Feb 18, 2022
A HOLIDAY ESCAPE SHOULDN’T BE about a mere change of scenery, but also a way to improve your mental health. Going off the grid isn’t just getting away from other people and distractions, but also getting back to yourself. Each destination we’ve handpicked here has all the necessary ingredients to kickstart your wellness journey.
Where: Freycinet, Tasmania, Australia
Why? Clearing the mind requires breathing space, and that’s exactly what Tasmania offers. If it feels like you’ve reached the end of the earth when you get there, it’s quite literally the case—this state is the last big land mass in Australia before the great white continent of Antarctica, and the capital, Hobart, its southern port. The island features plenty of activities for the nature lover, but also has a dynamic art, culture and food scene making it ideal for longer stays.
Where to stay: There’s no shortage of great places to stay here, but few are of the same caliber as Safire Freycinet. The luxury lodge features modern architecture that blends into the stunning landscape of Freycinet, with each villa positioned to maximize views of the Hazard mountains. The hotel strives to be as sustainable as possible, which shines through most obviously in their ultra-fresh food and drink offerings.
What to do: With 2,800 kilometers of walking tracks and at least 880 different walks infusing fresh-aired wellness into your every step, Tassie is the destination for an active reset. Hike one of the trails in the morning and then try a different activity in the afternoon such a cruise on Wineglass Bay or a visit to Freycinet Marine Farm (their oysters are divine!). Brush up on your constellations at night—the skies are so clear you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
Where: El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Why? Stress levels are sure to plummet once you reach El Nido, one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world, which – especially if you’re one of the first to take advantage of the Philippines’ recent reopening – you’ll find even fresher and more beautifully raw after two years without tourists. Blessed with white sands, crystal-clear waters and towering limestone cliffs, it’s understandably on the tourist path but remote enough that it hasn’t lost its soul.
Where to stay: Those looking for an eco-luxury stay can book Pangalusian Island, part of El Nido Resorts, which is known for its portfolio of high-end properties in the area. The last couple of years, however, have brought boutique players to the fore including The Birdhouse, a glamping-style hotel perched on a cliff, as well as Frangipani El Nido, a small stylish resort overlooking Bacuit Bay.
Courtesy of Frangipani El Nido (2)
What to do: Salt water is scientifically proven to heal and in this destination it’s all around, meaning that whether you spend your days diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding or plain swimming, wellness and mental health are basically built into any escape here. Maximize your stay by renting your own banca (traditional boat) and go on an aimless day of island hopping.
Where: Izu Peninsula, Japan
Why? Located southeast of Tokyo, the Izu Peninsula is a favorite among Tokyoites looking for a respite from the city. Just over an hour by train takes you to a splendidly diverse landscape with a sub-tropical climate dotted with pristine beaches (some with surf to go with it) and forested mountains with plenty of hiking trails. The romance of Izu was immortalized in the The Izu Dancer, a short story by Yasunari Kawabata who was awarded Japan’s first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968.
Where to stay: From modern hotels to minshuku (family-owned bed and breakfasts) and vacation homes for rent, Izu has a variety of accommodation on offer. The best choice for a wellness escape, however, would be a ryokan, as the peninsula is a destination known for its onsens, long considered salves to physical and mental health. Our pick is Asaba Ryokan, a luxury ryokan complex built in 1675.
What to do: There’s no better place to do the Japanese practice of shinrinyoku (forest bathing) than here. Try Walk Japan’s Izu Geo Trail, a seven-day expedition that takes you to the peninsula’s east coast, then all the way to its southernmost tip of Cape Irozaki and ends in Shuzenji, an onsen resort town. For those looking for a gentler escape, Izu is also known for its farms—wasabi farms in particular—and is a budding place for pottery.
Where: Sumba, Indonesia
Why? Remote travel has been trending over the last couple of years for good reason—it offers a complete mental and physical escape from the stressors of modern life that can affect our health. The island of Sumba may be hard to reach but that’s part of the appeal of this back-to-basics destination. Put your phone aside, go on a social media break then get to know what life is like on the slow lane.
Where to stay: There’s no doubt that Nihi Sumba put the island on the traveler’s map, but hot on its heels are boutique hotels such as Alamayah, which offers a more rustic experience in the beachside jungle village of Kerewe. The soon-to-open Cap Karoso is another hotel to look out for; it has sleekly designed villas and its own farm.
What to do: Sumba is the kind of place where you can choose your own adventure. Whether it’s a serene stay filled with yoga practices and massages, an in-depth encounter with Sumbanese villagers or a full-on surf bootcamp, Sumba is a great destination to detach yourself from old routines and create a new, healthier rituals.
Where: Phú Yên, Vietnam
Why? This peaceful province in Vietnam is a secret that travel insiders would like to keep… but it won’t be a hidden gem for long. Make a mental-health escape to this destination while it’s still relatively undiscovered and free from crowds. Located in the country’s south-central coast, Phú Yên is hugged by mountains and has plenty of beach coves as well. An hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City takes you to its capital Tuy Hoa, from which you can explore its untouched nature.
Where to stay: Zannier Group has an unconventional approach to expansion, prioritizing places of great natural beauty over those with more obvious commercial gains. Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô further establishes Phú Yên as a worthy stop, and a wellness destination. Villas have been sensitively designed to reflect the local culture and the hotel offers private experiences such as a catamaran cruise on the bay. All in all, this relaxed luxury hotel is the type of place you’d love to come back to after a day of adventures.
What to do: Get lost and go on a nature immersion. Drive the mountain passes and stop by the Van Hoa Plateau or visit the many mesmerizing bodies of water such as the Ô Loan Lagoon, Xuan Dai Bay and the breathtaking Mui Dien (Dien Cape). Whatever you include in your itinerary, don’t miss the Ganh Da Dia reef—a geological wonder that’s been compared to Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.