Extinguished in South Africa
I am a long time fan of The Saxon in Johannesburg for many reasons. The fact that Mandela briefly lived (and wrote part of Long walk to freedom) here and you can stay in the room he stayed in; the always polished and incredibly warm service (a by-product, I like to believe, of the hotel’s many years of independent family ownership); the bustling lunches by the pool at The Terrace restaurant, with its intersecting power circles of business, politics and social influence. And then there’s the Saxon Spa, which ranks with the best city day spas out there. It is located on its own floor on the hotel’s ample grounds and features hot and cold pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam baths, mani-pedi stations and a hairdressing salon.
But there are also sleep therapies and mindfulness sessions in the middle of the sophisticated range of facial and body treatments that use products from partner brands, including Ling, Elemis or the high-tech QMS Medicosmetics lines. The many outdoor treatment areas and relaxation zones are a bonus, as are the excellent freshly squeezed juices and plant-based dishes at the spa’s café. The perfect antidote wherever you stay, against days of dusty safaris. Just book ahead of the weekend where it is hugely popular with the locals. Manicure from around £ 13; saxon.co.za
Not just for fragrant Florentine brothers
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is the major Florentine cultural heritage label that has existed since 1221, when the Dominican brothers arrived in the city and began producing balms and tinctures from plants grown in the monastery gardens. In February, The Savoy, Rocco Forte’s elegant hotel in Piazza della Repubblica, opens a two-story spa suite offering a range of facial and body treatments created with Santa Maria Novella experts using their products. (Think scrubs with Iris powder and vitamin-infused oils, or a half-hour targeted back and neck massage with its Arnica cream, a global cult favorite.)
Located on the top floor, the suite has a large treatment room and private bath with shower and tub, with a reach-and-touch-it-view of the Duomo; upstairs is a relaxation area with a 180-degree panorama of the city and the hills. Treatments from € 80; roccofortehotels.com
My favorite Marrakech hammam
Having been to Morocco about 18 times, I am confident in asserting some degree of authority in the country’s hammam efforts, my experience of driving the full spectrum from astonishing pleasure (and its inevitable gut-cutting prices) to public baths who are both spartan in service and environment. La Sultana is not categorically the finest hotel in Marrakech (although I am very fond of it, I know some who are not). But it has what I would argue, from a quality-for-money point of view, the city’s best hammam, without a doubt. The black olive soap rub-up is slightly fragrant with eucalyptus oil, followed by a mitten scrub that is firm but not flaky, and buckets and buckets of warm (but never scalding) water all the way through – and then a healthy , but smooth massage.
The small but perfect relaxation area, clad in red-pink marble with a hot water pool, is an ideal way to loosen up pre-soap; or guests are welcome to hang out and use it for up to an hour after their treatments are completed. Total price: just over £ 60. Hammams from around £ 39; lasultanahotels.com
An escape from Bangkok by boat
As exciting as it can be to navigate its more than 10 million. citizens for those who love it, Bangkok is a place you sometimes really need a break from. Enter The Oriental Spa, one of Bangkok’s great oases, located in its own small complex across the Chao Phraya River from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel itself. The three-story house, built of teak and more than a century old, now houses several treatment suites the size of small apartments; many have vitality pools, large lounge areas and mat platforms for Thai massage. Extra time is built into each reservation to provide maximum utilization of all that space and privacy. There are spa packages that combine several face-body-mind services with the theme “Jet Lag”, “Digital Wellness Escape” or “Oriental Qi”. There are old-school Thai and four-hand massages. There are Endermologie sessions for face (tightening and filling) and body (tightening, cellulite reduction) and Bastien Gonzalez nail treatments. An impressive fusion of Eastern and Western wellness – and every place you have to get to by boat has my voice. Facials from around £ 25; mandarinoriental.com
Underground Shibui cool in Manhattan
Since opening in 2008, The Greenwich Hotel – like the Tribeca, Manhattan neighborhood in which it is located – has had the understated cool stuff, from the wide plank floors in the suites to the fire burning in the design studio. Likewise – and no surprise here – its underground Shibui spa ticks all the right fields.
Tatami, paper screens and rich deep tones prevail everywhere. It offers the highest caliber permutations of treatments you really want, without anything irrelevant (the whole menu is barely longer than two pages – a haiku compared to some in its composition). For the body, there is a slight emphasis on Japanese traditions (ofuro bathtub, an oil-free Shiatsu administered on a tatami mat); and for the face, a series of fairly straightforward treatments using Natura Bissé, the excellent Spanish line. It is worth reserving a few hours on a cool day just to relax under the dark wooden beamed ceiling next to the pool. Treatments from $ 230; thegreenwichhotel.com