According to The Global Wellness Institute in 2017, travelers took 830 million wellness trips — 139 million more than in 2015. As one of the fastest-growing travel trends, wellness travel currently represents 17 percent of total tourism expenditures. As people worldwide embrace their own health and wellness destinies, Health and Fitness Travel (a company that specializes in wellness-based vacations) predicts that Nature Immersion Getaways will be an emerging trend in 2019.
From Belize, Canada to Japan, here are a few of the top destinations across the world that allow visitors the chance to focus on their health and wellness — whether it’s reducing stress, staying active, connecting with their emotions, or indulging on the thrill of a lifetime.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Banyan Bay Suites
Home to the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, Ambergris Caye is a perfect destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. The Great Blue Hole allows visitors the chance to witness offshore atolls, several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and endangered species. Travelers who would like to stay above water can visit the ancient caves, zipline through the Mayflower Bocawina National Park, or visit the stunning Mayan temples.
Where to Stay:
Travelers who would like to explore Belize’s natural underwater beauty, can stay at Banyan Bay Suites or Grand Colony Island Villas — before the highly anticipated opening of Alaia Belize.
Just moments from the world’s most sought-after adventure destinations, Bristol is a go-to destination for nature-loving travelers. For those looking to go off the grid for a bit, the scenic small town is in close proximity to the Appalachian Trail, where visitors can enjoy a day hike on one of the trail’s challenging paths or a rugged adventure through the ancient Bristol Caverns.
Where to Stay:
After a long adventurous day in the outdoors, guest can kick back and relax at the recently opened The Bristol Hotel.
Asheville, North Carolina
Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a hip, thriving mountain city offering a near-perfect blend of natural beauty and quirky culture in the heart of Southern Appalachia.
Hike through the Great Smoky Mountains, take a day trip to the legendary Biltmore Estate or walk through Asheville’s Botanical Gardens.
Where to Stay:
Guests looking for a serene retreat after a thrilling hike can book a room at The Foundry Hotel, the city’s newest boutique hotel.
Where to Stay:
At any of the three elevated camping options in the safari tents at Seneca Sol, in the tents with hardwood floors and covered porches at Firelight Camps, and in the Sioux style teepees at Mountain Horse Farm.
Travelers can hike or hot air balloon over the “Grand Canyon of the East,” stroll past 19-plus waterfalls, book a silent retreat at a monastery, take Wilderness Survival Training, engage in cow cuddling and horse therapy sessions, zip line and ride a mountain coaster through the wild, or air glide over vineyard-dotted valleys.
Nova Scotia, Canada
Whale watching reigns supreme in this Canadian region, and guests of Whale Cove Campground in Digby are afforded the luxury of discounts on nearby whale watching boat excursions. For visitors who want to be totally immersed in nature, there are plenty of beaches and birdwatching in the area as well, along with the natural phenomenon Balancing Rock, which appears to defy gravity and “float” above the natural rock formations that line the sea.
Where to Stay:
Whale Cove Campground, a stunning seaside campsite.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Home to breathtaking natural wonders like Mystic Mountain, Dunn’s River Falls and the Martha Brae River, wellness seekers can hike, raft, zip line and even bobsled their way through Jamaica’s stunning northeast coast.
Where to Stay:
Combining local island ingredients with ancient Jamaican healing rituals, guests may choose to stay at Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa.
Nicknamed the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada is the epicenter of Florida’s most vibrant ocean activities, as diving and snorkeling enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Islamorada to explore the dynamic reef line.
Where to Stay:
Situated on a former coconut plantation with one of the largest private white sand beaches in the region, The Moorings Village is a luxury resort with 18 West Indies-style villas.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Visitors will have access to the underground tunnels at Iguabonita Cave, a Zip Line Eco Adventure, the secluded Juanillo Beach, the Sunshine Cruise catamaran, the sinkhole at Cenote Indigena Las Ondas, horseback riding and Sanctuary Spa’s new ZEN garden.
Where to Stay:
The newly reimagined, adults-only Sanctuary Cap Cana resort, which offers 20 tropical acres.
Iya Valley in the Setouchi Region of Japan
Travelers who need a quiet escape from their busy lives can immerse themselves in the Iya Valley. Known for its stunning landscapes and outdoor wonders, the Iya Valley offers quiet yet dramatic mountain valleys and gorges, sometimes called “Japan’s Grand Canyon.”
Where to Stay:
The Togenkyo Iya Farmhouses offer private accommodations and offer a way for travelers to experience traditional life in the Iya Valley.
Visit 10 hotels famed for creating spectacular festive scenes on the Ultimate Christmas Decorations Trip.
VeryFirstTo exclusively presents the Ultimate Christmas Decorations Trip enabling travelers the opportunity to stay in 10 of the world’s finest hotels and witness their famous decorations over the course of a whirlwind 18-day trip.
The first stop is the Plaza in New York City, a hotel that has played host to many a Christmas movies including Home Alone 2. With its enormous tree, the hotel really embodies Christmas magic.
From there it is off the to The Mission Inn in Riverside California. This iconic, AAA Four Diamond award-winning hotel is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Lights this year with a whopping 5 million lights.
The next stop on the tour is the Fairmont Princess in Arizona, considered one of the best and brightest places to celebrate the holiday season. This year is set to be more magical and more spectacular than ever. The AAA Five Diamond resort is transformed into a winter wonderland with a glistening, 4-story tree, Desert Ice skating rink, Princess Express trains, Lagoon Lights, holiday characters, shows and attractions and Santa’s Secret Headquarters.
Dallas’ Hotel Crescent Court plays host to an annual Gingerbread Extravaganza Workshop, which features more than 20 varieties of colorful candy and icing. Kids and adults alike can see, make and taste their very own confectionary cookie-castles.
Each hotel is world renowned for having the boldest, brightest and most impressive Christmas Decorations. This is a trip for those who want to immerse themselves in the joyful decorations of Christmas.
To round up the U.S. leg of the tour, travelers will head to Amelia Island Ritz Carlton. The hotel features a Gingerbread Pirate Ship with pirate characters sculpted from chocolate. A holiday icon, the Gingerbread Pirate Ship provides the perfect backdrop for your holiday picture.
While the Cayman Islands may not have snow, it does offer plenty of holiday cheer. Enjoy stunning beach and pool side views as well as stunning decorations and fun activities for the family.
Jetting into London, the famous Claridge’s Christmas Tree awaits. The tree, this year designed by Karl Lagerfeld, has long been a seasonal landmark and symbolizes the start of the festive season in the capital.
Other highlights of the journey in Europe include a visit to George V Paris, one of Paris’ oldest hotels with legendary decorations. In Zurich, The Dolder Grand recreates the magical, fairy-tale atmosphere of a winter wonderland. Finally, the holiday comes to an end in Prague at the über stylish Hotel Josef.
The exceptional vacation is organized by award-winning, luxury travel specialists Hurlingham Travel.
With sprawling acreage and the Western spirit, luxury dude and guest ranches are a new vacation trend promising an exceptional outdoor experience.
By Samantha Myers
Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana
Originating in the American West a little over 100 years ago, ranches served as lodging spots for travelers passing through while journeying over vast land and deserts. This longstanding U.S. tradition has been kept alive today with luxurious dude and guest ranches throughout the mountain states, providing an experience that incorporates time-honored ranch ideals, but in magnificent, all-inclusive vacation experiences.
Different than a guest ranch, dude ranches are where visitors are taught how to live on the ranch, including how to ride and care for horses, go fishing, and participate in activities such as rodeos and family-style meals. “Dude ranches offer a more programmed approach that embodies a more romantic notion of our country’s cowboy heritage with a strong focus on horseback riding,” says Jennifer O’Donohue, marketing and sales director for Triple Creek Ranch. “A guest ranch is a more relaxed take on the ranch experience.”
Identifying as a luxury guest ranch, Triple Creek Ranch, located in Darby, Montana, is an adults-only ranch surrounded by 4 million acres of National Forest Service land at the base of Trapper Peak, the tallest mountain in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. “We offer a rich array of Montana outdoor adventures throughout the year, and our guests enjoy the amenities, cuisine and service that they expect from a fine resort,” says O’Donohue. “Our secluded nature provides a serene retreat from which guests venture forth each day to play in our great Montana backyard, or to relax in our tranquil hideaway.”
While each ranch resort location has activities unique to their landscape, typical ones include horseback riding, hiking, fly-fishing, archery, shooting sports and most come equipped with full-service spas. One of the most coveted activities offered at Triple Creek Ranch includes sapphire panning, where guests sift through dirt at a nearby mine in search of rough gems — an experience unique to Montana, also known as the “Treasure State.”
Homesteaded in 1877, and now spread across 30,000 acres of Wyoming landscape, Brush Creek Ranch embodies the spirit of the West and still operates as a growing, working cattle ranch as it did in days past. This luxury dude ranch offers cabins ranging from new-builds to renovated historic ones and brings all the traditional aspects one might expect in a ranch immersed in nature.
Brush Creek Ranch
“We really believe in something when it comes to the ranch,” says Mike Williams, general manager at Brush Creek Ranch. “When you look out to the south side of the lodge, when you’re looking at the Sierra Madres and there’s snow on them, hay meadows, livestock.… We really know that guests come out to the West for that sense of place. They’ve seen it on TV; they’ve seen it in Westerns. They want to be outdoors, to breathe fresh air, sounds, smells, get their fingernails dirty and try new things.”
Unhindered by technology (there are no TVs in the rooms), Brush Creek aims at bringing the family together. The staff encourages guests of all expertise and ages to embrace the ranch’s saying, “Learn to do and learn to do better.” Brush Creek upholds a sophisticated activity concierge service aimed at understanding their guests’ desires for the trip and helping meet those goals alongside equipped and well-trained guides.
“I grew up in a place where you lock your doors, you lock your cars,” says Williams. “It’s not like that here in Saratoga. We’ve never issued a guest room key here. We never lock the doors. It’s just the Western way of life.”
The Home Ranch
“At The Home Ranch, it’s wide open spaces, fresh air, being in a place where you are well-served and meeting other guests, but still feeling like you have your privacy,” says General Manager Brooks Bradbury. At the year-round Clark, Colorado, ranch, dinner is served each night on common tables in the dining room, giving the chance for guests to get to know each other. The Home Ranch prepares what they call “haute mountain cuisine” for each meal, featuring farm-to-table food, where produce, herbs and meat, among others, are all raised and grown on the property.
Sustainability is a common feature for contemporary luxury ranches, and most serve organic, regionally and locally sourced and seasonally diverse food enjoyed within another rich ranch tradition of communal, family-style dinners. These, coupled with musical events, bring the historic characteristics of ranches to life everyday. Every Tuesday night at The Home Ranch, a cowboy group performs, and, in the summertime, every Wednesday following dinner, there is a barn dance featuring musicians playing country western dance music.
The Ranch at Rock Creek
“Every meal is an event,” says Steve Shotsberger, general manager of the 5-star guest ranch The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana. “We do different things every night for dinner, from a four- to six-course tasting menu, to barbecues, to supper clubs. We change the location most evenings.”
Accommodations in luxury ranches include many different options, all of which offer exquisite lodging experiences. In the case of Rock Creek, varied accommodations include granite lodges, “glamping” cabins, a 19th-century historic barn or luxury homes.
“The number one thing that resonates with me is the memories that we create,” adds Shotsberger. “It’s such a unique experience in a beautiful setting in Western Montana — our guests don’t get these anywhere. It’s a combination of absolutely wonderful product, variety in structure and architecture, followed by service. We make sure we deliver customized experiences to every guest.”
Overall, the ranches report guests typically stay four to seven days, with summer the most in-demand season, followed closely by fall. Depending on accommodations, season and number of guests, prices range from $750 to $3,000 per night.
Photos courtesy: Triple Creek Ranch, Brush Creek Ranch, The Home Ranch and The Ranch at Rock Creek