Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.
Let’s be real: 2020 has been a rough ride for most of us. Amidst any challenging time, however, nothing can sate the soul quite like planning a trip to recharge, reboot, and recenter, even if it’s just drafting that blueprint. With that in mind, we’ve curated a selection of physical and spiritual wellness vacations to consider for 2021.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is one of the world’s most revered walks for the soul-searching crowd. Committing to the entire journey, which is 500 miles and can take more than a month to complete, however, is not for the faint of heart—nor the faint of feet. (Many opt to travel just a portion of the entire route instead.) Depending on the route you select, the Camino begins in either France or Portugal and weaves through beautiful countryside and small villages, finally ending at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. No longer strictly the religious pilgrimage it was in the Middle Ages, the “modern” Camino attracts travelers from around the world, each of whom is on his or her own quest—be it recreational, spiritual or a mix of both. Infrastructure along the well-traveled route is good, so you needn’t have every detail plotted out. Many who make the journey say life-changing shifts were inspired by fellow pilgrims they met during the sojourn. When you’re ready to rest, sleep well at the Castilla Termal Balneario de Solares in Cantabria, Spain. This gorgeous but affordable hotel near the Camino features a full-service spa, hot springs and an indoor pool.
The peaceful energy of Tulum has helped to transform it from remote hippie enclave to wellness vacation favorite. With its namesake ancient Mayan Tulum ruins anchoring this region within Mexico’s Riviera Maya, this laid-back town 75 miles south of Cancun boasts a growing number of yoga and spa retreat options. Maya Tulum Retreat & Spa Resort, for example, will transport you a million miles from the everyday grind. Whether it’s participating in yoga on the beach, indulging in an oceanfront massage, experiencing a Temazcal (“sweat lodge”) ceremony with a local shaman or riding bikes under a canopy of tropical palms—you’re sure to hit the recharge button here, even if you opt to do nothing but sit on the beach. (If so, we recommend the one that lies beneath the cliffs of the Tulum ruins!)
It’s said that within the red rock landscapes of Sedona reside natural energy vortexes that have special healing powers. Tap this positive energy with a stay at one of the many rental properties or hotels in the area that cater to mindful relaxation. Amara Resort and Spa is one of them, where the menu includes guided meditations and native-inspired spa services like the Rain Dance ceremonial massage, which promotes healing of the body, mind and spirit, along with rhythmic movement that “dances you into tranquility.” Nearby, you can also hike to sacred sites or join an organized vortex tour that will drive you to some of the most famous, such as Boynton Canyon, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. One of the many spiritual healers and psychics who call Sedona home may become a part of your itinerary, too, either as a planned visit or as something spontaneous. Because Sedona is an International Dark Sky Community, the nighttime sky is preserved in such a way that it’s much darker here—which means fantastic star-gazing and, perhaps, deeper and more restful sleeps.
The journey to get here may be long, but the destination is worth it. Bali is not only where Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love,” came to recharge, rediscover purpose and find love—but it’s where countless other travelers have come to rest and reboot their lives. The tropical town of Ubud is an ideal base for the spiritually-minded seeker, with its many area temples to explore, an enchanting Monkey Forest to meander in, and its variety of yoga centers, such as the world-renowned Yoga Barn, which attracts beginners and seasoned practitioners from around the world. Deep exhales never sounded so good as they do in Bali. Make your overnight stay rejuvenating, too, when you book a room at the Bali Spirit Hotel & Spa, where you’ll find yoga and meditation programs, and even cooking classes.
The Appalachian Trail
You might not opt to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in one go, as it stretches some 2,190 miles and can take five to seven months to complete. But … maybe that’s just what you need after your 2020. (If so, start in spring and plan accordingly.) Many travelers plan day hikes or multi-day hikes along smaller stretches of the world’s longest pubic foot-trail that runs through 14 states, from Georgia to Maine. It traverses through gorgeous wooded, pastoral, and wild landscapes of the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains. The splendor of the scenery, coupled with the rhythmic sound of your own breath while hiking, is natural alchemy to foster deep introspection and reflection. If you’re headed through the West Virginian Stretch of the trail, consider spending a night or two at the Hillbrook Inn near Harper’s Valley, not far from DC. The Tudor style B&B is set on 30 lush, tranquil acres that were George Washington’s first land purchase in 1750.
The Pacific Crest Trail
On the other side of the country, you’ll find an equally aspirational hiking journey to consider: The Pacific Crest Trail. Author Cheryl Strayed helped to make this West Coast trek famous in her memoir-turned-movie “Wild,” propelling it to become a domestic bucket list adventure. The Trail weaves through California, Oregon, and Washington for some 2,650 miles, from the Mexican border up to Canada. It passes through 25 national forests, seven national parks, 57 major mountain passes, and more than 1,000 lakes. So, yeah, inspiring scenery abounds. Rather than expend the time and finances to do the entire thing, pick a section to explore—and drink in a trail that boasts 54% wilderness, more than any other trail in the U.S. Nothing like that to make you truly feel like one with nature.
On a teahouse wall in the Annapurna region of Nepal, you’ll find a fitting acronym written out for the nation of Nepal: “Never Ending Peace and Love.” Greetings like this are woven into the fabric of this predominantly Buddhist country, with “Namaste” (translation: “The light in me bows to the light within you.”) serving as its widely-spoken salutation. After flying into the capital of Kathmandu and acclimating to the altitude, venture out into the mountains for epic treks such as the Everest Base Camp Circuit (a two-week roundtrip journey that takes you to the base of the famous mountain peak where hard-core adventurers begin the arduous climb) or the Annapurna Circuit (a shorter trek that winds through mountain villages and spectacular scenery). If long hikes aren’t your thing, you might base yourself in the Himalayan mountain town of Pokhara, where yoga, hang-gliding, rafting, and Ayurvedic detox retreats attract a colorful mix of peace-seeking global travelers. The simple but comfy Nar-Bis Hotel is one good option here, featuring lake and mountain views, and a spacious outdoor dining terrace.