The biggest buzzword in all aspects of travel this year (especially when it comes to wellness and wellbeing holidays) is “reconnection” – be that about renewing bonds with friends and family, with ourselves, nature, or with a place that we love. That sense of reconnection is also evident in the contemporary spa design of some new, luxury wellness destinations that are emerging, many with a distinct nod to the environment that they’re in. The Experientialist explores three stunning spa concepts that have got chins wagging because of how sympathetic they are with their surroundings.
While we are somewhat adept at pouring over and scrutinising a spa’s treatments and overall philosophy, it’s not often that we talk about its ambience and design. Earlier this year, spa interior aficionados were beside themselves trying to figure out what spa design trends will lead the way when the post-lockdown wellness surge happens. They debated between concepts like ‘Japandi’ (Japanese-Scandi) and ‘Botanical Nature.’ But for us, hotel spa design seems to be leaning more into celebrating their immediate surroundings with a renewed understanding of ‘sense of place.’
The Phoenicia Malta is an iconic historical and architectural gem of a hotel, set in seven and half acres of verdant gardens within the ancient fortified walls of the UNESCO World Heritage site in the City of Valletta. It already had OutThere travellers talking because of its rooftop Bastion Pool and its outstanding views overlooking the harbour … but the fortifications now protect an even bigger (and for wellbeing fiends, better) secret treasure: a 1,200 square metre Deep Nature Spa (eponymous with the French spa brand) designed beautifully around the old stonework. The spa design combines clean, modern lines with a cavernous space filled with light, with views of the city’s 16th century ramparts. Maltese architects AP Valletta developed the soothing, escapist space to echo the memory of ancient Roman baths (albeit in a contemporary way) and the wellbeing benefits that they have on body and spirit.
Speaking of Roman baths, the brand new Palazzo Fiuggi Wellness Medical Retreat located in an old, reimagined, Palazzo hotel, is just an hour outside the Italian capital. So, if you’re a modern-day Caligula in search of an authentic, modern, residential Roman spa palace with a sense of place, this is it. Surrounded by unspoilt nature and healing, mineral-rich waters, Fiuggi has long been a centre of holistic wellness, but now, with added luxury and the latest in spa tech and treatment know-how. And it’s all about the water here; the spa designers have made sure to embellish, just in case you forget. And linked to it, other elemental touches are brought into the design to achieve a harmonious state of health and mental wellbeing. Our favourite part is the Roman Therme, the Palazzo’s 700 square metre facility that is literally a Roman bath, past present and future. If ‘time-travel’ is your thing, the Therme also offers a unique view of the old town.
For an entirely different take, we travel to Thailand’s capital and the Capella Bangkok. Opened during the pandemic, the luxury property’s Auriga Wellness spa facility beckons those in search of a sanctuary of tranquillity in Asia’s most hedonistic city. Auriga aesthetic takes on a distinctly Asian flavour (albeit the spa design is not as Thai as one would think, but then again Bangkok does tend to tout itself as a dynamic, regional melting pot). We loved the dark, earthy tones and stronger, ‘traditionally masculine’ lines … contrary to the more minimalist zen spaces you tend to find in much of the continent. We take our hats off to GOCO Hospitality; in partnership with a local interior design house, PIA. They broke down the boundaries of design with a contemporary, destination-inspired aesthetic, perfectly in keeping with its location and the DNA of Capella. The over thousand square metre spa features a traditional tea lounge and overlooks a gorgeous oriental garden (check out the yoga deck) that blends into the majestic Chao Phraya river, Bangkok’s throbbing artery and “River of Kings” … the place where boats from all over the region docked and new settlers first stepped foot in the Kingdom. The rest of the hotel is stunning too and invokes a curated sense of charm