So you’ve done the beachside yoga retreat and the weeklong fast with colonic irrigation, and you’re still looking for the healthier you. Ever consider an elephant trek followed by a yoga class in the middle of the jungle? Or an Ayurveda crash course complete with lectures by licensed doctors and a tour of a traditional medicine factory? There’s also a getaway that combines yoga, Balinese healing ceremonies and a couple of hours at the potter’s wheel (yes, you read that correctly).
Getting healthy has never seemed more complicated. As more travelers seek something more from their holiday than a bit of sun and a massage, wellness packages and health-focused resorts have mushroomed across Asia. The above offerings—available at Anantara Golden Triangle in northern Thailand, Heritance Maha Gedara in Sri Lanka, and Bali’s Fivelements, respectively—are just a taste of what’s out there.
With straightforward spa treatments, travelers have become a lot savvier. “People know the difference between a bad massage and a good one,” remarks Monica Barter, the group operations director of Como Shambhala, the Singapore-based lifestyle company that runs an acclaimed luxury retreat in Bali. But even industry players admit that the ever-expanding array of health-focused/stress-reducing/life-renewing packages and programs can be bewildering. To help you pick the right wellness holiday for you, we turned to a couple of experts for tips.
1. Know Thyself.
Choosing a wellness holiday is a very personal decision, says Karina Stewart, one of the founders of Kamalaya resort on Ko Samui. A fit twentysomething yoga enthusiast obviously has different needs than a chain-smoking, burned-out fortysomething executive. So it’s key to closely examine your eating habits, fitness, stress levels and overall state of health. “Think of it as a roadmap—you can’t go on a journey without one,” says Stewart.
Other questions to ask include whether you’ve been getting enough sleep and what the sources of stress are in your life. Try and be as honest as possible, Stewart says—denial comes easily for many when it comes to their health.
2. Set Specific Goals.
Lose two kilos? Stop smoking? Improve your diet? Learn a new sport? Knowing exactly what you want to achieve helps winnow down your choices. And picking the most suitable regime is more likely to lead to a deeper sense of accomplishment at the end.
3. Location, Location, Location.
Unless you’re looking to combine a cleanse with carousing, it’s probably best to investigate resorts and retreats that are removed from the action. “There’s nothing worse than doing a yoga retreat on a beach with a busy bar scene,” says Stewart.
Barter, who is based in Bali, goes one step further, pointing out that some destinations are just better for your well-being. “There’s a positive energy to Bali that lends itself to healing,” she says.
4. Consult with an Expert.
Still unsure of what’s best suited for you? At Kamalaya and Como Shambhala Estate in Bali, bookings often start with a phone call with a consultant. Barter notes that any reputable wellness retreat should be able to offer this service. As with any health consultation, there may be a lot of questions, so don’t call when you’re pressed for time.
If you’re dealing with a chronic condition or you’re recovering from a serious illness, check in with your general practitioner. “It’s always good to have as much information as possible,” says Barter.
5. Check Credentials.
A wellness holiday is a serious investment, both of money and time, thus thorough research is wise. “You have to be very discerning,” says Stewart, who urges travelers to take a close look at a resort’s team of instructors and practitioners as well as the cuisine on offer. “It’s not just about the facilities,” she adds.