In this issue we visit Kerala, Tirol, Iowa, Bali, Dehradun, Goa, Baa AtollUlpotha Village

It was while on an expedition commissioned by Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan to retrieve the tooth of the Buddha, that 13th century explorer Marco Polo first laid down his moorings on the isle of Ceylon. Enamoured by its ivory coastlines and emerald jungles, its port markets laden with fragrant spices bound for the trade routes of  Asia and the resplendent abundance of its mineral heritage, he  found fit to proclaim it “undoubtedly the finest island of all its size in the world.” He wasn’t wrong. Ceylon – or Sri Lanka as it became in 1972 – has captivated the hearts of explorers and bohemian wanderers for centuries; and today, countless more still come to the teardrop isle in search of a soul connection with the intangible.

Set upon the grounds of a former coconut plantation and hugging a stretch of island coastline not as yet overrun by tourism, Shangri-La’s Hambantota resort is a retreat towards rediscovering Sri Lanka’s wild heart.

Sprawling across almost 59 hectares it’s the country’s largest resort, with 300 rooms and 21 suites. With two main wings cascading away from the central reception lodge it has the lush, earthy feel of an eco-resort. 4,000 king coconut trees strong and resplendent with riotous tropical gardens, guest accommodation is situated along cooling breezeways with constant sight-lines to the ocean. Décor is earthen and tropical, with wooden floors, hand-woven rugs and cerulean splashes of blue that draw your eye outwards towards the horizon. Where possible, natural materials are used throughout the space married with Sri Lankan art and handicrafts.

The property also boasts the brand’s first CHI Ayurvedic Spa – a holistic retreat where treatments are tailored to each guest’s individual well-being requirements. Here, guests can indulge and rebalance with a signature herbal treatment in one of a dozen treatment rooms, before sipping a cup of Ayurvedic tea on an overwater relaxation terrace.

Committed to preserving the island’s rich cultural heritage, Kadamandiya (a traditional artisan village at Shangri-La’s Hambantota resort) offers a unique glimpse into the traditions of Sinhalese culture. Visitors can explore the studio huts that house painters, potters, weavers, sculptors and other artisans whose wares are available for purchase, while in the evening the space is transformed into a performance area for traditional dance, music and Angampora displays – a martial art indigenous to the island.

Marking the jewel in the property’s crown is its par-70 landscaped 18-hole golf course designed by Rodney Wright – the only one on the entire island. The course is laid out over a coconut palm plantation, taking players through water features and lush fairways complete with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Unique in its attention to detail in the realms of biodiversity and protection of natural habitat, the course was crafted with sustainability in mind – repurposing an abandoned sapphire mine, restoring vegetation and re-introducing birdlife to the area.

Shangri-La’s Hambantota resort offers a tantalising array of dining options that hero the best of Sri Lankan culinary traditions. Enjoy alfresco dining at Bojunhala and indulge in a classic island breakfast of Sri Lankan hoppers, alongside an array of international delicacies. Head to Sera for dinner amid a hawker’s market of the most vibrant street-food from across Southeast Asia. Or, pull your caddy up off the green and make directly into Ulpatha, the resort’s signature clubhouse and bar, to quench your thirst on an unparalleled selection of malt whiskies.
For the resort’s best views, Gimanhala Lounge at golden hour is the place to be. With its sweeping vistas across the ocean and the resort’s garden terraces, it’s the perfect spot for a sundowner cocktail before dinner, or a Sri Lankan high tea experience, complete with a tutorial from the resident tea sommelier.

No Shoes Required - SOMATHEERAM AYURVEDA RESORT

SOMATHEERAM AYURVEDA RESORTKerala, India

Nine kilometres south of famous Kovalam beach, nestled on a palm tree filled hillock, is the world’s first dedicated Ayurvedic resort. Spread across an expanse of lush greenery, Somatheeram is very much a getaway destination for those in search of an Ayurvedic haven away from the cacophony of metropolitan life. Founded in 1985 and welcoming guests for more than three decades, simple and colourful Somatheeram was one of the first to offer Ayurvedic vacations and meditation breaks, not to mention foster and grow a culture of healing and restorative holidays amongst international travellers. A combination of the resort’s peaceful location by the sea, positivity provided by authentic Ayurvedic therapies and a healthy and wholesome diet provide guests with everything they need to unwind and rejuvenate, with spectacular vistas more than making-up for the resort’s rustic feel.

No Shoes Required - AYURVEDA RESORT SONNHOF

AYURVEDA RESORT SONNHOFTirol, Austria

Few places outside of Asia can deliver Ayurvedic therapies with the same degree of authenticity and effect as a resort in India. However, located on the high plateau of the picturesque Thiersee Valley in Austria, Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof most certainly can. Although what makes Sonnhof special, is that the resort has pioneered a distinctly European approach to healing, combining the ancient system of Ayurveda with the latest western medical research. At Sonnhof, an individual’s treatment plan is complemented by organic, locally-sourced produce to leave a guest feeling better connected to their core being as well as the surrounding world. And whether relaxing on the sun terrace or taking in the crisp Alpine air on a guided walking tour, Sonnhof’s stunning location and the intense beauty of its natural surroundings gently encourages guests on their personal journeys back to wellness, at the same time improving energy levels and inner strength.

No Shoes Required - THE RAJ

THE RAJIowa, U.S.A.

America’s heartland is about as far as one can physically and mentally get from the south of India, and yet The Raj offers a completely authentic Ayurvedic experience. Set in 100 acres of rolling meadows and woodlands in Fairfield, Iowa, this contemporary, purpose-built French country-styled Ayurvedic health spa opened in 1993 and has been winning awards ever since. Even the building was designed in accordance with ancient Vedic architecture called Sthapatya Veda. But it’s the profound treatment programs, that help restore balance and reawaken the body’s natural healing mechanisms, which keep devotees returning year after year. Counselled by a number of Maharishi Ayurveda experts, The Raj takes a comprehensive approach to creating health. Rather than just passively receiving treatments, here you’ll learn how simple shifts in diet, exercise, and daily and seasonal routines can drastically improve your day-to-day life.

No Shoes Required - COMO SHAMBHALA ESTATE

COMO SHAMBHALA ESTATEBali, Indonesia

For many discerning travellers, upscale COMO Shambhala Estate is the best property in Bali and it’s not hard to see why. Designed with an exquisite eye for detail in a breezy but smart East-meets-West style, this spa-resort veritably celebrates nature and is all about the incredible setting. Employing some of the world’s top practitioners of Chinese medicine, Western medicine and Ayurveda, guests can book a three or four-day Ayurvedic wellness retreat, during which onsite Ayurvedic doctor Deepak Deginal (who graduated from Mangalore University in India), will devise a personal holistic and all-natural treatment plan based on your prakruti (personal constitution). Expect detox treatments, bodywork, a tailored diet, plus lots of yoga and meditation, surrounded by overflowing infinity pools, gushing waterfalls and trickling rivers seemingly everywhere. Indonesian-styled bedrooms adorned with incredible beds and the finest linens are further encouragement to embrace the hip barefoot vibe.

No Shoes Required - VANA

VANADehradun, India

Set in the cool, verdant and hilly north of India and straight out of the pages of Wallpaper*, when Vana Malsi Estate began welcoming guests in 2014, it raised the bar for the spa junky travellers of the world looking for an authentic experience in a natural setting without compromising luxury and pampering. There is something about choosing India for a retreat, which always feels like returning to the spiritual mothership. Vana has made this experience even more special by redefining the benchmark for luxury wellness. At its core, Vana is a place of physical and spiritual healing. But whilst Ayurvedic treatments and cuisine are at the heart of the Vana experience, Tibetan medicine (also known as Sowa-Rigpa) is promoted alongside. In fact, the Tibetan Healing Center at Vana is one of only a handful that exists outside Tibet, and at Vana it is common for guests to subscribe to a combination of both Ayurvedic and Tibetan therapies. Either way, if you’re looking for a luxury wellness retreat in India, Vana should be your first choice.

No Shoes Required - DEVAAYA – AYURVEDA & NATURE CURE CENTRE

DEVAAYA – AYURVEDA & NATURE CURE CENTREGoa, India

Whilst Goa used to have a reputation for being a ‘party’ destination, things have seriously changed in the past decade. Nowadays, Goa perpetuates an identity that appreciates art, culture and holistic living, and a number of high-end resort hotels cater to discerning international travellers. Situated in Divar Island, ten kilometres from Goa’s capital of Panaji, coconut palms swinging to the rhythm of the breeze set the scene at Devaaya Ayurveda Centre, and four in-house Ayurveda doctors plus around thirty trained therapists preside over the sixty guest rooms. Naturopathy is a way of life at this deluxe Ayurvedic retreat, that brings together the essential elements of ‘Panchakarma’ treatments with yoga, meditation, music, lifestyle correction, diet planning and medicinal treatments. That the entire centre has been designed based on the science of Vaastu Shastra adds to the overall harmony and calmness of the place.

No Shoes Required - FOUR SEASONS RESORT MALDIVES AT LANDAA GIRAAVARU

FOUR SEASONS RESORT MALDIVES AT LANDAA GIRAAVARUBaa Atoll, Maldives

There are many more reasons to make the trek to the Maldives than diving, surfing and uber-stylish over-water bungalows! Four Seasons’ sophisticated, tropical Landaa Giraavaru resort offers the science of life in addition to the intense levels of comfort and luxury discerning travellers have to come to expect from the top end hospitality brand. Situated in the remote Baa Atoll – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve – a variety of all-inclusive health-based one, two and three-week Ayurvedic programs are available here, focusing on diet, exercise, balance and sleep, including daily treatments and ample private consultations. The resort’s two Ayurvedic physicians work with the resident yogi and an onsite team of therapists and chefs to personally meet guests exacting needs. There are also stand-alone Ayurvedic treatments for those who wish to get a feel for the medicinal system without being immersed.

No Shoes Required - ULPOTHA


ULPOTHA
Ulpotha Village, Sri Lanka

Nestled in a sustainable organic farm in an ancient pilgrimage site to the west of Sri Lanka, almost totally off the grid and devoid of modern-day comforts (including electricity, air-con, plastic, hot water and internet), the philosophy at Ulpotha is one of almost total self-sustainability. In a rare antidote to modern life, every little detail at Ulpotha offers a natural approach to living, including all meals being cooked over an open fire pit from local produce grown organically. The relaxed natural environment and homegrown cuisine heightens the benefits of the panchakarma detox, oleation therapy, yogic programmes and Ayurvedic retreats on offer at Ulpotha. Whilst accommodation in door-less mud-style huts is obviously not for everyone, those seeking peace and spiritual renewal have been known to become hooked. Worth noting is that guests are welcome at Ulpotha for just six months of the year, since it goes back to being a traditional village for the rest of the time.