Actor Hrithik Roshan wasn’t quite on holiday in Sante Fe, New Mexico, when he found his busted knee healing itself miraculously. Apparently, it was the magnetic mountains surrounding Santa Fe, where Roshan was shooting Kites , that did the magic. While the healing properties of certain geographical locations will always be open to dispute, what is not is that clean air, low (or controlled) industrial penetration, hot springs and mineral-rich water go to make healthful holiday destinations. Breathe deep.
Surfing in Sydney
In its survey of the healthiest places in the world to live, Men’s Health magazine placed Australia right on top. Its consumption of red meat has something to do with it—a local study found that men who traded starch for steaks “reduced systolic blood pressure by four points in eight weeks”. That won’t help much, though, if you are taking your summer holiday there while the northern hemisphere is huddling under blankets. The key to Australia’s “healthiest” status lies in its sporty lifestyle. With acres of outback and thousands of square miles of sea surrounding the island-continent, only the seriously disadvantaged prefer to stick around at home after the workday or check email on weekends (Fess up: What did you think surfing meant?). Though Australia spoils you for choice, head to Sydney, which frequently makes it to the best-cities-in-the-world lists. Take a leaf out of the local jock book and go surfing on Manly Beach, or do the touristy thing and sign up for lessons on Bondi. For daily tips on sea conditions, wave heights, eight-day forecasts and similar exotica, log on to www.surfit.com. Work up that appetite or work off that meal in the Coral Sea and see the difference it makes.
Biking in Scotland
Rated one of the most exciting places to ride in the world by the non-profit International Mountain Biking Association, Scotland offers every kind of terrain for the two-wheeler: mountains, roads and dirt trails. A bike tour, aficionados argue, is the best way to experience a country: It takes you to beautiful, way-out places, allows you to enjoy home-style hospitality, tests your endurance, survival skills and, best of all, allows you the healthiest holiday you could imagine. Forty minutes of biking burns about 500 calories; it also provides a complete lower body workout, trims the waist and gets that heart pumping—all of it, despite being a low-impact exercise that doesn’t injure the joints or stress out the organs. While you could bike anywhere in the world, from Coorg to Colorado, Scotland is especially prized for its clean air and variety of routes. Log on to www.cycling.visitscotland.com for a taste of the lows and the highs.
Heating up Iceland
If that sounds like too much work for health, head to a geothermal spring. Long before “anti-ageing” became a buzzword in the cosmetics industry, Europe’s elite was taking a break at the “waters”. While the entire continent —from Turkey to England—is geologically active, we
recommend the Blue Lagoon in Iceland ( www.bluelagoon.com ). The sea water rises from 2,000m below the ground, heated by the earth’s natural forces to 240 degrees Celsius, and is cooled on contact with mineral-rich magma. The water is consequently rich in silica and sulphur, especially useful for healing skin disorders such as psoriasis (for those merely seeking to soak in the water or indulge in a pampering treatment, there’s a separate clinic for the psoriasis-affected). What’s more, given the current state of the Icelandic economy, you don’t have to spend big bucks either: A 60-minute, in-water massage costs ISK11.25, that’s around Rs4,200.
Ancient Sciences at Machu Picchu
This lost city of the Inca Empire is not just an architectural marvel, but a sacred site as well. It is believed that the landscape is in harmony with key astronomical events that were important to Inca worship, thus making it exude significant spiritual energy that is apparently available to tuned-in visitors even now. Now, a year short of the centenary of its discovery by American scientist Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu is the destination for many spiritually minded tour groups, especially on astronomically important days. In addition, the nearby city of Cusco offers many Shamanic treatments; it is also popular for ayahuasca, a medicinal brew known for its psychedelic effects. If that sounds like so much mumbo-jumbo, we suggest you go along just for the trek. Whether you see the “face” of the city or not, successfully negotiating the Inca Trail—rated one of the best treks in the world—is a health certificate like no other.
Spa-ing in Israel
The Dead Sea is supposed to be evaporating at the rate of 3ft a year. More reason to book into one of the many spa hotels that border the sea on the Israel side. Though similar hotels have come up in Jordan as well, Israel is the centre of health tourism, focused largely on the region’s mineral-rich mud. The Dead Sea (which isn’t a sea really, but a lake), the lowest point on earth, faces extremely high rates of evaporation, resulting in high concentrations of chloride salts of sodium, potassium and other minerals—all of which are said to be beneficial for a range of skin ailments, arthritis, asthma, et al. Expect plenty of salt-based treatments, mud packs, sea-water pools, sulphur spas, private beaches, solariums and kosher menus. All the major hotel chains can be found here. For an alternative, we recommend the Carmel Forest Spa Resort, described by Frommer’s as “the most beautiful spa hotel in Israel”, which backs into a vast protected forest and overlooks the Mediterranean. Once a retreat for Holocaust survivors, it now offers the regular spa menu of treatments and a host of activities, besides an ancient hamam (public bath) imported from Turkey.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org