“Wellness” may be a trendy buzzword—and a multi-trillion-dollar industry—but at these soothing and invigorating retreats, some of the best spa resorts in the U.S. and around the world, it’s the real deal. Our readers chose some decades-old pioneers in the spa world, who have continued to innovate, alongside some of the vanguards who are viewing vitality in entirely new ways. For our 33rd annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey, voters weighed in, and the impressive number of 2020 results was especially exciting for us—we’re ever curious about where you go and what you loved, not to mention, what you’ve continued to dream about long after you’ve returned home. Here are the 30 destination spa resorts you loved most this year.
- 30. Palace Hotel Merano — Merano, Italy$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2019, 2020“Health for life” is the guiding motto at this wellness resort in the Dolomites. The accommodations are lavish and comfortable, with 100 rooms and suites in a grand, historic building with chandeliers and parquet floors. The wellness component follows the Chenot Method, a system that was developed by Catalan-French biologist and naturopath Henri Chenot nearly 50 years ago. That means a strong focus on bio-enegetic medicine—meant to get the body’s energy flowing freely along the meridians defined by traditional Chinese medicine—and detox, accomplished via lymphatic drainage massages and a plant-based diet that leans into hypo-allergenic food. The fitness component is mostly gentle, and includes floor exercises like pilates and Nordic walking outdoors.
- 29. The Retreat Costa Rica — Atenas, Costa Rica$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020When celebrity chef and best-selling author Diana Stobo founded The Retreat Costa Rica, her goal was to create a Costa Rican version of “heaven on Earth”—which, in this case, translates to a wellness located deep in the rainforest. The 13 rooms are simple (no phones or TVs) and feature balconies and patios with views of the surrounding vegetation and Pacific Ocean. The spa, Vida Mia, offers treatments such as Ayurveda massages, Costa Rican coffee scrubs, and crystal healing facials; Boca Dulce restaurant has outdoor seating overlooking the mountains, and all dishes are free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugars.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 28. Preidlhof Luxury DolceVita Resort — South Tyrol, Italy$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020The guiding principle behind Preidlhof is finding the balance between pleasure and truer, deeper happiness, as defined by Aristotle’s “eudaimonia.” That balance can be found throughout the resort, which includes ten pools, a six-floor sauna tower, and the stunning backdrop of Italy’s Texel Group Nature Park. The spa here offers a wide range of massages, face and body treatments, and therapeutic yoga sessions—all tailored to each individual guest. Rooms are decked out with modern light fixtures and bright fuchsia rugs, plus floor-to-ceiling views of the South Tyrol countryside. MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
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- 27. Canyon Ranch Lenox — Lenox, Massachusetts$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2020This wellness resort in the Berkshires is R&R for the soul as well as the body. The architectural focal point is Bellefontaine Mansion, an 1897 Gilded Age house, modeled after the Petit Trianon in Versailles, that used to be a Jesuit seminary. Rooms are decorated in warm neutral tones and have Italian bed linens and granite and cherrywood bathrooms. The main dining room serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, though you can also dine in the mansion with views across the Great Lawn to the mountains. The 100,000-square-foot spa has saunas, cold-dip pools, and inhalation rooms. MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Skylark
- 26. Villa Stéphanie — Baden-Baden, Germany$$$ | HOT LIST 2016 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020The Villa Stéphanie, a 15-room residential spa annex of Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden, was previously a rehabilitation clinic for the cultured convalescent (the city is famous for the curative boost of its mineral hot springs). Now the Beaux-arts era building has been transformed into a sleek and nearly soundless sanctuary whose neutral-toned rooms—each outfitted with a digital detox switch—are discreetly connected to the spa and private gymnasia via a residents-only staircase (all the better for bathrobe-wearing). You can sign up for a full-body workover (the Medical Care Total program will hook you up with any one of seven on–site experts in gynecology, ophthalmology, cardiology, physiotherapy, or aesthetic medicine) or decompress from a facial on one of the many terraces overlooking the wildflower-carpeted bank of the river Oos. Either way, a stay at Villa Stephanie is hardly monastic, as dinners in Brenner’s two-star Michelin restaurant, and a drink in its jewel box of a wood-paneled bar, is where the real healing takes place.
- 25. Aro Hā Wellness Retreat — Glenorchy, New Zealand$$ | HOT LIST 2015 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2018, 2019, 2020Overlooking the otherworldly expanse of Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Aro Hā is an intimate 20-room lodge offering holistic practices (such as yoga and meditation) meant to invigorate the body and recalibrate the spirit. The self-sustainable property’s biggest draw is its epic setting between colossal sapphire lakes and snowcapped peaks—all of which the minimalist-chic cabins seamlessly blend into. Mindfulness is a core mantra here, and, with a setting like this, you’ll get plenty of practice at it.
- 24. Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt — Going am Wilden Kaiser, Austria$$ | GOLD LIST 2018 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020Austria’s Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt is like the postcard-perfect set of The Sound of Music—one of our favorite things. Behind its imposing wood and stone exterior, suites outfitted in pine furniture and crisp white linens read chalet-chic. This is a place where you stop to smell the fresh flowers—don’t make us launch into a bad rendition of “Edelweiss”—and, of course, to take in the crystal-clear mountain views and crisp Alpine air. To make the most of it, take a six-mile hike over to Schwarzsee Lake, one of the warmest in the Alps, where you can set up a picnic, take a dip, and spend a day.
- 23. Schloss Elmau — Krün, Germany$$$ | GOLD LIST 2020 HOT LIST 2016 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Talk about a room with a view: Comprising two five-star hotels, this luxury resort sits some 60 miles south of Munich in a verdant valley of the Bavarian Alps. Built between 1914 and 1916 at the behest of Dr. Johannes Müller, a renowned Protestant theologian and philosopher, Schloss Elmau was originally intended as a cultural, communal respite from the outside world—a status it maintains today. The castle complex frequently entertains yoga retreats, world-renowned classical music concerts, and international conferences like the 41st G7 summit, which it hosted in 2015.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 22. The Lodge at Woodloch — Hawley, Pennsylvania$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Ninety miles from New York City, this lodge in northeast Pennsylvania may just be the perfect weekend getaway for stressed-out city dwellers who need an escape. The quiet and serene resort has more than 500 wooded acres and a private lake, and spaces that force you to exhale: Guests enter under a porte-cochère into the plant-filled Garden Hall, which has a 14-foot glass cupola and a balcony looking onto the lake. And, all rooms have private verandas and oversize marble bathrooms. There are plenty of ways to keep busy, too. Excursions include fly-fishing and trail biking trips, or you can stay on-site for a soothing river stone massage at the spa.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 21. CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa — Carefree, Arizona$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020Located in the Sonoran Desert—in the appropriately-named town of Carefree—CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa has top-notch facilities, including a 22,000-square-foot spa and 20 acres of land to explore. There’s also a wide array of classes (over 70 per week), ranging from yoga to sound bathing to juicing lessons, plus therapeutic spa treatments based on the healing principles of water. And then there’s the food: Two on-site restaurants cover the day’s meals, from a fresh juice bar at breakfast to wine and seafood come dinnertime.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 20. Euphoria Retreat — Mystras, Greece$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2019, 2020Designed to tie in the five elements and the five senses, this Greek idyll is built into a mountain and has a large sphere pool as its physical and spiritual center. In the mythical Peloponnese region, it promises nothing short of transformation, with the idea that by the end of your stay you will have learned how to become your own healer. The spa complex also contains a tepidarium (warm relaxation room), Byzantine hammam (steam room), salt cave, Watsu pool, yoga and fitness rooms, and an area for massages and other treatments. The nutrition component might require a science degree or a leap of faith—you can expect to see terms like redox condition, glutathione threshold, and endogenous antioxidants thrown around. In plain English, that means you’ll be getting small meals and regular snacks of organic ingredients that fit into the Mediterranean diet, like extra-virgin olive oil and antioxidant spices. The best way to enjoy? Just go with it.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 19. Vila Vita Parc — Alporchinhos, Portugal$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2019, 2020The stunning natural beauty and bracing sea air of Portugal’s Algarve region are medicine on their own. But taking it up a notch is the spa at Vila Vita Parc, which occupies its own dedicated building and whose treatment menu was created in partnership with French spa leader Sisley. With a brand like that behind the place, it’s no surprise that skincare is a focus, calling upon products that incorporate botanical extracts and essential oils. Expect pore-tightening facials, toning body treatments, and medical-grade pedi-cures (get it?) from legendary podiatrist Margaret Dabbs. On the activity side, there are personal trainers on hand for custom workouts and deep dives into the HYPOXI Method, which is said to combine vacuum therapy with a moderate workout routine and balanced nutrition plan to eradicate stubborn fat deposits, eliminate fluid retention, tone the skin, and accelerate metabolism.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Skylark
- 18. Clinique La Prairie — Clarens-Montreux, Switzerland$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020Taking a decidedly scientific and holistic approach to its guests’ overall wellness, Clinique La Prairie near Montreux, Switzerland, is the place to rejuvenate and recalibrate both body and mind. The clinic—which opened in 1931—has long been renowned for its revitalization treatment, which is reputed to boost the immune system and slow the aging process. There’s an array of other available wellness and beauty programs, which might include sleep therapy, weight loss, detox, and skin restoration.
- 17. Andronis Concept Wellness Resort — Santorini, Greece$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2018, 2020This wellness resort overlooks the Aegean Sea in Santorini, with most of the 28 suites and villas angled to catch the best views of the sun setting over the water. The interiors are done in signature Santorini whites, and each room has its own private infinity pool. A staff of medical professionals and yoga experts offer a wide range of therapeutic treatments at the Kallos Spa—although you can’t go wrong with a sunset massage on your terrace.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 16. Lake Austin Spa Resort — Austin, Texas$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Set on a picturesque hillside of its namesake lake, this all-inclusive destination spa attracts relaxation seekers from all over—you’ll see them, buffed and polished from their treatments and eager for more, strolling the grounds all day in their robes. Beds are extremely soft, and the lavender-scented products in the bathrooms are from the resort’s own line; in fact, they’re the same ones used in your spa treatments. Speaking of, all the spa’s products are grown on the grounds (wildflower and organic honey are used in the facial scrubs) and some treatments take place in semi-open settings.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 15. Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa — Tucson, Arizona$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020There are older spas and wellness retreats in North America (to say nothing of Europe), but none popularized the idea of a spa break the way that Miraval did. Miraval, which used to have the phrase “life in balance” attached to its name, is one of the places that took wellness mainstream. (Thank you, Oprah.) Now it might not be so cutting-edge, but it’s confident and competent at what it does. The rooms are lavish casitas with plush beds, and the culinary program focuses more on what healthful foods you can add to your diet than on which “sinful” (a banned word) food to delete. As a result, it’s delicious, whichever end of the menu you choose, and the experience overall comforting.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Skylark
- 14. Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort Lake Lucerne — Bürgenstock, Switzerland$$$ | HOT LIST 2018 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020Bürgenstock has not one, but three, spas: the Alpine Spa (with steam baths, saunas, and a “serenity” room); the Private Spa with three available treatments; and the “Waldhotel,” which offers individual treatments based on the resort’s “Healthy By Nature” concept. There are several complexes within the resort, but all of its restaurants, bars, and common areas are accessible to everyone, no matter if you’re staying in the most affordable room or the most expensive. Speaking of, rooms at the resort—outfitted with refurbished wood, stone, and other natural materials—are tranquility-inducing, much like the spas. (Bathe while taking in the beauty of Lake Lucerne, easily one of the most beautiful in the world, below? Yes, please.)MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 13. BodyHoliday — Cariblue Beach, St. Lucia$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Since it opened in 1988, this beachfront all-inclusive in the northwest of St. Lucia has become renowned for its no-deprivation approach to health, fitness, and wellbeing. Guests can expect custom-tailored itineraries that draw from more than 40 scheduled activities per day, and an inclusive 50-minute spa treatment each full day of a stay. All five restaurants use local produce, often from the hotel’s garden, and the wellness center offers Pilates and reiki and has a heated marble massage bed. And, while it has many of the usual trappings of all-inclusive Caribbean resorts (see: the two-tiered infinity pool), there are also seriously butt-kicking adventure and fitness options on offer, a reflection of the managing director’s years of competing as an ultra-endurance athlete.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Skylark
- 12. SHA Wellness Clinic — Alicante, Spain$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2019, 2020Only on the shores of the Mediterranean could a holistic retreat be as languid and seductive as Sha. Forget about the programs on offer and the resort alone, with its long infinity pool and billowing white curtains around the daybeds, could be just another place to soak up some sun on the Spanish coast. But forgetting those programs would be foolish, because they’re both effective and worthwhile. They’re results-oriented, whether the program is something as free-form as wellness “Discovery” (relaxation and learning new healthful habits) or as specific as detox and weight loss, sleep recovery, or geared toward kicking a smoking habit. Natural therapies are usually the first line of treatment, but there are allopathic and Eastern doctors on staff, and consultations with MDs are part of many programs.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 11. Shou Sugi Ban House — Water Mill, New York$$$ | HOT LIST 2020 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020The first wellness retreat in the Hamptons has a kick-off-the-espadrilles-and-down-a-tumeric-juice carefreeness, because its philosophy is thrillingly simple: Focus on the basics of self-care by tapping into what cofounder Amy Cherry-Abitbol likes to call intuitive wellness. It’s just what high-strung visitors to the area need. The point of Shou Sugi Ban House isn’t to break anyone down, military- or medical-style, but rather to create a space—in sun-flooded barns and blond-wood studios with deep-soaking Japanese tubs—that is a recipe for happiness. There’s gentle morning yoga and strolls on the beach, though if lounging by the pool feels like the right speed, that’s fine too. The point is to indulge in all the things that are good for us (including that third slice of Danish seeded bread with plum preserves at breakfast), so that we can learn to live the way we all want to—and feel better for it.
- 10. COMO Shambhala Estate — Bali, Indonesia$$$ | GOLD LIST 2018 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Eyebrow-arching views greet you as you arrive at COMO Shambhala Estate, a jungle-hugged designer “retreat for change” perched on staggered hilltops above the Ayung River in Bali. For two decades, the COMO Shambhala Estate—the flagship of the luxury wellness brand of the same name—has reigned as a five-star refuge for luxury travelers seeking to say farewell to stress and hello to spiritual development. A rotating crew of visiting masters compliment the in-house experts in yoga, qi gong, and Pilates. East also meets West at each of the five residences, which house a total 30 suites, each with its own pool. Want more? Stand-alone villas have private pools, and one-bedroom Retreat Villas have their own treatment rooms. The signature cuisine emphasizes living foods, which are rich in enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and remarkably delicious—it’s the kind of spa cuisine we could happily eat every day.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Skylark
- 9. Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda — Lake Garda, Italy$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Luxury, wellness, and nature come together on the shores of Lake Garda at this high-end holistic resort. It’s set on 27 acres of natural park with views of the lake, olive groves, and forest. The spa is as spacious as it is stunning, with a striking design for the comprehensive facilities—who knew that five different types of saunas exist? Developed by the (admittedly mysterious) Lefay SPA Scientific Committee, the program blends classical Chinese medicine with contemporary Western science and is customized for each guest. Every stay begins with an “energy interview,” whose results inform the program of moxibustion (burning herbs over the skin), hydro-aromatherapy (with essential oils added to a whirlpool), qi gong and meridian stretching, and phytotherapy (a fancy way of saying herbal teas). If all that sounds a bit intimidating, take heart: the Vital Gourmet food is firmly rooted in the principles of the Mediterranean diet, albeit with an emphasis on calorie control, energizing foods, and cooking methods that don’t put undue strain on the body. That doesn’t mean it’s about deprivation—pasta, risotto, and Italian cheeses still find their way onto the menu.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Skylark
- 8. VIVAMAYR Altaussee — Altaussee, Austria READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2019, 2020Central European spas have a certain purity allure, and Vivamayr is no exception. Just by checking in, you feel like you’ve shed many modern habits—and it doesn’t hurt that the location, on the shores of Lake Altaussee, is more alluring to look at than anything on your phone. Once you commit to the program, it goes deeper into the prescribed treatment of Dr. F.X. Mayr, an Austrian wellness beacon with a cult following. Along with holistic and naturopathic medicine, there’s a strong emphasis on slow, mindful eating, so it comes in handy that the meals, while carefully portion controlled, are beautifully presented and made from top-quality local ingredients.
- 7. Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti — Pinzolo, Italy$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020Luxury, wellness, and nature come together in the Italian Dolomites at this high-end holistic resort, where guests can enjoy hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. The spa is as spacious as it is stunning, with indoor and outdoor pools, an ice waterfall, and a heated saltwater lake—plus nine saunas with different levels of temperature and humidity. Come mealtime, order the tasting menu at Gruel Organic Restaurant, or grab a table with a view at Dolomia Restaurant; then finish off your night with drinks in the lounge or rooftop bar.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 6. Vana — Dehra Dun, India$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2019, 2020The word Vana means “forest” in Sanskrit, and this spa fittingly aims to be a refuge for those who are searching for equilibrium. Every guest’s stay is customized, following a wellness consultation just after arrival, although things fall into three basic categories: Ashram (a retreat from daily life), Wellness (with more interventions for the body, mind, and spirit) and Lifestyle (learning strategies to take home with you). The spa is set in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, and all of the 66 rooms and 16 suites have a contemporary design that emphasizes natural, organic materials, and views over ancient forests and fruit orchards. The cuisine doesn’t follow any particular dogma, other than being organic and naturally grown food, with as much as possible (bread, butter, wasabi, ice cream) made in-house, and nothing shipped by air.
- 5. Cal-a-Vie — Vista, California$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020At Cal-a-Vie, you could mistakenly believe you were somewhere in the bucolic French countryside, rather than 40-something miles from San Diego. Suites are simple and rustic, and the experience is straightforward: wake to a sunrise hike and follow it up with any combination of spinning, water volleyball, or piloxing (dance, pilates, and boxing), then soothe your sore muscles with a trip to the world-class spa, where the massages are particularly memorable. Pair your deliciously pampering treatments with an on-site nutritionist, and you’ll leave feeling like a million bucks.
- 4. Ikbal Thermal Hotel & SPA — Afyonkarahisar, Turkey$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2020As part of a hotel located in an open-air shopping center in the mountainous countryside of Afyonkarahisar, Turkey, guests at this thermal spa can count on 286 spacious rooms with the latest technology (no digital detox here), meals served three times a day, and a spa that comes with a Turkish bath and indoor pool exclusively for women. For a more active experience, head to the fitness center or squash courts. For those looking to unwind, the spa menu includes reflexology massages, milk baths, seaweed wraps, and an array of hair and nail treatments.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 3. Six Senses Douro Valley — Douro Valley, Portugal$$ | GOLD LIST 2018, 2020 READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020On the terraced slopes of one of the world’s oldest wine regions, Six Senses has recast a 19th-century manor house with unexpectedly modern flair, making it much more than a place to sleep off one too many glasses of vinho. Now, the rambling estate, which has been renovated and expanded by New York-based Clodagh Design, overlooks the area’s completely unspoiled countryside and eponymous river. The final result reflects the region’s deep ties to the United Kingdom and Portugal’s once-vast empire, including Georgian antiques and artifacts from places as far away as Goa and Brazil, with starkly modern and eco-friendly building materials. The spa offers full wellness screenings, sleep-improvement programs, and of-the-moment therapies such as aerial yoga and forest bathing. Plus, much of the produce comes from the hotel’s onsite organic garden.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Skylark
- 2. Ananda in the Himalayas — Uttarakhand, India$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020You can’t get much closer to nirvana than Ananda in the Himalayas, which sits in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas near the birthplace of yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda (a form of alternative healing that stresses the connection between body and mind), and the place where the Beatles met the Maharishi. The resort takes this legacy seriously, with a holistic approach to wellness that combines Eastern and Western healing methods—Ayurveda and aromatherapy treatments are at your disposal, as is a 24,000-square-foot, 24-treatment-room spa that near guarantees a restorative experience. The fresh air and 100 acres of forest don’t hurt, either.MAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
- 1. The Ranch Malibu — Malibu, California$$$ | READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Tough love is the order of the day at this health retreat. The core program is seven days of rigor, though four- and ten-day options are available at a spin-off at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village. But if you’re ready for a challenge, go for the core. Nothing is optional: not the 5:30 a.m. wake-up knocks (they will persist until you answer), not the 6 a.m. yoga or stretching sessions, not the hours of morning hiking, nor the afternoons spent in the gym or the near-vegan eating plan. If you wonder why people pay for this, you aren’t alone. But if you’re among the people who get it, then it’s the sort of yearly wellness tune-up that you’ll look forward to. The Ranch tends to attract type-A personalities, so there can be competition on the hiking trail, but the guides are supportive and encouraging for guests of all levels. And the payoff is a few pounds of lasting weight loss, better muscle tone, glowing skin, and a well-earned sense of accomplishment. It helps that the lodgings are sublimely comfortable, there are daily massages, and the food—pared down as it may be—is made from the best organic ingredients and beautifully presented.