Pampering knows no borders, writes Adriaane Pielou, who picks the world's best spa therapists.
More of us than ever are using holidays to seek a new sense of wellbeing and top therapists attract clients from far and wide. From facialists to reflexologists, these are some of the most gifted practitioners working in the world today.
GAELLE CASTET, FACIALIST Immaculate, gentle and adept, Gaelle Castet has "the touch" - hard to define but you know it when you feel it. And, unlike facialists who send you on your way blotchy and oily-haired, she leaves you looking glamorous. Finishing your treatment in this very chic but friendly little spa, she applies a light, exquisite Dior maquillage then undoes the thick cotton-wool bandeau she has wrapped around your hairline - et voila! No oily hair. Perfect for pre-rendezvous primping.
WHERE Dior Institut, Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris. Phone +33 1 5367 6665, see plaza-athenee-paris.com.
VAIDYA KUMARAN RAJSEKHAR, AYURVEDIC DOCTOR He may look startling - peroxide-blonde crew cut plus pinstripe suit or yellow robe - but the star of this outstanding ayurvedic spa quickly banishes any misgivings with his extraordinary diagnostic abilities. Checking just your pulse-points, he describes your state of health now and in the past, assesses your diet and advises what you should be eating, taking and avoiding. Book well ahead: clients with ailments keep him busy.
WHERE Parkschlosschen Spa, near Frankfurt, Germany. Phone +49 6541 7050, see parkschloesschen.de.
ELAINE WILLIAMS, NATURAL THERAPIST Calm, sympathetic and immensely knowledgeable, Elaine Williams is perhaps the single best spa therapist in Britain. A consultation starts with a massage so she can get to know your body, then progresses to an analysis of what might ail you - mentally or emotionally as much as physically. Trained as a nurse, she has kept up with mainstream medical developments but made alternative therapies her focus. Fans include Dame Judi Dench.
WHERE Grayshott Spa, Surrey, England. Phone +44 142 860 2020, see grayshottspa.com.
DR DATTILO, FANGO THERAPIST First you are slathered in mud. Then when its minerals have penetrated your skin, you are hosed down and vigorously massaged. According to Thermalia's Miro Sejfert, who knows curative European spas as well as anyone, Dr Dattilo, who runs this spa, is peerless. "His mantra is 'you will feel marvellous'. After a week, I always do. But my clients with rheumatism or arthritis are always amazed at how Dr Dattilo leaves them pain-free, too - and for months."
WHERE Hotel President Terme, Abano Terme, Italy. Phone +39 049 8668 288, see www.presidentterme.it.
MEENA GURING, MASSAGE THERAPIST Therapist Meena Guring is described by Susan Harmsworth, founder of global spa design, management and product company ESPA, as one of the best of the thousands she has encountered. "Meena is from northern India and natural oils and herbal preparations for skincare and soothing aches and pains with massage were a big part of her life from an early age. The treatments she delivers require a good understanding of ayurvedic principles, intuitive skills to identify imbalances and hands that can read the body. Outstanding. I think she touches the lives of everyone she meets."
WHERE Leela Palace, Udaipur, India. Phone +91 294 670 1234, see theleela.com.
NI MADE SULASTRI, TANTRIC AYURVEDIC PRACTITIONER The Balinese Sulastri lived as a nun and trained in tantric therapy in an ashram in Indonesia before arriving in the Maldives. Her daily meditation, prayer and yoga reflect deeply in her treatments. In the course of a three-hour, open-air Zaanta Nidraa ritual ("peaceful sleep" in Sanskrit), involving chanting, a salt scrub, bathing in a petal-strewn bath, warm poultices with jasmine and jatamansi oils and full-body and facial massages, you feel like you are taking part in a sacred ceremony rather than submitting to a treatment. Profoundly moving.
WHERE Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. Phone +960 6600 888, see fourseasons.com.
HEATHER COOMBS, REFLEXOLOGIST Standing at the end of the massage bed, London-based Heather gets to work with her probing fingers. "Your feet don't lie," she says. Able to diagnose the cause of all manner of ailments, she then sets about curing them by exerting pressure on various parts of the sole. Her technique is particularly effective with asthma and skin complaints. Says one fan: "I suffer from crippling hay fever. When Heather starts on my feet, I can feel my sinuses 'crunch' and then begin to clear and by the end of the session, I can breathe normally again."
WHERE Phone +44 20 7937 5543, email firstname.lastname@example.org. She is also at Chiva-Som, Thailand, twice yearly. See chivasom.com.
EVE LOM, FACIALIST The Czech opened her London salon in 1983. Her mantra: "Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse - without that, no moisturiser can do a thing." Still at the cutting edge of the beauty industry, these days, Lom barely touches your face. She cleanses, she does extractions and a little craniosacral therapy. She then devotes most of the session to visceral manipulation - yes, massaging your internal organs. "Everything that affects the face is in the gut," she says and the truth of that assertion remains visible for days afterwards. She is simply the best.
WHERE Phone +44 20 7935 9988, see evelom.com.