As wellness enters the mainstream, the tourism industry is doubling down on ways travelers can take their healthy habits on the road. And we’re not just talking about hotel gyms and in-room massages; destinations around the globe are including cutting-edge treatments, holistic practices, and even mystical modalities (hello, shamanic healing) in their offerings. Whether you’re seeking a really good sweat or want to experience truly restful sleep, here are five emerging wellness trends that will have you feeling good—no matter where you go.
Shamanic Healing Leaves the Fringe
It’s not just people backpacking through South America who are raving about shamanic ceremonies; today, some of the most elevated spa programs in the world are incorporating the ancient practice into their menus for next-level healing.
The Yucatán Peninsula’s recently opened Chablé Resort (built around a cenote, a natural sinkhole believed by the Mayans to be a sacred power source) brought in a shaman to devise its wellness treatments, which include janzu water massages and temazcal (or Mayan sweat lodge) ceremonies alongside more Western-style facials and body work—all performed by therapists clad in linen jumpsuits from Mexico City–based designer Bianca Bejos. “What makes shamanism such a powerful wellness tool is that it’s rooted in nature,” says Chablé’s spa director, Carmelina Montelongo. “The main reaction from our guests to shamanic treatments is curiosity at the beginning and the feeling of surprise by the end, when they discover another way of life and guidance to go back to the original form of all things.”
Stateside, the Tierra Santa Healing House at Faena Hotel Miami Beach also consulted with a shaman while drawing up its wellness menu. The brightly decorated 22,000-square-foot sanctuary offers palo santo and singing bowl treatments and a fully appointed wet spa whose centerpiece is a göbek taşi—a raised platform common in Turkish baths—made of Amazonite stone.
For a complete energy reboot, book a session with Jon Rasmussen, the resident shaman at Post Ranch Inn. Drums, feathers, and chanting abound, yes, but the mystical tools he uses differ depending on the “journey.” No matter the implements on hand, don’t be surprised if your 90 minutes ends with a tear-filled breakthrough—or just the uncanny feeling that an invisible weight’s been lifted off your shoulders.
Art Therapy Gets Its Due
Art therapy has long been deployed as a tool for stress relief, but you no longer have to fit your brushes and easel into your suitcase to experience it when you’re away from home. In addition to its artist-designed rooms and a gallery space programmed by Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts, Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel offers watercolor and coloring workshops—as well as the longest-running life drawing class in the city, led by Walt Ruston every Wednesday night. (He’s been hosting the class for 30 years.)
At Brooklyn’s cityWell, a boutique bathhouse spanning the first floor of a charming brownstone building, visitors are encouraged to spend their downtime between steam-room sessions and dips in the outdoor tub putting colored pencil to paper in one of the adult coloring books stacked next to fashion magazines.
This pastime isn’t exclusive to hipsters, either; the Mandarin Oriental’s digital wellness program, developed with the help of the Mayo Clinic, includes coloring sheets in select spa relaxation rooms, with the goal of getting guests to spend less time on their phones pre- and post-facial. In cities like Las Vegas, where distractions abound, it’s a serene yet nonetheless entertaining respite. “Holistic benefits include a still and calm mind,” says Jennifer Lynn, the senior director of spa and wellness for the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. “These mindful exercises in which we focus our attention inward help us to stop the mental chatter and create space for clearheaded thoughts.”
Silence Is the New Luxury
With the constant buzz of work meetings, subway chatter, and phone notifications, travelers are increasingly seeking out experiences that help block out all the noise—from the literal to the digital.
Villa Stephanie in the German spa town Baden-Baden (less than two hours from Frankfurt) recently introduced what’s been dubbed a “kill switch,” allowing exhausted visitors to turn off the internet in their room with the press of a button. “As noise pollution is a modern thing, there’s a growing demand for places that offer quiet reflection,” says Bärbel Göhner, the resort’s head of communications. “Silence is a constant companion at Villa Stephanie.”
Other than at check-in and while ordering at the restaurant, the only sound you’ll hear at Silent Spa at Therme Laa, located about an hour outside Vienna, is running water. The recently opened space discourages guests from small talk while soaking in its dramatic pools.
And for a truly noise-free experience, book a stay at a wellness “monastery” like Eremito in Umbria, Italy. The getaway takes its code of silence quite seriously, swapping out religious prayer (the property is, in fact, a former monastery) for meditation, yoga, and hikes through its 7,000 acres. The austere, stone-walled buildings may tempt you to whip out your phone to post mid-contemplation photos on Instagram, but don’t bother—there’s no Wi-Fi or phone signal on the premises. Luckily, a 2013 Duke University study found that two hours of silence a day boost cell development in the region of the brain related to memory, so your mental snapshot of the restful vacation will actually be even more vivid.
A Good Night’s Sleep Goes Next Level
It’s not just your waking hours that can be optimized. An increasing number of destinations are focusing on sleep time as a way to maximize wellness, and with the CDC estimating that one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep (and 50 to 70 million struggle with some kind of disorder), the programs on offer go way beyond your typical turn-down service.
At many Six Senses locations, including in the Douro Valley, Portugal, guests looking to fine-tune their zzz’s can take a pre-visit online questionnaire developed by renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Michael J. Breus, which not only entitles them to an individual assessment (with spa treatment suggestions included) but also to a dedicated Sleep Ambassador who preps their room and checks in daily to provide support in case, say, their handmade lambswool mattress isn’t quite right. The aim is to impart habits that can be replicated anywhere—even if you live on the noisiest of streets. “It’s impossible to help others toward wellness goals without having sleep be a critical factor,” says Dr. Breus. “We wanted to help people learn how to get [truly amazing] sleep when at home or during other travel.”
Similarly, the Rest & Renew program at New York City’s The Benjamin proffers a curated range of pillows (selected according to preferred sleep position) and access to a support team 24/7, and all Conrad Hotel & Resorts guests can avail themselves of an extensive pillow menu.
If you’re truly looking to reset your nighttime habits, however, opt for a multiday sleep retreat at one of the locations of U.K. luxury spa-hotel Champneys. Between the treatment sessions and aromatherapy massages, good sleep habits just might be the souvenir you take back with you.
Sauna Spaces Get Dramatic
The health benefits of sauna—from moderating blood pressure to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s—are impressive, but the sweat-inducing spaces themselves are now providing the real “wow” factor.
In Finland, where it’s estimated that there are 3.3 million saunas for a population of just 5.5 million, Löyly stands out for its breathtaking, undulating structure, perched on the edge of the Baltic Sea in Helsinki. Behind the wooden slats—all made from sustainable materials in what is the country’s first FSC-certified building—are three different saunas, a Scandinavian minimalist-chic relaxation room, a restaurant that serves locally sourced dishes like reindeer fillet and roasted celeriac soup, and a swimming area to cool off in the sea itself. (Despite its modern appearances, Löyly sticks to local tradition in winter and drills a hole in the ice for year-round dips.) “All Finns have a sauna at home, however, up until now, tourists visiting Helsinki haven’t really been able to experience a true, traditional Finnish sauna with all of the key elements,” says Jasper Pääkkönen, an actor who, along with parliament member Antero Vartia, opened Löyly in 2016. “Our modest aim was to build the mother of all saunas, kind of like a flagship of what is so extremely important to all Finns.”
Not to be outdone, the Norwegians offer a place to reboot your lymphatic system while soaking up the local arts scene with Salt, a nomadic, 54,000-square-foot installation that is stationed in Oslo through October 2018 (the island of Sandhornøya, located north of the Arctic Circle, was its previous home). The largest of the A-frame buildings, inspired by traditional fish-drying racks and designed by Sami Rintala, holds drop-in hours on the weekend—but if the mere thought of going shirtless beside 99 strangers is enough to make you sweat, you can book a two-hour private session in one of the other smaller sauna spaces. No matter where you sit, you’ll enjoy direct views of the city’s famed opera house.
And it’s not only Scandinavia that has a lock on impressive thermotherapy spaces. Nordik Spa-Nature, just 20 minutes north of Ottawa, Ontario, boasts seven dry saunas, two wet steam saunas, and four cold plunge pools on its sprawling, often snow-covered property.