From chocolate spas to hay baths and cactus massages, luxury retreats across the world are upping their wellness game with unusual and exciting new therapies, all designed to
By SATARUPA PAUL
The days of lying down face down on a spa bed, getting your muscles kneaded with a limited choice of regular massages and calling it wellness, is passé. In recent years, yoga, meditation, forest bathing, sensory-deprivation floats, and other such therapies that were once mere add-ons, have become essential additions to a holistic wellness regime. Wellness connoisseurs now seek newer, more unique and exciting offerings, which, in turn, has led many luxury resorts and spa retreats around the world to innovate and add uncommon, interesting, and some downright quirky therapies to their wellness menus. So, whether you want to try out something new on your next spacation or wish to design a wellness itinerary with unique offerings thrown in the mix, let this curated list be your handy guide to unusual wellness therapies.
Equine Therapy in Tuscany
We all know that animals have the power to heal. And working with horses is one of the most direct and rapid ways of building awareness about one’s own energy. Research has shown that the benefits of interacting with horses include lower blood pressure, decreased stress levels, reduced feelings of anger, tension, and anxiety, and improved social functions. At Dojo Bianco, located in the heart of gorgeous Tuscany and one of the Healing Hotels Of The World, guests are encouraged to rest, recharge, and heal through sessions of equine therapy. These involve interactions with horses in the form of therapeutic horseback riding, horse grooming, feeding, stable management, and other such activities. With just four guestrooms, the retreat offers a distinctly intimate wellness escape where you can combine horseback riding and equine-guided education with yoga, sound therapy, and somatic coaching.
Indulgent Chocolate Therapy in Saint Lucia
Possibly the most decadent therapy on this list, the chocolate spa is a wellness trend that is finding a lot of takers worldwide. Some of the best chocolate therapies can be found in the beautiful Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia, known for its centuries-old, rich heritage of producing cocoa. British chocolatier and cocoa grower, Hotel Chocolat’s Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia features a menu designed entirely around cocoa at the in-house Cocoa Juvenate Spa. The delightfully sinful Cacao Detox Body Wrap begins with a virgin-oil massage infused with local cocoa, followed by enveloping your body in clay, banana paste and chocolate wrapped in softened banana leaves. Later, the skin is moisturised with cocoa butter and a silky cocoa mousse. Many other sweet experiences are on offer too, including cocoa plantation tours, chocolate-making workshops, chocolate-infused meals, and more.
A Hay Bath in Northern Italy
An age-old tradition in the Dolomites of Northern Italy, hay bathing is like a visit to the sauna, except that instead of steam, you’ll be sweating it out wrapped in warm, moist alpine hay. With one of the few historical baths to have survived in the region to this day, Hotel Heubad has been offering the original hay bath since 1901. Located in a quaint village at the foot of the Schlern mountain in South Tyrol, the hotel has several hay bath and treatment options, including a hay body peel and hay aroma massage. The hay is harvested from the alpine meadows that dot the landscape and includes an eclectic mix of over 40 different flowers and herbs that are said to have health-promoting properties, such as a strengthened immune system, metabolic stimulation, and great skincare.
Halotherapy in Poland
The alternative treatment of halotherapy uses salt to induce relaxation, help alleviate respiratory conditions, benefit cell activity and improve blood sugar levels as well as skin conditions. Originating in Eastern Europe in the 12th century, it involved spending time in naturally occurring salt caves. Fortunately for us, modern interpretations are conducted in man-made, controlled and humidity-free salt chambers, where you inhale dry micro-particles of salt. Wet approaches include bathing in mineral-salt water, floating in saltwater tanks, nasal irrigation using salt water, and more. Poland is one of the most popular destinations for this therapy and Wieliczka Salt Mine Health Resort is considered the best of the lot. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wieliczka is one of the world’s oldest salt mines that also features a health resort offering inhalation and brine baths, coupled with a stay in a natural, therapeutic salt chamber microclimate, located 443 feet below the ground.
Beer Bath in the Czech Republic
Imagine soaking in a hot tub, except that instead of water, it’s filled with beer—or more precisely, ingredients that make beer, such as powdered malt, yeast, and crushed hops mixed with mineral water. A beer bath is believed to be good for detoxing, easing muscle tension, reducing stress and fatigue, smoothening skin, and supporting proper metabolism. While many beer-loving countries have started using this hoppy brew in beauty and wellness treatments, the most coveted destination is Prague. Spa Beerland, the nation’s largest and most luxurious beer spa, offers an original beer spa experience, complete with bathing in tank beer, beer extracts, and herbal mixtures in handmade, thousand-litre whirlpool tubs made of royal oak. And as an extra treat, you can also drink unlimited light and dark beer, relax on a bed of wheat straw, and relish home-made beer bread by a fireplace.
Geisha Facial or a Bird-Droppings Facial in Singapore
It may sound cringeworthy, but this ancient and prized Japanese beauty secret that uses bird droppings, particularly that of a nightingale’s, is supposed to have myriad benefits for your skin. These include exfoliation and toxin removal, treating UV damage, retaining moisture, and lending a shimmery iridescent glow. Traditionally, geishas and kabuki actors who wore heavy, white makeup used powdered nightingale droppings to remove the toxic make-up while conditioning the skin. Today, this geisha facial is practised by a few spas outside Japan, as well. The award-winning, Singapore-based Ikeda Spa, fashioned to resemble a quaint Japanese hot spring resort, offers the Geisha Organic Facial using traditional organic Japanese ingredients such as rice bran, camellia oil, azuki red beans, peach moon water, and most crucially, powdered nightingale droppings sanitized with UV light.
Vinotherapy in France
That a glass of wine is good for your health is a widely held belief. The French, however, have taken it a step further by designing a wellness ritual that involves immersing oneself in a barrel of red wine! And where best to indulge in this luxurious experience than at the famous wine-growing region of Bordeaux, which gave the world its first Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines. Located in the Grand Cru vineyards south of Bordeaux, Les Sources de Caudalie is a 5-star property that is home to a 2-Michelin star restaurant and the plush Vinothérapie Spa. Their wine baths, that combine the virtues of natural hotspring waters rich in minerals and oligo elements with the benefits of grapes and grapevines, are sinfully relaxing. The spa also offers exclusive treatments such as a Merlot Wrap or a Cabernet Scrub in incredibly scenic settings.
Safari Spa in Kenya
The soothing hum of the Mara River keeps you company even as your eyes feast on spectacular views of the open Savannah vastlands around. A pod of hippos that call the camp home come to visit; occasionally, you may also spot giraffes, gazelles, and other wildlife drinking water at the river. Numerous birds of every plumage dot the skies, their birdsongs putting you in a relaxed state even as your body is treated to an invigorating massage. Sounds like a dream? At the in-house spa of Sanctuary Olonana, this is, in fact, a reality. Weaving together the best of both worlds—adventure and wellness—in one grand offering, a spa treatment at this wellness haven comes with a free safari experience, right from the comfort of your spa room. Treatments include a full-body sweet and savoury scrub, pure-collagen velvet masks, copper and hot-stone pedicures, and more.
Cactus Massage in Mexico
For the uninitiated, this may sound like a painful, archaic version of acupuncture, far from the idea of a relaxing massage with which we’re familiar. Surprisingly, this Mexican beauty secret is pain-free and offers a generous boost of goodness for your body and skin. At the Four Seasons in Punta Mita, the signature Hakali cactus massage uses nopal cactus paddles or leaves from which the thorns have been removed before it is heated in warm water. A close cousin to soothing aloe vera, nopal cactus juice has hydrating, detoxifying, and sunburn-healing properties. A combination of gentle stretches and light-pressure massage targets the lymphatic system; the healing process is enhanced by the application of warm cactus gel with sage cream to draw out the toxins. This treatment reduces swelling, releases muscle tension, and leaves the skin feeling soft and refreshed. fourseasons.com/puntamita
Green Coffee Sculpting in Oman
An increasingly sought-after ingredient by health and wellness aficionados, the green coffee bean is simply a raw coffee bean that hasn’t been roasted. Essentially, green coffee extract is a popular dietary supplement that boasts an abundance of chlorogenic acids—compounds with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is this property of green coffee that the spa at Six Senses Zighy Bay employs to reduce puffiness and bloating and improve blood circulation for a toned silhouette. The hour-long Green Coffee Body Sculpting focusses on the thighs, waist, tummy, and bottom. It begins with a dry skin brushing, followed by a massage with a thermogenic, salon-strength chilli and coffee oil that helps break down fat cells and stimulates the metabolism.