dusk with a swimming pool and single storey hotel with orange glow

Nature Nurture: Wild Retreats for Wilderness Immersion

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Immerse yourself in the wildest natural hideaways and disconnect to reconnect

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Sometimes we just need to get away from it all – and a wild retreat, detached from the rest of the world, can be a great way to improve wellness. If you’re looking to be nurtured by nature, here is the C&TH guide to the best wild retreats for doing so…

For a Life-Changing Island Adventure: The Aerial, British Virgin Islands

Aerial view of Waterlemon Cay on St. John, Virgin Island with the island of Tortola in the Britsh Virgin Islands in the distance.

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This super cool private island retreat is not only seriously beautiful but deeply transformative. Owned by 34-year-old Nashville-based entrepreneur Britnie Turner (see her website, britnieturner.com, for more info). The Aerial is a place to ‘connect back to nature, find your breakthrough, stay present.’ Mexican-chic bedrooms with stunning sea views blend seamlessly into surroundings; food is farm-to-table, created with produce from the island. There’s sailing, loads of water sports (try glow-in-the-dark paddle boarding) and a roster of wellness treatments. Most interesting of all are Britnie’s Elevate Summits. Based around five core pillars – Dream, Abundance, Presence, Strength, Love – these life coaching courses focus on making sure you are fulfilled in every area of your life. And they don’t hold back. You’ll even find yourself writing your own eulogy to help you work out what you truly want in life. 

BOOK IT: Rent the entire island from £30,500 per night. aerialbvi.com

For a Sacred Himalayan Exploration: The Happy House, Nepal

A mountain at dawn

The aptly-named Happy House (so-called by explorer Edmund Hillary) is a heartwarming, peaceful haven where nature and nurture happily cohabit. Set in the quiet Nepalese village of Phaplu, this 10-bedroom private Sherpa home, embellished with prayer flags, can be booked out exclusively or by the room. Days take shape around individual preferences and tend to begin with yoga and meditation before a generous breakfast of porridge, seasonal fruits, fresh juices, coffee and ginger tea under the blossom tree. There’s a choice of alluring walks – through holy forests, river beds, ancient yak trade routes and rhododendron-filled paths to Tibetan monasteries, or, for those seeking something more intrepid, a three-day camping trip to Pikey Peak reveals magnificent panoramas of the eastern Himalayas. Time feels indulgently slow. Browse the library, enjoy candle-lit massages in the Mongolian yurt, or share stories by the roaring fire before a hearty meal by chef Mingmar. The real beauty here is the inherent generosity, charm and kindness of host Ang Tshering and his team, who make guests feel at home from the moment they arrive and ensure their hearts are full by the time they leave. 

BOOK IT: Rooms from £405 including all activities. happyhousenepal.com

For a Glamorous Greek Escape: Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa

A private villa with a pool overlooking the sea

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You won’t find a better spot for a sundowner than the Akratos Bar at Santo Maris, with a front seat ticket to the best sunset in town. The approach to wellbeing here is light, bright and breezy with a dash of Santorini rosé. An immaculately whitewashed enclave is nestled among 30 acres of Grecian fig trees, hibiscus, and herb gardens brimming with aloe, thyme and lavender – all of which end up on your plate. Vinyasa and hatha yoga soothe the central nervous system and simple touches in the suites include private hydromassage pools, oil diffusers and journals. The highlight is a five-hour bike ride to the neighbouring island of Thirassia where you can discover smaller, unexplored villages and enjoy a picnic lunch under a tree. Reconnect to both land and sea.

BOOK IT: Wellness Suites from €885 per night, (minimum four nights). santomaris.gr

For a Rainforest Switch-Off: The Well at Hacienda AltaGracia, Costa Rica

A spa pool with windows overlooking the forest

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As Costa Rica’s jungle wakes up, flocks of birds squabble and squawk. Then the monkeys start: hooting and barking. Welcome to Hacienda AltaGracia, Auberge Resorts Collection in the foothills of the Talamanca Mountains. This is the first international branch of The Well, the acclaimed New York wellness retreat. In the morning, after meditation and yoga classes, walk with knowledgeable guides in ancient cloud forests, sucking in forest air and bathing in crisp river pools. In the afternoons, heated marble slabs warm your muscles before a float in the pool surrounded by greenery or invigorating horseback ride through coffee plantations. By evening, indulge in a massage with wooden tools used by women here for generations. What we need is to unplug from electrics, breathe in forest air and sleep deeply. To live well – which is what The Well is all about. 

BOOK IT: Doubles from $5,640 for five nights. aubergeresorts.com

Find Your Element

Like star signs, spa treatments centre on the four elements: earth, wind, air and fire. Different treatments suit different people – find your element with these retreats.

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Water: RewildRestore, Greece

Mexican-American artist Patricia Garcia-Gomez shares the restorative powers of the Aegean Sea at RewildRestore. Set amid the unquestionable beauty of Koufonisi, a tiny Cycladic island, this is a place where time seems to slow down and connect you back to yourself. Expect soul-feeding morning swims, adventures to hidden places, time and space to just be, and beautifully fresh Cyclades-sourced meals. rewildrestore.com

Sunset over MEA Baja Campus

Fire: Fire Ceremony, MEA, USA 

Nestled on the beachfront of Baja, California, the Modern Elder Academy (MEA), the world’s first midlife wisdom school, offers sabbaticals and workshops dedicated to living a life that is as deep, meaningful and purposeful as it is long. Integral to the programmes is the fire ceremony, where students gather around the firepit at sunset to examine their mindsets, habits, obligations and ways of being that no longer serve, before writing down and burning the baggage they want to release. modernelderacademy.com

a white bridge over a water meadow

Air: Thyme, Cotswolds

Drawing on her years working as an obstetrician, Caryn Hibbert, founder of Thyme, knows just how powerful breathing techniques can be for managing pain and stress. The recently opened Botanical Bothy offers specific treatments combining diaphragmatic breathing, pressure-point massage and jade combing to destress deeply exhausted bodies and minds. thyme.co.uk

Image courtesy of Sussie Bell

dusk with a swimming pool and single storey hotel with orange glow

Earth: Habitas Alula, Saudi Arabia

Rest comes easily at this pristine 96-room, low impact eco lodge, with tent-like suites snaking along the desert sands, as does pure alchemical nourishment, courtesy of the nearby native Moringa tree whose roots, leaves and seeds continue to nourish the local communities in an area where organic is the only way. Sleeping under those same bright stars that have safely guided the ancient Bedouins, you naturally start to blend into their drumming heartbeat and connect with your spirit. ourhabitas.com

Two people in orange suits floating in a pool of ice

Ice: Ice Floating, Val D’Isere

While the Brits have been championing wild swimming, Val d’Isere has taken things one freezing step further with ice floating on the glistening Ouillette Lake. Originated from Finland, this teeth-chattering activity is celebrated for boosting endorphin levels, stimulating blood circulation and relieving pain. Don one of the bright red dry suits (you’ll look like a lobster but it means you don’t feel cold), then slide into the crystal-clear waters and float freely while soaking up the spectacular mountain scenery. evolution2.com

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Keen hikers will love Buxton Crescent’s super revitalising Peak Health in the Peak District programme (ensanahotels.com). It combines privately guided, invigorating local hikes with altitude-focused treatments at this Georgian masterpiece’s show-stopping spa, which uses mineral-rich Buxton water straight from the ground. 

Also brilliant for embracing the Great Outdoors is Tudor Farmhouse in the splendid Forest of Dean (tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk). Originally a 13th century working farm and now known for its culinary prowess, this charming boutique hotel offers wonderful forage-then-feast culinary experiences led by impressive names including Liz Knight (one of the country’s top wild food experts) and BBC star and ‘wildlife detective’ Ed Drewitt. 

Down by the Cornish coast, St Michaels, with its lovely new beach villas and recent addition of a spectacular spa, is pushing the boat out with a series of new coastal wellness retreats – think wild swimming, yoga, paddle boarding and restorative Pilates (stmichaelsresort.com). 

Or plump for one of Zest Life’s fabulous yoga and wild swimming retreats at stylish country house Plas Cadnant in Anglesey where all your stress is washed away by the crisp, clear waters (thezestlife.co.uk).

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