Ayurveda, a system of holistic medicinal and therapeutic practices that originated in India, is making its way across the world.
Famous for its luxurious oil massages, Ayurveda’s ancient system of medicine uses thousands of natural ingredients. Popular with Westerners, Ayurveda is an effective way to fight chronic illness, burn-out, depression, and obesity. The foundation for all the cures is Panchakarma, a series of five treatments designed to detoxify the body. The first three, Virechana (gut cleansing), Nasya (sinus cleansing), and Vasti (herbal enemas), can be found at most authentic Ayurveda spas; the other two, Raktha Mokshana (blood-letting) and Vamana (vomiting) are practiced rarely. While India is the birthplace of Ayurveda, you don’t need to go all the way across the world to try it. Try out a detox at one of these amazing spas.
Top Picks for You
Hotel Alpino Atlantico
WHERE: Madeira, Portugal
With only 27 rooms, the Hotel Alpino Atlántico is ideal if you are seeking peace and quiet. Located atop a cliff on Madeira’s south coast, rooms have mesmerizing views of the Atlantic. The Ayurveda Center, Refugio dos Sonhos, offers Panchakarma supervised by two qualified doctors from India, with cooking classes, yoga, and meditation included. Shirodhara and Abhyanga (oil body massage) can be booked individually and use oils made with herbs from the hotel’s garden. Nearby Garajau National Marine Park is known for its diving and snorkeling.
WHERE: Punta de Mita, Mexico
Villa Ananda is a breezy villa on the beach in Bahia de Banderas, an area renowned for world-class snorkeling, diving, and surfing. It offers the traditional Ayurveda detoxification program, Panchakarma, for five, six, or seven days. Treatments include skin brushing, herbal colon cleanses, Shirodhara (oil poured on the forehead), and Pizhichil (oil poured on the body). Food, accommodation, and yoga classes are included in the price. When you’re not having a treatment, the gorgeous beach and surf are moments away.
Begnas Lake Resort
WHERE: Pokhara Valley, Nepal
Built from stone, Gurung-style, and situated on the shores of Begnas Lake, Begnas Lake Resort is an authentic Nepalese retreat with spectacular views of the Annapurna. Three Ayurveda packages are available: Rejuvenation, Purification, and Immunization, which can be taken for one, two, or three weeks. The climate of the Himalayas is ideal for growing the herbs and vegetables used in Ayurveda, something reflected in the food menu, which features interesting salads, curries, daal, and thukpa (a Tibetan noodle soup) made with local and homegrown ingredients. You can hire a boat, swim in the lake, practice in the open-air yoga shala, or take a dip in the spring water swimming pool. Hike in the surrounding countryside and you might be lucky enough to encounter some of Nepal’s hill people from the Gurung, Ghale, and Magar tribes.
WHERE: Bali, Indonesia
If you are looking for privacy in sumptuous surroundings, then Sukhavati, a secluded resort among rice paddies and forests, could be the destination for you. Accommodation is in eight traditional villas, three of which have their own pool. Ayurveda packages range from a one-day taster to a 21-day rejuvenation program supervised by Dr. Mithun Raju, who comes from a long line of Ayurvedic physicians. Treatments such as Svedana (steam therapy) and Pizhichil (oil body massage) can also be booked individually. There is twice-daily yoga, cycling, and walking in the nearby countryside and rice fields.
WHERE: Traben-Trarbach, Germany
Northern Europe’s love of health and wellness has led to the emergence of several top European Ayurveda spas. Ayurveda Parkschloesschen is a five-star hotel in Traben-Trarbach, a picture-postcard town on the Moselle River. Completely focused on wellness through Ayurveda, the hotel offers one, three, and five-day breaks, and Panchakarma. The varied treatment menu includes Udvartana (lymphatic massage with herbal paste) and Garshan (massage with silk gloves). There are appealing towns, villages, and wineries nearby, as well as forests and vineyards to explore.
Giardino Ascona Hotel
WHERE: Lake Maggiore, Switzerland
Hotel Giardino Ascona is a five-star contemporary spa hotel on the north shore of Lake Maggiore that offers an extensive Ayurveda program. As well as traditional Panchakarma, there are programs to combat aging and mid-life health problems, promote join wellness, and service families. The hotel’s three restaurants serve inventive vegetarian dishes and one, Ecco, holds two Michelin stars. Ticino’s temperate climate makes the region ideal for outdoor pursuits. You can rent bicycles, go on guided walks, and even charter the hotel’s yacht.
WHERE: North Western Province, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is home to some of the best Ayurveda outside of India. Ulpotha, a retreat in Sri Lanka’s northwest province, offers seven different Ayurveda packages. Built on the site of an ancient village and founded on principles of conservation and sustainability, treatments take place in traditional clay huts made from natural materials such as coconut shells and palm leaves, with open fires heating the water and the sauna. Guest numbers are small and there is no Wi-Fi, making it an ideal hideaway from the real world. In keeping with the retreat’s philosophy, money from the treatments is donated to a free Ayurveda clinic for local villagers.
WHERE: Kufstein, Austria
Ayurveda Sonnhof is a contemporary Ayurveda hotel in the Austrian Alps. The architecture, décor, and cuisine blend elements of India and Austria. The Ayurveda program is comprehensive, with treatments for three, four, and five days, Panchakarma, and special detox, burn-out, and weight loss programs. The East-meets-West theme extends to the garden, which has different energy areas for yoga, meditating, and resting, and the spa, which boasts a saltwater therapy room designed to improve the respiratory system and open the heart chakra. The surrounding landscape of lakes, rivers, and mountains offers plenty of opportunities for walking, cycling, and swimming.
The Mangosteen Resort and Spa
WHERE: Phuket, Thailand
The Mangosteen Resort and Spa is a luxury resort and the only Ayurveda spa on Phuket. A three-day Ayurveda break is available, as well as a Panchakarma program for two, three, or four weeks. There are also specialized programs for joint and bone wellness and to combat aging and obesity. As well as a chemical-free swimming pool, the hotel operates a free shuttle bus to Nai Harn Beach and plenty of other activities are on offer including cooking classes, snorkeling, diving, canoeing, and island hopping.