Himalayan high life
In the landlocked kingdom of Bhutan, any visitor can feel like royalty, said Michael Benoist in National Geographic Adventure. This South Asian country still looks “much as it has for a thousand years,” and Punakha, a “pastoral eight-suite inn” that was once the royal family’s farmhouse, remains flanked by fields of red rice. It’s now part of a circuit of lodges, run by Asian hotelier Aman, that occupy “regal real estate in this Switzerland-size Shangri-La.” These retreats are scattered throughout the Himalayan foothills of this traditionally Buddhist land, about two to five hours’ drive apart. But they’re meant to be experienced as a single kora, or spiritual journey. Other parts of the pilgrimage lead travelers to a 16-room refuge just outside Thimphu, which “shares a forested hillside with the residences of four queens,” or on an overnight journey through mountain passes “in the shadow of 23,996-foot Jhomolhari.” Fortunately, an SUV, along with a driver and private guide, is provided.
Pampering for proles
Those “who prefer their pampering more patrician than proletariat” should skip the Czech Republic’s “most famous spa town,” said Mary Ellen Monahan in The Washington Post. Herbal creams and New Age music can’t compare to an experience akin to “that of the Cold War–era peasant rewarded for a bumper cabbage crop.” Located in western Bohemia and “rich with thermal springs,” Karlovy Vary is home to some of the oldest spas in the world. Lazne III, built in the 19th century, is the town’s oldest. Elizabeth Spa, the largest, opened in 1906. Both remain more or less unchanged: The halls are long and anonymous, the rooms are as sterile as a “doctor’s office,” and “robust-looking Czech women” clad in white still staff the quarters. The bizarrely named treatments, such as “lymphodrainage with apparatus” and “carbon-dioxide bag,” might at first cause a sense of concern rather than of calm. But after a few minutes in these old-school spas, a “steamy, pleasant stupor” washes over you—one that even the most “zealous communist” would appreciate.
Cleansing Vice City
Miami isn’t usually where one goes to find peace of mind, said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. Florida’s “sybaritic playground” wasn’t an obvious place for Canyon Ranch spas to open a facility, and in fact the 70,000-square-foot health resort might be the “least ascetic spa ever.” But Canyon Ranch Miami Beach is also one of the most inviting spas around, “perched on the ocean, with shimmering mosaic designs, gentle lighting, sumptuous rooms,” and delicious food. Canyon Ranch has turned itself into a name brand, attracting visitors who aren’t just getting a facial but also uncovering their internal energy, “expanding their chi,” and discovering their “most amazing” selves. This location adds a few twists to the formula, however. They include an igloo, a hydrospa, experimental showers, and a scented sauna called an “herbal laconium”—as well as a bar. This is the only Canyon Ranch location to serve alcohol, though of course it’s organic.
Healing in Mexico’s mountains
Life just seems better in Mexico’s Sierra Madres, said Terri Colby in the Chicago Tribune. “Time moves slowly” at Rio Caliente Hot Springs Spa Resort, tucked into the mountains 20 miles west of Guadalajara. “Food tastes better,” too. Even “exercise is fun.” Televisions, radios, and newspapers are nowhere to be found at this “mile-high oasis.” Cell phone service is spotty, and the Internet is available in only one room. Days revolve around mineral baths and horseback rides rather than business lunches and conference calls. The only soundtrack is the soft babbling of the 157-degree hot spring, which gives the spa its name and supplies the water for its pools. “Breathe in the eucalyptus-infused air in the Aztec-inspired sauna,” or revive with a moisturizing facial in a room that looks out at “blue skies, verdant hills, and red flower petals.” Get slathered in volcanic mud, then rest in a chaise lounge as you bake in the hot Mexican sun.