With more and more travelers embracing the opportunity to heal and rejuvenate while on vacation, the wellness tourism industry is exploding.
Wellness tourism revenues surged by 14% between 2013 and 2015 – more than double the growth rate of tourism expenditures overall, according to data released by the Global Wellness Summit. The same study revealed that nearly one of every six tourism dollars spent are spent on wellness travel.
Those flocking to foreign health and wellness centers are motivated by an endless range of circumstances, from the desire to feel more rejuvenated and connected to the quest for alternative treatments for serious illnesses or addictions.
For those wishing to dedicate their next vacation to bolstering their health and wellness based on the principals of traditional, alternative and holistic medicine, we have compiled a list of five incredible destinations to visit:
1. Bali, Indonesia
Travelers from around the globe flock to Bali each year in search of greater health and wellness and a heightened spiritual connection.
Balinese Hinduism incorporates elements of ancestor worship, animism and Buddhism. This unique combination springs to life in the form of a rich patchwork of rituals that fill daily life on the island. The smell of incense permeates cities and villages, and offerings line the streets.
For those suffering from any sort of malady, Balians – traditional Balinese healers – are in abundance.
Balians and the treatments they offer vary significantly, and can include anything from purification rituals in bodies of water revered as sacred to treatments that involve massaging clients and prodding them with sticks.
A favorite destination among luxury wellness travelers is the Floating Leaf Eco-Luxury Retreat in Sukawati, which offers a three-night experience complete with food, accommodations, an herbal medicine course, a purification ritual and two private sessions with a Balian. The so-called Shamanic Healing Package costs $795-$895 per single-occupancy room.
Many tourists who wish to save money and are willing to forego the bells and whistles of a resort-style retreat book simple lodging in Ubud and then find reputable local healers by word of mouth. As Balians are often the first line of defense when health issues arise in Bali, most locals will be able to recommend reliable practitioners.
That said, it is important to bear in mind that Balians are not tourist attractions. While tourists who are experiencing suffering are welcome, those who are just curious are encouraged to refrain from occupying the time of Balians when others in greater need are awaiting their guidance.
2. Sedona, Arizona, United States
“Powerful vortexes are believed to unleash an energy field that resonates with all who come in contact. People travel from around the world to experience these swirling centers of energy that are conducive to spiritual healing, meditation and self-exploration.” So states the official tourism website of Sedona, Arizona.
For decades, the area’s iconic red rocks of have attracted hordes of travelers in search of physical, mental and spiritual healing. As this trend proliferated, so did the number of healers specializing in a broad range of traditional, alternative and holistic practices: shamans, reiki masters, spiritual counselors, crystal healers and more.
In recent years, its New Age scene has converged with the growing wellness tourism industry, ushering in a broad selection of accommodations and activities for health-minded travelers.
A favorite among luxury travelers is the Mii Amo destination spa, which offers an array of so-called Journey Packages. The Spiritual Exploration Journey includes energy work, crystal therapies, Native American-inspired traditions and guided meditations. The Healthy Body in Balance Journey includes nutrition advice, exercise consultations and a detoxification program. All journeys include twice-daily spa treatments, lodging and meals. Single-occupancy rates start at about $6,700 per seven-night package.
A more budget-friendly option that has earned rave reviews is Inner Journeys, which offers single- and multiple-day retreats, and a broad range of services, including shamanic healing, energy healing, chakra balancing massage and Native American ceremonies. Single-day retreats start at $335 per person.
3. India (various locations)
Travelers in search of health and rejuvenation have long been drawn to the ashrams and wellness centers of India.
The country boasts its own subset of the wellness tourism trend: ayurvedic health tourism. Ayurveda is a system of traditional Hindu medicine that aims to create balance within the body through a combination of diet, bodywork, breath work, meditation and herbal remedies.
The country is bursting with ayurvedic health retreats, and wonderful options exist for travelers of all budget categories.
A popular luxury choice is Ananda in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, which combines traditional courses of ayurvedic treatments custom-tailored to each client with the creature comforts of a modern, high-end resort. Prices for their seven-day Ayurvedic Rejuvenation program vary by time of year, but start at just under $4,000 per week-long treatment.
A more budget-friendly option with excellent reviews is Goa’s Swan Ayurveda, which offers a package of total body detoxification treatments, known as Panchakarma, for 2-, 3-, or 4-week periods. These packages include lodging, treatments, all meals, excursions and plenty of yoga. Packages range from about $1,140 for two weeks in a shared budget cottage to about $5,380 for four weeks in a private deluxe cottage.
4. Costa Rica (various locations)
Costa Rica, longtime darling of adventure travelers, has also emerged in recent years as a favorite among the health and wellness set. The country’s idyllic white sand beaches and lush rainforests serve as a stunning backdrop to a broad range of holistic wellness treatments.
Costa Rica is actively working on developing its own brand of wellness tourism. “I am thinking of nature being a source of healing and that wellness tourism in Costa Rica should include soft adventure, treatments, massages and healthy food because in this country connecting with nature is very easy,” Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura said in comments carried by news site Tourism-Review.com in March.
In the meantime, a wealth of attractive options are already available for the wellness-minded traveler.
A popular high-end option is the Pura Vida Spa in Alajuela, which offers Mind, Body and Spirit packages featuring lodging, meals, daily yoga sessions, eco-adventures and massages. Seven nights of such will set you back between $1,560 and $3,185, based on single-occupancy rates, depending on which time of year you travel and which type of lodging you select.
A budget option that has earned solid reviews is Casa Zen in Santa Teresa, which offers a seven-night yoga retreat, complete with a bed in a dorm room, daily breakfast and unlimited yoga classes, for between $176 and $210, depending on whether you visit during low or high season. Situated meters from the beach, visitors can also rent surfboards and enjoy the waves.
5. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Bush spas are on the rise in South Africa. These programs strive to supplement the traditional safari experience with a range of health and wellness treatments – from mindfulness meditation courses to spa treatments based on Zulu rituals.
South Africa is a hotbed for the wellness tourism because its many safari lodges offer a unique and adventurous experience with wellness components, making it an attractive destination for those who wish to improve their wellbeing, but who don’t crave the tranquility of a traditional wellness resort.
A note of caution: bush spa stays don’t typically cater to budget travelers.
David Michie’s Mindful Safari starts at about $4,070 for a six-night experience, based on single-occupancy rates. This retreat offers two safari drives in private game lodges bordering the Kruger National Park and two mindfulness teaching and meditation sessions each day. The program draws on the African wilderness to foster mindfulness and strengthen each visitor’s sense of connection with nature and his or herself.
The Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park, has options ranging from $650 to nearly $1,800 per night. In addition to a range of safari offerings, the Sabi Sabi boasts two spas featuring holistic body, skin and beauty rituals.
Ingrid Burke, International Editor at Tranio.com
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