In years passed, mindful travel may have been viewed as an act of self-indulgence. Today, there’s an increasing recognition that mind and body can not be remedied independently of one another; mental health is whole-being health. And we don’t need to tell you that travel feels good. But we will say that mindful travel has evolved beyond yoga retreats and multi-session spa days.
The experiences we’re recommending aren’t just travel escapism—you know, grinding all year long for the two or three weeks of holiday when you ascend the mundane-but-practical routines that dominate work and family schedules. We’re about transcendent experiences in architecturally inspiring spaces that consciously engineer opportunities for personal transformation, whether through nature, programming, or Indigenous learning.
All of these prescribed experiences will require your passport, and joyfully, most offer a deeper connection beyond the range of a Wi-Fi signal.
Sitting some 7,900 feet above sea level and enveloped by a desert so stark it imitates the moon, guests of Tierra Atacama Hotel are left spellbound by the radiance of the Milky Way spilled across the inky black Chilean night sky. It’s a simply celestial stargazing experience. Staring into the cosmos reminds us how small we are, offering renewed perspective on the big issues vexing our minds and hearts.
Each of Tierra Atacama’s 32 rooms is backdropped by sweeping views of Licancabur Volcano and boast al fresco bathrooms—perfect for unapologetically luxurious, moon-lit baths. At onsite Uma Spa, clarify the mind and stimulate the body while cycling through a hydrotherapy circuit of soak-steam-cool-relax. From lava rock to chakra-clearing crystals, a menu of treatments is informed by ancient therapies and incorporates native flora and Indigenous plant medicine.
And just because the surrounding Atacama Desert can be described as barren, doesn’t mean it’s dull. Visit steaming geysers and hot springs, wander down crooked canyons, admire milky opaque altiplano lakes, and float in buoyant, salty lagoons.
Tucked into the foothills of Table Mountain—the imposing sentinel plateau that presides over Cape Town—Future Found Sanctuary is a seven-acre estate where you can ground yourself in the healing properties of nature. The two-villa sanctuary is said to be situated along a “ley”—supernatural lines that connect some of the world’s sacred and ancient sites. Energy vortices may feel a bit woo-woo for some, but you can’t deny the regenerative energy that cloaks this biodiverse setting. Also diverse is Future Found’s catalog of programming which runs from the familiar—think: private, individualized yoga sessions, and restorative treatments at Sensorium Spa where the wellness philosophy is driven by the “Wheel of WholeBeing”—to the progressive: get your fingernails dirty in one of five healing gardens, feel the earth underfoot during a guided forest therapy session, or restore the body’s natural frequencies with sound healing. The team is rounded out by an acupuncturist, a biokineticist (a clinical exercise specialist who can assess your physical movement), a tai chi master, a meditation teacher, and resident guru Romy Paull who can curate an individualized wellness itinerary prior to the guest’s arrival. Future Found Sanctuary can be booked on an exclusive-use basis or by the room.
Slip into the Peruvian rhythm of life at Rio Sagrado—situated at a lower altitude than nearby Cusco, the property provides the perfect environment in which to acclimatize, and is an ideal base to explore the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Set on the banks of the Urubamba River—which runs through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The property is modeled after a traditional Andean village where and travelers can merge with the landscape and take part in a Shaman ceremony, go horseback riding and more.
From there, make the snaking, jungle-swathed train ride from the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu’s cliff-hugged gateway community) where the first thing travelers feel is a sense of wonder—the anticipation of what lies in wait. And when they arrive at Machu Picchu, the ancient citadel precariously perched upon a misty mountain peak, they’re awash with a sense of mysticism. Most visitors only experience it for a day. Guests of Sanctuary Lodge (the only accommodation located at the landmark’s entrance) are steeped in it for their entire stay. And what better place to practice mindfulness? Strike child’s pose in the relaxation garden which affords unspoiled views of Huayna Picchu; give thanks and make an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) during a time-honored, shaman-guided ceremony; have your cocoa leaves read by an Andean priest—an ancient tradition that may offer clues to what’s to come; and feel your mood lift while enjoying the spa’s signature treatment: Umaikita Hanpinapaq Therapy, a craniofacial massage performed in the ancestral technique of the Incas. As a guest of the intimate, 31-room hotel you have the privilege of counting yourself among the first people of the day to watch the sun rise on Huayna Picchu.
Snug in tropical North Queensland, Silky Oaks is enveloped by Australia’s celebrated Daintree Rainforest. It’s an ancient ecosystem believed to date back 180 million years, so we can understand and appreciate that there is much to learn here from the flora, fauna, and Indigenous Kuku Yalanji people.
Overlooking the serene Mossman River and tucked beneath the rainforest canopy, guests staying in any one of Silky Oaks’ forty luxurious treehouses are treated to the sights and sounds of an al fresco wildlife theater. Around the clock, a soundtrack of gurgling water is complemented by a chorus of frogs and the calls of birds. At Healing Water Spa, wellness is driven by the ancient, Indigenous-held belief that the water flowing through Mossman River is a renewing and life-giving force. Relax into a deep state of tranquility during a Sacred Songlines treatment—one of the spa’s signature “ceremonies”—where fluid movements rebalance the body’s energy meridians while relieving physical tension. Or enjoy (literal) forest bathing in a private, mineral enzyme forest bath complete with Ayurvedic herbs and detoxifying mud. Once restored, take a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk with an Indigenous guide who will demonstrate their unique and enduring connection to this land through a smudging ceremony and the sharing of plant knowledge and cultural traditions.
Creativity and introspection flow freely during a visit to Dar Ahlam, a sumptuous property seated on the hem of the Moroccan desert and housed in a kasbah. Dar Ahlam translates from Arabic to “House of Dreams,” so be sure to pack a fresh notebook and pen to capture all that inspires you during waking hours and while slumbering. Counting just 14 suites and absent a lobby and dining room, the property is intimate and reclusive, well suited to couples or solo travelers committing to a technology-free, mindful trip. Imbibe organic meals wherever they lead you: a spread served amid the manicured lawns, unfurled as a picnic in the garden or atop the kasbah at a table backlit by 100 flickering candles—this feast is a movable one. Once you’ve nourished your body, feed your senses. Luxuriate next to the palm-shaded pool overlooked by the Atlas Mountains; feel tension evaporate with a massage beneath a canopy of olive trees; practice breathwork and set an intention in the hammam. Beyond Dar Ahlam’s walls, the mystery of the desert beckons. Venture out to ascend golden-hued dunes on camelback, dine upon Berber cushions surrounded by lanterns and shaded by canvas, sleep beneath the star-studded desert sky and then greet the sunrise with a Berber-led tea ceremony.
Disconnect from the digital world and take a seat on a braided pouf at Omaanda’s stargazing “boma,” where conversations with other guests flow from the heart instead of your fingertips. With your tech stowed away, algorithm-generated hits of dopamine are instead delivered courtesy of the natural world—from peering into a Namibian night sky awash with stars to sighting a leopard perched in a Jackleberry tree through binoculars. Practice mindfulness while unwinding in an oversize tub boasting soul-stirring savannah views—a feature in each of the 10 thatch-roof guest huts constructed in traditional Owambo style. Amble to the spa where you’ll choose from a collection of modern treatments rooted in traditional Namibian therapies. The Spa Splendours Ritual, a signature offering, uses a centuries-old village recipe of warmed herbs and spices to invigorate circulation and ease aches.
On the western fringe of Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park sits Gisakura Tea Estate. Here, the sun ripens the green tea shrubs that thickly carpet the rippling verdant hills. Amid the hubbub of the working tea farm sits One&Only Nyungwe House, inviting guests to “heal from the root.” The signature treatment, The Africa Potato Experience, marries two humble ingredients boasting extraordinary properties. During a Hypoxis Body Wrap, the medicinal qualities of the African potato release anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthening benefits while moisture is restored to the body with marula oil—a botanical nicknamed “Africa’s miracle fruit.” You may have gravitated to One&Only Nyungwe House for the chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park, but the lodge is an experience unto itself. Bordering upon one of Africa’s oldest rainforests, a collection of luxurious villas situates guests among the canopy where you’ll fall asleep to the cacophony of great blue turaco birds and rise to the melodies of mangabey monkeys. On the pool deck, a wellness expert leads morning yoga and later, a guided meditation. Post-trek, tight muscles limber up after an ancient Fire Ritual, a deeply symbolic tradition applying massage and breathwork to transform stiffness into healing energy.
Distance yourself from overscheduled routines, banal commutes, and recycled thought patterns to find yourself in Kidepo Valley National Park—one of Uganda’s most remote parks. Perched atop a stony outcrop and wrapped by a vast plains horizon, Apoka Safari Lodge’s wide-open spaces invite big, contemplative thoughts. It’s also a place to downshift; take it slow while admiring a lioness for an entire unflinching hour, watch a wildlife parade from the privacy of an outdoor stone bathtub or meditate as the sun sets while cradled in the embrace of a sausage tree. Opportunities for levity abound, too. Cannonball into the rock-hewn pool to reacquaint with your playful self and laugh aloud while spying on tiptoe-trotting, blonde-moustached warthogs. In the nearby village of Lokorul, chat with Karamojong elders, prepare local dishes, and kick a football with the kids to learn how Apoka Safari Lodge gives life to the local community that supports it.
A stay at Grootbos Nature Reserve, the custodian of the Cape Floral Kingdom, reminds us that the purest way of living is in harmony with nature. Overlooking Walker Bay—a place where the cool Atlantic locks hands with the warm Indian Ocean—and hugged by a fragrant fynbos landscape and ancient Grootbos forest, this eco-lodge teems with biodiversity, offering moments in nature both grand and wonderfully small. On land, take a botanist-guided 4×4 through shaded glens and blooming fields to appreciate some of the 907 recorded plant species in this 8,648-acre pocket of pristine wilderness. On water, feel your heart jump at the sight of a southern right whale and her calf. Offshore, what will you learn about yourself while donning a mask to stare down a great white shark? Back at the lodge, let healing hands provoke the stress from your muscles during a massage that incorporates products made with locally-sourced botanicals and can be enjoyed in the comfort of a luxurious treatment room or en plein air in a milkwood forest. Whether you lodge in one of 25 suites spread across two gorgeous lodges or in one of two private villas, rest easy knowing that this community-based, sustainable eco-enterprise is carbon neutral.
With just four handsomely appointed villas, Ol Lentille is a unique choice for an exclusive and reclusive wellness-centered trip to East Africa. Surrounded by 40,000 acres of pristine, protected wilderness and hosting no more than 16 guests at a time, it’s perfect for guests who want to enjoy their visit in relative seclusion. Take dinner in a secretive spot in the bush backlit by ambient lanterns or contemplate the cosmos on the rotunda; sneak a night dip in before bed at the infinity pool—that, by day, offers a 270-degree view overlooking two watering holes. And should you choose to visit a nearby town on market day, you’ll likely be the only tourists among the Maasai and Samburu shoppers and vendors. The intimacy of Ol Lentille affords you the pleasure of dictating your day—which doesn’t have to be bookend with a morning and evening safari (unless you want it to). Check into the spa to mentally check out, sit high atop a plodding camel as it leads you to a riverbank picnic or stroll the area’s trails on an interpretive walk led by a Maasai or Samburu guide. All guests depart with an appreciation of the generous spirit of Ol Lentille’s people and the knowledge that their visit contributed to local conservation and community.