The Most Unusual Wellness Experiences from around the World

One of the fastest growing sectors of the global tourism industry, wellness tourism caters to vacationers who want to keep up with their healthy lifestyles while they are away on vacation, for example, participating in meditation, or yoga. With an increased public appetite for outdoor activities, sleep enhancement, transformative experiences, and digital detox, we explore a selection of venues from around the world offering one-of-a-kind wellness experiences. 

David Geithner in Sweden

Open-Air Cold Baths – Sweden 

The ideal place to observe the northern lights through the winter months and the midnight sun in the summer, Arctic Bath is a luxurious hotel and spa that invites guests to immerse themselves in the natural elements while leaving behind a minimal environmental footprint. Here, visitors can experience an invigorating open-air cold bath, revitalizing them from the inside out as they take in the natural beauty surrounding them. The retreat also offers a variety of different treatments from certified therapists, including Swedish arctic massages, an intensive treatment for stiff, tired muscles that is combined with stretching and rocking exercises. 

When the human body is exposed to extreme cold, this sudden shock activates the same “fight or flight” response that is triggered by danger or stress. This in turn leads to the release of noradrenaline, a stress hormone that improves alertness and concentration. Research from the UK suggests that swimming in cold water can speed up metabolism, boost the immune system, improve circulation, and help participants gain a better night’s sleep. The surge of adrenaline created by immersion in cold water releases powerful endorphins, reportedly creating a feeling of euphoria, warding off depression and anxiety, and helping us to better manage stress. 

Radon Therapy – Austria 

A source of natural radon, Gastein’s thermal waters have attracted international attention for their purported health benefits. Often used for rehabilitation after illness, radon therapies can reportedly help alleviate symptoms of some chronic conditions, as well as help people to cope with psychological stress. 

Kurzentrum Bad Hofgastein treatment center features tubs holding 480 liters of spring water maintained at a comfortable temperature of between 36 and 38°C. Due to the buoyancy of warm water, the bather becomes almost weightless while relaxing in the tub for between 15 and 22 minutes, allowing the natural radon content to be absorbed through the skin and respiratory passages. Radon baths reputedly restore rhythm to the nervous system, stimulate cell renewal, and kickstart the metabolic system.  

Guests partaking in radon thermal sub-aqua therapy can supplement the treatment with a pressurized water-jet massage, or Glisson sling. Sub-aqua therapy is commonly used in the treatment of neurological complaints, post operative conditions involving weakened musculature and limited mobility, and degenerative ailments of the joints and spine. 

Silent Retreat – United Kingdom 

We live in a frenetic world today, bombarded by digital media from the moment we wake until the moment we sleep. Silent retreats offer an opportunity to escape the stresses, strains, and struggles of daily life, abandoning all manner of external communication, and focusing on the simplicity, stillness, freedom, and joy in each present moment. 

Situated in the tranquil settling of Sharpham House, surrounded by the scenic, rolling countryside of Devonshire, England, this retreat is intended for individuals who have prior experience in mindfulness meditation. Although spending extended periods in silence may seem a daunting or awkward prospect, participants often discover that the experience is conducive to creating a surprisingly rich sense of connection, enabling them to experience stillness and quiet, letting go of the usual social conventions, while still enjoying supportive company. 

Guests do not have to spend their entire stay in silence. Each morning, there is an opportunity to connect with their home group and share experiences if they choose, in addition to some guided meditation sessions. The rest of the time, the retreat is in silence, including during group activities, such as walking and nature connection, as well as at mealtimes.  

Forest Bathing – Japan 

Known as shinrin yoku in its native Japan, forest bathing is the simple practice of walking through the forest, observing nature, and breathing deeply while remaining calm and quiet. Forest bathing is an excellent activity for adults and children alike, encouraging participants to engage in gentle outdoor exercise, experiencing the restorative, soothing influence of their natural surroundings while teaching mindfulness and concentration at the same time. 

Located in the untouched beech forests of Nagano, Japan, the Mindfulness in Nature & Forest Therapy Retreat offers seven-night experiences focusing on techniques, training, and practice. Guests spend a session guided by Naoko Ito, an experienced forest therapy practitioner, as well as half-day and full-day excursions to regions steeped in Japanese history and tradition. Located near a hot spring, nestled in the mountains near Odiya Onsen, the hotel is surrounded by wild forests, providing a lush, tranquil setting. Nearby Mount Akashina towers above Odani village, providing a stunning backdrop. 

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