The spa can change your life – a spa changed mine. After my first spa vacation, at a state-run spa in Germany, I was such a fan of spa travel I wrote about the experience and sold the articles to some top newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Post and the Toronto Star.
It was one of my first forays into travel writing and I haven’t stopped since. Fluke or fate, who knows?
The Spa is Good for Your Health
Since then I’ve written about the spa industry, spa travel and top wellness destinations around the world. And what I’ve discovered is that there is no healthier way to vacation.
Is it any wonder spa and wellness travel is one of the fastest growing niches in the tourism industry?My only question is, what took it so long?
Open Your Mind to Spa Travel
So drop those spa prejudices (you know you have them – at least my husband did until I brainwashed educated him), because a trip to the spa can mean far more than a mani and a rose-scented facial (though you wouldn’t catch me turning one down).
Today, the spa is as much about lifestyle as it is about beauty and there are spas and spa destinations that cater to every taste.
Why Go To the Spa?
Ah, Spa, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
- Because you offer stress relief, especially a spa that has expansive facilities such as saunas, whirlpools and relaxation rooms. The minute I walk into one I start to relax.
- Because when my skin looks haggard you make it look better – nothing beats a good collagen facial. Nothing. Not even champagne.
- Because you ease my back pain and shoulder tension: A good masseuse is gold, baby. Gold.
- Because when no one cares, you do. Seriously. The spa is a terrific substitute for love and attention.
- Because you like to celebrate: Going to the spa for a special occasion is a no brainer. I’d rather go to the spas in Vegas on a bachelorette party than play the slots wearing fishnets and a captain’s hat any day.
- Because you heal: Curative spas are all the rage these days, a throw back to the time when taking the ‘cure’ in Europe was a high society past time. My personal favourites are thermal water (hot springs) spas, though I’m not adverse to a good seawater spa cure either.
- Because luxury travel is always better when it includes a spa.
- Because spa travel is the very best type of travel of all.
Different Types of Spas
Trying to define a spa these days is like trying to define culture, or health, or life itself. The spa can be so many different things.
There are Nordic spas with outdoor pools, beauty spas, medi spas, wellness and holistic spas, fitness spas, detox spas, destination spas, day spas and even DIY spas out in nature, where you slap some mud onto your legs and rub.
Something for everyone to be sure.
Spa Travel Is a Wide Open World
With so many spa options available, the question isn’t whether to go to the spa, it’s where to go to the spa.
There are luxury spa destinations, affordable spa holidays and everything in between. And that’s why WanderingCarol has such a large wellness and spa section: it’s designed to be the ultimate resource for spa travel, luxury spas, spa destinations, spa trends and how-to information, just for you.
Find the Best Spas Around the World
You’ll find plenty of spa reviews and guides to some fantastic spa towns on my spa category page. But here’s a list of some of the absolute best spas in the world.
Best Destination Spas in the USA
Reopening in 2022, the fabulous Mii Amo Spa is a destination spa located with the Enchantment Resort in Sedona. Set amongst the red rocks, an atmosphere that is both spiritual and outdoorsy, Mii Amo is a good place to take stock, recharge and find yourself.
The luxe surroundings of this famous destination spa fuse well with the holistic vibe of Sedona, where you can combine a trip to local vortexes – intense energy spots – that are said to be part of the canyons, indigenous treatments grounded in ancient healing traditions … and quality pool time. It all adds up to a unique spa vacation.
Best Spas in Europe
Spas in Germany
Villa Stephanie in Baden-Baden Germany
Sharing grounds with the luxe Brenners Park Hotel & Spa in ritzy Baden Baden Germany, the Villa Stephanie is an exclusive destination spa where privacy and wellness go hand-in-hand.
The historic villa, revamped to become a luxury spa, has only 15 suites, but it has host of health and beauty therapies that include weight loss, aesthetic medicine (fillers, anyone?), digital detox and medical wellness such as cardiology and dentistry.
The spa is spread out over five floors, and has all the prerequisites of an exclusive haven: indoor pool, fitness centre, sauna facilities, and garden views.
The one thing that Villa Stephanie doesn’t have is access to the town’s famous mineral springs. An easy remedy? Check out one of the two best Baden Baden thermal baths.
Retreat Hotel at the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon has reached almost mythical status in the world of thermal spas. It’s renown stems from the geothermal seawater that contains bioactive elements of silica, minerals and blue-green algae. Not that the otherworldly setting in the Reykjanes UNESCO Geopark, 50 minutes from Reykjavík, hurts either.
Popularity means crowds, but a total escape can be had at 5-star Retreat Hotel. Guests have exclusive access to the secluded Retreat Lagoon, sourced with the same water as the Blue Lagoon, and can tap into the geothermal power with an in-water massage or a beauty treatment based on local ingredients.
Built in 2018, this is Iceland’s top spa hotel, its minimalist design enhanced by rich textures and natural materials, with nothing detracting from the spectacular geothermal landscape of lagoons and lava fields.
Terme di Saturnia Natural Spa & Golf Resort
A luxury spa resort that sits right over the source of the hot springs is Terme di Saturnia. Located in the Maremma area of Tuscany, it’s a member of the Leading Hotels of The World, and has 53 treatments rooms and
With four thermal pools and a state-of-the-art spa, this 5-star hotel has many wellness components including anti-aging, beauty, medical advice, nutrition and a full range of massage therapies.
Best Spas in Switzerland
Located an hour from Zurich in Eastern Switzerland, the town of Bad Ragaz is home to the top destination spa in Switzerland, the 5-star Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.
This opulent wellness resort pairs interlinking hotels with extensive spa facilities and thermal baths.
Treatments make good use of the mineral-rich (37°C) thermal waters that rise up through the dramatic mountainous scenery of the Tamina Gorge, though therapies go beyond thermal baths.
Beauty, health and wellness therapies on the menu are vast, ranging from botox and relaxation massages to elite sports performance honing.
Dolder Grand, Zurich
It’s hard to go wrong with a 43,000-square-foot wellness centre and at The Dolder Grand, one of Switzerland’s most renowned hotels, the spa isn’t just spacious it’s deluxe. Tranquility reigns in a calming design of atmosphere of curves, stone, glass and greys.
Facilities include a large indoor pool, saunas, outdoor whirlpool terrace, fitness centre and a Snow Paradise ice room. What makes the spa experience so unique, however, are the panoramic views that take in the city, the lake and the Alps beyond.
It feels like a world away from urban hustle, yet it’s only a quick ride into Zurich. Of course, you might prefer to stay and dine at the hotel’s Michelin-star restaurant instead.
Best UK Spas
Monart Spa Ireland
As far as destination spas in the UK go, the Monart Spa in southeast Ireland is at the top of the heap. It has won a slew of awards like Best Spa in Ireland, and Conde Naste Traveler lists it as one of the top 10 spas worldwide.
Sitting on a 100 acre wooded property, Monart Spa enfolds the visitor in a cocoon of wellbeing. In addition to its 15 treatment rooms, you’ll find a leisure area with a pool, steam room, outdoor Finnish Sauna (don’t miss the cold bucket of water on the head for a cool down), salt grotto, infra-red sauna and lots of other wellness stations to explore like a caldarium and sanarium.
Inside the historic manor that fronts the property, you’ll find fun expected design elements that remind us not to take life too seriously.
SAMAS Spa at the Park Hotel Kenmare, Ireland
It’s the delicious clash of old world elegance at the hotel, and the ultra contemporary design of the hotel’s SAMAS spa that makes the Park Hotel Kenmare so appealing.
Not that its scenic location on the Ring of Kerry in Southwest Ireland hurts either.
A good way to experience the full treatment is with the SAMAS Experience, a three-hour journey that includes an hour in the hydrotherapy circuit (the outdoor hot tub overlooking the forest is divine), followed by a holistic treatment and an hour of relaxation.
Round out your stay with one of the complementary activities like morning yoga, a hike through the Kerry Way or a high energy cardio class – then wind it all down with candlelight meditation.
Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel, England
Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel
A superb thermal spa hotel in Bath, England is the Gainsborough Bath Spa. It’s the only hotel that has the city’s hot thermal waters piped directly into the spa. As a matter of fact, it’s the only true thermal hotel in England.
Capitalizing on the mineral-rich healing springs at their fingertips, this 5-star spa hotel in Bath offers a circuit of hydrotherapy pools of varying temperatures and sizes, as well as treatments with customized aromatherapy and fitness facilities.
It’s all part of the hotel’s expansive Spa Village Bath, a sparkling wellness haven where white pillars and loads of natural light – not to mention an actual Roman floor mosaic unearthed during the hotel’s construction – will transport you to ancient Rome.
(While it’s tempting to stay there all day, make time to visit the city’s public Thermae Bath Spa, a day spa that offers another ideal way to spa in Bath.)
Spas in Asia
Kamalaya Koh Samui Destination Spa in Thailand
There is a special energy at Kamalaya, an award-winning holistic spa on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand. Founded in 2005, it’s a luxe but laidback wellness retreat with a dedicated coterie of fans. (Word has it Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew’s former wife, laid low here during Will and Kate’s wedding, which she glaringly wasn’t invited to.)
Offering both Eastern and Western treatments, Kamalaya emphasizes growth and transformation in a wonderfully exotic location.