No longer reserved for the Middle East, the traditional hammam has undergone a makeover in Asia and the Americas. Last year, Amatara Wellness Resort Phuket launched the world’s first Thai-inspired hammam, a 250-square-meter space clad in vibrant mosaics and marble for an opulent Asia-meets-Morocco vibe. Here, guests lie on a heated stone slab while therapists apply Thai herbal scrubs and muds to cleanse the skin. At Bali’s Mulia Spa, the Wellness Suite consists of hammam tables, a contemporary steam room, and saunas with personalized music, scent, and color therapy. The signature offering is the two-and-a-half hour Mulia Mermaid that includes a float in the hydrotonic pool, an aromatic steam session, and sea salt exfoliation. China is also getting in on the action; look out for the opening of the Hammam Suite at the Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing Beijing. Farther afield, the architectural showstopper of the moment is the Tierra Santa Healing House, an 84-square-meter hammam cut from Amazonite stone at the Faena Hotel Miami Beach. Inside its Wet Spa, guests embark on an invigorating journey through hot and cold rooms, which range from the communal hammam and tepidarium to a two-seater ice parlor.
As the element of purification and renewal, water has deeply spiritual connotations. In Bali, two retreats outside Ubud bring travelers a meaningful spa experience with a local touch. The Water Blessing Ritual at Fivelements includes meditation, chanting, and a blessing by a Balinese priest, while guests at the recently opened Oneworld Ayurveda take the waters at historic Tirta Empul Temple as part of an initiation into a Panchakarma detox. Also in Indonesia, guests at Nihi Sumba Island can opt for a jungle trek to the secret Blue Matayangu Waterfall whose cascading waters provide a soothing soundtrack to a guided meditation. And for a cleansing experience with an element of fun, The Ritz Carlton, Koh Samui is slated to open in February with a “spa village” that offers a Songkran Shower, in which water is thrown on guests before treatments. Over in India, spa goers at the Rajasthani palace-hotel of Raas Devigarh can rebalance their Svadhisthana water chakra with the Dance of Healing Waters: a two-hour session comprising a warm coconut oil pouring, a warm salt scrub, a restorative massage, and more.
There’s nothing like natural salt water to replenish and revive, and you can make the most of that with some time on the waves. Indonesia is a great place to start: Nihi Sumba Island offers surfer’s stretch yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, and an indulgent day-long “spa safari,” while you can have your fill of yoga, organic smoothie bowls, and even night surfing at Hotel Komune Bali. A brand to watch in India and Sri Lanka is Soul& Surf, which compliments morning surf lessons with sunset yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic treatments. This June, Four Seasons Resort Seychelles launched its customizable surf and yoga retreats; optional add-ons include an upper body–focused surfer’s massage.
Popular in the ’70s for expanding consciousness, float tanks are also going through a rebirth, especially in cities where the need for sensory and digital downtime is more crucial than ever. In Melbourne, designer “sensory deprivation” pods are opening up all across town with the promise to calm the mind and reduce blood pressure as you bask in the feeling of weightlessness. A recommended option in the neighborhood of Prahran is Beyond Rest, where athletes go to release muscle tension in a cocoon of warm salty water. Gravity Floatation Center on Northcote’s High Street is another upscale venue to decompress, as is Resthouse Float Centre in the suburb of Hampton East.
Spiritual cruises where your captain might also be your yoga teacher are on the rise. Seven Seas Explorer was one of the pioneers in this movement and offers luxury wellness journeys through Indonesia, Myanmar, and Micronesia. Belmond has also launched three- to seven-day Mindfulness Mandalay cruises on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River with on-board juice bars, spa treatments, and fitness sessions. Last year, Seabourn announced its collaboration with the renowned integrative doctor Dr. Andrew Weil. The first-ever of its kind at sea, the program will offer guests a holistic spa and wellness experience. A certified yoga and meditation practitioner will also be on hand to lead various complimentary classes and gatherings throughout the voyage.
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2017 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Special Report: Fountains of Youth”).