When it comes to dream holidays, Thailand is one of those destinations that always seems to tick every box. Stunning scenery with pristine beaches? Tick. Glamorous resorts? Tick. Romance? Tick, tick, tick. It’s a true holiday paradise, boasting some of the most beautiful natural locations on the planet, and draws jetsetters and sun-seekers back time and time again.
Another of Thailand’s major drawcards is the fact that it’s home to some of the most incredible spa resorts in the world. When you consider that there’s an actual massage style named in honour of this country, and that its main religion, Buddhism, is all about mindfulness, it’s no wonder that Thailand is so renowned for its spa culture. People flock here in their thousands, in pursuit of pampering, luxury and relaxation –and a real and lasting sense of wellbeing.
You can get a complete health and wellness makeover, or indulge in special therapies at sanctuaries ranging from the romantic and eco-conscious to the outrageously luxurious. And it’s the perfect place for couples; with exquisite treatments – and treatment rooms – for two everywhere you turn. So whether you want to restore your meridians, balance your chakras and cleanse your aura… or just go off-grid, relax, and seriously soothe your soul, here are 10 of the best places to be pampered in the Land of Smiles.
1. The Banyan Tree Spa at the Banyan Tree Phuket
Home to a world-renowned massage school, it’s little wonder the spa at the Banyan Tree Phuket has been lavished with awards. But if you’re staying in one of the resort’s 14 super-chic Spa Pool Villas, no one will be surprised if you give the actual spa a miss and opt for one of the signature treatments in your own dedicated spa pavilion (or Thai sala) instead. The über-luxurious villas are truly enormous (550m2) and seriously beautiful, but it’s the ‘floating bed’ pavilions on tranquil lotus ponds that have to be seen to be believed. Kylie Minogue and David Beckham are apparently fans of the Banyan Tree Phuket, and it’s easy to see why.
2. Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary at Kamalaya Koh Samui
This super-chilled-out hillside resort on the southern coast of Koh Samui is a true sanctuary. Humming with a powerful spiritual energy, it’s built around an ancient cave once used as a meditation temple by Buddhist monks. Overlooking it all is the hilltop spa, where treatment rooms make the most of panoramic views over the Gulf of Thailand, and every conceivable type of healing is on offer. From Ayurvedic treatments and sleep-enhancement programmes, to Kundalini yoga, sound therapy and martial arts, there are more than 70 wellness treatments on the menu at Kamalaya, all conducted by world-renowned therapists and visiting spiritual gurus. New state-of-the-art facilities include a modern fitness centre and 25-metre lap pool, while the delectable near-vegan food makes detoxing easy.
3. Prana Spa at Tongsai Bay Koh Samui
Tongsai Bay, the first five-star luxury resort on Koh Samui, exudes romance. Located in the north-eastern corner of the island, it sits on an idyllic private beach, with 83 suites, cottages and villas set among 10 hectares of tropical gardens. Resort highlights include Thai cooking classes (that are so popular you better book now if you want to be sure of a place), and the acclaimed Prana Spa, which offers therapeutic, healing and restorative treatments. Several of them are unique to Prana: the ‘Samui Dream’, for example, is based on a traditional Thai remedy and uses coconut oil and herbs to help heal sunburned skin. Gorgeous spa cottages allow couples to enjoy treatments simultaneously and in utter privacy. An open-air bathtub for floral baths and a steam room are just the start: there are also easy chairs for foot treatments, massage beds and treatment beds – two of each, naturally.
4. Chiva-Som, Hua Hin
This legendary retreat, considered the ‘mother’ of all spas in Thailand, celebrates its 20th year in 2015. Private, luxurious and exclusive, Chiva-Som (meaning “Haven of Life”) is located in the royal city of Hua Hin, with spectacular views of the Gulf of Thailand. Rather than the usual ‘hotel with a spa attached’, the spa is definitely the focus here. There are 70 treatment rooms, where deeply talented therapists offer some 100 therapies, with new classes, programmes and visiting experts constantly being added. Promising “a lasting sense of inner peace, fulfillment and enjoyment,” it’s clear why Chiva-Som is the spa of choice for celebs in need of a body and soul detox, and why it was voted Best Destination Spa in the Condé Nast Traveller Spa Awards 2015.
5. Anumba Spa at The Racha
This luxurious, contemporary hideaway is set on Batok Beach (think postcard-perfect white sands and turquoise waters), located on Racha Island, 20 kilometres south of Phuket. The only way to get there is by speedboat, so you can indulge your James Bond fantasies on the 35-minute journey from Chalong Bay. There are 85 pared-back, ecochic villas with breathtaking views of the Andaman Sea. The Racha’s five-star spa is 2,320m2 of minimalist chic, with a Zen-like atmosphere and natural local products on the spa menu. Massages in any Thai spa are a must: here, couples can enjoy a massage on the beach at sunset; in one of four VIP couples’ suites, each with its own terrazzo plunge tub, steam-shower and outdoor rain shower; or in an open-air pavilion, set amidst tranquil water features, and coconut and frangipani trees.
6. Sun Spa Esthederm at Twinpalms Phuket
This hip luxury spa resort lies just metres from Surin Beach on Phuket’s west coast. The centrepiece is the enormous, super-chic pool area that weaves its way around the property. Accommodation is pool-centric too, with 97 swim-up rooms and suites, all featuring sleek and minimalist contemporary design. Charter the resort’s Twinpalms One yacht and go island-hopping, or dine at the acclaimed onsite restaurant (Oriental Spoon, sister to Kuppa in Bangkok). Be sure to dedicate hours to the art of pampering at the Sun Spa Esthederm, too. It takes a holistic approach to wellbeing, combining ancient Eastern therapies with cutting-edge Western techniques in order to soothe and revitalise. Don’t-miss treatments include the Daydreamer’s Deluxe: a herbal steam bath or tropical flower bath; tamarind body polish; massage with essential oils; and rejuvenating facial. Pampering. Partying. Perfection.
7. The Oriental Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Think of a luxury spa in Thailand and a tropical island might spring to mind, but this urban hideaway proves that opulence and serenity can also be found in the big city. Open since 1837, the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is located on the Chao Phraya River, not too far from Bangkok’s Grand Palace and Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha). Regarded as one of the premier spas in the world, the elegant Oriental Spa is housed in a turn-of-the-century colonial house. Ten treatment rooms and four suites (with herbal steam rooms and daybeds for couples) fill the second floor, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an orchid garden. A Thai body wrap, incorporating white mud, milk, honey, turmeric, mint and tamarind, is just one of 40 treatment options on a spa menu that combines European, Thai and Ayurvedic techniques. Bliss.
8. Pimalai Spa at Pimalai Resort & Spa
The tropical island of Koh Lanta lies off the coast of Krabi, in the Andaman Sea. Tucked away on this tiny island lies Pimalai Resort & Spa, a serene five-star beach escape in a virtually untouched setting. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, it’s Koh Lanta’s best-kept secret, with 121 contemporary Thai-style rooms, suites and villas set in lush tropical surroundings, and the award-winning Pimalai Spa. This fabulous jungle spa is designed to blend into the jungle: pretty thatched-roof treatment pavilions made from teak, bamboo and river stones are joined by wooden walkways set over a waterfall and koi carp ponds. Don’t miss world-class aromatherapy massages, body wraps and scrub treatments using exotic ingredients and herbs. Forget whale music: here, a traditional Thai massage in the open-air sala is accompanied by real birdsong and the soothing sound of water. The name “Pimalai” comes from ancient Sanskrit and means: “a little patch of heaven”. Perfect.
9. Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa, Phuket
This celebrated hilltop retreat overlooks Phuket’s famous Patong Beach, with glorious views of the Andaman Sea. Blending contemporary Thai architecture and décor, Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa features 150 rooms; a rooftop cocktail bar; three infinity pools with swim-up and poolside bars; and a glamorous, tranquil spa with sweeping vistas and openair treatment rooms. This “temple of serenity and wellness” specialises in cutting-edge Ayurvedic holistic therapies and treatments – for rejuvenation and/or sheer indulgence. Expect highly personalised treatments befitting a spa that was named Asia’s Best Luxury Ayurveda Spa at the coveted World Luxury Spa Awards 2014.
10. The Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre at Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai
Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai is not your average resort: set on 24ha in Northern Thailand, it’s like a miniature Thai kingdom, complete with Lanna-inspired suites and villas surrounded by gardens and rice paddies. At the heart of it all is the lavish, truly enormous (3,100m2) Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre, modelled on the ancient palaces of Mandalay. In a white marble courtyard a Thai-style sala stands under a seventiered roof, which represents the seven steps to Nirvana, and the attainment of spiritual and physical perfection. To this end, the spa offers endless holistic therapies, healing treatments, residential wellness programmes and Ayurvedic treatments. There are 25 treatment rooms and suites, each with its own heated marble scrub table; plus aqua therapy areas such as a hydrotherapy room, Vichy shower and Hammam.