Travel To The Edge

by Becca Hensley
cliff walking

When life feels like a cliff-hanger, center yourself with a cliff walk.

High on a cliff, at Cape Finisterre, I stand at the “end of the world.” For centuries, pilgrims like me have trekked across northern Spain, their goal the vibrant city of Santiago Compostela. But I’ve gone beyond that, adding an eight-day optional jaunt that follows the sacred celebra-tions in Santiago, after walkers finish their long hike through Spain. A kind of last meditation for the completed adventure along the famous trail, this final trudge across Galicia ends on a rocky precipice at one of northern Spain’s most western locations. From my perspective atop Monte Facho, I look out to sea, where the earth appears to fuse with the ocean, then meld mystically into the sky. In the blur, all becomes one.

Weary from walking, I toss off my shoes, balancing on this verge between land and water. The Romans (and surely others) called this vista the “end of the world” for its infinity effect. Here, enshrouded in thick fog, made somnolent by the rhythmic sound of the waves, bone-tired from days of hiking, I feel deeply in tune with nature’s message. It whispers something so much greater than what I can articulate, and I simply sway robotically and try to inhale what is offered: a feeling of being cleansed and recharged all at once. Cliffs surely have inspired human beings since the beginning of time. From a symbology standpoint, they represent a leap of faith, a dangerous free fall into the unknown, and an opportunity to connect with something ethereal or unfathomable. A cliff with accessible pathways ups the ante. It’s as if a route to self-knowledge has been offered by the universe. Just walk here, nature urges, and all will be revealed. It is no surprise that in such locations, insightful hoteliers have erected retreats around the world that celebrate the power of cliffs. Whether coming for the views, the fresh air, the repose or the metaphor, visitors feel something transformative happen atop a cliff.


Looking to go to the edge this year? Here’s how to cliff-hang in style. 

Back in 1866, Elise Jane Weare had a vision. She wanted to build a retreat to crown Bald Head Cliff. The wife of a captain, and mother of seven, she knew that the pounding waves and forever skies seen from that bluff needed a homage. With that goal, she opened her hotel, Cliff House, which honored the setting, and swiftly became a grande
dame-summer stop for the elite set. Today, refurbished to reflect the current mood, but also stride fearlessly into the future, this 266-room lodge manifests Maine’s sense of place in alto voce. Bring your journal to pen thoughts cliffside. When bored with that, go lobstering, hike or play cards in the hotel’s myriad, convivial nooks. Visit the 9,000-square-foot Seaside Sanctuary and partake of the “salt of the sea seasonal service,” which takes poetic wellness inspirations from the calendar.


Cyclists worship Spain’s Catalan-speaking island of Mallorca for its steep inclines, craggy landscape, soaring mountains, remote rugged shepherd paths and serpentine roads. That same terrain makes it an ideal destination for hikers, who teeter up its sheers with the ease of indige-nous mountain goats. With an extensive fitness and spa program, Jumeirah Port Soller tops a bluff above the festive beach town of Soller. The location ensures views of both the Tramuntana Mountains and the Balearic Sea, appearing to hover between sea and sky. The hotel’s Talise Spa crowns the building, with a rooftop thermae circuit. Submerge, then enjoy a locally inspired olive seed scrub. The spa can organize cliff walks around the island, such as the popular Ermita de Betlem to Can Picafort hike.


Traverse one of Rhode Island’s top attractions—Newport’s three-and-a-half mile Cliff Walk. The journey fringes the undulating shores of Newport’s rocky cliffs, providing revealing glimpses of Gilded Age mansions, not to mention unbridled seas, birdlife and wildflowers. Recover afterward at Castle Hill Inn, located just 10 miles away, amongst a 40-acre peninsula on Narragansett Bay. Exuding Newport’s elegant, vintage spirit, the Relais & Châteaux property vaunts a sweeping lawn, a stately Victorian main house, beachside accommodations and an indulgent farm-to-table restaurant. Further immerse at the spa, where products are gleaned from organically grown flowers and herbs—many from Rhode Island’s waterside farms. Get rosy with the Rose Immersion, a treatment that honors the roses grown for decades on the estate. Expect a rose soak, rose massage, rose facial—and, of course, a grand finale glass of rosé.


At Big Sur’s most exclusive getaway, pervasive fog may block your cliffside view of the sea. But, will you truly care? You’ll be bobbing about inside infinity spa tubs, perpetually set at 104- degree water, perched on the precipice. With a plentitude of romantic rooms mottling an enor-mous swathe of land, the hotel cleaves into the cliffs, making guests the poshest of cliff-dwellers. Stupendous redwoods, like sentries, stand guard, setting a mood of gravitas amid luxury. Warm up with wood-burning fireplaces after a chilly guided cliff walk, yoga or a visit with the on-site shaman. Let nature take charge in the spa, where garden and wildflower themed facials utilize plants, flowers, herbs and vegetables from the thriving garden. And television fans, there isn’t one, so media detox will be the order of the 


Some of the dreamiest hotels stem from personal residences. Secret Bay began as gift—a sketch for a home— from award-winning, Latin American architect Fruto Vivas, to his daughter, Sandra, and her new husband, Gregor Nassief. They built the sustainable domain, a nod to the treetops, from Guyanese-sourced wood on a verdant precipice that seemed to float above Secret Bay. A handful of villas followed, until the home became a diminutive boutique hotel, part of Relais & Chateaux, with just six perfect accommodations amongst four lush acres. Ruminate over the rolling sea from your villa’s windows, or wander down the nature trails. Get zen at the suspended Bwa Mang Wellness Pavilion, which straddles the Cario River, then unravel your knots in the new Gommier Spa, an al fresco, tree house-style structure, which specializes in massages, with locally blended oils.


Legendarily, the setting sun represents the completion of a journey—as well as the portal to the beginning of the next adventure. Nowhere in the world are sunsets more celebrated than Santorini, part of Greece’s Cyclades Islands. Set at a zenith point facing the caldera, the blue and white village of Imerovigli gets rave reviews for how the sun falls like a lemon drop into the dark blues of the Aegean Sea. Join nature’s daily dusk-time drama at Andronis Project Wellness Retreat, built to showcase the event. When not sundowning, yield to the ministrations at Kallos Spa, experts in both eastern and western techniques and philosophy. The Andronis Signature Experience, a 120-minute massage, uses grapes, honey, thyme and geranium sourced from the island.

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