3 Must-See Destinations for Wellness Travelers
- Published: Tuesday, May 5th 2015
- in Travel & Play
I have wanderlust. Just this morning I checked Instagram and daydreamed about my next exotic escape. A photo from my last vacation greets me every morning as my laptop screen saver. And I turn to HGTV’s House Hunter’s International when I seriously start contemplating about moving to a far-flung locale. Of course, it’s not just the destination that gets me excited, but the new wellness opportunities I’m bound to discover. When it comes time to book your next healthy escape, where should you start? These three must-see wellness destinations pack a healthy one-two-punch without too much additional effort on your part.
Immortalized as the ultimate wellness destination in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, there is more to Bali than meets the eye. The lush green rice fields, the fragrant scented air, and ever-present smiles of the Balinese people can be enough to send you into a state of euphoria, but stopping there would be a disservice to a culture – past and present – that exudes the philosophy of a complete wellness lifestyle. One of the best places in the world for people who follow a raw or vegan diet, make sure you set aside time to explore the food. You’ll fall in love with tempeh, rice for breakfast, and gado-gado; a seasonal fresh vegetable salad served with a side of peanut sauce.
Don’t jam pack your itinerary on this tiny island; instead give yourself plenty of free time and flexibility to be able to enjoy a local festival or village celebration. Almost any day of the week you’ll be able to find a temple festival, funeral, or family gathering that draws on the cultural traditions of the Hindu Dharma religion practiced on the island. Often open to outsiders by invitation only, make friends with the locals and tag along for a completely different cultural experience. Tradition in Bali also means that each village has a Balian (healer) ranging from medicine men to fortunetellers to mediums. A visit to a trusted and recommended healer is a cannot miss experience.
As the international home of the ubiquitous yoga retreat, it would be a shame not to take a class or two. From the magical open air setting of the Yoga Barn in Ubud to the Middle Eastern inspired Prana Spa in Seminyak, you’ll find some of the best expat yoga instructors taking up residents for months at a time. No need to bring your mat, there will be plenty to borrow wherever you land.
As the birthplace of yoga and meditation, India should be on the top of any wellness traveler’s bucket list. If you can cultivate the 8-limbs of yogic principles in a country of 1.2 billion people, then you have truly achieved a state of wellbeing. Practicing a state of present-centered-awareness and enjoyment in a place where you are never alone is key to enjoying your time this ancient land.
Rishikesh and Varanasi should be the first stops for spiritual seekers. Home to heaps of ashrams, Rishikesh bills itself as the “yoga capital of the world” and was put on the international travel map in the late 1960’s when the Beatles introduced the world to Transcendental Meditation. Here, at the base of the Himalayas, the sacred Ganges River flows and the likes of saints and sages have passed through on pilgrimages of their own. Go to pursue self-awareness, learn how to meditate, and connect with others on similar spiritual journeys.
Varanasi, the oldest living city in the world and also located on the Ganges, is devoted to death. Without being macabre, life is centered on the riverbank and those that die here are said to find salvation from the rebirth cycle. Ancient temples and burning ghats see activity around the clock and the early morning washing away of sins are a part of everyday life in Varanasi. Come here to confront your ideas of death, find the meaning of life, and celebrate everything that comes in between.
Head to the southwestern coast to the state of Kerala if Ayurveda, the science of life and longevity, is on your mind. People flock to the pristine beaches and tropical palms to imbibe in the oldest healthcare system in the world. Here many renowned resorts, such as Somatheeram and Kairali, have an Ayurvedic focus and can require a 14 to 30-day stay if you are working to cure a serious aliment. Kerala has the advantage of advanced education and sustainability practices that make this India’s highest state on the Human Development Index. Translation: fresh fruits, raw vegetables, and filtered water with Ayurvedic herbs will clear up any signs of Delhi belly that may have plagued you from previous Indian adventures.
Who wouldn’t want to visit a tropical destination home to the world’s most progressive government sustainability programs? Consistently rated #1 on the Happiness Index, Costa Ricans have high life satisfaction and high life expectancy rates. As a travel destination, Costa Rica has long attracted wellness seekers who head down for a visit and never leave making it a haven for yoga practitioners, energy healers, shamans, and surfer dudes.
Start off your healthy journey by exploring the Nicoya Peninsula. This Western Coastal area sports one of the world’s five Blue Zones, an area where life longevity along disease-free and disability-free living is at its peak. Spend some days surfing the waves at any number of Nosara’s famous beaches then journey further south to Santa Teresa and indulge in fresh fruit from the jungle’s trees along with a colorful plant-based diet rich in antioxidants.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous route, the country of Costa Rica possesses six active volcanoes and 61 dormant ones just begging to be explored. The central highlands boast cloud forests, which are derived from the surrounding mists. And nowhere else in the world will you find some many animal habits in such a small area. Over 850 species of birds and 260 animal species have been reported throughout the country. With an expensive network of national park and wildlife refuges it you’ll be hard pressed to make a dent in the list after just one visit.