Relax And Rejuvenate At One Of Europe's Best Medical Spas

medical spa

Courtesy Lefay

This post originally appeared at Departures.While the world traveled to Asia and the States for pampering and well-being, European spas, once in the forefront of medical and wellness resorts, fell out of favour and out of fashion. Their old-style charm looked shabby, and they were being kept alive by the infirm and elderly on health insurance packages.

Then a few years ago something stirred in the surrounding mineral-rich waters and muds that were still in situ, and the resorts were given the facelift they required for the 21st century.

Add to this all the best new research and improved techniques, and the guests began to return. While Switzerland was always the attraction, Italy became the more adventurous, showcasing and embracing the new. The country now is awash with state-of-the-art spas, three of which are featured here.

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This story was originally published by Departures.

Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa & Cultural Hideaway in Elmau, Germany

Just a 90-minute drive from Munich and in the shadow of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, lies this Bavarian hideaway, where the mind is as important as the body. It is where hiking, biking, skiing, golf and yoga meet concerts, lectures, books and the body beautiful. It has four spas (including one for families), two libraries, a concert hall, six restaurants--one with a Michelin star--and the largest hotel bookshop in the world. Take tai chi classes or attend any of the 200 musical and literary events held all year long.

Signature Treatments: The Schloss Elmau Special Blend is a massage using warm oil, hot stones and techniques from Hawaii to Thailand. The anti-burnout package is conducted under the supervision of an experienced general practitioner.

Who Goes: The cognoscenti from Munich, families on walking holidays, music lovers.

Cost: Rooms start at $345, which includes use of all four spas and tickets to concerts and lectures. Elmau, Oberbayern; 49-88/23-180;

Source: Departures

Viva Mayr and F.X. Mayr & More in Lake Wörth Austria

These two clinics are independently run and within a couple miles of each other on the lakeside in southern Austria, near Klagenfurt. Both are serious detox centres based on the teachings of Franz Xaver Mayr, M.D., which concentrates on the digestive system--if the gut is healthy, so is the body. Each day begins with a dose of Epsom salts, and meals are a mix of dry rusks, broth and little else. Every mouthful must be chewed a minimum of 40 times. F.X. Mayr & More was established in 1976, while Viva opened in May 2005. The former is an old-style Austrian chalet, the latter modern with concrete and glass; neither is beautiful, but both have their devotees who return each year.

Signature Treatments: At both, it is the detox with a recommended stay of seven days. Viva Mayr is also now offering a burnout recovery program.

Who Goes: At F.X. Mayr & More, you will find well-heeled Austrians and aristocratic English ladies of a certain age. At Viva Mayr, there are bankers, fund managers, entrepreneurs--mostly English and Austrian with a few Russians thrown into the mix.

Cost: A seven-day package at F.X. Mayr & More starts at $1,150, including consultations. A seven-day, all-inclusive package with consultations at Viva Mayr starts at $3,435. 11 Seepromenade, Maria Wörth; 43-42/733-1117; 2 Golfstrasse, Maria Wörth-Dellach; 43-42/732-5110;

Source: Departures

LeFay Resort & Spa in Lake Garda, Italy

With spectacular views over Lake Garda, surrounded by olive and lemon groves on 27 acres of parkland, this ecoresort is where classical Chinese medicine meets the best of modern Western research. Not only does Lefay offer the usual spa treatments, it also has five types of saunas, a terrific saltwater lake for flotation therapies and a stunning swimming pool overlooking Lake Garda. The grounds also feature a running circuit, a choice of wellness paths and therapeutic gardens, where guests can go to meditate. And while many wraps, massages and facials are available, the spa excels at traditional Chinese medicine therapies, like tuinaacupuncture, which involves massaging acupuncture points instead of using needles, and moxibustion, in which heat is applied to energy pathways to boost the effects of a massage. And, of course, the two restaurants offer a healthy Mediterranean diet, as well as classic Italian cuisine.

Signature Treatments: The four- or seven-night Lefay SPA Method program--choose from either the antistress, slimming, antiaging or sports procedure.

Who Goes: Mostly locals--fashionable Italian couples from Milan and the occasional family (fear not, they all behave perfectly).

Cost: SPA Method programs start at $1,785 for a four-night stay and $2,885 for seven nights, all meals included. 118 Via Angelo Feltrinelli, Gargnano; 39-03/6524-1800;

Source: Departures

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

Recently renovated to the tune of $200 million, the Resort Ragaz includes two hotels, the most luxurious spa suites in Europe, a medical health centre overseen by 70 specialists, a golf course and a state-of-the-art thermal area--all in one of the most beautiful valleys in eastern Switzerland. There is stress management, sleep repair, antiaging and weight-loss therapies and programs, while the B Wellbeing spa and the Tamina Therme centre offer every type of massage, wrap, scrub, sauna, steam bath, whirlpool and a host of beauty treatments from La Prairie, Sensai, Carita and Sisley. Stay in one of the new Spa Suites, where the bathroom water comes straight from the springs.

Signature Treatments: Take advantage of the sports and body knowledge and opt for a Fit and Healthy Package.

Who Goes: Athletes looking to be refreshed and repaired each season, plus loyal locals.

Cost: The Fit and Healthy Package starts at $870; treatments, from $105; Spa Suites, from $1,635. Bad Ragaz; 41-81/303-3030;

Source: Departures

SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain

The chicest spa in Spain, devoted to antiaging, wellness and the efficacy of a macrobiotic diet, SHA is a series of gleaming white ultramodern buildings within the Sierra Helada National Park, with views of the coastline from the rooftop pool. Its serene, zen-like atmosphere is immediately relaxing, as each guest sees the agenda coordinator, doctor and macrobiotic consultant before being prescribed a personalised program. Alongside massages, colonics, gentle yoga and reflexology, the resort offers laser treatments for face and body, dentistry, cosmetic procedures, acupuncture and sleep therapies. But the food is its speciality, serving and explaining the theory and philosophy of macrobiotics, beautifully cooked by chef Pablo Montoro of the famed El Bulli.

Signature Treatments: The 14-day all-around rejuvenation program, and the facial treatment by known London acupuncturist John Tsagaris, when he is visiting.

Who Goes: Elegant South Americans (the owners are Argentinean), supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and superstars like Kylie Minogue.

Cost: The 14-day program starts at $13,750 and includes the full diagnostic evaluation; extra treatments, from $165. 5 Verderol, El Albir; 34-96/681-1199;

Source: Departures

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