The Ultimate Guide to Relaxation: 37 International Spas!

by Our Editors
37 International Spas

The astounding array of international spas covered here are sure to provide you with just what you need to relax and revitalize.

I have to admit my whole Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North experience was a bit of a modern-day (gay) Cinderella story. I was munching on some delicious nuts and fresh local honey the Four Seasons team had left as a welcome gift as I took in a bit of the desert landscape on the patio of my Desert Garden Casita Room. I ducked in for a quick shower before my spa appointment, but when I came back into the bedroom there were about 20 tiny birds jumping around my room. I took a handful of granola and tossed it out onto the patio to lead them outside and laughed my way to the spa for a “spa party” they were throwing for hotel guests and locals. Upon entering the decadent Four Seasons Scottsdale Spa, I was handed a glass of Champagne (my kind of spa) and learned about their spa’s integration of local desert botanicals like desert sage, prickly pear, and jojoba. I booked a Weekend Warrior’s full-body massage (90 min/$255) for the next day. After spending the day biking in the desert this full-body treatment was just the ticket. The therapist was strong at times and gentle in just the right ways. He integrated mountain arnica and sage to ease my muscles that were sore from discovering bumps and winding paths through cacti in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak. When my treatment was over, I ventured over to a small Jacuzzi and a waiter intuitively suggested a prickly pear margarita to help me cool off after my spa treatment. Be sure you finish all treatments and water play in time to catch the sunset from their Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Onyx’s Bar and Lounge on the first floor of the resort.
Jeffrey James Keyes


Man at International Spas

Photo: Oleh Poenix

In keeping with its uncommonly serene and spiritual setting alongside the banks of Oak Creek in the bosom of Red Rock country, the much-celebrated Spa at L’Auberge de Sedona is located in an unassuming and peaceful patch of an oasis of sheer natural beauty. Thanks to the resort’s seclusion, guests frequently slip discreetly through wooded paths to the rustically elegant doors of the spa dressed only in robes and slippers. While many of the spa’s patrons opt to take advantage of the serene surroundings by booking Creekside Massages outdoors on the banks of the creek with the soothing sounds of rushing water for company, the signature L’Auberge Sacred Stone Massage (90 min/$245), is only available in the spa itself. A transcendent experience in which aromatherapy is combined with the use of warm stones and gentle pressure to alleviate stress and tension in the muscles and joints, the Sacred Stone Massage at L’Auberge comprises equal parts therapy and relaxation. The perfect complement to this massage is one of the spa’s Organic Facials. Both of the organic facials on the spa menu employ the use of active, 100% natural, paraben-free products including everything from anti-oxidant-rich plant and marine extracts, spirulina, kombucha to goji berry, white and green teas, and aloe. The Organic Refresher Facial (60 min/$170) offers an express ticket to a renewed appearance for guests who would rather spend more time gazing at sunsets and sampling the epicurean delights coming from Chef Rochelle Daniel’s kitchen. Private yoga instruction (Chakra Charge, Vinyasa Vortex, or Customized) completes the total mind, body, and spirit renovation with which the Spa at L’Auberge de Sedona has become synonymous.
Duane Wells

A whopping three-year closure, between 2007-2010, saw a glorious restoration and updating of this historic property on Shanghai’s buzzing waterfront district, the Bund, which has played host to luminaries including Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, and, in 2016, Justin Trudeau. The Willow Stream Spa is cozy and classic, meant to evoke Shanghai of the 1920s and 30s, with mossy greens, amber, marble, and Chinese carvings. A skylit indoor swimming pool and 11 treatment rooms fill out the space, and the menu includes upscaled takes on traditional Chinese treatments. One of those, which may intimidate those who have seen its after-effects, is gua sha (a scraping of the back regarded as a remedy for illness that often leaves horrific, cherry-red streaks and patches for several days). However, the version found in Willow Stream’s Chinese Remedy Journey, at (90 min/$218, 120 min/$276) is refined and more of an inspiration, and won’t leave marks unless you specifically request that. “You need to see a medical practitioner for the real deal,” I was informed. The Chinese Remedy also features aromatherapy massage and pressure point foot reflexology. The Bamboo Fusion (90 min/$247), meanwhile, incorporated heated bamboo and herbs “to promote circulation and sensory nerve perception.” Since I was seeking relaxation, I ultimately opted for the Willow Stream Wisdom (90 min/$188), the centerpiece of which is a heated herbal pouch containing five herbs, including Absinthe ingredient wormwood, believed to absorb muscle tension and get the blood flowing. It lived up to its promise! Next time, I’ll probably try the Aroma Herbal Yoga Therapist (90 min/$188), which adds traditional stretching, Tui Na, and Shiatsu techniques to unlock all that energy. Also tempting: a Recharge (80 min/$306) with jetlag cure massage, foot reflexology, and Golden Caviar facial. East meets West in a most decadent manner!
Lawrence Ferber

Willow Stream SPA Treatment Room

Willow Stream SPA Treatment Room

I love me a sprawling, tricked-out destination spa with immersive, beautiful design (you too, right?), but sometimes a hidden away, cozy retreat earns a place on a best spas list: such is the case with Singapore’s luxurious Capitol Kempinski Hotel. Occupying the former 1905 Capitol Building and adjacent Stamford House, the 155-room Kempinski is home to buzzy restaurant 15 Stamford, with menus by Hong Kong celebrity “Demon Chef ” Alvin Leung, a rum-centric bar, a shallow outdoor saltwater relaxation pool with Jacuzzi jets, and an intimate, adjacent spa with three treatment rooms (one for couples). Checking in for my spa treatment, the 90-minute Singapore Massage ($176), I was given a warm lemongrass welcome drink and led into a small, wood-toned treatment room. Soon enough, the massage therapist was applying strokes that stretched out my skin and muscles. A sort of pulling down and away technique was used, and movements of brushing and wiping the skin. Pleasantly, my butt cheeks received a good dose of attention, too. The time went by like a flash, leaving me tempted to add on an Intense Relaxation Massage (60 min/$133, 90 min/$177) or Oriental Massage (60 min/$133, 90 min/$177). Facial offerings, incorporating products from Australia’s Gaylia Kristensen, include the 60-minute Face For Men ($146), and a Vitality: Stress Release Facial (60 min/$206) specifically targeting damage and tensions caused by smartphone and computer use. The spas lengthiest treatment, Nirvana Mind & Body Experience (120 min/$279), melts tension in both the face and body through deep tissue pressure point techniques. Yep, good things do come in small spas.
Lawrence Ferber

Up at 6,100 feet in the Alpe di Siusi, Europe’s largest high-altitude plateau, the speed of life is slow and assiduous. Think Italian hospitality with German efficiency. Jagged peaks of the Dolomites peer over the indoor and outdoor panoramic pool and sauna of the Alpina Dolomites Gardena Health Lodge and Spa. Reclined seats in the outdoor area of the pool provide a throne from which to take in the sunshine, the sound of cow bells, and the smell of fresh flowers. The spa, with big glass windows looking to the mountains, includes a Finnish sauna, a bio-herb sauna, a salt bath, an aroma bath, and indoor and outdoor relaxation areas with water bed and lounge chairs. Detox in the evenings with the daily Aufguss Zeremonie or “ventilation ceremony,” where a college boy from a local village pours scented water into the heater of the sauna and waves hot air at you, twirling a wet towel in the air, until you’re sweating from pores you didn’t know you had. Then, book a session with at the “beauty farm” for a customized one-off or multi-day / multi-week treatment. I recommend the Alpina massage ($85), which is designed to help relieve tension and even improve blood flow. Therapists at the Alpina Dolomites also use the Sothys Paris line for a complete menu of facials, including a special 60- minute detox treatment for men ($125).
Allister Chang

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