Alila Manggis, Bali
The ‘Happy Body & Soul Retreat’ at luxe resort Alila Manggis sees two ‘human potential’ trainers and wellness coaches lead participants on a journey towards a healthier and happier life. The wonderfully serene resort is set amidst a coconut grove on the peaceful east coast of Bali, and offers personal and group sessions with Leela and Frank (life coach gurus) focusing on sustainable self-healing techniques. Nestled between the sea and the majestic Mount Agung (Bali’s most sacred mountain), Alila Manggis blends contemporary design with traditional Balinese architecture, with a fabulous pool and the Seasalt Restaurant, set on a lotus pond. Guests can enjoy treatments at Spa Alila, featuring organic ingredients, plus visits to local experts including a healer and a holy man who shares his wisdom on ‘life balance’. The hotel is renowned for its cooking school, so it’s a treat for the stomach, too.
Book it: The seven-night/fi ve-day retreat costs from Dhs11,414 for singles and Dhs9,480 per person for doubles including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, transfers and four Alila ‘experiences’ (Alilahotels.com/manggis). Fly to Denpasar with Garuda (Garuda- Indonesia.com) from Dhs3,754 return.
Feel good factor: 9/10
Watermill at Posara, Italy
Enrich yourself on a getaway that combines relaxing amidst jawdroppingly beautiful surroundings with learning a new skill. This restored 17th century grain, chestnut and olive mill in the Tuscan countryside is running creative writing and painting courses. Guests stay in classic, simple-chic accommodation with millstream gardens, sun-drenched terraces and millstone tables for dining under the vines al fresco, in the pretty village of Posara. It doesn’t matter if you’re not exactly a JK Rowling or Michelangelo; the courses are suitable for amateurs and led by inspiring tutors. Meals featuring regional Italian cuisine - such as risotto with marjoram and zucchini and homemade tiramisu - are included at both the Watermill and local restaurants. When not donning a paintbrush or pen, venture into Florence - the hotel has an optional three-night Florence addon with a guide who promises to help guests find the best aperitivo in town.
Book it: A week-long course costs from Dhs6,510 per person including transfers from Pisa, tuition, seven nights’ accommodation, predinner aperitifs, all meals, local travel and a visit to either Cinque Terre or Lucca (Watermill.net). Florence add-on from Dhs3,314. Fly to Pisa with Air France (Airfrance.com) from Dhs2,458 return.
Feel good factor: 8/10
The Beach House, Goa
Leave the bright lights of Dubai, your frenetic lifestyle and your love of ladies’ nights behind and book yourself into The Beach House. Nestled at the end of a rustic lane, neatly positioned on the sand in beautifully manicured private gardens, this health retreat with a touch of posh holds a plethora of different lifestyle packages and will tailor schedules to suit your specific needs. Whether you want to learn how to manage your weight, de-stress, kick start your exercise routine or if you simply need time to think, each of their programmes will take your mind, body and soul and give them all a thorough cleanse, wipe down and cuddle leaving you ready to start anew. The team of lovely staff start working on you before you even arrive, asking you to fill out an extensive questionnaire that gives them an insight into your life and the changes that need to be made. Upon arrival you’ll begin with a medical examination where you’ll find out your ‘real age’ (scary stuff!), and then ensues a mix of yoga by the sea, healthy juices, spa treatments (the ayurveda massage is out of this world), therapy sessions, exercise classes and mini-lectures on all different aspects of health from looking after your liver to how to meditate to the science of happiness. You’ll leave lighter, brighter, filled with positive energy and with a packed folder of all that you’ve learnt. Bliss.
Book it: Retreats at The Beach House start at Dhs2,764. Air Arabia flies to Dabolim from Sharjah from Dhs2,329. Log onto thebeachhousegoa.com
Feel good factor: 10/10
Cliff House Hotel, Ireland
This five-star boutique hotel, carved into the rocky coastline near pretty-as-a-picture Waterford, has a resident ‘Anam Cara’ to help put a smile on your face. Anam Cara is the gaelic term for ‘Soul Friend’ and refers to a teacher or spiritual guide. Resident teacher Kate offers holistic sessions combining massage and guidance, designed to soothe the body and the soul (from Dhs460 for 50 minutes). Start your stay by reviving in the aptly named Well Spa, with Outdoor Bathing Experiences utilising good-enough-to-eat Voya products. The Seaweed Peat Bath starts with a full body scrub, then allows guests to soak for as long as they wish in a warm hot tub with Irish Seaweed, Peat and Ginger. Guests stay in characterful rooms and suites containing original Irish art and private terraces, and dine at The House restaurant, which has earned a Michelin Star for its inventive, modern Irish cuisine. When not unwinding in the spa or meeting with your Anam Cara, enjoy a drink in the nautical-style bar and perhaps try a spot of sea kayaking. One thing’s pretty much guaranteed: you’ll come back feeling more content than when you left.
Book it: Rooms from Dhs1,046 a night (Thecliffhousehotel. com). Fly to Dublin with KLM (Klm. com) from Dhs2,104 return, from where you can pick up a hire car to drive to Waterford.
Feel good factor: 9/10
Birkenhead House, South Africa
What could be more inspiring than witnessing one of nature’s greatest wonders first-hand? At Hermanus, an hour-and-a-half drive from Cape Town, southern right whales migrate along the coastline from May to December and can be spotted crashing their tails down onto the ocean’s surface and breaching dramatically. Base yourself at Birkenhead House, perched on a clifftop overlooking the Indian Ocean, with ultra-plush rooms fit for a queen and gorgeous fabrics, antiques and chandeliers. It is blissfully private and lulls guests into a peaceful state - perhaps aided by the honesty bar that tempts you to take your favourite tipple to bed. Take pensive beach walks, explore lush mountain trails and wallow in the sleek infinity pool, complete with postcard-worthy views. Top it off with a spa treatment: the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage (Dhs177 for 90mins) should be just what the doctor ordered. There’s also superb dining on the patio overlooking the ocean, or poolside in the courtyard. Just be sure to keep an ear out for the world’s only Whale Crier, who blows his kelp horn when whales are spotted along the sea route.
Book it: Rooms from Dhs1,125 per person per night (Birkenheadhouse. com). Fly to Cape Town with Emirates (Emirates.ae) from Dhs4,566 return.
Feel good factor: 9/10
Edenhouse, New Zealand
An elegant country house with just four thoughtfully furnished rooms tucked away in the Orinoco Valley at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, Edenhouse is a hidden gem with soul-enlivening scenery right on its doorstep. The Nelson/Tasman Bay region enjoys the most sunshine hours of anywhere in the country and boasts the awe-inspiring Abel Tasman National Park. The house has a sophisticated but relaxed ambience with landscaped gardens where you can easily find a quiet spot to read, blissfully undisturbed. You’re hosted in this picturesque valley (either in the main house or a cute garden cottage) by charming Bobbie and Peter Martin, assisted by their ‘GLO’ - or ‘guest liaison officer’ - friendly golden retriever Annie. Make time, too, for boutique wineries in the area such as Neudorf Vineyard, only a 15-minute drive from Edenhouse, in an idyllic setting for tastings and picnics.
Book it: From Dhs2,900 per night for a suite (Edenhouse.co.nz). Fly to Christchurch with Emirates (Emirates.ae) from around Dhs7,125, then to Nelson with Air New Zealand (Airnewzealand.com) from around Dhs1,100.
Feel good factor: 8/10
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam
Picture a cluster of villas with private pools accessible only by water, perched among boulders tumbling down into the sparkling ocean. Sounds like something out of a James Bond movie? Well, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is rather 007, with its sexy wooden retreats on stilts containing huge beds draped in billowing white cotton. It’s the ultimate place to go off-grid; a totally secluded hideaway in a dramatic bay in Southern Vietnam, with a dreamy, award-winning spa. The crystal clear waters and powder-soft sands give way to towering mountains, instantly providing weary souls with a pick-me-up. Feeling active? There are mountain walks, excursions to local villages, and adventure tours by motorbike. Back at the resort, there’s mouth-watering Vietnamese and International cuisine. If you feel like giving something back, a six-night package gives guests free nights in exchange for lending a hand at the local orphanage and helping clean the coral reef.
Book it: Scott Dunn (Scottdunn.com) has seven nights from Dhs14,620 per person in a Hilltop Pool Villa, B&B, including return flights.
Feel good factor: 8/10