From France to Japan, South Africa to Spain, they are some of the top places in the world to delight in the art of wellness, with friends by your side. They are all close enough to big cities for a weekend visit, with wellness activities for the more private circle of companions.
In these ten select corners of the globe, the practice of health is one of pleasure rather than pain, indulgence rather than deprivation:
1. The most zen
Where: Founded in 1928 in the Spa town of Yamashiro in Japan, Beniya Mukayu is on the road from the revered Kyoto to the World Heritage Site, Shirakawago-Gokayama.
Wellness points: Share a suite with friends and begin the wellness journey right from your futon and the open-air hot spring bath set aside for your private use. Enjoy quality time in the communal baths, open-air hot springs and saunas, experience a traditional tea ceremony performed by the hotel owner together, or take part in daily yoga lessons. Slip out of your kimono for Spa treatments, such as the signature Yakushiyama (“Mount of the healing Buddha”) Treatment, which uses hot spring water and medicinal herbs and plants in the same way the Buddhist priests did here, hundreds of years ago. Before Beniya Mukayu, this was the site of a great Buddhist temple.
2. A rest out from hectic New York
Where: Just two hours from New York City, The Mayflower Grace in Connecticut is the perfect spa escape for city folk, with 24 hectares of trees, manicured lawns and the famous Shakespeare garden and maze.
Wellness points: The Spa at the Mayflower Grace takes the wellness experience a step further with personalised programmes created by individual wellness advisors, as well as helpful workshops and classes. You and your friends can learn more about dream interpretation, painting, writing, partner yoga or meditation, to strengthen your connection while having fun together. Enjoy massages side-by-side in one of the spa suites in the Spa House – whether celebrating a special occasion or merely enjoying time together. “Our therapists are skilled at discreet draping and staggering shower times so that friends can comfortably enjoy services in our beautiful spa suites,” the Spa House points out. Catch up over a glass of sparkling wine while indulging in a manicure and pedicure together.
3. Relax in Provence landscape
Where: Château de Berne lies between the vines and veteran olive trees on an estate in Provence, France.
Wellness points: The Spa at Château de Berne introduces Zen to the vineyards. Here you and friends can enjoy the fruits of the vines both in the glass, over fine food, and on the Spa table, with treatments that focus on products from around the vineyard. Bond over a massage in the private cabin, with its whirlpool bath and beauty area, set aside for two people, or in the Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room or solarium, the swimming pools or relaxation area, a cup of herbal tea in hand.
4. Healthcare at its best
Where: The Espace Chenot Health Wellness Spa at L’Albereta is off the beaten track, in the centre of Lombardy, less than an hour from Milan in North Italy, with views of Lake Iseo, between the hills and vineyards of Franciacorta.
Wellness points: L'Albereta’s Espace Chenot Health Wellness Spa is one of the most comprehensive Spa experiences you and your friends will come across, with a 30-strong team of highly qualified doctors, therapists, dieticians, osteopaths and beauticians; and a health and well-being area covering almost 2,000 square metres. One of Henri Chenot’s two medical and wellness Spas in Italy, it has a range of personalised treatments designed using a method developed over more than forty years. For a thorough detox experience, try the healthcare and wellbeing programmes – an experience no doubt better with moral support in tow. Along with the pleasure that Turkish baths and aromatherapy oils bring, they include innovative diagnostic tests and a range of treatments for detoxing, anti-ageing, beauty and weight loss. Push thoughts of pancakes and wine out of your mind… and fall deeply into slumber below the countryside stars seen through your suite’s open ceiling.
5. The diamond of South Africa
Where: Perched on the slopes of the Stellenbosch mountains, the Delaire Graff Lodges and Spa features private lodges, two restaurants, and a beautiful Spa, in the heart of the Cape Winelands.
Wellness points: Whoever said wine and wellness don’t go hand in hand never spent a weekend at the Delaire Graff Estate. The sensation experienced from a sip of one of the Estate’s top vintages resembles that induced from the touch of the therapists’ hands in the elegant Spa suites. Indulge in treatments that harness the powers of the finest beauty products from Swiss Perfection, Aromatherapy Associates and Terres d’Afrique. Delaire Graff Estate is a girl’s best friend (all the more so because of the Graff Diamonds it is home to; the Estate is owned by Laurence Graff, founder of Graff Diamonds, himself), but be sure to take the girl (or boy) friends along too. Soak in the stillness of the Winelands in your private lodge, with its heated plunge pool and sundeck, or toast to good health in the Spa’s 22 metre infinity pool and heated Jacuzzi overlooking the vineyards.
6. “Costa Brava”, as its name suggests
Where: A converted 18th century farmhouse surrounded by a garden of cypresses and palm trees in Costa Brava, in northern Spain, Mas de Torrent Hotel & Spa lies in the heart of the Empordà region, just an hour and a half from Barcelona.
Wellness points: Gather a few of your favourite people and escape to Mas de Torrent Hotel & Spa’s treatment rooms for the healing touch of Empordà and the local Natura Bissé skincare range. Between treatments, connect with each other in the relaxation room, steam room, sauna or Hammams; in the waters of the hydrotherapy, cold or heated swimming pool; on the sun terrace; in a yoga class or on a stroll or cycle through the Catalan countryside that is never far from sight.
7. At the source of the seven sources
Where: In the Simmental Valley, in Switzerland, the 7 Sources Spa at Lenkerhof gourmet Spa Resort is named after the seven sources of the region’s River Simme. The river rises in a mountain above the Simmen Falls in the Wildstrubel ridge and winds to Lake Thun, nourishing the environment with its flowing energy. As the Spa is sure to do for you…
Wellness points: Make new friends and bond with old ones at the 7 Sources Spa at Lenkerhof Gourmet Spa Resort, home to the most diverse of sauna experiences, with seven varieties to escape to: the Sulphur grotto, Finnish sauna, Herbal sauna, Bio-sauna, Ice grotto, Rock oil sauna, and Steam bath. Bathe in the outdoor sulphur pool, which dates back almost 350 years and is complimented by nifty hydro massage jets that massage your back, while you enjoy a tête-à-tête or quiet time overlooking the valley. Hand over the healing to the professionals with one of the treatments from the Spa menu – from the Lenkerhof signature treatments to the Globetrotter treatments, like the Lomi Lomi and the Tibetan Bowls.
8. The British touch
Where: One of England’s finest hotels, the Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa is a secluded country house in the Cotswolds near Bath, set on 500 acres of English parkland with walled gardens and avenues of trees.
Wellness points: The Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa is the perfect spot to, in the words of English singer, Petula Clark, “forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.” Select from specialised Spa experiences, tailored to groups of friends, whether ladies or gents, and treatments utilising unique ingredients, such as Tahitian black sand, spiralling seaweed, Himalayan salt crystals and amethyst, and echoing the customs of the East, with Kundalini techniques and ancient Tibetan healing practices. Take the pampering with pals to the Spa’s thermal cabins (complete with Japanese salt, aromatic steam, an Amethyst room and a sauna), experience showers or swimming pools. Settle down together in the relaxation lounge or over a meal from the healthy menu at The Brasserie restaurant, next to The Spa.
9. Amid the pure air of Brittany
Where: Domaine de la Bretesche & Spa lies on a golf course in Missillac, between Nantes, Vannes and La Baule in Brittany in the west of France.
Wellness points: A 15th century castle in the heart of magnificent parkland is the setting for this wellness getaway at the Cour Carrée SPA at Domaine de la Bretesche & Spa. Experience France’s first public infrared sauna and connect with your “spa-rtners” over quality time in the pool or baths; a chromo therapy, facial or aromatherapy treatment; or an exotic ritual – whether Ayurvedic or North African in origin.
10. Porto Vinothérapie
Where: In the heart of Vila Nova de Gaia, the historical headquarters of the Port wine houses, The Yeatman is considered to have more green area than any other hotel in the city of Porto in Portugal. It is set in seven acres of private landscaped gardens and overlooks the winding Douro River.
Wellness points: Take your closest confidants to the Winner of the 'Best Hotel Spa - Europe 2013', the Caudalie Vinothérapie® Spa at The Yeatman, with its ten therapy rooms and Vinothérapie® care and treatment programmes, including barrel bath immersions, Vichy shower massage and facials. They say happiness is only real when shared, so take your friend’s hand and step into the Roman bath or hammam, the experiential showers or sauna, or unwind in the relaxation area or indoor infinity pool.