From the Shivalik foothills in northern India to the sleepy, bucolic beauty of Wiltshire, Cathy Wood chooses seven of the most fantastic places in the world where you can refresh and reboot for 2019, and reveals, after decades as a travel expert, the one resort she’s happy to pay to return to year after year…
It’s Lake Worthersee that gets you, stretching as far as the eye can see in either direction. Set slightly back from the shoreline are colourful chalets, in pretty pastel colours, some mirrored in the waters below while, in the distance, are neatly packed forests.
The first time I saw this Austrian view, as a guest of the Golf Hotel in Dellach at the southern end of the lake, I was transfixed. The tranquil scene outside was matched only by the calm of the hotel’s dining room, from where I was viewing it.
‘It’s Lake Worthersee (above) that gets you, stretching as far as the eye can see in either direction,’ writes Cathy Wood
Back then, I was a travel expert on assignment to learn about the ‘cure’ devised more than a century ago by Dr Franz Xaver Mayr, who believed poor digestion was at the root of many serious medical ills.
By restricting a patient’s daily food intake, Mayr believed patients were able to rest and soothe the body’s vital organs, enabling them to self-repair from the excesses of too much food and alcohol.
With my job, I stayed in amazing places around the world but I have returned here often, always on my own time and pocket. Why? It’s the best, most complete, body MoT I could wish for.
Now called The Original FX Mayr and extensively refurbished, rooms are light and elegant and equipped with custom-made goose duvets, Portuguese satin cotton sheets and abundant Rituals toiletries.
Although TVs and wi-fi, are standard, the principles of the Mayr cure are at its core. Allowing the body to fast (ideally for between 12 and 16 hours) enables sugar and fat deposits to be reduced, blood sugar to come back into rhythm and cells to regenerate and renew.
It’s a rare chance to stay away from a caffeine-fuelled, chocolate-filled life of screens and phones which makes the chances of truly switching off impossible. Whether it’s for allergies, intolerances, bowel conditions, addiction, weight issues, liver problems, stress or exhaustion, a stay at the Mayr begins by meeting one of the doctors who design a patient’s cure based on physical or mental needs.
Each day begins by swishing coconut oil around the mouth to rid the body of toxins stored in fat cells. Breakfast is a buckwheat roll (there’s no gluten) and sheep’s yogurt. The day is taken up with massages for lymph drainage (to aid toxin release), foot baths (to promote circulation), alkaline detox baths (to speed up the excretion of toxins) and warm hay packs, placed on the liver, to aid detoxification. Guests then choose which additional – and costly – extras they want, from energy-boosting drips to extensive blood work.
Rejuvenate: Cathy said The Original FX Mayr (pictured) in Austria is the ‘best, most complete, body MoT’
Lunch is either soup and a roll, if you are on the strictest diet, or steamed vegetables with fish, or meat, for those on the more substantial ‘mild cleansing diet’. Afternoons are quiet – a time for reflection and rest away from emails or phones. Proper rest is an essential part of any cure.
Gentle exercise is encouraged and there are afternoon walks through the surrounding forest.
Dinner, served between 6pm and 7pm, is the lightest meal of the day, either a bouillon – a light vegetable broth packed with minerals to counter acid – or vegetable soup.
There’s no denying that the first three days are tough. Guests, half of whom return each year, come for many reasons. Some own private planes that land nearby; others save for months for one chance to restart their lives. By the time I leave I feel invigorated, renewed and refreshed. Most of all, my body feels calm and back in flow and rhythm. A bit like the lake, really.
Mayr basic programme for seven days is £1,349pp. Accommodation is from £198 per night in a single room. original-mayr.com.
FAST FIX – Littleton Mill, Semington, Wiltshire
Hidden haven: Wiltshire’s sleepy Littleton Mill, which offers a Creative Cooking, Conscious Eating And Yoga Retreat
What’s it like? A two or three-night Creative Cooking, Conscious Eating And Yoga Retreat inspires you to ditch convenience food for fresh and get creative in the kitchen. All recipes are vegetarian and sugar-, gluten- and dairy-fee. Daily yoga classes overlook the mill pond.
USP: Attracts celebrities such as Kate Moss, thanks to it being secluded and small – only six rooms, so a maximum of 12 guests.
Best for: Those who need a reminder of how to live healthily.
Don’t miss: Ayurvedic yoga massage with stretching (not included in price). From £75.
Get there: Nearest railway stations are Westbury and Chippenham.
Price: £375pp for two nights, based on two sharing a room. jivalhealing.com.
TREE OF LIFE – Vana, Dehradun, India
What’s it like? Located in Dehradun, in the Shivalik foothills of northern India, Vana is a 21-acre retreat which believes wellness is a choice and one that needs daily attention. ‘Vana’ means forest and the retreat takes much of its inspiration, including beauty, empathy, transformation, nourishment and healing, from its surrounding nature.
USP: There are no pre-set programmes. Guests commit to a primary and secondary objective which are used to create a personalised programme. Quiet time, yoga, meditation, private treatments and plenty of rest are all part of the daily routine.
Best for: Those who want to commit to serious detox, yoga, rest, destress, weight loss.
Don’t miss: Exploring the surrounding foothills.
Get There: Fly to Delhi and then internally to Dehradun, from where guests are collected.
Price: Seven nights’ Vana ‘Wellness’ from £2,799pp, with flights and transfers. healingholidays.co.uk.
POSITIVE LIVING – Canyon Ranch, Lennox, Massachusetts, USA
Retreat: The quiet grounds of Canyon Ranch are great for yoga and meditation
What’s it like? There’s nothing new about the Canyon Ranch brand. The original desert location, in Tucson, Arizona, opened in 1979, and this East Coast outpost a decade later. There’s everything from weight loss to pre- or post-surgery, healthy-ageing and life-enhancement packages. And enough fitness options (more than 35 a day) to exhaust an Olympian, including swimming and tennis drills, aerial hammock yoga and boxing.
USP: Treatments and options to fit whatever you want to achieve.
Best for: Weight loss, fitness.
Don’t miss: ‘Healthy Feet, Happy Feet’ – learning why feet hurt, how to get relief and the importance of keeping feet healthy and happy.
Get there: Fly to Albany, where guests are met.
Price: From £670pp per night. Flights are extra. canyonranch.com.
GLAMOUR SEEKERS – Capri Palace, Capri, Italy
Luxury: A room at Capri Palace on the swish Italian isle. The luxury hotel has a medical spa and Michelin-starred restaurants
What’s it like? In Anacapri, on the island of Capri, the Capri Palace is a luxury hotel and medical spa. Public spaces and guest rooms are brought to life by the owner’s art collection. Eat in one of two Michelin-starred restaurants. L’Olivo, in the hotel, has two stars, the Il Riccio beach club has one.
USP: Location and people-watching. Capri was favoured by Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. More recent stars include Jennifer Lopez and Tom Hanks.
Best for: Those who want to spa in style.
Don’t miss: Leg School. Signature leg-shaping treatment using cold mud, then bandages to improve circulation, reduce water retention and boost metabolism (£157 for a one-hour treatment).
Get there: Fly to Naples, ferry/hydrofoil to the island, taxi to hotel.
Price: From £340 per night. mythahotels.com.
HEALING HEAVEN – Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand
Thai treat: Kamalaya on Koh Samui will appeal to nature-lovers with its lush surroundings
What’s it like? Built around a cave that Buddhist monks once used for meditation and spiritual retreat, Kamalaya is a wellness sanctuary and spa on the popular island of Koh Samui. Surrounded by vegetation, a lagoon and its own beach, guests can opt for programmes such as healthy lifestyle, detox, stress and burnout and emotional balance – or they can tailor-make their own.
USP: Results-orientated programmes which get the most out of a short period of time.
Best for: Reconnecting with nature.
Don’t miss: Spending time in the tiny cave which is still used for prayer and meditation.
Get there: Fly to Koh Samui. Transfers arranged by the resort.
Price: Seven nights from £2,600pp. Flights are extra. kamalaya.com.
DESERT CALLING – Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah, USA
What’s it like? Just 34 suites make up this resort hotel next to the largest Native American reservation in America. Built on the edge of the dramatic Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, with its sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons, expect rooms with a view. There’s a 25,000 square foot spa where treatments are based around the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water that make up the healing traditions of the Navajo.
USP: Remote, ultra-modern, sleek and stylish hotel which blends in with its desert backdrop. Pools that curve around the rocks.
Best for: Walking, disconnecting from the digital world. Feeling as if you’ve arrived in the Wild West.
Don’t miss: Candlelight yoga or outside beneath the rising moon.
Get There: Fly to Phoenix, Los Angeles or Denver and then internally on to Page Airport, from where it’s a 25-minute drive.
Price: From £1,400 per room, per night in low season. qualitytraveluk.com.