Want more than just lolling around on a sun lounger? Here are or some of Europe’s best holistic holidays
A change is as good as a rest – but there’s much to be said for the added benefits of massage, yoga, forest bathing, or trotting along a Spanish sierra while the cicadas reach their crescendo.
Holistic and experiential holidays are booming, and as the dust settles on our post-pandemic angst they are expected to be an integral part of our travel plans going forward.
Here are 10 wellness breaks to help recharge knackered chakras.
1 Mindfulness in Murcia
Outdoor yoga classes don’t get much more beatific than among lemon, orange, pomegranate and almond trees, and to an orchestra of cicadas and wild birds.
That’s the pay-off at Rustic Retreats, a solar-powered, low-impact wellness idyll near Murcia, Spain, at the foothills of the Sierra Espuna. North Dublin yoga instructor Katie O’Byrne will be hosting a six-night Energy Retreat there from August 6-12. In addition to morning hatha and evening yin classes are meditation, movement and Celtic Pagan festival workshops – and scheduled downtime, too.
Costs €600 including daily classes, workshops, daily meals, shared bell tents, and a guided hike. yogaenergywithkatie.com
2 Rebels with a causeway
Blow away the cobwebs at WildBay Retreats, the brainchild of meditation practitioner Daniel McKee – the first same-sex Married at First Sight contestant on E4 last year – whose techniques (mantra, Zen, Vipassana) have been cherry-picked across his many travels.
Two retreats are ahoy on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast: June 29 until July 1, and September 2-4 at the nine-room Cloughorr Estate, Portrush, Co Antrim. There, expect guided meditations, hatha yoga, ocean plunges, hiking, breath work, optional massage and some majestic cliffside views.
Costs from £525pp sharing and includes daily classes and activities, three daily meals and snacks. wildbayretreats.com
3 Self-care in Mayfair
It could be argued that time, not money, is the new wealth – although you do still need a pretty penny to avail of St James’s Hotel and Club Self-Care Stay Package, which takes ‘me time’ to a whole new level. Included in the overnight break is a 1.5-hour virtual session with leading life coach Harsha Perera, whose wide expertise will hopefully pull you out of that rut.
The breakfast by Michelin-star winning chef William Drabble is not to be sniffed at either, nor is being situated in a five-star townhouse in one of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods.
B&B costs £630 per night, based on single occupancy and includes life coaching session. stjameshotelandclub.com
4 Douro for forty winks
If time is the new luxury, then sleep is solid gold. Few of us are getting as much as we should, or could. The swish Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal knows this only too well and offers Sleep Retreats for those who need more than a comfy mattress and a spritz of pillow mist.
Its slumber programmes range from three to seven nights and are effectively sleep training that involves a wellness screening, massage treatments, personal training, pilates, yoga, meditation, forest bathing and hiking.
Revitalising, but not so much as to keep you awake. Such offerings will surely lead even insomniacs to the land of nod.
Costs vary, depending on packages and season. sixsenses.com
5 Saddle up Sierra style
This writer once had a trip-of-a-lifetime horse riding break at the stunning Spanish finca Los Olivillos, in the Sierra Tejeda, booked via Zara’s Planet.
But the Irish/UK-run equine tour operator has links across the entire globe, for riders of all abilities – from absolute beginners to professional show jumpers and jockeys. In Europe alone you can learn dressage in Seville, the five gaits unique to short and sturdy Icelandic ponies, and the flora and fauna of Romania’s Carpathian Mountains from the comfort of your own saddle.
Short and long-term breaks available and include accommodation, meals, snacks, wine with lunch and dinner, and some excursions. zarasplanet.com
6 Digital detox in the Algarve
Serenity Spa at Pine Cliffs resort in Albufeira, Portugal, has won more wellness awards over the years than you can shake a burning sage stick at, making it a cinch for leaning out of the rat race for a few days – or even up to a week.
This summer, the chic clifftop hotel launched Detox Retreats over three, five and seven nights – and contrary to the name, don’t include juicing diets but proper solid food. The detoxification in question is via lymphatic drainage massages, marine baths, exfoliation, bioelectrical impedance analysis, fitness classes and consultation with a nutritionist, plus a tailored take-home wellness plan.
Crucially, Serenity Spa also invites guests to ditch their mobile phones for a few nights.
Costs start from €436 for the three-night inclusive programme. Regular B&B from €323 per night. pinecliffs.com
7 The art of swimming
The pandemic may have turned many into open-water babies, but even the strongest swimmer would benefit from expert tuition, such are the real dangers of the deep. Step forward Noel Barrett, Swim Ireland swim coach, RLSS pool lifeguard, RLSS lifeguard trainer assessor, WSI swim teacher and lifeguard trainer, who is sharing his intel at The Galmont Hotel, Galway.
Included in the hotel’s Dive In package is a 30-minute one-to-one coaching session in the resort’s pool that includes stroke analysis as well as specific safety and technique pointers for pool, sea and lake swimming. Meanwhile, sea view rooms only make Barrett’s tutelage all the more tantalising.
B&B from €335 per room based on two sharing and includes dinner, swimming lesson and spa/health club access. thegalmont.com
8 Under the Tuscan sun
OK, so studying wine may push the boundaries of a traditional ‘wellness’ retreat... but it is described as “mindful travel” by LA-based organisers Sojrn, so it kind of makes the grade – and wine improves a lot of people’s well-being, right?
This four-week Wine in Tuscany break is a far cry from college exchange programmes, and invites the upwardly mobile to learn about Tuscan wine from the front lines of vineyards and wineries while working remotely at its Sojrn workspace, or a private apartment. Each week has a different theme – Make, Sip, Pair, Order – and includes tastings, tours and happy hours
Costs from $4,099 (€3,888). sojrn.travel
9 Urban idyll
Stressed in the city? There’s a remedy for that. Tucked away on Dublin’s Golden Lane is the Velvære spa at Radisson Royal Blu, where treatment tables are so vast they’re practically a double bed.
As well as the three-storey spa being open to non-residents, the five-star hotel has a Wellness Retreat package that includes the choice between two luxurious treatments – Codage Renew and Recharge Body Scrub or the Velvære Hot Stone Massage – plus access to the thermal suite area that includes a hydrotherapy pool, experiential showers, a Black Aspen Finnish sauna, thermal steam room and heated loungers. All are as good as new, since Velvære opened right before the pandemic.
Costs from €215pp B&B based on two sharing. radissonhotelgroup.com
10 Aegean odysseys
The Japanese art of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) is a wholesome export that we can all get behind. And you don’t have to take a long-haul flight either – the upscale Sani Resort in Halkidiki, Greece, is nestled on an ecological reserve and has designated guides to show guests around the craggy Kassandra peninsula’s woodlands (300 private acres) and wetlands (270 acres).
There are even children’s programmes, offering forest and coastal activities, including nature observation walks and bike-and-bird outings, the reserve being home to around 225 bird species. And there are no Spartan lodgings to be seen here, either, but super-luxe accommodation with swimming pools, beach clubs, bars and restaurants.
Minimum five nights; different packages available. sani-resort.com