If you’re after some rejuvenation on your next break but still fancy a bit of an adventure, there are a whole host of alternative therapies offered around the world. From snail facials to a spot of sauna whipping, you can invigorate your body and soul with a smorgasbord of weird but wonderful wellness treatments. Here we’ve rounded up ten of the best.
Sake isn’t just the steamy accompaniment to a plate of tempura. This fermented rice drink is also a tonic for the skin. In
The grime you acquire riding the Trans-Siberian Railway won’t steam itself out. In a
Scandinavians are known for indulging in (or enduring) a plunge into ice-topped lakes in between sauna visits. But cryotherapy turns the temperature gauge even lower… right down to -110°C. Less than three minutes in the chill chamber at Finland’s Haikko Spa is all it takes, and if the promised benefits of pain relief and glowing skin don’t appear, the feeling of sheer exhilaration – that you survived – should suffice.
Wieliczka Caves are an eye-boggling series of subterranean grottoes, 90 minutes from
When you spy the glint of amber on Baltic beaches, don't dismiss it as hardened tree resin. Amber has a powerful place in Lithuanian legend, infusing it with ritual significance when worn as jewellery or used in beauty products.
Modern spas owe a great deal to the Roman Empire. Cleansing with oils, scraping off dirt with a strigil, and alternating between a caldarium (steam room) and frigidarium (cold plunge bath) remain the blueprint for modern wellness rituals. Imperial baths (thermae) were much more than spas though: lingering amid clouds of fragrant steam was the perfect atmosphere for gossiping, poetry recitals and a round of political debate. Wellness centres across Rome still offer this timeless experience; visit Rome Cavalieri.
Neptune Roman empire thermal bath, frigidarium and landscape in Ostia Antica © mgallar/Shutterstock
Consider yourself a sauna connoisseur? A Korean han-jeung-mak might test your limits. In between steam rooms and a punishing round of exfoliation, break a sweat in the ‘kiln sauna’ – alarmingly similar to an oven in appearance, this intensely heated dome uses burning wood and charcoal to heat the room, the style of which has barely changed style in 500 years. Eggs are a popular in-spa snack in Korea; you might spot a bowl of them inside the kiln, slow-cooking (just like you). Public bathhouses (jjimjilbang) around Korea have kiln rooms; try Dragonhillspa in Seoul.
How far would you go to get bright, clear skin? Centuries ago, geisha used uguisu no fun (nightingale droppings) to remove makeup and polish their skin. Nightingale faeces still makes its way into some beauty treatments and products, but the new vogue in
The heightened tactile senses of blind masseurs are thought especially effective at targeting aches and pains. The number of blind massage therapists exploded with the foundation of the Chinese Massage Association of Blind Practitioners nearly 20 years ago. Around 100,000 are now thought to practise throughout China; take a local recommendation if you can, or ask a taxi driver to look out for mangren anmo. Be aware that massage parlours with pink or blue lights might be offering a different 'treatment' altogether.
If you thought fish pedicures were a little tame, what about a few dozen snakes writhing over your skin? At Ada Barak's Carnivorous Plant Farm in Israel (Talmei El'azar), snakes are released to crawl over the shoulders, neck and scalp of a patient (or victim). The snakes' rhythmic movements are thought to be highly therapeutic. After surviving a faceful of snakes, routine treatments like waxing will never phase you again.