There's nothing quite like the onset of winter to make us crave a week away. Add in a busy season ahead and all of a sudden body, mind and soul are all in urgent need of a boost.
Jo Foley uncovers the pampering, detoxing, relaxing and rejuvenating breaks - with a smattering of shopping?that will get you prepped for the silly season.
A short flight, sunshine and warmth are enough to make anybody feel better in the dreary days of autumn. However, add in a good dollop of luxury, one indoor and three outdoor swimming pools, lavishly landscaped gardens, four restaurants, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, and a pampering spa, and you've got the feel-good factor all sewn up.
Add to that, if you play golf, there are 60 nearby courses to choose from; while on a clear day, you can see Africa, and should you need to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, then the boutiques and markets of Marbella are just ten minutes away. The Kempinski Bahia Hotel in Estepona, above, is offering a pampering package for €850 for three nights, which includes a signature massage and facial, two sunrise yoga sessions, one personal training session, a tour of the organic fruit and vegetable garden, and a consultation with the resident nutritionist. (And by the way, you can get caviar for breakfast).
Head for the pink Vidago Palace, in the Tras-os-Montes, left, near Portugal's northern border with Spain, for your own special detox retreat. It was originally commissioned by King Carlos of Portugal in 1908 as a private pleasure palace for the royal family and their guests, in an area famed for the therapeutic effects of its mineral water.
They never got to stay there, as the revolution erupted the day before it opened. However, its opulence and luxury were not lost, and it becameahotel for Europe's royals and aristocrats. Newly restored to its former glory, it now has a spectacular spa, which is a vision in white marble; but most of all, it has the waters, the reason the location was chosen in the first place.
For this water has the highest mineral content of any in Europe, as it takes ten years to filter to the surface through layers of granite, picking up all the minerals along the way - it even comes out of the ground slightly fizzy.
Book yourself in for the four-night package and wallow in luxury as you indulge in a Vichy scrub, bespoke slimming and detox treatments, and a special beauty flash facial. Explore the grounds by foot or bicycle, or enjoy the 18-hole golf course, but most of all, relax. The package costs €230, and accommodation is from €140 per night.
Everybody loves the Algarve - the wide-open spaces, the great beaches, the rolling Atlantic, and sunshine throughout the year. And then there is the Vilalara Thalassa Resort, right. High on a cliff, it is queen of all it surveys, and it is one of the best thalassotherapy resorts in Europe.
By their very nature, thalassotherapy spas are always on the coast, as they use unpolluted seawater pumped directly from the sea. The water is collected from a depth of up to 37 metres to ensure maximum purity and the highest concentration of mineral salts, algae, marine mud and iodine. It is then heated to body temperature and subjected to strict filtering controls before being used in treatments.
Its effectiveness is due to the fact that it is very close to human plasma in density and has many of the same components, which makes absorption so much easier. Treatments include mudpacks, seaweed wraps, water jet massages, warm and cold seawater pools - all have their benefits, depending on what you need, from simple relaxation to postnatal toning and cellulite reduction, and helping alleviate back and joint problems or circulation problems.
They are also immensely energising and enjoyable. Vilalara offers a Discover Thalassotherapy programme for three, four or five nights from €959, which includes a medical consultation, four treatments a day, and transfers from Faro Airport. To book, contact Healing Holidays.
Spa in Style
Give yourself an early Christmas present, and feel great too. Ski, spa, snow and shop - what's not to like? The ?ber-cool Hotel Tannenhof - just seven suites of unparalleled luxury with amazing views across the Arlberg Massif, above, in one of Austria's most exclusive ski destinations - has a fantastic three-day pre-Christmas Pamper Package.
This cracker includes three nights full board, champagne and canap's on arrival, a six-course detox dinner, a seaweed wrap and body scrub in the spa, a two-day ski pass for the entire Arlberg region, and transport to and from Innsbruck, where you can shop ?til you drop at its four Christmas markets. All of this for €5,560 for two people.
Right slap in the middle of the Val d?Orcia is the pretty thermal town of Bagno Vignoni and the Adler Thermae Spa Hotel, full of warmth, style and do-good therapies. While Tuscany is stunning in summer, winter brings its own golden beauty; plus, it's less crowded (and cheaper). The Adler Thermae offers a special Winter Detox programme for three, four or seven nights. If you can, opt for the seven-night version, and take a sneaky away day to Florence for a spot of shopping.
Otherwise, just lie back and enjoy days dedicated to relaxation and cleansing. The programme includes a medical check-up, a personal nutrition profile and bespoke detox menu, mud wraps, toning treatment, balancing massages, private coaching lessons, breathing classes, alongside unlimited access to the thermal pools (37?C), Turkish bath, saline steam room, herbal caldarium infused with Tuscan herbs, and the Finnish sauna out on the lake. Prices from €1,537-?2,247.
Arm yourself against the season of colds and flu by booking into the Mayr Clinic on the shores of Lake Worthersee in southern Austria for its special Winter Vitality programme, which helps boost the immune system.
The Mayr Clinic is renowned for its detox programmes based on the teachings of Dr FX Mayr, which concentrate on the digestion and the working of the gut. Mostly, the programme is based on giving the digestive system a rest with gentle foods and broths, Epsom salts each morning, and the direction to chew each mouthful 42 times.
Add to this various detox massages and treatments alongside acid/alkaline analysis, vitamin D status, and a number of immune infusions and medical herb inhalations, all of these prescribed after an initial consultation with the doctors. From €2,731.
Michel Gu?rard is the man who invented cuisine minceur - gourmet food with all the bad bits removed?and who changed the way almost a whole generation cooked and ate. Of course, he has a three-star Michelin restaurant at Les Pr's d?Eug?nie, with food to die for; but he also has a spa, which is designed, run and overseen by his wife and two daughters, with serious medical assistance from doctors and sybaritic spa treatments from a dedicated staff.
The town Eug?nie-les-Bains has all the elegance of old-style French thermal spa centres with the Gu?rard imprint of excellence. You could, of course, just go for a blow-out, but why not instead treat yourself to La Grande Cuisine Minceur, a seven-night special of delicious, healthy food and 24 thermal treatments, which include clay mud baths, underwater jet sessions, where all the flabby bits get pummelled, mud wraps and jet showers. All for €1,990 full board (until December 18). And the best bit? You do get one festive dinner.
For those wishing to get fighting fit for the party season, Simply Healing's Essential Juice Detox will harness your energy, get rid of unwanted toxins, and help you look the part. It is a five-day plan, but you can extend it to seven or ten days, and includes a one to one consultation with owner and healer
Vivien Kay, freshly prepared juices throughout the day with specialist detox soups and potassium broth, and a selection of treatments from a colonic to a salt scrub, massage to country walks.
You will also get nutritional guidelines, supporting supplements, guided meditation and great comfort, all in the luxury of an 18th century manor house in the Sussex Downs. This is a serious detox, so much so that you will be sent a to-do list before you set out, advising you to cut certain things from your diet in the days before you leave, approx. €1,870 (?1,455) per person.
This article originally appeared in IMAGE's November 2014 issue, make sure to check out the December issue, which is on shelves now.
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