World's best hotel spas and spa retreats: The top 25 places for rest and relaxation

So many elements of travel are in the lap of the gods; sun and snow in the right place at the right time; smooth connections from A to B. But there's one trip you can guarantee: the January guilt trip, accompanied with the post-Christmas sale that cashes in on a detox, diet and booze-free bazaar. This year I'm expecting we'll see a particularly monumental month (or three) of punishing purity as the nation goes cold turkey, turning bingeing to deprivation overnight. Our being "well" has never been an easier sell and we are buying it like hot cakes (gluten-free, naturally).

Like anything in fashion, the trick is finding the right fit for you. None more so than a new health regime. Which is the beauty of the spa hotel – bolt-holes that offer life-enhancing treatments staffed by experts. Some are even hospital hybrids, five-star hotels with resident doctors and nurses that can turn test results around in a matter of hours.

Whether a cracking medical outfit, holistic haven or luxury hotel with great facilities and specialist therapists, a great spa has specialists ranging from doctors to gurus, yogis to nutritionists, who will nurture body and mind, all under one roof. It should offer proper counsel and advice before you arrive and support after departure. All this with a welcoming bedside manner – it is, after all, the ultimate feel-good holiday.

Help is at hand in this guide to the world's best spas and spa hotels. Call it your first step to embarking on a health-giving holiday for mind, body and soul, and send that January guilt packing…

Four Seasons Sayan, Bali

This slick, contemporary hotel is made for holistic holidaymakers who are unwilling to forgo five-star comforts while soul searching. Go with the flow (you're helped by the Ayung river running through the manicured gardens). Hang upside down doing antigravity yoga in a stunning bale made from sustainable Balinese bamboo in the middle of a paddy field. Have philosophical debates on the meaning of life with smiley Ibu Fera, former Buddhist monk and resident wellness mentor. But whatever you do, experience a traditional healing session by a "Balian" in their home. They play an important role in Bali's culture by treating various ailments. And the piece-de-resistance? An encounter with a Balinese high priestess as part of a water purification ceremony. Double rooms from $A639.

Lanserhof Tegernsee, Germany

Mealtimes are muted at Lanserhof Tegernsee: guests must chew each mouthful of their meagre meals 30 to 40 times. A core tenet of the late Dr FX Mayr, intestines expert, the practice claims to regenerate overburdened digestive systems; supplementary medical exams, massages and tailored tests and treatments tackle individual health concerns and needs. An accumulative benefit is that (for most) the weight drops off. It's hard going at times, but compensation comes through the setting – the Bavarian Alps retreat is encircled by woodland and chocolate-box villages – and the property itself is a surprisingly chic sanctuary, tastefully and soothingly finished in pale woods and calming white. One week (minimum stay) at the Lanserhof Tegernsee, including the basic medical programme from $A5512.

Aman Tokyo, Japan

Perched on the 33rd floor of a glass tower is one of Tokyo's more extraordinary hotels, which marries the time-honoured Japanese aesthetic with contemporary Aman design. Tradition, modernity and nature are in everything from the inventive cuisine, to the spacious spa, with 30m black granite pool that creates the illusion of floating among the clouds, and treatments based on seasonal ingredients. The divine 150-minute Signature Treatment is inspired by the 16th-century tea ceremony, to soothe with fragrant kuromoji wood and medicinal herbs. Double rooms from $A1009.

Lefay Resort & Spa, Gagnano, Italy

Situated on Lake Garda, Lefay combines Chinese medicine with modern Western therapies to reactivate our internal energy system while saving the environment. Their approach to dieting is to make changes to eating habits that are psychologically as well as nutritionally sustainable. The "light menu" is tasty low-cal Mediterranean fare that takes the strain off the digestive system. Fill your time having anti-cellulite massages, body wraps, doing tai chi and cycling round the lake. Double rooms from $A420.

Royal Mansour hotel, Marrakesh, Morocco

As befits a hotel owned by the king, the Royal Mansour is a sumptuous homage to elegance, with jewel-like tiles, silk cushions in your private riad and courtyard fountains that calm you before you've even set foot in the spa. In the marble hammam, hands-on therapists pummel, scrub and scrape your skin into baby-soft submission, then wash your hair, before a dip in the icy plunge pool. One-bedroom riad from $A1358.


Nihiwatu, Sumba Island Bali

This humble surf lodge-turned-swish hotel – all four-posters, private pools and day beds that become night beds – offers the most glorious glamping to the sound of the waves. Its star act, though, is the one-of-a-kind spa and Nihi Oka Spa Safari. A hike across the dramatic coast through a primitive local village (spiritual in itself) takes you to your own private clifftop treatment pavilion overlooking the ocean. Here, you spend the day working your way through the spa menu treated by skilled therapists using organic beautifiers. Add to this surfing, galloping on the beach (their horses are top) and heart-thumping hikes – a token spa this is not. Villas from $A1208.

See: The luxury treehouses of Nihiwatu

Parkhotel Igls, Innsbruck, Austria

Few hotel gyms have sheet-glass windows offering panoramic views of snow-covered mountains to motivate you through your workout. This restful apple-and-white Alpine retreat specialises in detox, medical MOTs and musculoskeletal wellbeing and takes fitness super-seriously. Exercise is gentle but fiendishly effective – classes in balance, stability, co-ordination and core stability are key. Meals are modest (500-800 calories per day for detoxers), but nourishing – porridge with maple syrup, scrambled eggs, tasty veg soups, a simple diet designed to cleanse the palate and stimulate sluggish digestion. Add in daily massage, hydrotherapy, detoxifying mud wraps, Nordic walking and mountain air to embrace a more energetic version of yourself. Double rooms from $A427.

Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot, Merano, Italy

Behind this 100-year-old chandeliered Italian splendour, with sumptuous bedrooms and charming multilingual staff is a gleaming white medical wing with cutting-edge health and beauty treatments, including the latest lasers and injectables to less invasive, traceless facelifts and collagen-boosters, while its intense detox programme is superb. A barrage of bioenergetic treatments (measuring and boosting vitality levels), massage, phyto-mud therapy, hydro-aromatherapy sessions and strict dietary retraining that is tough but refreshing if you can go the pace. A daily allowance of 800 calories is turned into four-course, bijou, works of art, that all-in-all is very much a favourite with renowned male and female sport stars to Russian tycoons. Double rooms from $A645.

Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand

A lush, holistic healing paradise where palm fringed paths and crystal streams tumble down natural rocks to a teeny white sand beach. Sleep deeply in an array of hidden Asian rustic chic/luxe suites, cosy cottages and villas kitted out with every comfort (except television). There are countless body- easing, mind-soothing treatments on offer: try Asian hand massage (deceptively therapeutic) and meditations (from authentic Indian yogis). Guests on the Optimal Fitness programme get gently but firmly reshaped by savvy personal trainers. Healthy eating is easy – the pumpkin- seed bread and dairy-free raw choc mousse is positively divine. Double rooms from $A290.

SHA Wellness Clinic, Alicante, Spain

With its backdrop of dramatic mountain and sparkling Mediterranean Sea views, and its crack team of specialists from practically every field of health and beauty, SHA is one of the most popular destination spas in Europe. But it's not for everyone – only those who prefer their East-meets-West health and beauty treatments served in a stark, slick, modernist design. Everything is tailored to you personally, from macrobiotic food to your bespoke post-treatment health plan with a designated booking. Must- haves include an appointment with Dr Juan Rubio, a septuagenarian dynamo who specialises in nutrition and preventive medicine, and who flits in and out a couple of days a week supporting and supervising the magic of macrobiotic eating and getting hands on with hardcore Japanese osteopathy treatments. One session with Dr Rubio and things start to click into place. Double rooms from $479.

Fusion Maia Da Nang, Vietnam

The low-slung, spaced-out pool villas have sunken stone baths, private gardens and four-poster beds big enough for six, but it's the two spa treatments a day included in the room rate that's the real pulling power. Hands-on therapies include holistic scalp massages, 30 to 120-minute body wraps, facials and the reiki-like Mindful Energy therapy. Staff can't do enough for you and, apart from the cringe-making "free hugs", you'll welcome every subtle touch. Double rooms from $A729.

The Chedi Andermatt, Andermatt, Switzerland

A refreshingly clean-lined exterior set in a traditional, Alpine Bond-style setting. The spa is big and Zen, yet intimate and cosy, a clever, rare balance to strike. The fusion food also works a treat – Bircher for breakfast, dim sum for dinner. Yoga classes precede hot/cold plunge, steam and sauna, while the muscle-weary shouldn't miss the Alpienne Mountain massage. There are twice-daily, 90-minute mountain walks to feed your soul and visits throughout the year from Loten Dahorstang, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, who teaches divine yoga, chanting mantras and sacred meditations. Double rooms from $A539.

Six Senses, Douro Valley, Portugal

The Six Senses European debut brims with the wellness and sustainability that this spa hotel group is reputed for, and here adds wine to the mix. With an emphasis on its setting, tastings of Douro Valley wines are just rewards for a day spent meditating among ancient cedars in the surrounding woods. The healthy food from the organic fruit and vegetable garden, the peaceful, muted décor by Clodagh Design, which draws the outside in, the aerobic yoga or yogic sleep all combine to induce a feeling of stillness and contentment. Double rooms from $A370.

Vana, Dehradun, India

Set amid forests and gardens with moving water, this healing haven cum eco-hotel has the most stunning, calming and blood pressure-lowering architecture and interiors. Minimalist and clean, the palette is clotted cream, honeycomb and fresh light green with blonde hardwood furniture. Alongside Ayurvedic treatments, Vana offers "Tibetan healing" overseen by therapists trained at the Dalai Lama's revered institute. The retreat even comes with his holiness's personal seal of approval (a first). Mantras and home-prepared oils and herbs contribute to the fusing of traditional, modern and natural. The food is seasonal and organic, and as you sit and eat on the restaurant verandas, you're misted by water from above. Double rooms from $A789.

Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley, California

The grounds of this Relais & Chateaux property are a carefully cloistered sculpture garden, and the intimate spa at the base of the garden epitomises Napa luxury. Guests enter via an elegant and understated space that draws you immediately outside into a courtyard and the promise of the water ritual. There are three pools of varying temperatures overlooking vineyards and olive groves. Back inside, the height of luxury is the Melisse Suite, complete with fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows, for treatments à deux using oils infused with herbs and botanicals from the spa's garden. Afterwards, sip champagne while taking in the views – a truly glorious and healing sojourn and the very best type of couples therapy. Try the new Fleurs of Earth & Vine, a rejuvenating treatment that includes a warm cabernet mud mask for the body and a nourishing oil massage. Double rooms from $A899.

Botanique, Mantiqueria Mountains, Brazil

Botanique, built from local slate and salvaged timber, is set in subtropical forests. Dazzling deconstructions of traditional dishes combine with indigenous healing rituals: the Earth Journey kicks off with meditations on rainforest imagery in a salt flotation tank, spring-water showers, exfoliating muds and a native animal-touch massage. The sauna and isotonic pool both command ravishing views; get out into the world's purest air for mountain-biking, capoeira-kicking and horse-riding. Double rooms from $A619.

Sonnhof, Thiersee, Austria

Ayurveda in Austria? Unlikely as it may sound, that is what you will find at this value-packed, family-owned gem in the Tyrol. Brigitte Mauracher, the late wife of owner Johann, wanted to create a holistic hybrid: European Ayurveda. Her legacy lives on in this 30-room spa where the purist principle of Ayurveda identifies your "dosha", then focuses on foods to maximise your health and wellbeing. The Sonnhof's Swiss chef studied in India, cooking in the Ayurvedic style for temple monks, and his food is light, tasty and predominantly vegetarian/pescatarian. Classes and treatments – acupuncture and naturopathy to cupping and anti-ageing facials – follow a similar holistic pattern. Double rooms from $A212.

Amilla Fushi, Maldives

The Wellness Tree-House Retreat is the new must-book at this Miami-meets-Maldives vibe resort. You'll be 12m up, with your own cantilevered pool, sumptuous bedroom and personal spa room (if you want to get out of the shade and catch some rays, head up to the main pool). Bodyism personal trainers set a daily programme of two wellness "movements", such as lung-cleansing Hatha yoga at dawn or swinging off the TRX (a muscle-strengthening pulley system). In-(tree) house treatments include QMS collagen-boosting facials and muscle-melting massages. Double rooms from $A1678.

See: Traveller's review - luxury with a difference in the Maldives

Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy

Borgo Egnazia is a Pompeii-style mapping of villas, piazzas and pools on Italy's Puglian coast. Its Vair Spa, like the hotel, ticks the luxury list of flickering candlelight, trickling water and cocooning silence in a labyrinth of cream and natural textures, beautifully. Guest at Vair (meaning "true" in Apulian) can, of course, have a body massage or manicure, but they can also explore the sound of their voice with a musician, or have a facial that's more of a psychological journey than a mere pore-cleansing sensation. Either way, the therapists create real connections with guests. Double rooms from $A330.

Villa Stéphanie, Baden-Baden, Germany

This former royal residence's makeover has tapped into the zeitgeist of the frazzled guest, from rooms decked out in calming tones to de-stressing treatments. Embark on full-body analysis with Hans-Peter Veit, the peppy spa manager, qigong with a former kick-boxing champ, personal training, yoga, first-class physio massages and a hammam with a shipped-in specialist. The 400-calorie menu is not as deprivational as it sounds: beef consommé, Black Forest trout with spinach and potatoes, and apple cake and warm berries. Even the rooms allow you to switch off – literally. One button turns off the electricity; the other blocks out Wi-Fi signal, so you really can get away from it all. Clever. Double rooms from $A789.

Soukya, Bangalore, India

This holistic health centre on the outskirts of Bangalore – the first of its kind in the world and the brainchild of guru-to-the stars Dr Issac Mathai – offers oily Ayurvedic massage and more intensive purging treatments, as well as hydrotherapy and naturopathy using herbs from its tropical garden. The Duchess of Cornwall counts it among her favourite spa hotels. Soukya is not remotely luxe, but some of the comfy, shabby-chic rooms do have outdoor showers, and all have a private garden. Double rooms from $A262, full-board, including twice-daily yoga.

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

The Swiss have arguably the best health-care system in the world and this acclaimed thermal and medical spa sits alongside a historic hotel. It has more or less every medical expert going – get a new set of teeth, a full-on gynaecological screening complete with mammogram and ultrasound, or MOTs for eyes, heart and lungs, and oodles of dietary advice (or "metabolic optimisation", as they call it here). Even insomniacs are catered for: to improve your kip, experts will rig you up to sensors and note your every nocturnal nuance. Plus, there is also a relationship-restoring, stop-snoring package. Sound familiar? Double rooms from $A328.

Faena Hotel Miami, Miami Beach, USA

Miami gets a shot of South American vibrancy with this 11-room spa. It has a brilliant Mexican shaman, top-notch Colombian therapists and striking artwork from Juan Gatti, though from reception you gaze down to the pool and Damien Hirst's artwork of a 10,000-year-old gilded mammoth. Downstairs is party central, but holistic purity reigns up here. Book the Tree of Life treatment, which uses sound bowls to recharge even the most debauched of socialites. Rooms have been designed by film director Baz Luhrmann and his Academy-award-winning wife Catherine Martin and channel Great Gatsby glamour beautifully. Double rooms from $A999.

The Bulgari, London

The marble-clad subterranean spa ticks all the luxurious boxes you would expect in Knightsbridge. And now, as well as gold-walled vitality pools, you can enjoy first-class fitness with a Lee Mullins Workshop programme. A framework assessment with merciless fat callipers gives you nowhere to hide: analysing genes, movements, intolerances and metabolic rate to devise a personalised 28-page fitness programme. The ultra-spacious treatment rooms offer phenomenal ESPA, Swiss Perfection and age-defying acupuncture facials, plus an extensive menu of massages, naturopathy, osteopathy and reflexology. The experts here are varied and at the top of their field. Double rooms from $A1199.

See: Traveller's review of the Bulgari, London

Chiva Som, Thailand

This renowned spa has 23 newly designed rooms oozing contemporary style. A bespoke regime might include pilates, energy treatments with a healer, or group classes such as ashram-standard yoga and poolside pavilion tai chi. There is even a body-freeing gravity experience with Neurac, a suspension-based treatment. Double rooms from $A999 (minimum three-night stay).

Contributions from Sophie Benge, Mary Bemis, Linda Bird, Suzanne Duckett, Anthea Gerrie, Teresa Levonian Cole, Mary Lussiana, John O'Ceallaigh, Catherine Turner and Tom Yarwood

​The Telegraph, London

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