The best healthy holidays for foodies
In search of a holiday that will leave you feeling rested and rejuvenated, as well as pampered and gastronomically indulged? Here are our favourite healthy holidays for foodies
Looking for a healthy and wellness retreat? Here are our healthy holidays for foodies, spa resorts and yoga holidays with a foodie focus. From spas with special wellness menus and healthy breakfasts, to wellness holidays with healthy cookery courses, and health retreats with fresh and vibrant dishes. These retreats will ensure you relax and unwind while enjoying the best healthy food.
Food is at Salt’s heart (the philosophy explained by catchphrases such as “Farming it, not flying it”) and everything from supper with a Mauritian family to fishing trips with a local fisherman are on the menu.
Then there’s the farm. Some hotels have kitchen gardens but, from May 2019, Salt will have a whole farm at its disposal, five minutes down the road and founded on permaculture principles. Developed with the help of a local NGO, Island Bio, the farm has a ground-breaking hydroponic system using beach sand for cultivation.
As well as growing pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, cultivating mushrooms and establishing its own beehives, the farm will be home to a rustic vegetarian and vegan restaurant. The Salt Raw section on the current hotel menu features wildly creative vegan dishes – tacos made from seeds and stuffed with beet balls, vegan soured cream and avocado salsa. The lasagne is a must-order: layers of courgette, tomato sauce, cashew truffle cream, basil pesto and fresh basil leaves.
It’s not all bratwurst and schnitzel in Germany – vegans are welcome too, especially at Berlin’s Almdóvar. Centrally set in the edgy, alternative district of Friedrichshain, at this dedicated meat-free hotel you’ll find everything from vegan curried sausage to homemade bread and organic sparkling wine at the in-house deli.
Bedrooms are crisply modern, with oiled rosewood furniture set against powder blue walls. Some have floor-to-ceiling windows and all come with a yoga mat, so you can start your morning peacefully. There’s also a rooftop spa (complete with massage therapist and sauna) for guests to sink into after a day pounding the streets (and cafes and restaurants) of Berlin.
Chiva Som health retreat, Thailand
At this spa resort on the Gulf of Thailand – set in seven tropical, Thai pavilion-pricked acres – you can savour spicy shredded lemongrass salad with mixed seafood, zingy pomelo and grilled prawns, creamy coconut soups and skewers of moreish chicken satay, guilt-free. This is not the kind of place where you nibble on a lettuce leaf and overdose on tofu. Portions of light, aromatic Thai dishes served in the open-air beachfront restaurant, might be small, but they are packed full of flavour.
Most of the vegetables, herbs and salads are harvested from the resort's own organic kitchen garden where sweet basil, holy basil, tree basil, Thai watercress, lemongrass, mustard leaves, okra, Indian spinach (good for digestion), aubergine and tomatoes are grown. You can sign up for a tour of the garden with the chef, wandering among the raised beds, peering into the six grass huts where they grow mushrooms or the tubs of vibrant green wheatgrass.
In the restaurant, each dish has a helpful calorie tally beside it as well as a breakdown of the protein, carb and fat content. How many bowls of Yam Mamuang Boran, a spicy green mango salad with prawns, you eat (120 kcals each) – or grilled sea bass for that matter – is up to you.
There are also regular healthy cookery classes (you cook and eat) with the head chef. At these lunchtime classes, taken in a sleek kitchen with its own mini kitchen garden, you learn how to whip up a tasty raw daikon and spinach or raw asparagus and mushroom salad and tasty Thai broth before sitting down to tuck in.
Drift retreat, Jersey
Surfing, yoga and honest food – that’s what a Drift retreat is all about. Set on the west coast of Jersey, within the island’s National Park, Drift Jersey immerses guests in morning yoga sessions, brisk sea swims and evening beach walks (during which you can forage for wild dinner ingredients). You’ll also surf every day, along a five-mile stretch of pristine coastline, no matter what your ability is.
Guests stay in Kempt Tower, built in 1834 from Jersey granite, and the experience is a shared one: chrome bunk beds, big living rooms and communal dining. Food is all healthy fuel – mainly vegetarian, organic and raw – and a day’s menu might include chai coconut porridge, raw almond bread with beetroot carpaccio, tiger nut muffins at snack time and chickpea farinata with a local seaweed salad for dinner.
Ca’ de Memi, Italy
Stretch out and breathe deep at Ca’ de Memi, an Italian country house between Padua, Venice and Treviso. Ottorino and Michela run it as an agriturismo (it was bought by Ottorino’s great-great-grandfather in 1933) and pride themselves on the fruit trees, vegetable plots, gardens (spot the ancient magnolia tree) and small poultry farm that surround the property.
All of the above are open for guests to explore. En-suite rooms are modestly decorated, and breakfast includes fresh eggs and homemade jams and cakes. But perhaps the biggest draw is Michela’s cookery classes, which transform just-picked fruit and veg from the gardens (including asparagus, hop shoots and chicory) into a wholesome Veneto feast.
Carpathian Active Adventure Tour, Ukraine
Traversing primeval beech forests, foraging for strawberries in wildflower meadows, milking goats on far-away mountain farms…it’s all go on a Carpathian Active Adventure Tour. Led by Nataliya Cummings, of Experience Ukraine, these eight-day trips are utterly immersive, with the aim of showing guests a real insight into Ukrainian traditions. Running between May and October, the trips involve camping out under the stars or staying as the guests of local families.
During the day, time is spent trekking through the Carpathian Mountains and visiting (and dining with) local farmers and producers. In Nizhnie Selische, for example, a remote village where locals still pickle their own vegetables and churn their own butter, a herbalist will offer you bee tea, made from herbs dried inside a beehive for sweetness. Another day you might hike to a working water mill where, after tasting ground polenta cooked in soured cream (banosh), you can jump into the crystal-clear waters for a rejuvenating swim.
Hedonistic Hiking, Italy
From the Italian lakes to the Tuscan hills, Hedonistic Hiking offers a range of guided walking holidays, from the gentle to the more strenuous, all with a focus on regional gastronomy. There is an eight-night trip to the mountains of Piedmont, balancing alpine hiking (think wildflower meadows and babbling streams), with gourmet picnics packed with local specialities and nights spent in stylishly rustic hotels.
Piedmont is home to the Slow Food movement, and lunches make the most of local produce, navigating an appetising course around Cuneo prosciutto, Seirass del Fen (a traditional hay-wrapped cheese) and salads made with zucchini and pesto.
Dinners, at local restaurants, also veer towards the traditional: expect Piemontese pinched ravioli stuffed with roast meats, local trout topped with crushed hazelnuts, baby salad leaves and guinea fowl served with a sauce of Moscato, almonds and apples.
Gwinganna wellness retreat, Australia
A heavenly, 500-acre mountainside wellness retreat on Queensland’s Gold Coast, at Gwinganna you can check in and zone out. It offers two- to seven-day all-inclusive retreats featuring a mix of indulgent spa treatments, wellness seminars and delicious organic food in a 'low-tech environment' (that's no TV, no radio, no phones – a digital detox). The three-night Organic Living retreat teaches guests how to use and grow their own medicinal herbs and shares some of the retreat's mouthwatering recipes.
Much of the food at Gwinganna is picked each day from the on-site organic garden and orchard and the menus are dairy- and gluten-free, as are the recipes in the retreat’s award-winning cookery book, A Taste of Gwinganna. For breakfast think pumpkin granola or poached egg with sweet potato rosti, for lunch and dinner seafood paella might be on the menu or prawn bobo (an Afro-Brazilian stew) with kale rice, earthy mushroom pate or a refreshing cucumber soup. For dessert? Raw cheesecake.
RAAS Devigarh spa retreat, India
Ravishing RAAS Devigarh is a dreamy, cream Indian palace outside Udaipur on the edge of Rajasthan’s Aravalli Hills. The antithesis of a stuffy heritage hideaway, this ornate 18th-century palace houses a modern boutique hotel, all minimalism and eclectic charm. There’s also a blissful Ila Spa which offers three, five or nine-day retreats.
Food is, naturally, another highlight. For guests who want a lighter take on Indian cuisine, the palace offers a curated wellness menu. For breakfast, start the day with sweet lime or watermelon juice or one of an encyclopaedic range of juice combinations, from carrot, ginger and apple to pineapple, papaya and milk. There's gluten-free granola with toasted nuts, porridge with turmeric milk – and turmeric lattes on tap. The all-day dining wellness menu offers delectable dishes such as pear and fennel soup or moong lentil and holy basil soup, basil paneer tikka, a cottage cheese kebab with olives, basil and cinnamon and salads such as soy lentil, low fat yoghurt, roasted cumin, fresh coriander and shallot or home-grown organic aragula, fennel and orange from their kitchen garden.
Aristi Mountain Resort, Greece
The mountain village of Aristi, in the north of Greece close to the Albanian border, is a far cry from the country’s sun-drenched beach resorts. Even in winter the landscape here is intensely green (thanks to a blanket of beech and chestnut trees) and Aristi Mountain Resort, with its traditional stone exterior and wood-floored bedrooms, blends seamlessly into the setting.
The resort makes an ideal basecamp for hikes around the Vikos Gorge via stone mule paths and Ottoman-era wooden bridges, as well as rafting and kayaking trips in the Vikos-Aoos National Park. The kitchen, meanwhile, makes use of the forests and rivers – as well as an on-site greenhouse and organic garden – in dishes such as river trout carpaccio, fig and feta salad and fennel soup. Cooking workshops are possible, too, and, in summer, don’t miss brunch out on the patio; a plate of homegrown watermelon overlooking the mountains is a must.
Hidden Pond resort, Maine
Open May to October only, this New England gem (here's another that we visited) is a bucolic resort in Maine surrounded by 60 acres of woodland with a cluster of clapboard cottages and a host of restorative activities to choose from: morning yoga and tai chi at The Farm, a treehouse spa, guided nature walks and and bikes to borrow to pedal down to the beach for a spot of paddle-boarding or kayaking.
The resort's restaurant is called Earth and guests eat in two rustic-chic dining sheds in the forest choosing from a menu of inventive farm-to-fork dishes. Think stir-fried rice noodles with Maine lobster, Calabrian chillies and green onions or broccoli greens and kale with pecans, fried shallots, pickled local beets, goat's cheese and miso vinaigrette. There's also an organic kitchen garden where you can help yourself to vegetables and herbs if you want to rustle something up in your cottage’s kitchen, plus a weekly farmer's market on-site.
Six Senses Zighy Bay
Much of the resort’s food is aligned with Six Senses’ general wellness philosophy. Menu options include choices that subscribe to the Eat With Six Senses philosophy (essentially food made from scratch using local, organic produce, avoiding trigger ingredients such as gluten but promoting gut health). If you want to take it a step further you can go for a wellness screening in the spa and the therapist will suggest a programme to suit you, from sleep-enhancing to fitness; each programme’s best choices are listed (discreetly) on menus throughout the resort so if you want to stick to the guidance you can (for the sleep programme, for instance, menu choices include lots of tryptophan-rich foods). One benefit of this “integrated” wellness approach is that one half of a couple can follow the sleep programme, say, while the other does an unofficial retox, indulging however much they like, while still eating at the same restaurant and ordering from the same menu.
L’Auberge de Sedona, America
It’s hard to avoid hiking when there are more than 100 walking trails right outside your hotel. L’Auberge de Sedona, an 11-acre creekside resort near the beautifully named Bear Wallow Canyon, is a dream spot for gung-ho walkers, who can rely on the nearby Hike House (a kind of all-singing, all-dancing information centre for hikers) for guidance on planned routes (including those to The Bell Rock Vortex, a spot that apparently emits energy from the earth’s surface).
For the ultimate in forest bathing, back at the auberge an al fresco spa is located literally on the banks of the creek. So, too, is the hotel’s impossibly romantic candle-lit restaurant, Cress on Oak Creek, which specialises in pretty plates of foraged food. Guests can choose to stay in a cottage or a lodge room, some with staggering views of Sedona’s Red Rock country.
Ulpotha, Sri Lanka
For thousands of years, peace-seeking visitors have sought solace at Ulpotha. A traditional Sri Lankan village, cocooned by mountains and paddy fields, it welcomes tourists for six months of the year. Guests stay in simple one-bedroom huts set within a 22-acre organic farm (also home to macaque monkeys) and spend their time swimming in lakes dotted with water lilies, practicing yoga or tai chi, and taking part in programmes run along ayurvedic lines.
Stomachs are nourished as well as souls, with fresh fruit juices to drink (watermelon, custard apple, hibiscus flower) and homemade organic curries and sambals to eat, all served simply in clay pots on rush floor mats.
Desa Seni, Bali
Tropical gardens strewn with wildflowers and statues are the backdrop to dreamy eco-retreat Desa Seni. A 10-lodge resort on the fringes of Canguu, it is designed purely for relaxation – guests can float in a saltwater pool, take classes at an open-air yoga pavilion, indulge in holistic spa treatments or just sip lemongrass tea in their wooden cottage, relaxing among Indonesian antiques and colourful handmade furnishings.
Everything at the resort is connected by stepping stones, including the restaurant, which takes around 80% of its ingredients from a huge vegetable patch right beside it. Don’t miss the famed Tabanan Delight for breakfast – eggs on sweet potato corn cakes, with a tomato, broccoli and Thai basil chutney.
Wheels Across Morocco yoga holiday, Essaouira
If you’re looking for an alternative to a hotel-based holiday, check out Wheels Across Morocco. The company’s six-night yoga holidays are based in a luxurious villa outside Essaouira and include twice-daily yoga lessons, meditation and breathing sessions. The tranquil villa is surrounded by olive groves and pine forests a short-drive from Essaouira's bustling medina (easy to reach if you fancy a mooch around the city’s vibrant souk).
What sets this trip apart, however, is the focus on food. These trips cater to a wide range of guests, literally, so don’t expect bread or dairy but do expect an emphasis on seasonal local fruit and vegetables. The break also includes two Moroccan cooking classes in a nearby village, showcasing key spices in Moroccan cuisine and teaching guests how to prepare classic dishes with a healthy twist such as lentil dal and couscous salad and prawn and parsley soup.
The Riding Company, Spain
Holidays on horseback, for those with the necessary experience, are some of the healthiest trips possible, core strength and good general standards of fitness a must for long days in the saddle. If you fancy giving one a try, The Riding Company’s ‘galloping for gourmets’ holidays in Andalucia, are a good place to start. Pairing a whole week of horse-riding through the Serrania de Ronda with a sort of food-crawl of the area’s best producers, you’ll trot through orange and avocado groves, meeting beekeepers (eat their honey drizzled over fried aubergines at dinner later that day), Jamón ibérico pig farmers and goat’s cheese producers along the way.
Guests stay in the traditional whitewashed village of Gaucín, in a cortijo built around a Moorish-style courtyard that has views all the way to Gibraltar. There’s an in-house chef who can teach you how to make iconic Andalucian dishes, including gazpacho and barbecued leeks, as well as bring you homemade picnics between rides.
Words by Lucy Gillmore, Charlotte Morgan and Ellie Edwards
Photographs by Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Chiva Som and Lucy Gillmore