From the Romans and their baths to the sweat lodges of Native Americans, elements of the spa experience have been around for centuries. There is a basic need to look or feel better — from the over-stressed to the over-pampered. Indeed, over the past three decades the growth in spas and the business of spas has increased phenomenally, even (especially?) through recessions, as we hear from Susan Harmsworth, founder of global spa brand ESPA, on page 4.
In that time they have morphed from fat farms to pleasure palaces and from health centres into holistic hideaways, while today they offer a panoply of treatments from around the world. These include not just Roman baths but also Russian banyas, Turkish hamams and even Austrian hay baths, accompanied by clay from the Dolomites, mud from the Dead Sea and volcanic stones from every live and extinct volcano imaginable, while traditional medicines from China, Sri Lanka and India have been plundered for their preventative and healing treatments.
Pampering is taken for granted with exquisite lotions and oils to anoint the body. Fitness is a must, whether it’s circuit training or rock climbing, and nutrition and diet are crucial. So crucial is this latter that fasting is the new fashion: from three days to three weeks — under supervision, of course.
Many spas now come with their own clinic where surgeons can offer everything from hip replacements to face lifts and cosmetic dentistry. Others offer help with stress management, sexual difficulties, sleep deprivation and burn-out. Whatever your needs are, there is a spa to address them — and you will find them, our selection of the best the world has to offer, within these pages.