Soul vacations

Hitani Kaur        Print Edition: July 10, 2011

Travel options for work or for play, are constantly evolving. And as they evolve, newer experiences and off-the-beaten track vacations become the norm. The drudgery of work coupled with daily stresses can take its toll on your health, and that's where rejuvenating holidays that completely focus on treating your weary soul gain currency.

You've trotted round the globe, seen the sights and shopped for all the latest gadgets; what next? Wellness travel is not a new concept but it is today being marketed as a luxurious escape for cityweary souls looking to shrug off inertia and reconnect with themselves. From wrapping yourself in a natural cocoon and absorbing the earth's vitality, to floating in one of the most therapeutic seas, everything goes in the name of wellness. We've shortlisted for you four destinations you can travel to, and return rejuvenated, strong, and positively glowing with life. These places promise to peel away layers of stress and put your life back on track.

Rotorua, New Zealand
A steaming pool of sulphur in Rotorua, New Zealand
Rotorua, New Zealand
A quick drive from Rotorua's city centre along the Thermal Explorer Highway brings you to Wai-O-Tapu; a wonderland of geothermal activity. Upon arriving, you're greeted by the distinct stench of rotten eggs that characterise sulphur springs. Traverse a labyrinth of authorised walkways as you look out to steaming craters, hot springs, pools of boiling mud and water geysers of different heights springing up from deep inside the earth.You could just as well be on an entirely different planet. This hot bed has been hailed for its healing and rejuvenating properties for centuries.

A natural wonder, both the water and the mud here is endowed with rich minerals, known for their intense healing properties. As a result, the local spas are a huge draw for tourists from across the world. We recommend you check into the popular Hell's Gate & Wai Ora Spa and try their 1.5-hour-long Mud Body Scrub, to treat conditions ranging from arthritic pains to skin regeneration.

Also, pop in for a quick visit to the nearby traditional Maori village of Tamaki and rub noses (the Maori way of greeting) with a 650-year-old tribe. Let nature lull you back to wellness.
Dead Sea, Jerusalem
Salt formations in the Dead Sea in Jerusalem
Dead Sea, Jerusalem
Cleopatra was one smart lady. Long before we ever got a taste of the restorative life-source that is the Dead Sea, this Egyptian beauty used it as her private spa; enjoying its invigorating qualities. Today, the sea is a melting pot of wellness and rejuvenation that we can all partake of. A treasure trove of minerals, the Dead Sea heals like no other.

While the high concentration of salts in the waters is an instant deathwish for every other living creature, it is a potion of good health for humans. Containing about 35 minerals, the water in the sea has such high density, that it's impossible to sink. The body has added buoyancy which makes swimming here a unique experience, not to forget the goodness you'll be absorbing from the water while doing so! The minerals hydrate the body, function as a natural antiseptic, strengthen bones, regulate blood pressure and are known to treat acne, dermatitis and arthritis; all the while revitalising the soul. Bordered by Jordan on one side and Israel on the other, we recommend visiting the Jordanian bank and staying at the Zara Spa which offers excellent massage and mud wrap therapies for men, including their signature Dead Sea Spa Journey and a special Ocean Facial to zap away age lines and fatigue.

The Chateau, Malaysia

This spanking new addition to the wellness tourism circuit is famed for being the world's first organic wellness spa. Set against Malaysia's tropical rainforests, The Chateau showers guests with the very finest of organic products; be it the menu, bed linen or toiletries.

Designed to resemble an 18th century medieval castle, the premises house 200 rooms. The spa, called La Santé, offers personalised treatments that cover a wide gamut of ailments and also assist in weight loss and stress relief. The good thing is, you don't just enjoy quick fix therapies while here; the healing continues long after you checkout. The in-house nutrition consultant plans an appropriate diet plan designed to suit your body and its needs, while fitness experts work out an exercise regime best suited to you. Especially for all you overworked corporates out there, this experience promises a lasting effect.

Tips to plan that budget holiday

The philosophy here focuses on a lifestyle-based approach to wellbeing rather than looking at it as a one-time experience, and this progressive outlook is what sets it apart from the rest. Start out early with yoga lessons by a trained instructor, chase it up later in the day with some mountain biking and other sports and wind down at dusk for some serious pampering; all the while dining on delicious organic food and wine. The very definition of exclusive, The Chateau opens this month. There's bound to be quite a long line of reservations, so make sure you reserve in advance to enjoy all there is on offer.

A soothing Body Scrub at Hell's Gate & Wai Ora Spa
A soothing Body Scrub at Hell's Gate & Wai Ora Spa
Aix-les-bains, France
This French spa town was a favourite with Queen Victoria, and understandably so. Ideally located along the edge of the country's largest freshwater lake, the Lac Du Bourget at the foothills of the Grand Revard mountains, it's the perfect place for water sports in summer and skiing in winter.

Add to that the healing properties of the region's waters and you have the perfect wellness destination. From the bubbling waterfalls cascading down the mountain slopes, to the vitality of the thermal springs and the placid lake, the naturally healing waters draw the crowds. The best way to do it is to check into Thermes Nationaux, the city's thermal therapy centre, which still houses the remains of the ancient Roman baths from 120 BC.

The rejuvenating power of the water from this region was initially discovered by the Celtic knights and later given concrete shape by the Romans who built baths and kept the tradition going for thousands of years. But it was not until the 19th century that a tunnel made the water accessible to all. Today, the Thermes Nationaux combines its timeless appeal with modern techniques and infrastructure.

You can choose between the Zen, Regeneration or Energy treatments that are part of their Wellness Packages, and benefit from the curative qualities of the water. This year, make travel mean more than just fun and recreation; give your body and mind that much needed attention and return home a new man!

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