Retreats that will give us what we need now more than ever
Amanzoe, Porto Heli, Greece
The Peloponnese, a peninsula in southern Greece, connects to the north by the Isthmus of Corinth. Though notably steeped in antiquity, and achingly beautiful, it is the road less traveled, a part of the country that is not quite as trampled by tourists as the rest of Greece.
That seclusion makes it a perfect spot for Amanzoe, an Aman Resort perched above the Peloponnesean coast, with the Ionian sea to the west, and the Aegean to the east. Whichever way you look, sunlight sparkles on the bright azure and topaz-blue waters of Porto Heli Bay. The sea is spotted with small islands, some perfect for hiking. Jagged limestone hills, olive groves, sandy beaches and vineyards surround the region, along with the UNESCO-protected ancient ruins of Epidaurus and Mycenae. And the hotel itself looks like a perfect modern version of the classics: commodious marble villas (with private plunge pools) that nod to the Parthenon, a gorgeous 31,000-square-foot spa bolstered by majestic colonnades, black amphorae in an elegant portico.
Amanzoe just launched Aman’s first Individual Wellness Immersions outside Asia, a series of three multiday programs expertly calibrated to fulfill guests’ unique and specific wellness goals. The offerings—Weight Management & Transformation, Detox & Cleansing and Mindfulness & Stress Management—are overseen by Zoe Nash, an internationally renowned wellness expert, certified Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner, Yin Yoga teacher trainer, and expert Myofascial Release specialist, with over 10 years’ experience.
Nash is a kind and caring soul who is also not afraid to resolutely nudge you in the right direction, if need be. Better still, she will provide the tools and guidance needed to help you motivate yourself. She takes a holistic approach to health, incorporating East-Meets-West practices that serve to integrate mind, body and soul.
For my visit, I chose Mindfulness & Stress Management. We consulted ahead of time via email, and when I arrived I found a menu in my room, with a list of food and drink that would be most beneficial to fulfilling my wellness goals. A few, like the Green Smoothie, made with almond milk, spinach, kale, avocado and ginger, and the Blood Cleanser, with lemon, beetroot, carrot, green apple, celery and ginger, became favorites. The Traditional Greek Salad was a standout, along with fresh fish pulled from the pristine local waters. I ate every meal outdoors, overlooking the magnificent hilltop pool with breathtaking views of the coast. For my own good, I was asked to refrain from coffee, which wasn’t easy, but I did.
The program begins with the first of several consultations with Nash, and incorporates private yoga and meditation, acupuncture and multiple visits to the breathtaking spa for prescribed treatments. The fitness center and library are good places to get lost in, and, a short drive away, lies an exquisite private beach club. In the evening, guests gather on a vast circular terrace to watch the sun paint the sky with a passion-fruit palette. Other than that, the sense of stillness and seclusion is all-encompassing. “Bring in space, bring in intentional pauses to come back to yourself,” says Nash. “Walk around, listen to the birds, breathe. That space is always available, you just need to tap into it.”
There are enough elements of a true vacation on offer so as not to feel deprived, if what you need is a relaxing break. In fact, you will come away feeling all of those “R” words: relaxed, refreshed, renewed, restored, recharged and, ultimately, relieved that you have given yourself this great gift of self-awareness and care.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Stingray City may sound like a Coachella headliner, but it’s actually a bastion of peace and quiet. Not far off the shore of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, graceful sea creatures converge on this sandbar, gliding past awed visitors, as they carefully float off the ladders of upscale catamarans.
That opportunity for authentic experience and communion with nature—plus a prevailing spirit of benevolence and calm—is part of what inspired the powers-that-be to launch an inaugural wellness retreat at the Ritz-Carlton property here, kicking off an annual event. After all, this part of the Caribbean has long drawn divers with its unspoiled turquoise water and thriving reefs. Why shouldn’t it attract zen seekers too?
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s wellness retreat concept is inspired by “rejuvenation,” which means a focus on everything from nutrition and fitness to brain health and skincare. “Rejuvenation is all about feeling good and restoring the mind, body and spirit, while exploring a deeper connection to oneself,” says General Manager Marc Langevin. “We want to give guests the tools to embark on a journey of self-love—to feel transformed by their journey and find ways to be their most whole and well selves.”
The idea—whenever possible—is to combine a sense of place (a paradise with impeccable service) with a lesson in or an act of self-care. For instance, celebrity trainer and former Radio City Rockette, Amanda Kloots, held her first strength-training class outdoors under the morning sun. “I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet when I got an email asking if I’d like to be part of the first ‘Cayman Rejuvenate’ retreat at the Ritz-Carlton; I was being asked to teach in one of my favorite places in the world!” she said, adding that she knew exactly what she would teach first. “I’ve done enough retreats to know that people want to enjoy the beauty of where they are, so I suggested a water aerobics class to get people in the beautiful pool.”
At this retreat, the more experiential the experience, the better, as when Dr. Will Cole—a functional medicine doctor and author of The Inflammation Spectrum—talked about his largely plant-based approach to the Keto diet. As he discussed core concepts, attendees were served a luncheon that followed his protocol—think salad with kale, basil, strawberries, avocado and shredded coconut.
Recharging before the hectic holiday season was also a theme: Yoga and Pilates instructor/influencer, Riva Gdanski, was heavily influenced by seasonal themes. “To me, ‘rejuvenation’ means renewal or reawakening. It serves as a reminder to turn inward and take care of ourselves—something we often forget to do when life gets too hectic,” she explains. “This idea fit in perfectly with my autumn-themed vinyasa yoga flow class, as I was inspired to help infuse a renewal of grounding energy, strength, calm and focus.”
Even on non-retreat weeks, The Ritz offers a sunset yoga meditation—followed by champagne—for interested parties. Guests blink open their eyes after a restorative Shavasana to see brilliant colors streaking the sky above the horizon, a warm breeze caressing their skin. What’s more rejuvenating than that?