Alone With My Thoughts ... and a Horse
An unfiltered account of my weekend at the Miraval Berkshires retreat.
Our editors’ picks for restorative, rare self-care experiences.
THE MOMENT YOU enter a spa, your experience begins: the scent of the lobby (candles, incense, lavender); the tone of voice used by the staff showing you to your locker (soothing, encouraging, gently instructive); the amenities (restorative, preferably organic); and even the tea offered in the waiting room (calming, sustainably sourced). A spa day can mean a simple, meditative massage for some, or more involved, medical-grade health and wellness treatments for others. So it’s important to seek out the right spa for your mind and body. As the year winds down, our editors reflect on their finest spa experiences, recommending the best places for you to take advantage of some quality “me time.”
Perched above the city of Zurich sits the exquisite Dolder Grand hotel. Inside lies one of the most unique spas in the world. This is the type of spa you want to reserve an entire day to experience. The more than 40,000-square-foot sanctuary has every amenity imaginable: an indoor and outdoor pool with views of Zurich, saunas, steam rooms, foot baths, aroma pools, and even a snow paradise where you can embrace the cold before hopping into the whirlpool. One of our editors was so relaxed that she fell asleep while cocooned in a bathtub full of warm pebbles — a sign of a successful spa. EXPLORE MORE
A feeling of serenity greets you at the spa inside this renowned five-star St. Helena, California, property tucked behind the hills of wine country. The sounds of gentle fountains and crackling fireplaces guide your mind and body into a world of absolute calm. Each treatment room is its own suite, equipped with a steam shower, bathroom, and changing room. We recommend adding on the Essential Journey Enrichment to your massage or facial, which gives you the option of relaxing in a personalized aromatherapy steam before your treatment and ending with an organic cold-pressed juice to ease back into your day. EXPLORE MORE
The spa at this Marrakech hotel will leave you feeling like royalty. The smell of orange blossom surrounds the entrance of the palatial oasis where ancient tradition meets modern luxury. The hammam (a kind of Turkish steam bath) provides an immersive experience of Moroccan culture, with natural ancestral products and therapeutic practices employed. Our editor recommends the signature hammam that includes a body wrap of saffron, otherwise known as “red gold.” If your body is begging for a reset, the spa also offers a variety of wellness programs that focus on weight control, rejuvenation, and immunity boosting. EXPLORE MORE
More than your average spa, Shou Sugi Ban House is a wellness haven in Water Mill, New York, with such a wide variety of treatments and activities that you may want to consider booking an entire week to take advantage of their offerings. The spa’s hydrotherapy treatment is tucked away behind the spa, where you can embrace the ritual in absolute privacy. In addition to massages, body treatments, and facials to fit your every need, the property recently opened a wellness center that specializes in polarized light therapy, pressotherapy, and vibroacoustic sound therapy, among other services. EXPLORE MORE
Inside the historic Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood is one of Los Angeles’ most popular spas. During awards season, Vargas’ celebrity clients look to her for that perfect red-carpet glow that comes from one of her famous facials. Our editor’s favorite is her signature Triple Crown that will leave your skin feeling lifted, refined, and toned. If you reside on the East Coast, you can visit the original salon in New York City. Both locations offer massage, LED, and body treatments. There is no better place to receive a dose of celebrity-level pampering. EXPLORE MORE
“The Land of Enchantment” lives up to its name at Santa Fe’s Bishop Lodge Stream Dance Spa, providing services for your mind, body, and spirit. After a luxurious CBD massage, join an intuitive healing session to fortify your energy reserves. Nestled in the mountains, the spa’s movement-based dance practices help you connect to the land and reconnect with your inner creativity. Other unique activities include meditation, shamanic healing, astrology readings, and qigong relaxation practices. EXPLORE MORE
If you are in the Riviera Maya and in need of a temporary sanctuary, book a treatment at Banyan Tree Spa Mayakoba. Set in a lush mangrove forest, the spa specializes in Asian therapies tailored to your every need. Spend a day taking in the natural beauty of the spa’s surroundings and indulge with a trip to the “Rainforest” — a complete hydrothermal experience that combines the best of European spa techniques and the essence of Asian wellness philosophy. EXPLORE MORE
Nestled in Germany’s Black Forest, the charming city of Baden-Baden lives up to its name as one of Europe’s most famous spa towns. After exploring the city’s many thermal baths, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to the most luxurious hotel and spa in the city. The 150-year-old property boasts a facility with numerous saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation areas, as well as a medical care center offering comprehensive aesthetic treatments, including everything from preventive health care to cosmetic dentistry. EXPLORE MORE
Escape the chaos of Las Vegas at Caesars Palace Qua Baths & Spa, an appropriately Romanesque facility where you can immerse yourself in one of three Roman baths. Or chill (literally) in an Arctic ice lounge or their Laconium Room. The 50,000-square-foot facility is tucked away at the very far corner of the property and is the perfect spot to relax with a massage or facial. The absolute tranquility of Qua makes it surprisingly possible to forget that you are actually in Las Vegas just a few steps from one of the most overstimulating thoroughfares in the world. EXPLORE MORE
The Ritz Club and Spa in Paris is one of the city’s best kept secrets. Located below the Place Vendôme, it’s a private oasis for hotel guests, but it can also be accessed via Club Privé membership. With an array of treatments including facials with famed French brand Biologique Recherche, over fitness 40 classes, a state of the art gym, and (rare for Paris) an indoor swimming pool, it provides a dreamy escape from the bustling City of Lights. EXPLOE MORE
Meadowood Napa, Royal Mansour, Bishop’s Lodge, and Banyan Tree Mayakoba are all Fine Hotels + Resorts properties. When you book with American Express Travel, you’ll receive an exclusive suite of benefits including daily breakfast for two, a $100 experience credit that varies by property, guaranteed 4pm check-out, and more. Plus, book on AmexTravel.com and you can earn 5X Membership Rewards® points, or use Pay with Points, on prepaid stays. Terms apply. Learn more here.
Elissa Polls is the senior director of content production for Departures. A producer who typically stays behind the scenes, she has worked with creatives from around the world, helping bring their ideas to life. Polls has over 15 years of production experience and lives in Berkeley, California.
Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.
An unfiltered account of my weekend at the Miraval Berkshires retreat.
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