Top 10 Exotically Surprising Spa and Wellness Destinations

I love chic meeting of the minds! Early last month, I had a meeting with SpaFinder Wellness 365 to discuss the top trends in travel and all things spa! The stats will shock you, piquing your sense and desire for relaxation and retreat! Travel, for me, is about the adventure! The experience – that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. I enjoy what I do, and spend time seeking out the top trending spots – then I get hard to work, piecing together affordable deals for my travelers.

Dream job? Of course! And it’s a pleasure to share with you all! There are those of you who have experienced spas, and know what it is I speak of when I say…I love the spa! The need for an exotic spa venture that is authentic, “off-the-beaten-path”, rooted in unique culture, yet locally indigenous….well, it just screams bliss!

And Wellness Tourism recognizes this too…hence the trend. But countries like Colombia, Nicaragua, Morocco – are also noticing and investing in wellness tourists

Today, the U.S. and Europe heavily dominate both inbound and outbound wellness tourism, that is going to change dramatically. Fifty-percent of global wellness tourism growth through 2017 will come from Asia, Latin-America and the Middle East/North Africa—regions where seven of ten of our spa/wellness “fresh faces” are located.

Retirees (baby boomers) also attribute to the growing wellness obsessed trend, as they possess the time and money to explore and experiences the worlds most SPAtacular gems. They are an explorer generation, seeking new destinations!

The globally conscious are also to blame, as the internet savvy can easily explore—and then experience other cultures’ healing traditions.

*Drum roll*

And now, the Top 10 Exotically Surprising Spa and Wellness Destinations:

  • Bhutan

Uma by COMO Paro, Bhutan

Uma by COMO Paro, Bhutan

South Asia’s Bhutan boasts a collection of hot commodities rooted in Eco-tourism adventure, with 60 percent of the country is designated to protected nature preserves. It’s spiritual Zen-esque appeal, can explain the lure for the avid wellness traveler.

think practicing meditation at the Himalayan peaks, seeking introspection at the Tiger’s Nest, reserving a spa visit to one of the luxury resorts newly opened or on
the horizon.”

Visits can take place at COMO Shambhala Retreat at Uma by COMO, Paro, or the five Six Senses spa lodges across Bhutan scheduled for completion in 2016.

  • Ghana

JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa

Centara Grand Beach Resort

Ghana is rapidly gaining recognition, being the most stable country in West Africa. This destination is rising as the Mecca for adventure tourists who crave the great outdoors. The locale fave here is the safari wilderness lodges, enhanced by a robust hotel/resort development boom.

Ghana offers a diverse destination that allows travelers to rove and find something uniquely refreshing at every turn. For the wellness traveler with an adventurous streak, days can be spent lounging on dreamy beaches, marveling at colonial forts, ancient mosques and Sahelian architectural-style homesteads or exploring safaristyle through Mole National Park, Ghana’s largest national park, where wildlife—elephants, hippos, warthogs, colobus monkeys and buffalo—roams.

Forecasted Accra development to include Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, complete with Resense Spa (opened in 2014); Shangri-La Hotel, Accra (2017); and Accra Marriott Hotel (also 2014)

  • Nicaragua

Emerald Coast Nicaragua Spa Resorts – Mukul – Guacalito de la Isla Resort & Spa

Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa

Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa Resort

30 some-odd years ago, was engulfed in a bitter, revolting civil war. In its rebirth, we find her branded as a must-experience spa destination. Experience the unexpected…

Beach-encased hotels and rainforest-enveloped rustic eco-lodges coincide with eco-adventure wellness activities and indigenous treatments (volcanic clay
wraps are common). Sweeping rainforests teeming with exotic wildlife and the spectacular Lake Nicaragua to accommodate nature lovers, coastal destinations and prime surfing beaches of San Juan del Sur for water enthusiasts, active volcanoes for thrill-seeking travelers and colonial cities for history aficionados.”

This exotically recognized destination boasts $250-million beachfront Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa, along Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast, as the country’s first luxury boutique hotel and spa; Mukul, or “secret” in Mayan, which Nicaraguan entrepreneur Don Carlos Pellas will be a game changer for Nicaragua! In 2014, expect to see the Hyatt Place Managua, part of the Hyatt brand’s planned four-Central-American-property portfolio, and Wyndham Hotel Group’s Wyndham Milagro del Mar Resort.

  •  Portugal



Move over Spain, as Portugal is about to join the track-list as it adds on to the spa devotees’ list of vacation spots.

Westernmost country of mainland Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula, is proving itself as a surprising contender on the wellness front—and for good reason. Portugal averages 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, boasts more than 500 miles of beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean and presents a rich cultural heritage, making it an ideal destination to spend a wellness holiday (and with excellent road, rail and air transportation options, Portugal is a few hours from many European capitals).

Pick your preference—mountain or sea, from the Algarve to the capital of Lisbon—and a hotel or resort spa is there to suit each need: thermal spas that tap
into therapeutic mineral springs in Centro de Portugo, Porto and the northern region; thalassotherapy spas along the coastline and the island of Madeira; a
vinotherapy spa at Porto’s The Yeatman, which has partnered with Caudalie Vinothérapie® Spa; and a blend of beauty, medical and wellness at Longevity
Wellness Resort Monchique in the Algarve—the latter features its own exclusive partnership with La Clinique de Paris. Other properties to spotlight include:
Carmo’s Boutique Hotel; Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon; Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel & Spa; Pousada de Cascais; and Vidago Palace.

  •  Vietnam

Lavish Six Senses Con Dao Resort & Spa

Anantara Mui Ne Resort & Spa, Vietnam

Decades of turmoil, yeah that’s so yesterday – as this top-n-coming spa and wellness destination is quickly being discovered.

Revel in treatments inspired by loyal techniques passed down from generations, as well as those that honor nature. Improve circulation with restful bathing ceremonies
and stimulate energy flow with massage services using pressure-point techniques; when not pursuing wellness, take pleasure in this homeland made up of heavenly beaches, vibrant rice patties and villages dotted with ancient historic citadels against stately forest and mountain backdrops.

The country’s wellness sector is projected to grow 16% annually over a 5-year period – pushing Vietnam to launch its very first ever spa association (underway).

Anticipate future project rollouts that will complement already existing properties in places including Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and beyond: Asian Coast Development’s
US $4.2-billion Ho Tram Strip complex in southern Vietnam (under construction); Six Senses Saigon River (under construction); Six Senses Con Dao, Six Senses
Ninh Van Bay and Evason Ana Mandara (all open); The Nam Hai, a member of the Leading Spas collection (open); Fusion Maia da Nang (open); and AVANI Quy
Nhon Resort & Spa (open).

Other unbelievable spa and wellness destinations include:

  • Colombia

Columbia Beach Resort Pissouri Hébe Spa

Forget cartels, coffee, conflict and instead focus on this fascinating South American turnaround, which introduces travelers to all that sizzles: tropical beaches, majestic Amazonian jungles, and the coveted snow-capped Andean mountain…

Also piquing travelers’ interest is its spa scene – stay tuned for the soon-to-be-opened Away® Spa at W Hotel Bogota and Six Senses Cartagena, which, upon its 2016 premiere, will mark the brand’s entry into South America.

  • Croatia

Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel, Hvar

A storybook setting, rich history blends with medieval cosmopolitan cities – bring Eastern Europe to the top of the traveler’s bucket list!

Take note of Croatia, whose strength resides in adopting a wellness approach with an affinity to nature. Spa treatments (thalassotherapy and thermal springs are popular) pay homage to the inspiring surroundings – revitalization is easy when encircled by sapphire Adriatic waters, golden Pannonia plains and protected national parkland! Croatia’s joining of the European Union is also anticipated to be a significant move.

  • Lithuania

Grand SPA Lietuva

Another Eastern European spa and wellness destination that is rapidly on the rise, with an easy access to the Amber Road;  afar brimming with spas, from Croatia to Lithuania.

Varying from utilitarian to lavish, spas and wellness centers in this small but beautiful country—picturesque with rolling meadows, hills and forestland, peaceful bodies of water, castles and churches—emphasize rituals like amber therapy and mineral springs. Highlights include Kempinski The Spa at Kempinski Hotel Cathedral Square in Vilnius (the brand’s first property in the Baltic States); further explorations will lead to the acclaimed Druskininkai, suggested as Lithuania‘s oldest healthcare resort; Birštonas, famed since the 19th century for balneotherapy; and the seaside resort town of Palanga.

  • Morocco

Amanjena’s Spa

Mosaic Palais Aziza & Spa, Marrakech. Morocco

One of my personal faves (Argan oil land), as it’s on my own radar – this ancient home boasts medieval architecture which mingles with modern, seaside and mountain towns…

Abound endless desert sand dunes and spice markets intrigue Morocco, setting the tone for an alluring spa experience. Time-honored and contemporary wellness creates an exotic mystique, intertwining such staples as age-old Moorish baths and balneotherapy with the popular-as-of-late Argan oil. Recent events – the announcement of the 2014 Global Spa & Wellness Summit in Marrakech and the debut of standouts like The Pearl Marrakech – further help brand Morocco as one of the world’s main players in the future of spa and wellness.

  • Saudi Arabia

Resense Spa Treatments

Resense Spa at Burj Rafal Hotel Kempinski

Enters the kingdom of the spa, adorning a wide range of hospitality brands. Why the development explosion? Saudi Arabia brings to the table exquisite coral reef diving in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf; sand dunes riding; ancient archaeological sites; safari trips on camelback – and for spa-enthusiasts, several hot springs.

Kempinski hotel with Resense Spa in Al Khobar; talks for a One&Only resort—the brand’s first in the Kingdom – near Jeddah on the Red Sea; and Accor and Meliá Hotels International properties intended for Riyadh.


Sapphire Kharyzma
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