The rise of the wellness destination is unstoppable. In 2017 alone, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) reports that travelers spent $639 billion on 850 million wellness trips.[*]
And after the pause in international travel due to COVID-19, wellness travel will become more relevant than ever.
It makes sense. 77% of Americans say they've experienced physical symptoms related to stress, and it’s responsible for 75-90% of all visits to the doctor[*].
Stress results from (and is aggravated by) daily pressures, good and bad. So that you might want to get away from your day-to-day to relieve some of this stress and physically remove yourself from the pressures of your life isn’t surprising.
So we rounded up the best wellness destination for 2021 to help you unwind, relax and restore balance.
What is Wellness Tourism?
There are many types of travel. From adventure, luxury, backpacking, they’re not all the same.
Wellness is a focus on holistic health. So, wellness travel is about finding places that nurture all aspects of your being:
- mental health
- spiritual health
- emotional health
- physical health
- social health.
Discover Your Perfect Wellness Destination
We’ve rounded up the best-rated wellness destinations covering almost all corners of the globe. From Southeast Asia to the shimmering Mediterranean, the myriad wellness destination options out there each offer something different.
Best for: Mental health
It's not called the Isle of the Gods for nothing.
Bali manages to be mysterious and exotic, while remaining rooted in the modern world.
There are wellness retreats ad infinitum, with infinity pools overlooking sunset shows, plush Indonesian spas, and relaxing health and beauty treatments.
The hill town of Ubud has positioned itself on the forefront of Bali's wellness boom. Surrounded by cascading rice paddies and haunting Hindu shrines, it has hotels and retreat centers specifically focused on wellness travel.
Look for one with an onsite spa. Exotic treatments include:
- Water massages.
- Full-moon yoga classes.
- Balinese mud masks.
Even if you don’t stay in a wellness-specific accommodation, Bali (like Thailand) is well-known for it’s inexpensive massage and spa treatments, so you’ll find plenty just wandering the streets.
Top Place to Stay: Padma Resort Ubud. With nearly 2400 five-star reviews on TripAdvisor, this hotel in Ubud is perfect for the wellness traveler. Enjoy yoga, an onsite spa, beautiful pools and a gorgeous setting.
#2. The Dolomites
Best for: Physical health
Pure drama from peak to peak, the Dolomites are Instagram fodder extraordinaire.
As a wellness destination, they're primed to get the muscles a-pumping and the calories a-burning. You can launch all sorts of expeditions.
Hiking is the top pick. From day-long treks over glorious sections of the Alta Via 1 to solitary strolls in the woods, the trails are perfect for nurturing a closer connection to nature.
Just scratching the surface, being out in the wild has been said to help with[*]:
- Improved sleep.
- Prosocial behavior.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Greater happiness.
And when you pull off the hiking boots? Those traditional South Tyrolean hotel spas beckon with their steam rooms, saunas, and al fresco hot tubs.
Top Place to Stay: The Cacciatora Wellness & Beauty Hotel is tucked into the jagged peaks of the Val di Fassa. Hiking trails on the doorstep? Check. Tyrolean spa? Check. Charming chalet feel? Check.
Best for: Emotional health
Great food, slow travel, the soothing waters of the Aegean Sea… Greece is the perfect wellness destination.
The benefits of getting away from it all in the pastoral landscapes of southern Europe have been extolled since ancient times.
Hesiod believed the natural world was the embodiment of godly being. Homer waxed lyrical about nature in a way that fuses the holy and the mundane.
And the Greeks must be doing something right when it comes to wellness. On the island of Ikaria[*], an estimated 33% of the population live to be 90 or more!
There are retreats nestled in olive groves or remote valleys where the only sound is the clanging of goat bells. Others are out and out fitness camps, with morning workout routines and a focus on healthy eating.
Top Place to Stay: Santorini Princess. A top-rated hotel with an onsite spa in one of the most picturesque places in the world? Yes, please.
#4. Sri Lanka
Best for: Spiritual health
They call it the Teardrop of India, Sri Lanka is an island of jungled peaks and palm-fringed beaches.
Sri Lanka has all the mythology you'd expect of a South Asian nation. It’s a place where tales of demon kings from the Ramayana swirl around multi-colored Buddhist temples.
Wellness retreats are a relatively new thing in these parts, as the country was embroiled in a brutal civil war until 2009.
of the options hide up in the serene Central Highlands. Others are perched on rocky headlands above the Indian Ocean on the beautiful south coast.
There’s a heavy focus on Ayurvedic living and Buddhist rituals, so expect:
- Sunrise yoga
- Meditation classes
- Traditional massages
- Cooking lessons.
Top Place to Stay: Sigiriana Resort by Thilanka. Surround yourself with lush rice paddies and woods, filling days picking fresh mangoes in the orchards or visiting ancient Buddhist cave temples.
#5. Costa Rica
Best for: Emotional health
Pura Vida. Pure Life. So goes the motto of Costa Rica.
Regularly rated as one of the happiest nations[*] on the planet, this is surely one of the best places to go for a little fine tuning of the emotional valves.
Costa Rica is a patchwork of different environments, from the lush jungles of Monteverde to the smoke-spluttering cones of Arenal Volcano.
Wellness retreats in the wild include some seriously life-affirming experiences:
- Whale watching in the Ballena Marine National Park
- Hiking with capuchin monkeys in Corcovado National Park
- Explore primeval rainforests in Tirimbina.
And then come the active pursuits of Costa Rica. From surfing to whitewater rafting, there’s loads that promises to get the heart a-thumping.
Top Place to Stay: Samasati Yoga & Wellness Retreat. This resort in the jungle offers ‘rainforest therapy’. It’s an immersion in the forest that’s said to lower blood pressure and promote happiness.
Best for: Social health
Undulating hills spiked with slender cypress trees; honey-tinted towns with coffee-clinking piazzas; quaint churches and ruined barns; it can only be Tuscany.
This is one of the most famous regions in Europe for holidaymakers. But it's also boomed as a wellness destination in recent decades.
That's largely down to the success of the Italian agritourismo. They artfully straddle the boundary between the rustic and the five-star. Common features include:
- Located on a working farm
- Traditional interiors
- Swimming pools with a view
Guests can also get stuck into the cooking It's something rare and precious for travelers usually confined to the city; to get mud on their hands and smell fresh herbs in the garden.
Top Place to Stay: Agriturismo Belagaggio. Rural farmhouse with a terracotta-tiled pool meets earthy Italian home-cooking in this lovely escape.
Best for: Spiritual health
Ever since The Beatles went AWOL in Rishikesh, India has been on the map of yogis and wanderers.
There's just something raw about the mystery of the nation that's carved by the sacred Mother Ganga and gilded with the glittering Taj Mahal.
This land was the birthplace of Ayurveda and meditation, so it's certainly got the credentials to back up its umpteen wellness retreats.
Regions to watch out for: Goa and the Himalayas.
Both are different in their own way. The first is tropical vibes and stooping palms. It's about morning yoga sessions and healthy eating.
The second is quintessential spiritual retreat territory. Head to towns like Rishikesh and ashrams are on every corner. They offer immersion weeks or months that involve ritualistic mantra chanting, meditation, vows of silence, and cleansing dips in the ghats.
Top Place to Stay: Parmarth Niketan. Thousands of soul seekers visit this mystical yoga retreat overlooking the Himalayan foothills each year. Guests attend lectures on Vedic healing and join 15-day meditation programs.
Find the Destination Tailor-Made for You
Wellness destinations aren’t just about R&R and relaxation. Each has its own nuances, pros, and cons.
To make the most out of your rejuvenating break, you’ll first need to home in on the area of your holistic health that needs nurturing. Then, whittle down the wealth of escapes so you’re left with the options that will have the biggest positive effect on your wellbeing.