1 of 10Courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels (UK) Ltd.
Where to experience it: The Cassanova Beauty & Wellness Center at the Hotel Cipriani (www.hotelcipriani.com), in—where else?—Venice.
What it is: Exactly what it sounds like: a 40-minute massage performed in a specially modified gondola, piloted slowly through the Venetian Lagoon (a private area off the Grand Canal) by your own personal gondolier. To further protect your privacy, the massage focuses on the upper body, face, and feet, keeping the lower body draped at all times. To protect your skin, this outdoor massage is given using a special oil with SPF protection.
Where to experience it: The Med-Spa Clinic at Tunbridge Wells (www.med-spa.co.uk), in Kent, England.
What it is: A full-body capsule resembling a tanning bed on the Starship Enterprise. Once you’re closed inside, your body is painlessly blasted with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that give off deep heat. The result is that you sweat a lot, which—when combined with a vibrating mattress (to “exercise muscles”) and super-oxygenated air (to “speed metabolism”)—reportedly promotes weight loss.
What it is: The Japanese practice of Reiki is focused on the belief that healing energy—when passed from practitioner to client—can correct imbalances in both spirit and body. Usually the practitioner is a human, but Rockin’ Heart Ranch owner (and Certified Reiki Master) Christina DiBartolo believes that horses also possess an innate healing energy. Riding on horseback—either alone or with DiBartolo, and with her guidance—ostensibly allows a client to tap into that energy, and ease everything from physical aches and pains to emotional anxiety.
Where to experience it: At Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Hot Springs Amusement Park and Spa Resort (www.yunessun.com/english/yunessun.html) in the Hakone hot springs region of south-central Japan.
What it is: Perhaps the most popular of the “amusement baths” at this sprawling spa resort (which also includes a Green Tea Bath, a Red Wine Bath, and a Coffee Bath). The concept is gimmicky, sure—you basically soak in a communal hot tub, into which a constant drip of sake flows from a huge overhead cask. But the amino acids in sake are also touted as powerful natural moisturizers, once used by geishas before applying their elaborate makeup.
What it is: An anti-sauna, basically. Once you step into the communal glass-and-tile room (big enough for eight spa-goers at once), and find yourself a spot on a heated bench, you can start breathing in mint—infused air-chilled to 55 degrees F. At the same time, you can watch as “snowflakes” (actually crystals made from soap and water) fall from the ceiling vents. The indoor snowstorm is merely to provide ambience, but believers say that a shot of extreme cold—especially after a stint in a hot tub or sauna—can help reduce hypertension and tighten pores.
Where to experience it: The Aquapura Douro Valley Resort & Spa (www.aquapurahotels.com), in northeastern Portugal.
What it is: A literally luscious 40-minute treatment, which culminates with slathering the face with creamy, melted, oxygen-infused Swiss chocolate. Aquapura staffers swear that the O2 helps deliver the chocolate’s vitamins and antioxidants deep into the skin to better fight aging, promote healing, and accelerate cellular rejuvenation. (And no one will mind if you lick your lips during the treatment.)
Where to experience it: The Saltwater Spa at Casa Dorada Los Cabos Resort (www.casadorada.com), on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
What it is: Adapted from an ancient Chinese tradition, this 50-minute massage uses silver baoding balls (which have been around since the Ming Dynasty). The balls are rolled over the body in place of bare hands; the idea is to stimulate the body with rolling pressure while the 48 different tonal vibrations produced by the balls relax the mind.
Best for: Anyone who likes their spa treatments to sound vaguely X-rated.
Where to experience it: The LakeHouse Spa at the Lake Austin Spa Resort (www.lakeaustin.com), in Austin, Texas.
What it is: Similar to acupuncture—but without the needles. During this 50-minute treatment, a wooden hammer called a manaka—used in Japan as far back as the 16th century—is employed to gently tap wooden pegs placed along your body’s acupoints. The tapping, done rhythmically to the beat of a metronome, purportedly provides the same benefits as acupuncture: balanced energy, and relief from both general stress and specific bodily pains.
Best for: Anyone interested in acupuncture (but less interested in playing pincushion).
What it is: During the 90-minute Sanctuary Luxury Facial, smooth rose quartz crystals (which have been “energized” by the power of the sun, then cooled on ice to 40–45 degrees F) are rolled over the face. According to Sanctuary Spa staffers, minerals in the stones soothe skin irritation and stimulate lymphatic flow, thus reducing puffiness—while the crystals’ cool temperature calms inflammation.
What it is: Sticking your feet into a tub full of flesh-nibbling fish and calling it a pedicure is already de rigueur in several parts of Asia—but here, the garra rufa (small fish in the carp family, which feed on dead skin cells) are used for full-immersion purposes. The process is simple: you lounge in a heated pool for about an hour—as long as you’re not ticklish—while swarms of “nibble fish” snack away at rough spots and deep-clean your pores. While feeding, the nibbling fish also reportedly exude an enzyme that slows the return of skin problems like acne.