With their dazzling good looks, these islands are the Pacific equivalent of the Maldives, but much closer to home.
THE EXPERIENCE It is a truth universally acknowledged that every movie star has a desert-island fantasy. That goes some way to explaining why French Polynesia has lured Hollywood's dropouts and paradise seekers for decades. With 118 volcanic islands and atolls each blanketed in lush tropical vegetation and surrounded by cobalt-blue sea, the country better known as Tahiti also has some of the best resorts in the world. Marlon Brando bought a group of remote islands called Tetiaroa in the 1960s after falling in love with his 19-year-old Tahitian co-star of Mutiny on the Bounty, but the super-luxurious 35-room resort that bears his name did not open until a decade after his death in 2004.
Polynesian female royalty used to come to the islands to pamper themselves, so it's no surprise the resort has an extraordinary spa. The highlight? A tree house fare manu (literally "home of the bird") suspended 5½ metres in the air amid the tree canopy, where twosomes can enjoy an indulgent three-hour couples treatment.
IDEAL FOR Cashed-up travellers keen for privacy.
– Lauren Quaintance
Africa's hot spot is the new word on wellness.
THE EXPERIENCE Blessed with lush rainforests, World Heritage-listed mountains and blissfully blue coral lagoons, it's no surprise that Mauritius has blazed a path towards sustainability. In recent years, the Indian Ocean nation has fostered a reputation for eco-conscious tourism, with experiences far removed from the big beach resorts it was once known for. Now with the opening of Salt of Palmar, its first eco hotel, the country is turning its attention to wellness.
The east-coast property dazzles with rainbow interiors by French artist Camille Walala, and daily activities that include salt therapy, yoga, serenity walks, pool fitbit and e-bike tours. TV screens, buffets and single-use plastics are out in favour of personal trainers, eco water bottles and organic toiletries. Raw and/or healthy dishes shine, with biodynamic produce locally grown at the Salt Farm. Guests can get out and about on cultural visits or experience typical Mauritian hospitality at the home of a local.
IDEAL FOR Health habitués, Insta-holidayers and the bare-feet brigade.
– Belinda Luksic
Europe's newest alpine trekking location is crowd-free and a fraction of the cost of its big-name rivals.
THE EXPERIENCE In summer, the Accursed Mountains of northern Albania don't appear to live up to their foreboding name. Defining its border with Montenegro and Kosovo, its flanks are splashed yellow and purple with wildflowers, the air in the valleys chimes with the sound of cowbells, and cool, pure water tumbles from mountain springs. Until just five years ago, the tracks through Valbonë Valley saw only horses and goats. But word is trickling out about this alpine idyll, and remote farmhouses are learning to keep the kettle on and beer in the fridge for hot hikers passing through. The most popular hiking route in the Valbonë National Park, from Theth to the village of Valbonë, is well-known. However, Intrepid Travel's Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia Explorer trip includes a farmstay in Valbonë, where your feet will find lovely but sparsely used short or multi-day hikes.
IDEAL FOR Crowd-shy fans of mountains.
– Belinda Jackson
LIKE THIS? Albania's next-door neighbour, Kosovo, is home to the Rugova Mountains, with a more evolved summer hiking and winter snowshoeing scene; rugovahiking.com.
Albania's Accursed Mountains provide plenty of crowd-free hiking options. Photo: Supplied
The capital, Manila, is known for its shopping malls, but 90 minutes away you can unplug, chill and recharge.
THE EXPERIENCE Slow down in the province of Batangas, where the Taal Heritage Village is home to hundreds of well-preserved historic houses and buildings dating back to Spanish colonial days. It's a little like time has stood still here as you wander around, learning about its rich history. There are also some great beaches in the area and excellent diving spots. But if you really want to chill, check into the country's only five-star holistic health retreat, the much-awarded, family-friendly The Farm at San Benito in the Batangas hinterland.
It sprawls over a 49-hectare coconut plantation with programs covering detox, weight-loss, spiritual wellbeing and counselling in a beautiful rural setting. Guests commune with nature, indulge in spa treatments and enjoy vegan dining at Alive! Restaurant. Whether it's a day trip or a stay in a bungalow or pool villa, it's wellness teamwork at its best at this haunt, favoured by A-listers and those seeking better health.
IDEAL FOR Health devotees and seekers of back-to-nature breaks.
– Sue Wallace
There's more to Greece than whitewashed houses overlooking an achingly blue sea.
THE EXPERIENCE The beautiful Peloponnese is a place of verdant forests and jagged mountains, where Romans, Ottomans and Venetians have all left their traces visible in its plenitude of historic sites: the medieval citadel of Monemvasia, and the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological bounty of Messene and Olympia, home of the original Olympic Games. Then there are the natural wonders, including the spectacular Diros Caves.
The Peloponnese is also home to Euphoria Retreat, a destination spa with dramatic architecture inspired by the area's Byzantine heritage, seen most splendidly in Mystras. The treatments, by contrast, draw heavily on Chinese practices such as acupuncture, along with energy-balancing techniques and meditation.
Guests can stretch their bodies not just with yoga and Pilates but also on mountain hikes, and meals are individually tailored using the principles of metabolic medicine. For those wanting to add some sightseeing to the experience, excursions are available to some of the area's most historic sites.
IDEAL FOR Spa addicts.
– Ute Junker
The spa at the Euphoria Retreat, Greece. Photo: Supplied
Old Delhi, India
Combine an authentic Indian city stay with serious creature comforts.
THE EXPERIENCE The dusty laneways of Old Delhi are home to no end of hawkers and hole-in-the-wall vendors, but serious luxury is harder to come by, in part because of access, or the lack of it. The alleyways here can be forbiddingly narrow, making getting in and out no easy task. The pocket-sized Haveli Dharampura makes a virtue of this, however, with guests having to wend their way through a minor maze of walkways, some only a metre wide.
Originally built in 1887, this Mughal-style residence lapsed into ruin before being restored over the past 10 years, with particular care taken with the period details: the sandstone portals, the winding stone staircases, the timber doors with copper and brass fittings. The hotel is within walking distance to the chaotic Chandni Chowk bazaar, the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, one of India's largest mosques, capable of accommodating 25,000 worshippers.
IDEAL FOR Fans of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; immersive travellers.
– Tim Elliott
Celebrity Edge Cruise
Match big-ship cruising with the intimacy of smaller luxury ships.
THE EXPERIENCE Celebrity Edge's design aims to inject excitement into the crowded cruise-ship category – and it's done just that. A number of elements appeal to wellness travellers, including sleeping open to the elements, thanks to exterior glass cabin walls which collapse in half. Then there's the strong focus on healthy food options, including Raw on 5, with an intriguing seafood menu. The ship also dials up the wellness options with a dreamy multi-level day spa, designed by Kelly Hoppen Interiors of London.
Central to Edge's sprawling spa is its SEA Thermal Suite concept, which offers eight distinct thermal-experience rooms you can sample for a journey of the senses: hammam, crystalarium, salt room, steam room, infrared sauna, float room, heated tile loungers and rainfall water therapy. Spa lovers should book an Aquaclass suite, which includes unlimited access to the SEA Thermal Suite, your own Spa Concierge, plus dining in exclusive AquaClass restaurant Blu.
IDEAL FOR Spa devotees, couples, first-time cruisers.
PRICE An Aquaclass suite is priced from $4024 a person for the seven-night trip to Spain, France and Italy, departing from Barcelona on June 22; celebritycruises.com.
– Connie Forster
LIKE THIS? Cunard's Queen Elizabeth features the Royal Bath House, comprising a hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite; cunard.com.
Baa Atoll, the Maldives
Nourish body and soul in this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
THE EXPERIENCE Competition among luxury Maldivian resorts is rife and nowhere is this more evident than in their increasingly elaborate wellness offerings. Hydrotherapy pools, celebrity practitioners, French podiatrists and ayurvedic doctors lure travellers craving improved wellbeing alongside their tropical indulgence. The new Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort in the Baa Atoll (the Maldives' only biosphere reserve, thanks to its reefs' globally significant biodiversity) takes a balanced approach to restoring equilibrium.
By day, fitness, wellness and culinary experiences rejuvenate body and mind. By night, sleep deeply to the soundtrack of lapping waves in trademarked "Heavenly" beds found in all 70 villas and suites. The ethereal overwater spa offers everything from bamboo massage to organic coconut scrubs on state-of-the-art treatment beds, where tropical fish circle below. Afterwards, thakaru (personal concierges) whisk more active guests by golf cart to custom workouts or glass-bottom kayaks (the area is frequented by manta rays and hawksbill turtles), and the more sedate to cocktails on the rooftop sunset bar.
IDEAL FOR Fish fanciers and my-body-is-my-temple types.
– Sheriden Rhodes
LIKE THIS? Try Capella Ubud, where guests can sweat it out in jungle boot-camp sessions and partake in new moon treatments in Bill Bensley-designed spa tents; capellahotels.com; indonesia-tourism.com.
The Westin Maldives Spa Suite. Photo: Ralf Tooten
Cempedak Island, Indonesia
This private island retreat with an ecological focus (and no kids' club) is a triumph.
THE EXPERIENCE After a decade of fine-tuning on family-centric Nikoi Island, Australian owner Andrew Dixon has nailed his adults-only offering, located off the coast of Bintan. Cempedak Private Island concentrates on simple, thoughtful luxuries, allowing abundant natural beauty to shine. You share the island with inky butterflies, large monitor lizards, families of otters and shy pangolins (who can occasionally be sighted on a night hike).
The focus on sustainability is serious here: 20 expansive villas, handcrafted primarily from local materials, epitomise the resort's genuine commitment to supporting the environment and local communities. Although primarily geared for romance and seclusion, there's a generous rotation of daily activities and excursions. Slice a catamaran through cobalt waters, island-hop with a picnic basket, dive or snorkel nearby coral reefs, or order a jug of Pimm's and play croquet on the manicured lawns.
IDEAL FOR Romantic couples, divers.
PRICE $S450 ($469) a night, including most activities. Daily meals, $S95 ($99); cempedak.com.
– Pip Harry
LIKE THIS? Try Bawah Reserve, about 300 kilometres north-east of Singapore in Indonesia's Anambas Archipelago, which is only accessible via seaplane; bawahreserve.com.
The Boathouse Pool at Cempedak Island, Indonesia. Photo: Will Scott