Instead of big-name cosmetics brands, many spas and wellness centres are choosing to use what comes naturally, whether its local herbs, spices and flowers or time-honoured techniques. We’ve chosen some of the most exotic treatments around the world.
Thermal healing in Tuscany
Spa is Latin – it comes from sanus per aqua, meaning “health through water”. Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort in Italy’s Manciano, Maremma, has taken this maxim and run with it, combining natural thermal springs with exotic ingredients such as 24-carat gold flakes, thermal mud and amber. The best treatments, though, are those that capitalise on the healing mineral thermal spring water such as the detoxifying Mudtherapy. A mask of matured thermal mud heated to 45 degrees is applied to the body and is said to aid ailments such as arthritis and skin conditions including psoriasis.
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A spice-filled journey in Zanzibar
Zanzibar’s nickname is Spice Island, thanks to its production of exotic spices including cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. It’s this spice-filled history that inspired Park Hyatt Zanzibar Anantara Spa’s 150-minute Spice Journey. The spa, located in the hotel’s UNESCO World Heritage listed 17th-century main building, has three spa suites and an outdoor relaxation centre. The Spice Journey treatment is a combination of body scrub, massage and facial, all infused with herbs, spices and locally-sourced oils leaving the air redolent of nutmeg and cloves.
Underwater love in the Czech Republic
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage West Bohemian Spa Triangle, Karlovy Vary is the largest spa town in the Czech Republic. Set at the confluence of the Ohre and Tepla rivers, Karlovy Vary has 13 hot springs and several hundred smaller pools and its old town is full of spas and bathhouses where locals and visitors bathe. The regal Elizabeth Bath, established in 1906, is located in the middle of town and surrounded by parklands, with a lengthy treatment list. Guests can just “take the waters”, or try one of the many treatments – we suggest the Underwater Massage for the best of both worlds. Immersed in a tub, the body is massaged with jets of water that a therapist directs to specific parts of the body to ease pain, stimulate the lymphatic system and improve circulation.
Sweet facial in Oman
At Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay, the Arabian Facial is a luxurious treatment using natural, local ingredients that could double as dessert. Figs, almond powder and warm honey are used to cleanse and deeply moisturise the skin before a hair mask is applied and a scalp massage administered.
Mountain journey in Colorado
Spa Anjali Westin Riverfront Resort in Beaver Creek, Colorado, takes inspiration from its mountain setting for its Rocky Mountain Spa Journey, which involves a massage using river stones, a body mask incorporating red clover and mountain honey and the Ponderosa Pine Therapy session in which a warm poultice of sage, lavender and pine is used to alleviate muscle pain and inflammation.
Indigenous treatment on Kangaroo Island
The luxurious Southern Ocean Lodge is located on a windswept edge of Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia. Its spa treatments focus on deep relaxation and local ingredients, such as the Southern Karmal facial, which uses native lilly pilly, lemon myrtle and wattle. Following a facial massage, a natural clay mask is applied to the face and hands, and a hair mask softens strands. It finishes with a head and hand massage – bliss.
Salt mine immersion experience in Poland
The underground microclimate of the Wieliczka Salt Mine Health Resort provides a therapeutic environment that visitors have been taking advantage of since the Renaissance. It’s claimed a visit to the salt chambers can ease respiratory problems and allergies and that in the chambers, there is no pollution and no allergens. Back in 1958, Professor Mieczyslaw Skulimowski started treating patients in the salt chambers regularly, calling the treatment “subterraneotherapy”. Each visitor is issued with a miner’s helmet before descending 135 metres underground to the Eastern Mountains Stable Chamber. There, they can read, nap and do gentle exercise. Guests can even sleep underground overnight in one of the 12 sleeping chambers to gain the full effects of the briney air.
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Moroccan oil indulgence in Marrakech
When the oil from Morocco’s argan tree was discovered by the rest of the world, it was deemed the best thing in beauty. Entire ranges of products for hair, body and face were created around this oil, which is moisturising without being oily, and has high levels of vitamin E and fatty acids. Unsurprisingly, the Amanjena spa at the Aman hotel has capitalised on this wonder, offering the desert native in several treatments, including the Moroccan Bloom. The body is daubed with black olive oil soap which is rubbed in with an exfoliating glove. Rock clay, sourced from the Atlas Mountains, is applied as a full body mask before being rinsed off. Finally, a massage using argan oil infused with essential oils is administered.
Tropical delights in Bora Bora
The Hélène Spa uses techniques perfected by tahuas – Polynesian healers – and products made using local ingredients such as Tahitian vanilla, noni rea and wild miri. The Tahitian Cares treatment uses fine white sand to exfoliate, clay enriched with coconut pulp to cleanse and tamanu oil from the nuts of the native tamanu tree to soften. After the body treatment, take a shower in the open-air rain showers surrounded by the scent of tiare and frangipani from the garden.
Coca leaf treat in Peru
Coca leaves are a vital commodity in Peru, where they’re chewed and brewed into tea to relieve altitude sickness, crushed and applied as a poultice for muscle pain and even used as an aphrodisiac. At the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, the favoured Andean ingredient is used for a full-body mask. Spend a day exploring the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu before returning to the hotel for an almost spiritual experience at the Unu Spa. First, detox in the Andean Sauna, which is a hut lined with eucalyptus leaves with hot steam-emitting stones in the middle, then try the Inka Purification: the body is massaged using coca oil and coca cream before a mask of coca leaf is applied to detox and improve circulation.
Marine immersion in Brittany
The northwest of France is famous for its quality hand-harvested sea salt and beautiful beaches – and its these qualities that have been harnessed in thalassotherapy. Dr Richard Russell is credited with popularising the practice of thalassotherapy in Brittany in the 19th century. The premise is that the mineral-rich seawater and marine flora combined with the fresh sea air can impart health-giving benefits. At Carnac Thalasso & Spa Resort, there are long-stay packages for visitors targeting belly fat, recovering from illness or pregnancy or just seeking some time out. There are also day treatments available, such as the summertime micro algae wrap and red algae moisturising massage.