Global spa special: Hotel-spa hedonism
Jet-setters needs more from their rest stops than high thread counts and hipster mixologists. Here's your guide to the best international hotel spas.
ESPA life at the Corinthia Hotel, London, England
Where uncompromising glamour is in the DNA.
London is not a city that is shy of luxe hotels, but the Corinthia (corinthia.com) can cause even the most jaded urbanite to rethink his or her definition of exceptional. Let’s start with the numbers: The hotel cost an estimated $480 million to build; there are 294 rooms, including seven multi-level penthouses; and the 3,252-square-metre ESPA Life spa, which is spread over four floors, has 17 treatment pods and includes a nail stu- dio, a private spa suite, a hair salon (with Daniel Galvin himself at the helm) and a sleek gym that is far too sexy-looking to sweat in.
This is unabashed, unapologetic glamour. So much so that all aspects of willpower must be exercised in order to stop yourself from speed-dialing friends while not-so-discreetly holding up your camera phone and hissing “Look at it! The changing room has a gargantuan curved fireplace made from black Tunisian marble! The steel-and-glass ensconced vitality pool is like every ostentatiously outrageous thing in an R&B video but without the trashy swimsuit models! There’s a Harrods outpost down here, for goodness’ sake!”
As for treatments, the Indulgent Relaxation package is just that. Once you’ve been welcomed with a glass of champagne (and a two-course lunch, at your leisure), enjoy this three-and-a-half-hour session that includes a Cellular Hydration facial. (Your skin is coaxed out of its dry, dull state with a series of facial masks, a therapeutic herbal-poultice massage and copiously applied treatment oils.) Next up is a full-body exfoliation using Bora Bora sand, a hydrating body wrap and a soothing head-and-body massage with sandalwood, rose-geranium frankincense and sweet-almond oil. Definitely one for the beauty bucket list.
– Vanessa Craft
Amrita Spa & Wellness, Istanbul, Turkey
Where toxins—and troubles—are washed away.
Those with energy levels permanently set to snooze are in the right hands at Swissôtel The Bosphorus Amrita Spa & Wellness (swissotel.com/hotels/istanbul) in Istanbul. Strip down for a full-body scrub and shampoo, a.k.a. hammam scrub or Turkish bath, the ancient Turkish delight borrowed from the Byzantines, who, in turn, took the practice from the Romans.
It’s a ritual so sacred that traditional Turkish brides bathe their every wedding guest—a treatment so luxurious that North American copycats are popping up across the pond—but for newbies (mostly brave travellers at this Swissôtel) the antiquated hammam remains largely the same.
Start with five minutes of pore prep in a single-sized warm salt bath, and then move along Amrita’s candlelit corridors, past 14 treatment rooms in 4,000 square metres, to an oversized marble sanctuary. Here, and all in dignified silence, is the women’s bath, with room for two hammam-goers and their masseuses, who begin a 30-minute exfoliation like no other: With help from a firm hand and a soft glove, you will literally shed your skin. A soothing organic shampoo follows: A half-hour cleanse includes not just your hair but your whole body—tops of ears, backs of knees—engulfed in suds. A rinse of alternating warm and cool water, poured over your head by hand with ornate porcelain bowls, completes the best bath you’ll ever have. Cozy up in a crisp white towel and retreat to Amrita’s silent relaxation room, where waterbeds look up at a starry ceiling for meditative thought—like how lucky you are to find yourself in Istanbul, where a traditional Turkish bath at the cutting-edge Amrita Spa is the perfect juxtaposition of old world and new.
– Rosemary Counter
What are the spa secrets of Australia and St. Barts? Find out, on the next page…
Chi the spa, Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney, Australia
Where finding balance is a breeze.
Radiance can fall off the radar when you’re a sleep-weary new mom or a jet-lagged traveller. Help comes via the award-winning Chi spa at Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel (shangri-la.com/sydney/shangrila)—a denizen of calm with its enchanting views pitched at the foot of the city’s iconic Harbour Bridge. Even a quick read of the treatment menu (rituals are based on Australian healing techniques or the Five Elements Theory of balancing water, wood, fire, earth and metal to harmonize energy in the body) evokes a hazy feeling of bliss.
Within the soothing surrounds of dark-wood latticework and soft, moody lighting, guests are coddled in one of six suites, where an aroma steam shower is adjusted to preferred temperature and an infinity spa tub quietly bubbles. The Bush Honey and Macadamia Body Wrap (from $215) packs a revitalizing punch. A fragrant body scrub with lemon myrtle and eucalyptus, Australian native plants, is used to buff away dull skin. Then, warm, luscious goblets of bush honey, macadamia and pink clay are layered on, and the body is wrapped up to absorb the indigenous actives. After rinsing, lashings of regenerating cardamom lotion are massaged into the skin until it’s buttery soft and bouncy.
– Stephanie Epiro
The Boutique Spa at Hotel Carl Gustaf, St. Barts
Where the island itself is a spa.
Stepping off the eight-seat private plane onto St. Barts—a picturesque isle in the French West Indies—it’s immediately obvious that living in the real world is completely overrated. For a start, as you drive past the dazzling beaches and luxury yachts en route to the spa, you notice the posh corner shops: Hermès, Cartier, Chanel. Locals are downright gorgeous: Men, women and children are sun-kissed, bonny and beautiful—there’s definitely something in the crystal-blue water.
The opulent hilltop Hotel Carl Gustaf (hotelcarlgustaf.com)—which was named after the current King of Sweden and recently underwent a major facelift—creates a luxury playground for the well-to-do. (Free champagne on arrival, y’all!) The Boutique Spa is elegant and simple and announces its exclusivity with a sophisticated approach to beauty. Take its Valmont Vitality of the Glaciers facial, for example, which uses DNA extracted from salmon roe and Swiss glacial water to rejuvenate the skin. The highlight of the facial is in the application process, which uses Valmont’s unique “butterfly” technique—a combination of light tapping and paintbrush-like swirling strokes—to refresh and energize tired complexions. Post-treatment, expect to be so blissed out that your return ticket home ends up folded into the shape of a little sailboat and sent off to sea.
– Vanessa Craft
Learn where the spa with the best food is located, on the next page…
The spa at Beverly Wilshire, Los Angeles
Where food isn’t a four-letter word.
Talk about hedonism. At the spa at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire (fourseasons.com/beverlywilshire), the “Taste of Beauty by Natura Bissé” treatment oxygenates and exfoliates tired faces using Natura Bissé’s luxurious products and then indulges the senses during a decadent seven-course meal. At $1,470 per person (minimum of six guests), A Taste of Beauty makes you feel like a celebrity…while encouraging you to ignore credit-card statements.
The spa is sensual: dark-wood furnishings trimmed in cream and deep purple, dim lighting and vases of orchids in seemingly every corner. You begin in repose on a heated massage table and unwind with lemon-lavender-rosemary-and-sage aromatherapy. Next is carboxitherapy: a fizzy glycolic-and-carbon-dioxide peel that oxygenates skin. Then, revel in the bling with a diamond-dust-and-iron scrub. (The therapist uses magnets to remove the iron.) A cryo-lavender mask and a gentle massage infuse marine DNA into the face. The treatment ends with pepper-and-cardamom aromatherapy.
Slip into a fancy frock and get ready for dinner. Each course, says executive chef Gilles Arzur, mirrors the stages of the facial in flavour, colour and scent. First up is rhubarb salad with Pop Rocks (reminiscent of carboxitherapy’s tingle), followed by scallops over mint jelly with eucalyptus foam. Guests spray mint-and-vodka cocktail mist into one another’s mouths and then tuck into risotto croquettes served under a glass cloche. A honey-lavender sorbet comes prior to the sixth course: hay-smoked squab with clove-cardamom-and-pepper-spiced sauce. Dessert is a shimmering white-chocolate sphere filled with coconut-lime cake, limoncello croutons, yuzu foam and strawberry sorbet. Ka-ching.
– Amber Nasrulla