May 23, 2017

Health and Wellness Retreats

Spin, stretch or swing a golf club on these six getaways

By Kathryn E. Worrall

Vacations Magazine: Health and Wellness Retreats
Andreas von Einsiedel
Out with the old, in with the new: Welcome spring with plans for a rejuvenated you.

It's a season of rebirth and renewal, as blooms push through the soil, creatures emerge from snow-covered dens and birds chirp through greening trees. For us humans? We're ready to swap snowboots for sandals, shed any remaining holiday pounds and head into the most cheerful of seasons with a positive outlook.

Throw off the weight of winter and start anew with the resolve to become a better you. Shape up with a new exercise routine, become more mindful of the moment, adopt a healthier eating plan or just aim for a great massage to grind out those shoulder knots. Read on for an assortment of health and wellness escapes, from healing springs in Italy and a hiking tour of the Spanish countryside to the energy vortex of Sedona, AZ.

Southwest vortex
An energy field awaits underneath the red rocks and national forestlands of Sedona, AZ. Regarded as sacred by Native Americans, vortexes -- areas where energy enters or exits the Earth -- enchant visitors to this resort town two hours north of Phoenix. It's common to see pilgrims meditating, practicing yoga or cleansing their spirit here, and healing practitioners, psychics and shamans have set up shop next to spas and art galleries.

Beyond its otherworldly allure, Sedona's wild landscape draws adventurers for hiking, biking, rock climbing and more. The craggy landscape forms spires, buttes and pinnacles jutting up from the ground, and the region's lush valley floor fertilizes mom-and-pop wineries. Some explore Sedona by bumping along back roads on a Jeep tour or getting a bird's-eye view from a hot air balloon.

One resort, L'Auberge de Sedona, combines the best of local attractions with private guides for a vortex-seeking hike, yoga classes and stargazing, but the highlight is the on-site spa. Opt for a treatment with curative crystals or a creekside reflexology treatment. You also might sample "forest bathing," an outdoor meditation practice that connects participants with nature.

La dolce vita
Soak away tension and stress in ancient Italian thermal springs, located off the coast of Naples on the isle of Ischia. The waters of Fonte delle Ninfe Nitrodi have been in use for more than 2,000 years, praised by the Greeks and Romans for their therapeutic qualities as early as the first century B.C.

Dedicated to the god Apollo and the region's caretakers, the Nymphs of Nitrodi (oft mentioned in Homer's stories), the springs are rich in minerals -- including sulfur, calcium and potassium -- and have been extensively studied for their healing qualities. They are believed to detox and purify skin as well as alleviate inflammation, and drinking the water is said to improve the function of internal organs, including the kidneys and digestive system.

Pair a shower in the springs with a walk in the surrounding park, where routes dedicated to aromatherapy and phytotherapy (plant-based healing) aim to boost metabolism and quell stress and arthritis. On SITA World Tours' seven-day "Rome & Ischia the Wellness Island" guests traipse around Rome and Naples, visiting must-see spots like the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, both before and after an exploration of Ischia. In addition to the Nitrodi springs and an accompanying mud mask, your island schedule includes a day at a thermal spa with a natural sauna. Daily departures are available from April to October from $1,465.

Sweat at sea
The never-ending buffets, flowing drinks and tempting dessert trays -- it's easy to overdo it aboard a cruise ship. When combined with a preference for a poolside deck chair over the treadmill, packing on a few pounds can be a common post-vacation regret.

Crystal Cruises combats the nautical weight gain on its "Mind, Body & Spirit" itineraries. A wide slate of onboard classes includes aerobics, circuit training, spin and more, and experts available for special presentations include Dr. Marc Milstein, a former UCLA lecturer known for his engaging talks on the latest in scientific breakthroughs. Meanwhile, Crystal's popular Walk-on-Water program utilizes the 360-degree Promenade Deck, with participants strapping on a light, weighted vest and gaining a bit of added resistance for a peaceful stroll as they take in sea views.

Aboard the Crystal Serenity, a lap pool, driving range, paddle tennis courts and a well-stocked fitness center round out wellness offerings. The ship will host two "Mind, Body & Spirit" itineraries this fall, sailing round trip from Fort Lauderdale, FL, to spend seven to nine nights in the Caribbean. Departures are Nov. 20 and 27, and prices start at $1,938.

Stroll through Spain
Explore Spain on foot and by riverboat with the eight-day, hiking-themed river cruise "A New Way to Experience the Beauty of Spain" from CroisiEurope, which winds along the Guadalquivir River. At each scenic stop, guests are matched with certified guides and encouraged to lace up their sneakers and stretch their legs. For those looking to rest for a day between athletic excursions, or perhaps take it easy throughout their vacation, daily programs also are available to visit cathedrals, palaces and, in El Puerto de Santa Maria, a family-owned sherry producer for a wine tasting.

An urban trek through Seville kicks off the hiking schedule, traveling through the touristy Santa Cruz barrio in search of Maria Luisa Park, site of the expansive, columned Plaza de Espana (which "Star Wars" fans might recognize from "Episode II -- Attack of the Clones"). You'll also explore several of Spain's national parks with a climb through a forested UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a seaside walk between sand dunes and a bird-spotting trip in an area converted from gravel pit to thriving animal habitat.

The trip concludes by exploring Cordoba and Granada, including the latter's hilltop Moorish fortress, the Alhambra. This round-trip cruise from Seville has a lone departure on Oct. 5, with prices from $1,825.

In shape in St. Lucia
Perhaps no resort values health and fitness more than the BodyHoliday Saint Lucia, a beachfront retreat on the northwest tip of its eponymous Caribbean island. The adults-only, all-inclusive property bases its offerings on four pillars -- good food, exercise, relaxation and restorative beauty -- so it's no surprise that a healthy, active lifestyle is promoted through diet-friendly dining options and a wide range of activities included in your lodging fee.

The on-site gym features floor-to-ceiling windows and is nearly surrounded by jungle, giving off a treehouse vibe. Yoga, spin, aerobics and other classes take over this space, and morning walks and bike rides, tennis, golf, diving and surfing draw even the biggest beach bums inland for a workout.

Despite its generous focus on fitness and scrumptious (albeit health-conscious) bites, the crown jewel of BodyHoliday is the spa, often ranked among the best in the Caribbean. Each guest is treated to one 50-minute treatment per day as part of the resort's all-inclusive package. Pick your perk -- body wraps, massages, facials, foot rubs, aromatherapy and more -- and let the concierge plan your daily rejuvenation timeout.

International tee time
Hit the links Down Under, keeping an eye out for any rogue 'roos. Sail the Baltic Sea to a Swedish course set in the shadow of a castle. Tee off throughout Portugal and Spain or in capitals from Dubai to Dublin. Several oceangoing itineraries planned for 2017 will help you tick a few destinations off your bucket list, as Azamara Club Cruises teams with PerryGolf in search of challenging play from the Mediterranean to the Middle East.

Departing the London port of Southampton on July 19, a 13-night sailing of the British Isles visits grade A greens in Scotland, England and Ireland, including the option to play at the Royal County Down Golf Club, recently ranked the best in the world by Golf Digest. Fans who purchase the golf package also receive ground admission tickets for the final round of the British Open, the world's oldest golfing championship, at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. In addition to these exclusive shore excursions, perks aboard the 690-passenger Azamara Journey range from "golfers' socials" for passengers looking to talk scores over cocktails to access to PerryGolf staff for information about the next course of call.

Cabin prices for the British Open sailing start at $2,999. For golf package pricing (including six rounds of play in port, caddie fees, a ticket to the final round of the British Open and more), contact a Vacations To Go cruise counselor.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Spring 2017. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.


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