As the saying goes, “A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.” It’s true. A vacation is more than just a break, it’s a chance to relax, reenergize, rejuvenate, restore, and re-align while finding healthy outlets for stress and exploring new experiences. Travel that focuses on improving or maintaining health and the quality of life is now termed “wellness travel,” centering on finding a healthy balance and well-being through physical, psychological, or even spiritual activities.
It should come as no surprise, then, that some of the top wellness spots have existed in Latin America for ages. Renowned civilizations such as the Inca have long treated people with hot stone massages and coca leaves as sacred parts of their culture. Drawing on these and many other time-honored traditions, countries in Latin America have ushered in this new type of travel dedicated to finding inner calm.
For travelers looking for a truly invigorating wellness experience that brings together diverse healing philosophies, natural remedies, state-of-the-art facilities steeped in five-star luxury, and the perfect atmosphere for rejuvenation and relaxation, we’ve rounded up —in no particular order— our 6 favorite retreats in South America.
In the shadow of Machu Picchu: Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa
Nestled in Peru’s Sacred Valley, and serving as a base from which travelers can reach the mystical Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa is described by many as “the best hotel in Peru.”
The focus of this luxury wellness center is offering sublime moments of renewal and relaxation, taking advantage of the stunning natural views and the scenic beauty of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Among its range of services and facilities is the resort’s Kallpa Spa, which emphasizes the healing power of water and offers several treatments and experiences that call upon its powers to soothe and relax guests. Choose from a vast array of massages, including the Yucamani Stone Massage, which helps guests achieve an extreme state of relaxation. The facials call upon the wisdom of the ages, using Incan favorites such as cocoa, Mt. Misti mud, and quinoa. Then too, the 24-K Gold from the Gods Facial is not to be missed, as this chosen ingredient of Incan princesses improves tone and hydration.
The lodge’s fully-equipped Fitness Center is complimentary for all registered guests. Flushed with light from the large windows that look out over the lush gardens, guests are invited to linger in the soothing setting and enjoy fresh fruit, newspapers, and mineral water. The equipment includes treadmills, benches, free weights, and weight machines, which are all available for personal use.
Also available are heated indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, Vichy and jet showers, sub-aquatic beds, and hydrotherapy treatments. The resort’s indoor/outdoor heated pool is made available to guests from early in the morning to late at night. Whether you choose to enjoy the shade or soak up the sun, indulge in poolside food and beverage service at your leisure. The outside area of the pool proves extra tempting with a spacious terrace featuring a stunning view of the hotel gardens and river.
Peruvian cuisine, recognized as some of the best in the world, can be appreciated in the hotel’s spectacular Hawa restaurant, designed with a perfect balance of indigenous elements while offering a unique opportunity to explore new flavors. The cuisine is based on Andean ingredients such as quinoa, varieties of potatoes, and vegetables grown in the Sacred Valley, as well as lamb and trout from the region.
On top of all this, the Tambo del Inka Luxury Collection Resort & Spa is the only hotel in the Sacred Valley with a private train station to Machu Picchu, from where the guests will be able to start an amazing spiritual journey to the famous Inca city.
An oasis of calm: Tierra Atacama
Located in the far north of Chile, the Atacama Desert ranks among the driest regions on earth, fifty times more arid than California‘s Death Valley. It’s a place of truly other-worldly landscapes of towering volcanoes, flamingo-frequented lagoons, salt flats, geysers and shifting sand dunes. Indeed, the Atacama has been used to test Mars-bound NASA rovers and, thanks to its utter lack of weather, high altitude, and low-to-zero light pollution.
Despite its remote location and arid climate, the Atacama is home to a handful of luxury wellness centers. Situated around the remote oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, you can indulge yourself in one of these: the Tierra Atacama lodge, which encapsulates exquisite design, authentic experiences, and an intimate, home-away-from-home atmosphere, where a sense of both adventure travel and pure relaxation lingers in the air.
Tierra Atacama’s Uma Spa invites you to rejuvenate while contemplating the Licancabur Volcano, its energy emanating throughout the wellness center. The heart of the spa is water (“Uma” in the native Aymara language). Soak in an al fresco hot tub, enjoy a spa circuit as you drift between the indoor pool and steam room, or go for a refreshing dip in the spa’s outdoor pool.
The spa’s design is light and airy, with huge windows, natural stone walls and a bamboo canopy that bring you closer to the pristine environment. Enjoy a dip in the infinity pool, surrounded by the hotel gardens, before taking a rest on one of the spa’s wicker sun loungers and absorbing the Atacama views. This space, created to mirror the essence of the desert, is waiting to restore your mind, body and soul. At the same time, the center’s indoor space is just as enticing, complete with a heated pool with water jets and bubble beds to leave feeling entirely energized.
What’s more, should you wish to combine a day’s adventure into the Atacama Desert with a spa treatment to match, then the center’s pairing menu is just the ticket. Indulge in spa therapy in treatment rooms where an ambiance of calm is created through soft light, gentle music, and aromatherapy oils, as well as natural ingredients from the region, such as sheep’s milk, honey, volcanic mud, lithium-rich salt, and desert herbs. Or try the Uma Spa’s Reiki & Crystal Massage to keep your energy balance maintained; or, choose the Saddle & Soak, rounding off a long day on desert activities with an immersion in the hot tub to relieve soreness and tired legs.
Then too, Tierra Atacama’s yoga spaces allow you to connect with the Atacama Desert’s energy. Yoga classes are booked in the spa area and either held inside the wellness center or on the outdoor yoga platform. There are also plenty of peaceful spots to be found if you simply feel like having a moment to be alone, meditate and take in the views.
Come to Tierra Atacama for experiences that will leave you feeling fully restored by the time you leave.
An off-grid Amazonian wellness experience: Kapawi Ecolodge
Surrounded by jungle in southeast Ecuador, near the Peruvian border, the Kapawi Ecolodge is in one of the most remote and well-protected areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. The lodge is situated within the nearly two-million acres of the territory controlled by the indigenous Achuar people and is accessible only by air – otherwise, it’s at least a 10-day walk from the nearest road.
The indigenous Achuar members own and run the lodge, which has been carefully designed and built using only wood and other natural materials. Like “luxury,” wellness at Kapawi Ecolodge means participating in the active process of becoming aware of yourself and your surroundings. This effort relies on the Amazon Rainforest’s biodiversity and natural settings as sources of restoration, well-being, relaxation, and disconnection from the stress of life.
The remote, disconnected and healing nature of the rainforest is at the center of the health and wellness offerings at Kapawi. The lodge’s natural sanctuary is a transformational location to practice mind and body healing through an off-grid wellness experience.
The Achuar, who believe in the power of meditation to bring clarity and focus to one’s life, refer to meditation as “concentration.” Kapawi brings this experience to travelers through its open and inviting spaces around the lodge for guests to engage in their own meditation practices.
Activities in touch with the natural surroundings include guided nature walks in the heart of the jungle, kayaking, birdwatching and, of course, learning more about this Achuar indigenous people´s life and traditions here deep in the jungle.
Moreover, guests have access to peaceful and silent communal spaces for yoga and meditation. yoga retreats, workshops, and classes are hosted at various times throughout the year.
Guests at the Kapawi Eco-lodge are housed in 18 tastefully decorated thatched cabins built on stilts and connected to the large communal buildings by raised boardwalks. The Kapawi Ecolodge has its own restaurant and bar area, souvenir shop, kayaks, and satellite telephone connection (available in the case of an emergency). Swimming is possible in the lake and the nearby river.
From the architecture and design of the facilities to the wellness programs, what is offered is an experience focused on providing guests with a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. To the community that operates Kapawi, wellness is more than being free from suffering and illness; it is a dynamic and mindful process of change and growth.
A Galapagos getaway: Pikaia Lodge
A sprinkling of dots in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and straddling the equatorial line, the Galapagos Islands is probably the most famous wildlife-watching destination in the world. This places the destination near the top of most experienced travelers’ bucket lists.
Though most visitors choose to visit the Galapagos Islands on a cruise, the archipelago has much to offer visitors who choose a land-based stay for a wellness getaway.
One such haven of serenity is the Pikaia Lodge, a wellness lover’s paradise. This sleek eco-hotel is a secluded Jurassic-world getaway that sits perched on the rim of an extinct volcano on a secluded, lesser-traveled part of the archipelago.
The lodge offers access to its Sumaq Spa, a Zen sanctum that offers authentic shamanic treatment, though the package also includes excursions like scuba diving, snorkeling, and sightings of giant tortoises and iguanas – as well as other local heroes.
While the Pikaia spa has a sunny treatment room and a Jacuzzi in a separate solarium with lounge chairs, there’s also a sauna, a Vichy shower, and a small but serviceable workout room. But don’t overlook their Life Fitness machines, including a stationary bike, a treadmill, and a climber plus a fitness ball and free weights. Spa treatments run the gamut from facials to massages to body wraps to manicures and some treatments use exotic local ingredients like Galapagos volcanic ash.
Pikaia’s infinity pool creates a mesmerizing sight by merging a backdrop of endless ocean and the pristine savanna. The surrounding decks are plastered with Peruvian travertine marble, while the pool is strategically placed to receive shadow-free sun all day to maintain a pleasant water temperature.
This oasis of calm is a serene place to spend well-deserved time releasing muscular tension and stress while traveling or to pamper and purify the body with a massage and an array of other wellness services inspired by the natural surroundings. For this, the spa is provided with a massage room, a whirlpool, and a full gym that is equipped with a modern treadmill, an elliptical trainer and a spinning bike. The massage room offers parallel massage sessions for couples, though massage sessions can also be done in guests’ rooms if requested. Plus, the lodge boasts two miles of private paths for walking, jogging, or biking.
In a place where opportunities to explore are in abundance, there is no better place to begin or end a rejuvenating day than the hotel’s contemporary Evolution Restaurant, which offers a unique fusion of healthy Peruvian and Ecuadorian fine dining.
Booking a wellness retreat here is more than just a vacation, it’s an investment in improving your quality of life and engaging in activities that leave you feeling refreshed, rested and invigorated to make healthier and more mindful decisions upon leaving the trip.
A heady retreat: Mendoza Argentina’s Cavas Wine Lodge
Blessed by natural beauty, Mendoza is an idyllic wine-growing area on the western edge of Argentina, where over 900 wineries dot this vast region at the foothills of the Andes. Availing itself of the fabulous year-round weather and immaculate landscapes, the Cavas Wine Lodge is the perfect wellness retreat for travelers looking for a self-care getaway filled with rest, relaxation, and —of course— wine.
The lodge offers four-night, five-day yoga packages that give guests an all-inclusive experience to enjoy the hotel’s many amenities and programs. Plus, there are private plunge pools and outdoor fireplaces, nutritious meals, morning and sunset yoga practice, Tai massages, healthy cooking classes, guided hikes and meditation – all with ample time to try the region’s incredible wines.
The spa’s inspiring Moorish-Roman architecture reveals pools, baths and treatment areas unique in the wine country. Indulge in the Grand Facial, where your skin will enjoy a deep cleansing, with an application of a thermal mud mask to detoxify and offer a warm sensation for total relaxation just an hour and a half from Buenos Aires.
The spirit and solitude of the far south: Tierra Patagonia
Set among the rugged mountains of southern Chile’s famed Torres del Paine National Park, Tierra Patagonia is a wellness retreat that focuses as much on the posh revitalizing experience it provides its guests as its sustainable and environmental footprint.
Paying homage to local history and highlighting sustainable projects, Tierra Patagonia boasts emerald lakes, fantastic mountain ranges and abundant wildlife. Weaved into the landscape with subtle style and blending into the magnificence of the region, this perfect spot for adventure serves as a backdrop for this impressive lodge.
The Torres del Paine Massif’s silhouette serves as a backdrop for Tierra Patagonia’s spa. It is a luxury to indulge in the outdoor hot tub or switch between the steam room and indoor pool. Encased in tall glass walls, you’ll feel effortlessly connected to Torres del Paine all the while enjoying the Patagonia spa & wellness facilities.
The spa complex incorporates various spaces for relaxation or revitalization, including a pool, steam room, and soothing relaxation areas. Take your pick from an extensive list of facials, massages, body wraps, scrubs and alternative therapies, designed to open up your “prana,” which is the local lingo for a type of life force that promotes positive thoughts and well-being. After your wellness treatment of choice, adjourn to the heated, indoor pool, complete with hydro-massage and water jets, encased in a glass-paneled sanctuary, offering expansive views of the wild surroundings.
Outside, the retreat’s open-air whirlpool tub offers the chance to soak in warm waters, while taking in views of Torres Del Paine. It’s not unusual to spot Patagonian wildlife from here either, as you are likely to spot a guanaco or ñandú that has wandered up to the lodge.
Enter a Zen-like state in the lodge’s treatment rooms, with aromatherapy oils, peaceful sounds and soft lighting. Tierra Patagonia’s wellness space, which includes a yoga studio and separate relaxation rooms for men and women, is clad in warm, locally sourced wood and stone, while treatments and therapies use all-natural ingredients.
Recognized by Condé Nast Traveller as among the Best Hotels in South America in 2023, Tierra Patagonia is a sure bet for finding your inner calm and balance.
Adelante (“go forward”) with a South American retreat
When planning a spa and wellness vacation, consider the diverse landscapes and cultural influences of each destination. Whether you prefer island luxury, mountain retreats, or Amazonian adventures, South America provides a variety of options for a rejuvenating and enriching experience. And whatever your preferred travel style —whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, or with your family or friends— there are plenty of ways to incorporate wellness into your trip. Whatever makes you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and relaxed, you can make it a part of your wellness journey to South America.
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