Today's most inspiring spa destinations take a holistic approach to wellness, truly embracing their surroundings and offering a whole immersion experience to their guests. Here we talk to the people behind four very different spas that cultivate their own philosophy of wellness.
Getting back to nature by the Baltic, Germany
WEISSENHAUS Grand Village Resort & Spa am Meer, Weissenhaus, Germany
The healing power of nature is firmly anchored in the ethos of Weissenhaus Grand Village Resort & Spa. It helps that the historic castle estate on the Baltic coast is located in the most tranquil of places, where beach and forest merge. Guests are encouraged to embrace the outdoors for a deeper sense of well-being, explains general manager and spa consultant Natalie Fischer-Nagel.
Jane Knight: What is the philosophy of your spa?
Natalie Fischer-Nagel: It’s all about space and nature. To that end, we have extended our spa garden and built the Solewaldraum using timber from the surrounding forest. It has a salt wall from which aromatic scents are released into the air, imitating the beneficial effect of a seaside walk. We use locally grown herbs in the sauna–its panoramic views make people feel they are part of nature.
JK: And how is that represented in your treatments?
NFN: Everything is about tried-and-tested methods rather than short-lived trends, with a focus on gentle improvement and visible rejuvenation. So, for instance, as well as facials, we offer non-invasive but effective jet peels and micro-dermabrasions. We encourage guests to walk on the beach or through the forest, breathing in the salty air of the sea mixed with spruce, while spotting deer and herons as a natural supplement to their spa treatments.
JK: Tell us more about your signature treatment.
NFN: The Weissenhaus signature treatment starts with a spruce needle footbath while you savor a snack from our Michelin two-star restaurant. A herbal scrub is followed by an oil massage, using exotic scents from our rose garden. The intensive scrub invigorates the spirit and tones the tissues while we clear the airways with an aromatic balm.
Go on ‘Spa-fari’ at South Africa’s Londolozi
Londolozi Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa
The call of the wild meets wellness on the private game reserve of Londolozi, with a spectacular Healing House cantilevered over the Sand River and retreats that make full use of this safari setting. Specialist practitioners include members of the founding Varty family–Bronwyn, creative director, and her brother Boyd, are master life coaches.
Jane Knight: What is the philosophy of your spa?
Bronwyn Varty-Laburn: For us, wellness is all about the wilderness. It’s not just about what supplements or treatments you take–it’s about appreciating silence and nature, sitting in the canopy of the trees, walking in river beds and having animals around. By returning to our wild self, the body comes into alignment. Nature is one of the biggest teachers.
JK: Tell us about your wilderness retreats
BVL: Our five-day retreats include two safaris a day, perhaps with guided meditation held near a herd of elephants, forest bathing with breathwork, outdoor sound therapy (there’s nothing like a lion’s roar), as well as tracking animals, which helps our own ‘inner tracking’. We also offer individual treatments in the Healing House, and ‘journeys’ comprising several therapies.
JK: How do you select your products and treatments?
BVL: We use family-developed local products that are naturally organic. Our 1926 range was developed by Shan Varty and is based on the healing properties of plants: we use high-quality essential oils from a lady who works with local farmers. We follow ancient practices that connect us back to nature–such as cold-water immersion or sound therapy–which are backed up by modern science.
Seawater treatments by the Mediterranean Sea in South-West France
L' Île de la Lagune Thalasso & Spa, Saint-Cyprien, France
Small means special at L’Île de la Lagune Thalasso & Spa, where spa manager Nolwenn Prigent aims to deliver a highly personalized experience to guests. From its home on a private island in Saint-Cyprien, the spa hotel makes the most of its coastal setting, with seawater therapies and a rooftop saltwater pool offering views over the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees.
Jane Knight: To what extent do you personalize treatments?
Nolwenn Prigent: Everything is ultra-personalized. Because we only have four massage cabins and four cabins for water treatments, we can really treat each client like a VIP. People either book in for a multi-day cure, in which they receive four thalassotherapy treatments a day, or they have individual therapies. Either way, everything is customized, from our signature massage, where clients can decide what pressure, oil and body zones they want concentrated on, to our cures, which we adapt at the end of each day to the individual’s needs.
JK: What specialist products do you use?
NP: We work with the high-end Biologique Recherche brand as it really enables us to tailor-make treatments with its dermatological diagnosis. It combines a clinical approach to beauty with pure products and rigorous protocols. Local seawater rich in mineral salts is used in the multi-jet bath and underwater shower, while mud and algae from Brittany are used for wraps.
JK: Which treatment do you recommend people try?
NP: The Japanese high-tech Iyashi Dome or Japanese sauna eliminates toxins using gentle infrared heat. It’s based on the fact that, for more than 300 years, the Japanese have used hot volcanic sand to eliminate toxins and purify themselves. It is very good to help you sleep, slim, or for muscle recovery and making the skin look more radiant.
Coffee, chocolate and volcanic clay treatments in Costa Rica
El Silencio Lodge & Spa, Bajos del Toro, Costa Rica
In the midst of Costa Rica’s high-altitude cloud forest, El Silencio Lodge in Bajos del Toro is home to a true sanctuary of a spa. Here at Esencia Spa, spa supervisor Seleny Salazar offers visitors an immediate sense of peace and tranquility, using the very best of Costa Rica’s natural healing ingredients in its range of therapies.
Jane Knight: What is so special about the way wellness is approached in El Silencio?
Seleny Salazar: Nature is part of everything we do. While many spas just offer massages, we create whole experiences: we offer Costa Rican products in combination with Costa Rican nature in our quest to go beyond what guests expect. Esencia Spa is reached by walking along a canopied path and crossing a hanging bridge. Treatment rooms are open air so people can hear the river, the birds, or perhaps the rain in the cloud forest. It’s not just our spa products that are local–our therapists come from the village of Bajos del Toro.
JK: What are some of the more unusual local products you use in your treatments?
SS: We use volcanic clay to eliminate toxins and smooth the skin. Chocolate from a nearby cocoa plantation is used for a massage and wrap. And local coffee is used for exfoliating (it’s the same kind you drink in our restaurant). Herbs, fruits and seeds from our organic greenhouse and garden are blended and crafted into products that hydrate, relax and enrich the skin. The oils we use are from the Costa Rican Catalina’s Collection. We design our unique therapies specifically to showcase these products and their healing properties.
JK: Which treatment do you recommend that people try?
SS: The Esencia Spa experience takes place in our unique Conical Room, inspired by indigenous buildings and with a floor-to-ceiling window showcasing the natural surroundings. We combine rhythmic lomi-lomi massages with sound healing. Sound bowls are placed on the different body chakras to create vibrations, which are magnified by the special acoustics of the room.