests. For decades they’ve enticed yogis, meditators and other “spiritual” types; local guides and healing practitioners now offer vortex tours to help you reconnect with your metaphysical self, then you can continue your journey by indulging in a Native American-inspired spa treatment, or picking up healing crystals, mindfulness books and more at one of many wellness boutiques in town.
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Most travellers to Thailand enter the country via its capital, Bangkok, and while the bustling metropolis of 8.2 million people may not encourage much relaxation, it’s great for getting your spiritual bearings—by taking in some of the city’s stunning Buddhist temples. At Wat Pho, a.k.a. the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, you can even enjoy a traditional Thai massage. From Bangkok, make your way south, to one (or more) of the many wellness retreats spread across the islands of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Resorts on Koh Samui are particularly popular, and offer programming to promote everything from body detoxification to stress management—alongside contemporary Thai cooking and beautiful beaches at your doorstep.
Solitude is the big appeal of a journey to this far-flung region straddling the southern tip of Chile and Argentina. Popular itineraries begin in either Santiago or Buenos Aires with an introduction to renowned wines and local cuisine. Then you head southward to experience some of the world’s most awesomely rugged landscapes, from the glaciers flanking the extinct Cerro Tronador volcano to the ancient valleys, lakes and subpolar forests of Torres del Paine National Park. Accommodations are typically eco-lodges and estancias (private ranch-like properties) that offer the likes of hiking, horseback excursions, yoga, and the chance to experience the local way of life.
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The Hawaiian Islands host many high-end wellness retreats, where guests partake in yoga, meditation and more in the midst of a tropical paradise. They’re likewise flush with hotels that make it their mission to pamper guests with spa treatments. But whether you visit Maui or Molokai, Hawaii’s true value lies in its endless variety of active pursuits. Almost all of Hawaii’s beaches are considered public property, making it easy to splash into the ocean for a snorkeling session or surfing lesson. Inland, cycling is a popular pursuit—whether you prefer a leisurely ride along the coastal roads of Kauai, or tackling the mountain trails of Oahu and the Big Island. Agritourism, too, has become a major draw, with farms, plantations and markets offering tastes of the Hawaiian bounty.
There are few better places to rejuvenate than amidst the rolling, sun-drenched hills of Tuscany. Italophiles can find their Zen on a small-group G Adventures tour from Rome to Florence, where participants are encouraged to practice being present in the stunning surroundings. That mindfulness is aided by yoga classes at Villa Borghese and atop the Palatine Hill, while further nourishment comes by way of a Tuscan cooking class and a day in the spa town of Bagno Vignoni.
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Contact an AMA Travel specialist to help you plan your next wellness escape. Call 1-866-667-4777 or visit AMATravel.ca.