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Travel bucket list ideas:

Last updated: 24 July, 2023

You can find spa hotels, destination spas and spa resorts the world over these days. Indeed, what five- or even four-star hotel doesn’t have a spa?

On Bucket List Travels, we’re all about finding the world’s greatest, most exceptional travel experiences – for spa hotels, that means something beyond the standard fare of facials, saunas and hot tubs.

We asked leading UK spa expert Susan D’Arcy to recommend outstanding spa hotels and resorts that also offer a unique ‘experience’, something a little extra that makes them stand out from the crowd.

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Adler Spa Resort Thermae

San Quirico d'Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

One of the best thermal spa resorts in Tuscany, surrounded by the glorious Val d’Orcia. Its facilities are superb, including a huge indoor-outdoor pool complex with waters heated to a natural 37°C and eight Turkish baths and saunas.

Excellent food and wine come as part of the package; wine tastings in the Travertine wine cellar are a must, with simpler meals on offer in the cosy osteria.

Official star rating:

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Aman Tokyo

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

This contemporary five-star luxury retreat, high above the city, has bird’s eye views over Tokyo to Mount Fuji. The largest and best spa in the city, spread over two floors, it’s inspired by authentic Japanese wellness traditions.

These include traditional kampo therapies derived from traditional Chinese medicine, that rebalance using the power of natural herbs. A truly zen sanctuary.

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Arctic Bath Hotel & Spa

Harads, Lapland, Sweden

This wilderness resort in the pristine forests of Swedish Lapland celebrates wellbeing through local Sami indigenous culture. The wellness taps into the Swedish concept of lagom, a life lived in balance and moderation. Mindful guests listen intently to a reindeer herder sing Sami songs in a tent, and enjoy treatments featuring traditional herbs with aromatic scents.

At the spa’s heart is a circular pool of ice-cold river water, for dips interspersed between the hot sauna stints.

Official star rating:

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Borgo Santo Pietro

Palazzetto, Tuscany, Italy

A fabulously luxurious boutique retreat in a rural corner of Tuscany, with superb facilities, a Michelin-starred restaurant, a healing garden and a state-of-the-art laboratory for creating your own skincare products.

Learn how its organic skincare is created by fusing the ancient traditions of Franciscan monks with cutting-edge molecular science. Every lotion and potion at this organic spa is natural and grown on-site.

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Cala de Mar Resort & Spa

Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico

A super romantic all-suite hideaway with a private beach, set close to a nature reserve. The spa takes inspiration from ancient Aztec wellness traditions; treatment rooms are scented with the healing toronjil flower and lotions feature cacao, coffee, aloe and cactus.

The highlight is the temazcal, a traditional sweat lodge where a shaman guides your purification ceremony in searing herb-scented heat, sparking an intense physical, emotional and mental release.

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Chable Yucatan

Chochola, Yucatan Peninsular, Mexico

At this authentic jungle retreat and exceptional wellness resort, the focus is on ancient Mayan wellness rituals, but there’s also yoga and meditation and open-sided treatment rooms which makes the jungle feel part of the massage.

The wellness centre offers some enticing unique experiences – above and beyond your typical spa – including traditional temazcals,  a traditional, spiritually-restorative  ‘Maya Ceremony’, and dips in a private cenote.

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Deplar Farm

Olafsfjorour, Iceland

This lavish, super-luxury lodge is miles from anywhere on the remote Troll Peninsula in Northern Iceland. A showpiece of Scandinavian style, it’s renowned for its activities and wellness.

Geothermal-heated indoor/outdoor pools, a Viking Sauna, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, flotation tanks, and the chance to witness the Northern Lights from the steaming waters mean many guests struggle to leave the spa.

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Euphoria Retreat

Mystras, Peloponnese, Greece

A cutting-edge wellness resort snuggled into a private pine forest in the Peloponnese peninsula has an exceptional setting, and outstanding facilities.

Its four-floor spa has a state-of-the-art gym, and a stunning outdoor infinity pool looks across the Sparta plain to mountain peaks beyond. Fitness classes, rock climbing, cycling and yoga take place in olive groves sprinkled with ancient sites and stones.

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Faena Hotel Miami Beach

Miami, Florida, United States of America (USA)

Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s show-stopping over-the-top palace, on the beachfront and filled with superb contemporary art, has an extraordinary spa employing ancient South American and Nepalese indigenous healing traditions.

The Tierra Santa Healing House offers Pranic healing treatments and an unmissable ‘Sacred Connection Ritual’. Nepalese singing bowls, Palo Santo smoke, and sacred tree branches enhance the harmony and feeling of total surrender.

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Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay Bali

Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia

Bali is an incredibly spiritual place and home to many excellent luxury spas but none capture the essence of Balinese culture better than the ‘Healing Village Spa’ at this Intimate tropical resort.

The spa’s Illume Room, devoid of natural light to maximise the colour therapy healing, is an extraordinary dance between the physical and metaphysical. You lie on a heated quartz-sand bed made of crushed crystals for a gently undulating massage, while entranced by site-specific music featuring seven crystal singing bowls.

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Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru

Landaa Giraavaru, Baa Atoll, Maldives

A sumptuous island hideaway within a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, with an award-winning, Ayurveda spa, and trips to swim with manta rays.

The spa offers a unique ‘night spa’ experience – known as the Om Supti Spa Ritual, which takes place at night in a private jungle spa. After soothing massages, you soak in a sweet-scented bath in an al fresco stone tub, staring up at the stars.

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Intercontinental Bora Bora

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

This luxury, eco-aware resort, set against one of the most beautiful backdrops on the planet, is famous for over-water rooms with glass-bottomed floors and a world-renowned spa.

The Deep Ocean Spa is the only spa in French Polynesia to focus on thalassotherapy, using seawater as a therapeutic cure. The over-water rooms have glass-bottomed floors, making it possible to watch the fishes glide past during treatments.

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Isokenkaisten Wilderness Lodge

Kuusamo, Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland

Family-run rustic lodge in Finland’s remote north-east that celebrates local culture, with a super smoke sauna and a ‘wild food’ restaurant.

The ‘Seven Star’ Smoke Sauna is a delicacy even by local standards. The stove has to be lit for the entire day in advance and the wood burnt out, leaving just the white-hot embers, creating a heat that is super smooth and aromatic. Dip in the ice-cold lake. Repeat.

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Le Bristol Paris

Paris, Ile-de-France, France

A legendary Paris grande dame hotel and altar to old-school opulence, at the historical heart of the city.

The spa’s Banya Ritual reimagines the Russian bathhouse for discerning mesdames and messieurs. After an application of crushed ice in the heat of the hammam, your therapist ‘beats’ you with oil-infused birch branches to boost circulation. Finally, after a body exfoliation, you emerge 90 minutes later, exhilarated, purified and glowing.

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Le Farnatchi

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

This chic, elegant riad hotel, set across seven houses, has a superb in-house spa.

It’s a great place to try a traditional hammam. The blissed-out Royal Hammam treatment involves a traditional body scrub with eucalyptus-infused black soap, and a mask bursting with powerful plant extracts for skin like an angel. That’s followed by a series of stretches and massage strokes in the steam-filled chamber.

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Les Sources de Caudalie

Martillac, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

This rarefied, rustic-chic retreat – with two gastronomic restaurants and a world-class spa – nestles in a beautiful vineyard setting 20 minutes from Bordeaux. The spa is famous as the cradle of vinotherapie – treatments using the by-products of wine production – invented here in 1999.

Treatments feature homegrown grapes and natural spring water; opt for the crushed cabernet body scrub, and a bath enriched with red wine extracts to improve circulation.

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Londolozi

Sabi Sabi Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa

This stylish, luxury safari camp next to the Kruger National Park, is known for its Big Five sightings, especially leopard.

It’s also a stand-out for its famous ‘bush spa’, one of Africa’s most progressive spas. Built on an ancient healing pathway, it harnesses cutting-edge neuroscience technology like biophony.

Simpler pleasures include a marble-stone massage or a CBD treatment that finishes under the ebony tree, to stimulate all your senses.

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Mashpi Lodge

Mashpi, Ecuador

This striking contemporary lodge, set in a private 2,500-acre rainforest reserve in Ecuador, offers a unique immersion into a blend of rainforest wilderness and wellness.

A rainforest massage sees your therapy table set up at the base of a waterfall, so you feel the natural electricity of the cascading water and the pulse of the jungle’s soundtrack during your treatment. Complete the immersion by slipping into the glimmering waterfall’s pool.

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Movenpick Resort & Dead Sea Spa

Sweimeh, Balqa Governorate, Jordan

A gargantuan luxury resort, in the style of a traditional Arab village and located on the shores of the incomparable Dead Sea, is home to one of the best spas in the Middle East. Highlights include soothing freshwater al fresco hydrotherapy pools, a menu of 70 treatments, and of course, soaks in the salt-infused waters of the Sea itself.

Dead Sea soaking aside, spa experiences don’t get more connected than a Dead Sea salt body scrub, mud wrap and facial right at the source.

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RAAS Devigarh

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

If the chance to stay in a dazzling 18th-century fort palace doesn’t sway you, go for the ayurvedic spa that embraces the best of India’s ancient wellness traditions. Have treatments in palace nooks, practice yoga at sunrise on the rooftop, and breathe in Himalayan salt in a special hand-carved chamber.

Go off menu in the spa and ask the therapists to recreate an age-old custom, the ‘smoking stool’. Completely unforgettable.

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Retreat at the Blue Lagoon

Norourljosavegur, Iceland

A truly unique, luxurious spa hotel experience: geothermal-inspired spa treatments, in the showstopping setting of Iceland‘s world-famous Blue Lagoon.

Opt for a therapeutic massage, on a floating mattress within the healing waters, surrounded by extraordinary volcanic landscapes. After, you head for the steam chamber, hewn from a lava rock cave, with urns full of enriching pea-green algae, bright-white silica and crystalline exfoliant – all locally sourced.

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Solage Resort & Spa

Calistoga, California, United States of America (USA)

Deep in the Napa Valley, this laid-back resort blends spa and sybaritic pastimes: soak in its healing hot waters and sip award-winning wines.

Against a lush natural backdrop, the huge bathhouse has five geothermal pools, ranging from icy cold to temptingly toasty; bob between them, the eucalyptus steam room and infrared saunas. Opt for a specialty ‘mudslide’ treatment – a contemporary twist on the traditional Calistoga mud bath.

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Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

La Fortuna, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

This gorgeous, sustainable rainforest retreat harnesses the healing power of Costa Rica‘s Tabacon Thermal River. Its mineral-rich waterfalls and pools, dotted through the gardens, range from 25°C to 50°C, heated by a now-dormant volcano.

Intensifying the connection to nature, treatments are taken in open-sided thatched cabins and use lotions made from local plants, blending Costa Rican customs with ancient practices from around the world.

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The Standard Miami Beach

Miami, Florida, United States of America (USA)

Sitting on a picturesque bayside island, and famous for its red-hot pool scene, the Standard effortlessly combines serious wellness with serious glam.

The hip open-air hydrotherapy playground includes a vast waterfront infinity pool, an icy arctic plunge, high-pressure hoses and bayside soaking tubs, where the local body-beautifuls spend their downtime.

The holistic wellness ethos extends to sound crystal treatments, Turkish hammam, yoga, fitness and meditation classes.

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Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa

Antofagasta, Antofagasta Region, Chile

A glamorous, eco-chic retreat set in the remote lunar landscapes of the Atacama, the world’s driest desert. It’s the perfect spot for a true desert spa experience.

Soak in the spectacular outdoor infinity pool or the al fresco hot tub, contemplating the Licancabur Volcano. Take yoga classes on an outdoor platform overlooking the endless desert or simply snooze in a wicker hammock strung between ancient desert trees.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a spa hotel?

A spa hotel combines the comforts of a traditional hotel with rejuvenating spa facilities. It offers guests a range of wellness services like massages, facials, and thermal baths, promoting relaxation and holistic well-being. Unlike a normal hotel, a spa hotel prioritizes wellness and provides specialized amenities to enhance guests’ physical and mental rejuvenation.

What is a resort?

A resort is a leisure destination offering accommodations, amenities, and activities for vacationers. From hotels and restaurants to pools, spas, and recreational facilities, resorts create an all-inclusive environment for guests to relax, have fun, and enjoy a variety of experiences during their stay.