Healing Holidays: Wellness Breaks to Refresh and Invigorate
Find your zen with yoga, hiking and healing treatments
While coming back from a trip often means stepping off the plane a few pounds heavier, sunburned and perhaps a little worse for wear (the phrase 'It’s five o’clock somewhere' really does take on new significance on holiday), this doesn’t have to be the case. Taking a wellness-centred break offers the chance to relax and recharge, detox and return home more mentally robust. We here at Plum Guide can't get enough of them. Whether it’s enjoying an almond oil massage in Lisbon or the exhilaration of surfing in Tel Aviv, these healing holidays are restorative, health-giving and, on occasion, just a little bit indulgent.
Perfect your downward-facing dog in Barcelona
When it comes to combining culture and wellness, Barcelona is hard to beat. The cosmopolitan Catalan capital is a regional yogi hub and home to a plethora of studios – meaning you can spend the morning at the Sagrada Familia or exploring the Barri Gotic, and the afternoon immersed in vinyasa or ashtanga.
Age may be just a number, but the fact that Yoga Studio Barcelona is one of the city’s longest-running studios is testament to its quality and loyal following. Set at Plaça Universitat – and therefore easy to combine with a visit to the vibrant La Boqueria market – Yoga Studio Barcelona offers a packed schedule of yoga classes, which range from advanced Kundalini to sessions for absolute beginners. Running until 10pm, a number of the studio’s classes are offered in English.
For a more tranquil urban yoga retreat, we recommend heading to the charming Poble-sec neighbourhood, nestled in the foothills of Montjuïc and famed for its elegant 19th-century architecture. Here you will find what might just be Barcelona’s most beautiful yoga studio – The Garage by Verónica Blume. Fashion model and actress Verónica swapped the catwalk for the yoga mat, and has created an idyllic studio space: expect plenty of exposed brick and beams, parquet floors, greenery and muted pastel tones. Yin, ashtanga, and vinyasa are all on the cards here, with many classes offered in English.
Experience Portuguese-inspired spa treatments in Lisbon
The epitome of relaxation, a visit to the spa is what many have in mind when thinking about the ultimate healing holiday. Known for its pastéis de nata and colourful tiles, Lisbon is emerging as one of Europe’s best destinations for a spa break. Treatments here have a local flavour: think facials infused with antioxidants from the local wine crop, massages with almond oil and horse chestnut, and scrubs packed with sea salt and citrus. Try the 'Portuguese Retreat' at The Spa at the Four Seasons Ritz Hotel – including a honey and almond exfoliation treatment – or head into the surrounding countryside to L’and for vinotherapy treatments straight from the area’s vineyards.
Hit the hiking trails in Los Angeles
Sometimes it’s ok to lean into stereotypes, especially when it means getting close to nature while admiring views over the City of Angels. Beyond spotting celebrities on Rodeo Drive and catching some rays on Venice Beach, a break in LA is a chance to partake of a quintessential Californian pastime: hiking. Complementing its diverse landscape and near-perfect weather throughout the year, the city is blessed with an extensive selection of walking trails – for residents of a famously unwalkable city, Angelenos sure do enjoy a good hike.
Efficiency is the name of the game in Griffith Park, where you can hike while ticking two iconic landmarks off your must-see list – start your adventure near the Griffith Observatory (of La La Land fame) before heading northwest to spy the Hollywood sign. To escape the city without, in fact, leaving the city limits, explore the 36 miles of trails at Topanga Canyon State Park and take in ocean vistas over Malibu. Anyone keen to ignore the sage advice of TLC in their 90s classic 'Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls' would do well to venture into the Angeles National Forest, home to the Switzer and Trail Canyon Falls. After a day on your feet, there’s nothing better than returning to a welcoming, well-appointed home – Plum Guide’s home critics have curated a selection of exquisite LA homes to ensure that every hike is followed by a restful night’s sleep.
Surf’s up in active Tel Aviv
For some, healing holidays mean a chance to slow down. For others, a sense of wellness is found in exhilaration. If a city break with a generous dose of adrenaline is more your cup of tea than a luxurious spa day, seek out the golden sands and thrilling surf of Tel Aviv’s beaches, and experience a more high-octane approach to connecting with nature. Among your best bets for catching a break in this happening city is Maravi beach (also known as Manta Ray beach) in the south of the city, just before Jaffa, which usually boasts decent waves even when the rest of the area’s popular surfing spots are relatively calm. Alternatively, check out what is known as Tel Aviv’s very own 'mini California' at Hilton Beach, which enjoys one of the best reef breaks in the whole country, thanks to the two jetties that protect the waves. To increase your holiday’s wellness credentials, while browsing Tel Aviv’s hallmark Bauhaus architecture stop by at one of the city’s ubiquitous juice stands for a pomegranate juice or a smoothie rich with local flavours like tahini, honey and halva.
Embrace the Mediterranean diet in Rome
Characterised by plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is heralded as a (quite literal) recipe for health. With famous dishes including cacio e pepe pasta and rich supplì risotto balls, a food tour of the Italian capital may not seem the obvious choice for health-seekers, but the city is packed with eateries offering organic, vitamin-packed and locally sourced bites with a distinctly Mediterranean flavour. Central to this is the use of high quality olive oil, which has been an essential foodstuff (along with serving a range of other purposes, including as a massage oil and perfume ingredient) since ancient Rome. Where better to sample some of the world’s finest olive oil than Rome itself? While there’s no shortage of options for olive oil tasting in and around Rome, we recommend booking in for an Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting with Local Aromas. Guided by an olive oil 'sommelier', you will tour Italy through your tastebuds, sampling the rich variety of oils that reflect the country’s distinct regional climates and soils. Set close to the Galleria Borghese, an olive oil tasting with Local Aromas is one way to turn your Roman city break into a healing holiday.
Combine fine wine and nature therapy in Porto
Wellness doesn’t need to mean depriving yourself. Besides, many studies suggest the health-giving properties of wine and it would be foolish, surely, to doubt the advice of the experts. With this in mind, pitch up in the northern Portuguese city of Porto and enjoy a day trip into the nearby Douro Valley – a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world. Here a spectacular landscape of steep verdant terraces, adorned with vines and dotted with wineries known as quintas, contrasts with the dazzling blue hues of the River Douro and provides fertile ground ripe for both winemaking and walking. Stop by a quinta or two – we love Quinta do Vallado for a stop not too far from the city, or Quinta do Tedo slightly further afield – for a tasting, and perhaps even a chance to join in the grape harvest.