no alt text

Travel bucket list ideas:

Last updated: 04 April, 2024

When we think of a spa, we may think of a facial or massage, a steam room or sauna, a hot tub – or if you’re lucky, a Thalassa pool.

But there is so much more to spas, out there, waiting to be discovered;­ treatments inspired by ancient local cultures, purification ceremonies and rituals, unique locally-sourced ingredients, mineral-rich local thermal waters; and extraordinary spa settings – from underwater treatment rooms to treehouses and cenotes (flooded sink holes).

We asked the UK’s leading spa specialist Susan d’Arcy to recommend the world’s ultimate spa ‘experiences’ – that will appeal to both wellness devotees and anyone seeking a sensory spa experience with a difference.

Table of Contents
exterior of a country-style spa
Experience

‘Make Your Own’ Spa Product

Localita Palazzetto, Tuscany, Italy

Every ingredient of every spa product used at the organic spa at the dreamy Borgo San Pietro in Tuscany is grown on-site. The hotel’s healing garden and state-of-the-art laboratory will show you how its organic skincare is created, by fusing the ancient traditions of Franciscan monks with cutting-edge molecular science. Then you can make your own…

Best for ages: 18+ | £30

Website >
More details >
woman staring out from a spa over african bush
Experience

African Bush Spa

Sabi Sabi Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Built on an ancient healing pathway, Londolozi‘s ‘Healing House’ spa offers treatments surrounded by the wild African bush of the Kruger National Park. Opt for the signature ‘biophony’ treatment, using specific sound frequencies from nature to bolster your nervous system and balance your body’s natural electromagnetic field. It woos you into a deep state of relaxation, guaranteeing your best night’s sleep ever (despite the roar of any nearby lion).

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Website >
More details >
a wooden hut tub filled with frothing beer
Experience

Beer Spa, Iceland

Iceland

Believe it or not, people have been bathing in beer for centuries. Beer hops ease muscle tensions, improve circulation and detoxify the body. Enzymes in the yeast make the skin and hair wonderfully soft. And yes, most beer spas will serve you beer to drink while soaking. Try it at the Beer Spa in Iceland.

Best for ages: 13+ | £70 | 1 hour

Website >
More details >
Portrait of beautiful young woman having clay body mask apply by beautician. Detox ritual.
Experience

Calistoga Mud Bath, Napa Valley

Calistoga, California, United States of America (USA)

|
Bucket List Experience

Slather on mineral-rich clays, laced with your favourite essential oils and CBD, the super-calming legal cannabis extract. Then rest in a heated mud lounge or bask in the sun while the mud dries and your body is purified. After, soak in a tub of Napa Valley’s renowned local thermal water before finishing in a state-of-the-art ‘sound’ chair. Try it at the Solage Resort & Spa.

Best for ages: 18+ | £80 | 2 hours

Website >
More details >

Dead Sea Soak & Salt Scrub

Sweimeh, Balqa Governorate, Jordan

The Dead Sea is world-famous for its healing waters and rejuvenating muds. The Zara Spa at the Movenpick Resort, the best spa in the region, offers a Dead Sea salt body scrub, mud wrap and facial right at the source. The freshwater al fresco hydrotherapy pools are vast and overlook the Dead Sea’s healing salts in which you’ve just been soaking.

Best for ages: 13+ | £60 | 30 mins

view from poolside out over the atacama desert
Experience

Desert Spa

Antofagasta, Antofagasta Region, Chile

The Tierra Atacama Hotel‘s spa experience is all about soaking up the landscapes, and reconnecting with nature. Practice outdoor yoga, meditate or simply bathe in the waters of the al fresco hot tub, while admiring the Licancabur Volcano and surrounding lunar-like desert. Treatments incorporate natural ingredients from the region, such as sheep’s milk, honey, clay and volcanic mud.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Website >
More details >

Finnish Smoke Sauna

Lapland, Finland

|
Bucket List Experience

Finns have used saunas for centuries – for hygiene, warmth and community. 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. Sounds mad, but it’s exhilarating and hugely beneficial for body, mind and soul. One of the best can be found at the Isokenkaisten Wilderness Lodge.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 1-3 hours

cG9zdDo1ODA1MQ==

Geothermal Pool Soak & Treatment, Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Norourljosavegur, Iceland

The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon offers a therapeutic massage, on a floating mattress within the healing waters of these world-famous geothermal springs, 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.

Official star rating:

woman's face sticking out of hot black sand
Experience

Hot Sand Onsen, Japan

Ibusuki, Kyushu, Japan

The world’s only natural sand bath sees participants buried up to their neck in the black sands of Ibusuki Beach for 15 minutes. Naturally occurring, geothermally-heated spring water flows under the beach, infusing the sand with 55°C steam. Benefits include improved blood circulation, elimination of toxins, reduced respiratory problems and relief from rheumatism.

Best for ages: 18+ | £7 | 30 minutes

Website >
More details >
View along a black stone spa with city skyline in background
Experience

Japanese Wellness Rituals

Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

The exceptional spa at the Aman Tokyo showcases traditional kampo therapies derived from traditional Chinese medicine. Try the misogi Experience, gliding between traditional showers, hot baths and steam to achieve purification. From there, it’s an indulgent, hour-long head-to-toe scrub featuring balancing camphor, soothing kuromoji powder and Japanese clay. On the top floor of a Tokyo skyscraper, the spa’s 30m black granite pool comes with views through the clouds to Mount Fuji.

Best for ages: 18+ | £600 | 3 hours

Website >
More details >
Bottles filled with colourful liquids and in background woman dangling an energy crystal over a guest
Experience

Light, Sound & Colour Treatment

Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia

The Illume Room at the Four Seasons Resort Jimbaran Bay, is devoid of natural light to maximise the colour therapy healing – 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.

Best for ages: 18+ | £185 | 2 hours

Website >
More details >
exterior of a round spa building with spiky stick roof, in middle of an icy lake
Experience

Mindfulness Spa

Harads, Lapland, Sweden

The extraordinary Arctic Bath Hotel has a unique indigenous Sami culture-inspired spa, featuring indigenous foods and spa-ing. Listen to reindeer herders sing Sami songs in a tent, have treatments featuring traditional herbs with aromatic scents, or soak in the spa’s pool of ice-cold river water, while a mindfulness instructor teaches you breathing techniques that allow you to stay for increasingly long periods in its freezing temperatures, interspersed between hot sauna stints.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Website >
More details >
a spa setting at night with candles
Experience

Night Spa Experience

Landaa Giraavaru, Maldives

Therapists at the Four Seasons Resort Landaa provide beautiful white outfits for you for 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. There’s a swing seat and a starry sky. You ring when you’re ready to be collected.

Best for ages: 18+ | £750 | 2.5 hours

Website >
More details >
close up of woman being treated with colourful crystals
Experience

Pranic ‘Energy’ Healing

Miami, Florida, United States of America (USA)

Pranic healing is a system of energy medicine focused on cleaning and rebalancing the body’s chakras. During this treatment, you inhale and the aroma of Palo Santo smoke, a sacred tree from the east coast of South America known for its mystical healing properties. In the background, Nepalese singing bowls harmonise and relax the brain and body through sound and vibration. After, relax in the huge hammam. The Faena Hotel in Miami’s South beach itself is fabulously OTT, and filled with an extraordinary collection of contemporary art.

Best for ages: 18+ | £225 | 1 hour

Website >
More details >
cG9zdDo1Nzk1Ng==

Rainforest Spa

La Fortuna, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica

The Tabacon Thermal Resort in Costa Rica is a gorgeous rainforest retreat that harnesses the healing power of a natural thermal river. Soak in mineral-rich, cascading waterfalls and pools, which range from 25°C to 50°C, all heated by a now-dormant volcano. Spa treatments incorporate local rainforest plants and volcanic muds, and are given al fresco, surrounded by lush rainforest, to a wildlife soundtrack.

Official star rating:

Eucalyptus branches and a bucket in a sauna
Experience

Russian Bathhouse

Russia

The Banya Ritual, offered by the spa at the luxurious Hotel Le Bristol, reimagines the ‘Russian bathhouse’ (banya) experience 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. For the real thing, head to the 19th-century Sanduny bathhouse in Moscow.

Best for ages: 18+ | £5

Website >
More details >
Seawater Therapy Treatment
Experience

Seawater Therapy Treatment

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The Intercontinental Bora Bora‘s ‘Deep Ocean Spa’ was the first thalassotherapy (seawater therapy) centre in the South Pacific, and provides a wide array of treatments that utilise nutrients extracted from the deep-sea waters, inspired by ancient Polynesian healing rituals, to rejuvenate and cure. The over-water rooms have glass-bottomed floors, making it possible to watch the fishes glide past during treatments.

Best for ages: 18+ | £0

Website >
More details >
Close up of woman having a face massage
Experience

Spa at an Indian Palace

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

The RAAS Devigarh is a dazzling 18th-century fort-palace-hotel, where traditional Ayurvedic therapies are combined with yoga. Go off menu and ask therapists to recreate an age-old custom, for which you sit on a ‘smoking stool’ while frankincense is burned beneath your chair, followed by a slow, deep massage using handcrafted, organic oils. It sounds underwhelming but it’s completely unforgettable.

Best for ages: 18+ | £80 | 2 hours

Website >
More details >

Temazcal Purification Ceremony

Mayan Riviera, Mexico

|
Bucket List Experience

This ancient Mayan ceremony, led by a local shaman within a traditional temazcal, or ‘steam house’, is designed to cause an intense physical, emotional and mental release – and a transformative feeling of rebirth. Searing heat is generated by volcanic stones bathed in medicinal teas; darkness liberates the senses from distractions; group energy generated through chanting.

Best for ages: 18+ | £80 | 3 hours

Traditional hammam

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

|
Bucket List Experience

Inspired by the Roman thermae, this steam bath ritual has been an integral part of Islamic culture for centuries. This signature Marrakech experience include a scrub with locally-made black soap (containing olive oil) to prepare the skin for a gommage (exfoliation) with a kessa glove, followed by the application of rhassoul clay and a massage with local Argan oil.

Best for ages: 13+ | £20 | 2+ hours

Traditional Onsen Bath

Japan

|
Bucket List Experience

Onsen are naturally occurring hot springs, heated geothermally, and converted into indoor or outdoor pleasure baths. In geothermally-active Japan, they’ve been used for centuries for hygiene and purification. Nowadays, they are commonly found in private homes, hotels or ryokan, but there are some excellent public facilities.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 30+mins

hotel exterior sitting on stilts above steaming hot spring
Experience

Viking Sauna

Olafsfjorour, Iceland

Get drummed barefoot into the piping hot, turf-covered outdoor Viking Sauna at Deplar Farm in Iceland where you’ll learn special breathing techniques – followed by an exhilarating dip in the al fresco ice plunge pool. You may see the Northern Lights from the geothermal indoor/outdoor pool, or from fur-strewn loungers through the ultra-modern spa’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

Best for ages: 13+ | £0

Website >
More details >
cG9zdDoyODIwOQ==

Wine-infused Treatments and Baths

Martillac, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Les Sources de Caudalie’s spa near Bordeaux is world-famous as the cradle of vinotherapie – treatments using the by-products of wine production – invented here in 1999. Treatments feature homegrown grapes and natural local spring water, drawn up 550m from below. Opt for the crushed cabernet body scrub, and a bath enriched with red wine extracts to improve circulation.

Official star rating: