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Places to Visit for a Wellness Vacation

We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.

A wellness vacation is a restorative tonic for mind, body, and soul — an opportunity to relieve stress and renew energy. The ideal escape provides inspiring surroundings where travelers can focus on health, outdoor activity, mindfulness, and serenity. With lavish spas and rustic retreats, a wellness destination can provide a much-needed respite from the nonstop pace of modern life. Here are 11 standout places to unwind and connect with what’s truly most important — physical and mental well-being.

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Ischia, Italy

Aerial view of Ischia island, at the Gulf of Naples in Italy.
Credit: alxpin/ iStock

This small volcanic island is one of the most picturesque in the Bay of Naples. Known as “the Green Isle,” Ischia has sandy beaches in addition to a wealth of geothermal resources. Natural hot springs abound on the island, including the rock pools of Sorgeto Bay and at developed parks and gardens such as Poseidon. (When seeking lodging, look for “terme,” which indicates that a facility has its own spring source.) In addition to stunning scenery and mineral-rich soaks, visitors are nourished by fresh seafood, olive oil, and produce — all components of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

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Maui, Hawaii

View of the ocean and mountains in Maui, Hawaii.
Credit: wingmar/ iStock

Known for its sandy, swimmable beaches and lush landscapes, Maui is also home to numerous wellness retreats. Visitors can indulge in spa treatments using local ingredients like ginger, ti leaf, papaya, and heated volcanic stones. The Hawaiian island provides endless opportunities for physical fitness, too — from hiking and mountain biking to water sports. Visitors can also connect culturally with meditative activities like hula dancing and lei-making.

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Tulum, Mexico

View of the beautiful turquoise water and avboat in Tulum, Mexico.
Credit: Csondy/ iStock

Miles of stunning sand are just one of the many draws of this fishing village-turned-global-hotspot. Visitors can greet the sun with beachside yoga and spend the afternoon snorkeling in aquamarine waters. Spa treatments feature soothing Mayan clay and tropical fruits. If you have the opportunity, experience a temazcal, a traditional steam bath led by a Mayan healer.

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Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand

A cable car going above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu in the Mountains of New Zealand.
Credit: primeimages/ iStock

New Zealand is one of the adventure sports capitals of the world, so it’s no surprise wellness activities lean toward the active. They run the gamut from peaceful to exhilarating: hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, bungee jumping, and more. River-fed and pristine, Lake Wakatipu is surrounded by glacier-capped peaks — conducive to meditative contemplation of the region’s beauty after an adventure-filled day.

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Ubud, Bali

A woman walking on Campuhan Ridge in Bali, Ubud on a calm sunny morning.
Credit: ljubaphoto/ iStock

Nicknamed “the island of the gods,” Bali's island landscape is infused with grace and beauty, and Ubud is its spiritual epicenter. The area has a plethora of spas and healing eco-retreats amidst a thriving yoga community. Beyond yoga, massage, and meditation, visitors can trek to waterfalls, ride bicycles to rice paddies, tour coffee plantations, and explore magnificent temples and palaces.

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Kochi, Japan

A clear stream of water surrounded by mountains in Kochi, Japan.
Credit: yoshimi maeda/ Shutterstock

This forested prefecture on Japan’s Shiku Island juxtaposes a crashing coastline, wind-carved mountains, and calm rivers. Forests of bamboo and fern-dripped waterfalls create a serene and rejuvenating atmosphere. After days of visiting temples, forest bathing, cycling, or kayaking, visitors can relax in mineral-rich water at one of the many local onsens — traditional Japanese guest inns centered around hot springs.

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Ojai Valley, California

Los Padres National Forest in Ojai Valley, California.
Credit: Ventu Photo/ Shutterstock

Located 90 minutes by car from Los Angeles, Ojai Valley was settled by the Chumash Native Americans, and has long been considered a powerfully spiritual area. Hiking trails (both relaxed and challenging) and gorgeous scenery are complemented by spas, meditation, and yoga studios. The Ojai Certified Farmers Market is a Sunday must for delicious, healthy food and handmade gifts.

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Budapest, Hungary

An outdoor thermal spring in Budapest, Hungary.
Credit: majicphotos/ Shutterstock

Hungary holds a wealth of thermal springs, with more than 100 in Budapest alone. The capital houses them in opulent temples dedicated to health and wellness. Some of these impressive spas in the “City of Baths” were built during the height of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries. Hot and cold pools, steam rooms, and saunas make the city an international center for water-focused wellness.

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Dharamshala, India

Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Flags in Dalai Lama Temple in McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamshala.
Credit: Hailshadow/ iStock

Mindfulness and meditation are hallmarks of Tibetan Buddhism, and Dharamshala is currently its spiritual home. The Dalai Lama and his exiled government are based there, and lucky visitors can experience his teachings when he’s at his temple. There’s a world-renowned meditation center with daily classes as well as silent retreats. Hike in the surrounding Himalayan highlands and nourish both body and soul with Ayurvedic treatments and cuisine.

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Sedona, Arizona

The Cathedral Rock reflection in a rain pool in Sedona, Arizona.
Credit: DOUGBERRY/ iStock

Widely regarded as a “vortex” for spiritual energy, this desert gem is undeniably magical for its natural beauty alone. Glowing sandstone formations jut red against vast blue skies, providing a majestic backdrop for hiking, biking, yoga, and meditation. Oak Creek Canyon is a lovely retreat with a 50-foot natural water slide, and the region boasts many spas and wellness centers for a healthy dose of pampering.

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Guanacaste, Costa Rica

A popular picnic spot and swimming hole at Llano de Cortes waterfall.
Credit: lightphoto/ iStock

With a national slogan that translates to “the good life” (pura vida), Costa Rica is perhaps the prototypical wellness destination — marked by lush rainforests, abundant wildlife, and tranquil beaches. The Guanacaste coast, in particular, offers a surplus of pura vida. Here, yoga and meditation retreats, jungle treks, surfing, and hikes to waterfalls and volcanos fill days with serenity and healthful activity before star-filled evenings.

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