The World’s Best Luxury Mountain Wellness Retreats

DTC Red Mountain Spa various photos

Red Mountain Resort and Fitness Center – Utah

By Paul Joseph, Health and Fitness Travel

For those seeking to relax in the most luxurious pockets of the Earth, Health and Fitness Travel, the leading specialists in wellness holidays worldwide, has compiled their top five mountain wellness retreats to go and escape from it all.  Spread across the world from Utah to Crete and Oman to India, these mountain wellness retreats are great to visit all year around.  Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie craving that next rush or want to relax away from prying eyes, these wellness retreats need to be at the top of your list.

Utah: Red Mountain Resort

The St George mountain range set in the rugged American landscape provides the perfect backdrop to a weight loss holiday that you will never want to leave.  Great to visit in the spring time, the Zion and Bryce canyons provide spectacular locations for horseback riding and mountain biking.  If you’re craving an adrenaline rush, then you can’t leave without trying an exhilarating rock climb, and joining other guests in seeing the incredible mountain-top views. After a long day of challenging your limits, relax in the luxury spa with body contouring wraps and Tai Chi classes.

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Milia, Crete

Crete:  Wildfitness

The majestic mountain hamlet of Milia is a great option for those who want to tone their bodies for next summer. Created with nature in mind, Wildfitness encourages you to use the trees and rocks around you to tone and sculpt your body. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Cretan mountains, you’ll be able to shape up in the utmost tranquillity and luxury.  This retreat puts your fitness goals and desires first with personalised assessments and consultations.  Return to basics in the crisp mountain air with challenging fitness regimes and training sessions.

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Zighy Bay, Oman

Oman: Zighy Bay

For the adrenaline junkies, out there, paragliding from the Musandam Penisula must be on your list. The dramatic mountainous landscape, surrounding Zighy Bay, provides you with the opportunity to push your very limits to achieve your fitness goals.  This luxury mountain retreat boasts the Six Senses Spa designed to encourage you to utterly indulge yourself.  Rejuvenate with Arabian Hammans and bath rituals in the six spa rooms available.  Travel during the spring time to enjoy the variety of activities, including tennis and bootcamp fitness, to ensure that you return home with an all-round sense of well-being.

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Ananda – Himalayas

India: Ananda in the Himalayas

Set at the foot of the Himalayas, this secluded wellness retreat is a great option for those looking to relax in style and luxury.  The Himalayan mountain range is breath-taking, especially after the rainy season of July and August, and can be seen in all its glory on guided nature walks.  Ananda offers a wellness approach designed to unite the mind, body and soul, with holistic spa treatments and an array of well-being activities, including meditation and yoga.  If you are looking to transform your life, whilst learning a new skill, then definitely take advantage of the Pranayama sessions.

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Shanti Som, Spain

Spain: Shanti Som

In the striking Andalucían region, lies Spain’s stunning Sierra de Las Nieves Nature Park and at the heart of this is the luxurious Shanti Som.  This mountainous area is the definition of tranquillity with its peaceful gardens and fragrant orange groves.  Your well-being will be revived in this remote sanctuary with a choice of tailor-made wellness programmes, including yoga and holistic healing.  Best to visit during June and September, you’ll be able to rejuvenate in the lavish spa with Ayurveda and aromatherapy.  You’ll never be able to forget the superlative mountainous landscape, even after you’ve returned home.

For more advice, guidance, and booking, visit:

www.healthandfitnesstravel.com 

Paul Joseph, Health and Fitness Travel Founder

Paul Joseph, Health and Fitness Travel Founder

About Paul Joseph:

Wellness Travel Specialist and Entrepreneur, Paul Joseph, is the co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel, a global leader in wellness holidays worldwide. Always ahead of the curve in pioneering new health programmes that revive the soul, boost fitness or address serious health issues, the worldwide wellness tourism industry has now become a multi-billion sector, growing faster than travel in general. Paul has a wealth of PR, Marketing, Sales and Management experience in the health and tourism industry, consulting leading hotels on their wellness strategy and contributing regularly to broadcast and media interviews.

Follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@hf_travel), Instagram

 

An Insta-Worthy Spa Guide

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The Cove, Shore Lodge – McCall, Idaho

The Cove, Shore Lodge, McCall, Idaho
Set on the southern glacial waters of Payette Lake and tucked into Idaho forest, The Cove at Shore Lodge is a retreat that embraces the outdoors, with sculptural fir tree logs lining the lobby and a tranquil stone hallway leading to intimate treatment rooms. The spa’s unique indoor/outdoor saltwater immersion pools – lined with local granite boulders and affixed with antique copper water pumps – pay homage to Idaho’s plentiful natural hot springs. Nature-based massages, facials and body treatments are performed using a holistic and organic skincare line, tailored to meet the needs of both serene pleasure seekers and active mountain enthusiasts.
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Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, Maui

Mandara Spa , Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott, Maui
Located on the beautiful southeast shore of Maui, Mandara Spa truly embodies Maui’s natural beauty and sense of aloha in every aspect. The Mandara Spa is located on the lobby of the resort, overlooking the serene Hawaiian waters, Molokini crater and the island of Kaho`olawe.  The 9,153 square feet facility features twelve treatment rooms, some of which are Ocean view single treatment rooms and deluxe couple’s suites for facials, body treatments and massages. A welcoming relaxation area, steam room, lockers and showers is privately located in the center of the spa; separated for men and women. The spa also has a full service salon for hair, make-up and nails.
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Miraval Life in Balance Spa, Monarch Beach Resort – Dana Point, CA

Miraval Life In Balance Spa, Monarch Beach Resort – Dana Point, CA
Situated on the idyllic coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Dana Point, California, the newly opened Miraval Life in Balance Spa at Monarch Beach Resort is a state-of-the-art oasis and the only Miraval location in California. Renowned for its “Life in Balance” philosophy, innovative programs and wellness activities, Miraval Life in Balance Spa offers an expansive spa experience inspired by the resort’s oceanfront location. The spa offers more than 70 of the signature treatments developed at the company’s flagship Miraval Resort & Spa near Tucson, Arizona, each designed to “awaken the senses, create balance and promote a sense of well-being. You’ll also discover an entirely new catalog of services created specifically for Monarch Beach Resort,  featuring California-inspired ingredients like crystal salt stones, algae, and marine mud.
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Ventana Inn, Big Sur, CA

The Spa at Ventana, Ventana Big Sur, CA
The Spa at Ventana is a refuge from the stresses of daily life. Start your journey with a hot cup of organic tea or cool fruit-infused filtered water before you wander down to the outdoor clothing-optional amenity area. Like that? Clothing optional! Let the heat of the Japanese Baths and Dry Sauna gently unwind your muscles. Relax by the heated pool and take in the natural beauty that is Big Sur. The Spa at Ventana embraces the magical “Essence of Big Sur” introducing two new dreamy experiences to reinforce Big Sur’s reputation as a sacred site and healing vortex. The Lavender Dreams Experience is an 80-minute, head-to-toe spa experience combining the calming elements of Wild Lavender with earthy minerals, concluded by a luxe foot and pressure point scalp massage in a nourishing cocoon. Also, a new  50-minute Mineral Body Scrub stimulates circulation and leaves the skin soft and hydrated (and even safe for expecting mothers), featuring an exhilarating thermal salt exfoliation applied in a two‐step treatment and mixed with a guests’ essential oil blend of choice.
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Carmel Valley Ranch, CA

Spa Aiyana, Carmel Valley Ranch, CA
The spa spans 10,500 square feet and has 11 treatment rooms, most of which have private outdoor terraces. There are three couples treatment rooms, grouped in the same wing, allowing them to be sequestered for private functions, such as pre-wedding and birthday spa celebrations. The spa also features private men’s and women’s locker rooms, with steam saunas, as well as a co-ed Relaxation Lounge and Fitness Center. Treatments in the spa are each based on one of four specialized gardens, Lavender, Herb, Aiyana and Alchemist, which use the invigorating, restorative and relaxing energy found in the natural world. Services also include massage therapies, body therapies, advanced and organic skincare, visible results oxygen fusion, nail care, and waxing.
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Hacienda AltaGracia, Costa Rica

Auberge Spa at Hacienda AltaGracia, Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica
Central America’s largest spa, the 20,000 square-foot Auberge Spa comprises indoor and outdoor treatment rooms – some featuring soaking tubs and private outdoor gardens, locally-inspired facials and body treatments, a panoramic pool, state-of-the-art fitness center and steam and sauna rooms. Untouched by tourism, the resort is located in the purest valley of what is the last unexplored area in Costa Rica, AltaGracia offers a true retreat surrounded by untainted beauty.
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Castello di Casole – Tuscany

Essere Spa
Originally the estate’s wine cellar, Essere Spa offers a serene setting within one of the most dramatic spaces on the property. Barrel-vaulted ceilings and restored stone walls create a theatrical setting accentuated by long views across an expansive valley. Essere Spa, meaning To Be in Italian, brings one into harmony with body, mind, spirit, and all that is Tuscany. A full treatment menu is inspired by local ingredients – rosemary, grape and olive oil – with products from the renowned brands Comfort Zone and Germaine de Cappuccini. European spa and wellness experts offer an extensive collection of traditional and modern therapies. Pools and steam rooms, a spectacular couple’s treatment suite with deep soaking tub and shower, and luxurious private outdoor gardens promise to at least make you feel like Italian royalty.

Hyatt Ziva Cancun: An All Inclusive Culinary Escape

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Hyatt Ziva Cancún, which debuted in November 2015 as the newest addition to a distinguished collection of Hyatt all inclusive resorts for guests of all ages, has thoroughly re-imagined the all inclusive experience from the ground up. From its unrivaled location at the tip of the Yucatan peninsula to its luxurious Ziva Sky Swim-up Suites, Hyatt Ziva Cancún stands apart from the rest. Unquestionably, the resort’s greatest distinction from other all inclusive properties lies in its cuisine. Hyatt Ziva Cancún is fully committed to authentic gourmet dining, seasonal flavors and fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Guests can curate their own gastronomic journey at Hyatt all inclusive resorts – one might start the day with a pastry from Casa Café, try fresh ceviche for lunch by the beach, reminisce over a private candlelit dinner in the sand and cap the day with a sweet treat from our fantastical, sugar-themed dessert parlor, Pasteles. Best of all, it’s entirely unlimited and fully at the guest’s discretion.

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Pasteles – A Sugar Themed Heaven

Redefining the all inclusive resort by satisfying every age, taste and style, whether traveling as a family, couple or group, Hyatt Ziva Cancún provides the typical All You Can Eat bonanza and a world of à la carte options to suit every palate. Nine distinct restaurants offer full menus to ensure that guests’ taste buds never tire:

· La Bastille, presenting timeless French cuisine in an elegant, yet relaxed setting for adults only
· El Mercado, a bountiful buffet of gourmet international cuisine with both indoor and outdoor seating
· The Moongate, offering a variety of Asian specialties, from dim sum to an interactive teppanyaki table
· Tradewinds, a casual oceanfront grill by day and a classic steakhouse by night
· Lorenzo’s, serving Trattoria-style favorites for lunch and elegant Italian traditions for dinner, including brick oven pizza
· Habaneros, featuring tacos and fresh ceviche beachside
· Chevy’s, a classic all-American diner with burgers and milkshakes, and even a ’57 Chevy convertible that guests can dine in
· Pasteles, a delightful dessert parlor
· Casa Café, specializing in all things coffee, plus scrumptious pastries and snacks

In addition to the restaurants, mobile food carts roam the pool and beach areas with tacos, burgers, fresh fruit, sweet crepes, and cool refreshments. Plus, in-suite dining, is available 24-hours a day. This is something appealing to families because other all inclusive resorts like Club Med Cancun don’t offer this.

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Tres Cerveza’s – Onsite Microbrewery

Choices abound at Hyatt Ziva Cancún, not only for dining but also for nightlife and libations. Adults can enjoy unlimited signature cocktails and a wide selection of beer, wine, tequila, and premium spirits at seven distinct watering holes:

· Juana Margarita, a tequila tasting bar offering local tequila varieties and an onsite tequila sommelier
· Tres Cervezas, a sports bar and microbrewery featuring handcrafted microbrews and an onsite brewmaster
· Sassil Bar, a contemporary lobby bar inspired by the region’s Mayan heritage, featuring both indoor and ocean-view outdoor seating
· Punta Vista, a rooftop lounge with panoramic views by the adults-only pool
· Dips & Sips, featuring both outdoor and in-pool seating at the swim-up bar
· 24 Horas, a lively 24-hour lounge
· Bar del Mar, the exclusive Hyatt Club Level lounge overlooking the infinity pool, offering both indoor and outdoor seating

http://www.playaresorts.com/Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun

Top Dude Ranches for The Ultimate Escape

Waunita Hot Springs

Waunita Hot Springs

Courtesy of the Dude Rancher’s Association, if you’re looking for the ultimate winter escape, look no further than these all-inclusive dude ranches, each of which offers cold weather retreat in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the country.

Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado
The outdoor activities are just as invigorating as the inside comforts are cozy at Latigo Ranch. Experienced skiers know Latigo has some of the best snow conditions and finest cross-country skiing in Colorado. Other winter activities include snowshoeing and tubing, or enjoy the quiet and seclusion from the front porch of a historic log lodge with a panoramic view of 100 miles of the Continental Divide.

Latigo

Latigo Ranch – Kremmling, Colorado

Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana
Things move a little slower at Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, and that’s just how it’s meant to be. Treat yourself to horseback riding, sleigh ride dinners, square dances, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledding and ice fishing. Cap off the day with a soak in the hot tub, a game of pool, or a relaxing book and some music. And don¹t forget to leave time to enjoy a magical sleigh ride accompanied by hot chocolate or even dinner.

Bar W

Guests ride a horse drawn sleigh at the Bar W Ranch near Whitefish Montana

The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado
When the legendary snowfalls blanket the Elk River Valley in powder, The Home Ranch transforms into a sparkling white wonderland and becomes one of the most beautiful cross-country ski resorts in Colorado. Located just north of Steamboat Springs, the ranch offers some of the best Nordic skiing in the world, rustic accommodations, and a world-class chef that prepares what he calls ‘haute mountain cuisine’ for every meal. A typical day during a winter vacation could even include helping feed the ranch¹s herd of 100+ horses with a sleigh.

Home Ranch

The Home Ranch – Clark, Colorado

Western Pleasure Ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho
A favorite activity of visitors to Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in North Idaho is a scenic horse-drawn sleigh ride powered by one of the ranch’s draft teams. A two-mile loop trail takes passengers through a dense forest, treating them to fantastic views of the Selkirk Mountains. Sleighs are available in sizes ranging from two-passenger to 12-passenger. Western Pleasure also has ski trails for all levels.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
An all-inclusive winter vacation to Vista Verde Guest Ranch combines the amenities of a luxury Colorado resort with the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a ranch vacation. Hide out in a cozy log cabin with a private hot tub and enjoy delicious, freshly prepared meals in between snow-filled adventures. Winter activities include skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, tubing, sleigh rides, culinary classes, yoga and photography classes.

Lone Mountain

Lone Mountain – Big Sky, Montana

Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana
Lone Mountain Ranch offers the ultimate winter adventure. The ranch is perfectly situated just six miles from some of the best skiing in the country and was voted as the No. 1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Skier magazine. Winter activities include skiing (Nordic, downhill and backcountry), snowshoeing and sleigh ride dinners. Guests can even take a short shuttle ride to explore Yellowstone National Park or the Gallatin National Forest by skis or snowshoes.

C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado
The winter weather is surprisingly mild at C Lazy U, thanks to the bright sunshine. Backcountry snowmobile and horseback riding tours, snowshoeing, private on-property snowcat skiing, ice skating, tubing and the C Lazy U Luge are favorite activities among winter guests. There¹s even ice hockey on the pond, as well as major ski resorts nearby.

Seven Devils

Seven Devils Lodge – Council, Idaho

Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch in Council, Idaho
Located in central Idaho, just south of the Seven Devils mountain range, Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch lies in a unique area, neighboring jutting canyons, high desert, and soaring mountains. It offers some of Idaho’s finest backcountry boondocking, with terrain for all levels of riders. The ranch tailors the experience to match each guests’ riding style and even offers Back Country Basics riding clinics for those looking to improve their skills.

Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
Winter is Bed & Breakfast Mountain Lodge season at Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. Guests are welcome to come for one or two nights, or for a week, during which time they can enjoy lodging, meals and morning horseback rides. Even four-legged travelers are welcome during the off-season! Sundance Trail is popular during the winter for family reunions, romantic getaways, and even honeymoons and elopements.

If an escape from the cold and snow is more your speed, check out these two all-inclusive guest ranches this winter:

Hideout

Hideout Ranch – San Simon, Arizona

Hideout Ranch in San Simon, Arizona
See the West the way it was meant to be seen ­ from the back of a horse. Hideout Ranch’s strategic location along the Arizona-New Mexico border provides easy access to thousands of miles of mountain and high desert riding trails ­ trails no other ranch in Southeastern Arizona rides. Prepare to let your stress melt away in the bright blue Arizona sunshine and crisp, clean mountain air.

Tombstone Monument Ranch in Tombstone, Arizona
Travel back in time to the era of the cowboy at this unique ranch, which is set up like an 1880s Western frontier town. Each of the ranch’s 18 rooms has a special Western theme and is decorated in turn-of-the-century style. Explore miles of open country by horseback, enjoy live music around the campfire, or take a walk to the monument of Ed Schieffelin, the founder of Tombstone, located right on ranch property. The ranch offers trails for all levels of horseback riding.

True Wine Lovers Sleep Right In The Vineyard

Mendoza wine country

The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

You think you are a serious wine drinker? Maybe you have a few glasses each week, swirl it around your glass rejoicing in the “body” and “tannins” and even can taste the differences between a California and a French Pinot, but have you ever slept in a vineyard? Well, we have… and let’s just say that there’s no substitute from drinking from the vine, resting your deliciously weary head, and then rising in the morning to drink/eat/repeat.

One of our top picks is Entre Cielos Luxury Wine Hotel + Spa in Mendoza, Argentina. This luxury boutique hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels lets you sleep amongst their eight acres of Malbec grapes in a Limited Edition Vineyard Loft. The pod-like designed loft rises 30 feet above the vines making oenophiles feel like they are growing in the vineyard themselves.

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The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

The one of a kind “suite” has an outdoor terrace complete with jacuzzi and unobstructed views of the vineyard and snow-capped mountains off in the distance. Although the views during the day are incredible, the ones at night are just as awesome. The loft has numerous skylights allowing you to stargaze right from the comfort of your bed.

argentina wine country

The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

Located in one of the largest wine regions in Latin America, often recognized as the second home of the Malbec grape, the 16-room Entre Cielos sits on 20 acres in the Mendoza countryside and is a modern day retreat with ultra-modern architecture, sculpture and zen garden, two restaurants and the only six-stage circuit Hamam in Latin America.

Don’t worry, wine reigns supreme in the spa to with Vinotherapy treatments. Where else can you  – detox and retox – at the same time? We highly recommend the Hamam circuit combined with a Grape Seed Exfoliation and Wine Bath. Imagine soaking in a bubble bath infused with red grapes while drinking the hotel’s very own “Young” 100% Malbec Rose? Magical.

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The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

As the property does have their own vineyard, they produce their own three labels of Malbec- Marantal Young, Marantal Classic and Gran Marantal (voted one of the 20 best Malbecs in 2013 by Descorchados). They also, of course, coordinate onsite tastings of their wines, as well as others. If you want to venture out on a tasting mission, the hotel can also arrange tastings at an array of nearby wineries. Bring your wooden leg… you’ll need it.

If drinking all day seems like overkill, there is definitely plenty of other activities nearby. You can horseback ride through vineyards, hot sir balloon over vineyards… ok, fine, it all still revolves around winemaking but hey, when in Mendoza!

The Limited Edition Vineyard Loft starts at $700 per night but there are other rooms in the main building that start at $315 per night.

www.entrecielos.com

What’s New in Napa

News from the Vines: What’s Cropping up in the Napa Valley this Season 

Meadowood Napa

An Arial View of Meadowood Napa

SLEEP

1.       Just Completed: Five new Harvest Suites in the Harvest Cottage were just completed in September at The Carneros Inn. The new suites make for a total of 800 square feet of indoor living space, as well as 400 additional square feet of private outdoor patio space, which includes an outdoor soaking tub and fire pit. www.thecarnerosinn.com

2.       Just Opened: Meadowood Napa Valley just debuted their new 14,000 square-foot, all-suite spa on November 2, 2015, with eight treatment suites, each offering forest views and a private environment for relaxation. Each spa suite features a private bathroom, steam shower and daybed. www.meadowood.com

3.       Just Completed: Calistoga Hot Springs finished its extensive renovation project in June 2015, including a redesign of the guest rooms with spa-inspired bedding, pebble and Italian porcelain tile showers, kitchenette upgrades and High Definition LED televisions. The focal point, though, are the four geothermal heated mineral pools, with travertine tiles, new pool furniture and vine covered arbor niches. www.calistogaspa.com

EAT

1.       Just Opened: The team from Ca’ Momi debuted their new Osteria on October 13, 2015, with a full bar of Ca’ Momi wines, house-made spirits and beer and a menu of authentic Italian specialties like their certified Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) and Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani pizza. Ca’ Momi Osteria; 1141 First St., downtown Napa; www.camomiosteria.com.

2.       Just Opened: Launched by AvroKO and chef Matthew Lightner (who received two Michelin stars when he oversaw the kitchen at Atera in NYC), NINEBARK opened in October 2015 in downtown Napa with California-focused, market-forward cuisine using innovative techniques like smoking with local hardwood and shrubs and marinating in herbal, fruit and floral broths. 813 Main St.; www.ninebark-napa.com.

3.       Upcoming: Opening late 2015, Tannery Bend Beerworks will brew and serve their own beers, born from a unique collaboration between a brewer (Matthew Cromwell) and a chef (Tyler Rodde) within blocks of downtown Napa. An upcoming crowdfunding campaign be established to engage members of the community. www.tannerybendbeerworks.com

4.       Upcoming: Miminashi, Napa Valley’s first and only “Izakaya-style” (Japanese pub) in downtown Napa, is set to open this month by chef and owner Curtis Di Fede. The menu will feature classics like Kara-age (Japanese-style fried chicken), binchotan grilled porterhouse with uni shiso butter and the space will focus around an open binchotan grill.

DRINK

1.       Just Opened: In the center of Yountville, K. LAZ WINE COLLECTION opened on October 7, 2015 by former Dean & Deluca Wine Director, Kerrin Laz. The 12-seat tasting room and retail shop features a curated wine collection, local Napa Valley landscape photography shot by Kerrin and fresh flowers and terrariums from nearby Evermore Flowers. www.klazwine.com.

2.       Upcoming: JaM Cellars is coming to downtown Napa this winter, with wine flights, by the glass and by the bottle programs available for Butter Chardonnay, JaM Cab and Toast Sparkling, plus several guest wines and special releases only available at the downtown tasting room. Designer Richard Vonsaal is creating a unique space with reclaimed materials and contemporary twists. www.jamcellars.com

CELEBRATE

1.       Flavor! Napa Valley – March 16 – 20, 2016: A five-day celebration featuring farm-to-table cuisine, world-class wines and culinary star talent, with local and celebrity chef demonstrations, intimate winemaker workshops, Grand Tastings and exclusive experiences that bring out the best flavors of Napa Valley. www.flavornapavalley.com

2.       Superbowl 50 – February 7, 2016: In celebration of the Bay Area’s hosting of Superbowl 50, Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, is offering a “GAMETIME” package for Superbowl weekend. The package includes a one-night stay in a Maison king room, GAMETIME welcome party snacks paired with a bottle of former pro Dick Vermeil’s Proprietary Red, wine tasting for two at Vermeil Wines in Calistoga or Napa, a GAMETIME sampler in the Bistro & Bar, a $100 resort credit and a 10 percent discount on any 60 minute service at Auberge Spa (including the GAMETIME sports massage and “heat-to-toe” treatment). The package starts at $898 and is valid through Feb. 12, 2016.

Your Istanbul Travel Cheat Sheet

Istanbul at Dusk (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Istanbul at Dusk (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Turkey, the site of two wonders of the ancient world, is a present-day marvel – the cradle of many civilizations, the very center of world history and a modern republic which, at times, struggles between embracing the relics of her past and a forward-seeking future. A country of fascinating contrasts, antiquity is juxtaposed with the contemporary, the familiar with the exotic, and sun-swept beaches beckon less than an hour away from snow-capped mountains. Everywhere, however, visitors say they are often treated to the extraordinary warmth of the Turkish people. Istanbul is the most popular 1st stop for those visiting Turkey and it’s a clear winner among people of all nationalities and religions. If  you only have a few days or a long weekend, here’s a quick cheat sheet of the Top Things to Do and See in Istanbul, to soon be followed by the Wonders of The Turkish Coast.

The Bosphorus

The Bosphorus

What to See

In addition to the well known sites of the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, two years ago, Istanbul was rated Travel + Leisure‘s #1 European city to visit, so, to celebrate Staff of the Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF) compiled a list of the 10 places every visitor to Istanbul must experience which we wanted to share.

  1. Sip the best Turkish coffee at Mandabatmaz
  2. Browse the sustainable, locally-made, high-end contemporary Turkish goods at Armaggan Emporium
  3. Indulge in centuries of Anatolian culinary tradition at NAR Gourmet and NAR Restaurant
  4. Absorb the work of Turkey’s greatest contemporary artists at Istanbul Modern
  5. Hop on a Bosphorus ferry to Kadikoy for people watching and Alinin Dondurmasi’s famous ice cream
  6. Experience the centuries-old tradition of raki and fresh fish at İsmet Baba in Kuzguncuk
  7. Relax in the pleasure of a traditional Turkish hamam bath at Cağaloğlu Hamamı
  8. Shop the collection of critically acclaimed Turkish designer Simay Bülbül
  9. Soak up the sounds of Turkey’s thriving jazz scene at Nardis Jazz Bar
  10. Enjoy cocktails and conversation in Münferit’s quiet garden before returning inside to dance until dawn with locals
Istanbul (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Istanbul (c) Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul

A few years ago, we stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul because we always know we’ll get top-notch service and food, but Istanbul has several fantastic properties that are unique and special (Note: Ciragan Palace). The Ritz is located at one of the most exciting cultural crossroads in the world in a city that bridges the continents of Asia and Europe along the banks of the Bosphorus Strait. From the outside, it may look like another skyscraper, but once inside, international recognition for its commitment to exceptional levels of service becomes clear. You’re not simply told where the Ladies room is located, you’re escorted there, after being offered some warm Turkish sahlep, a delectable sweet warm drink reminiscent of yogurt and cinnamon. The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul was voted “Best Overseas Business Hotel 2009” by readers of Condé Nast Traveller UK and it’s no surprise. It’s about as stress free as you can get. In addition to 244 rooms and 23 suites, there are 57 Ritz-Carlton Club Level rooms (since I’m obsessed with the Club Level) and The Ritz also offers the award-wining Laveda Spa that includes ten treatment rooms including a not-to-be-missed Turkish Hammam where you will feel transported back in time, dreaming of the days of Suleyman the Magnificient.

Ritz Carlton Couples Hammam

Ritz Carlton Couples Hammam

At the Laveda Spa, the experienced therapists apply the miraculous methods of massage and skin care with Aromatherapy Associates offering all natural plant oils and the high-end line of Carita products. Apart from that a variety of holistic massages like the relaxing “Sultans Royal Six Hands Massage” applied in synchronization by three trained artisans, there are also exclusive body treatments like the “Hot Chocolate Seduction”, “Caviar Therapy”, “Milk & Honey Bath,” or an intoxicating wine therapy called “The Gift of Bacchus,” all infused with natural ingredients.

The Indoor Pool at the Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The Indoor Pool at the Ritz Carlton Istanbul

The indoor pool, the biggest of all indoor hotel pools in the city, is another alternative for more sporty activities or a few lazy laps. You’ll have the feeling of soaking under the Turkish sky when swimming in the mosaic pool as twinkling “stars” on the ceiling illuminate the pool area and highlight the impressive architecture of the Byzantine period of Istanbul.

But perhaps the most stunning section of the Spa is the authentic Turkish Hamam modeled on the 16th century Baths of Roxelana. The Hamam ritual entails a process of complete surrender to scrubbing, washing, and relaxation where you enter a private hamam room and lay a warm slab of marble. Once there, you’re exfoliated and cleansed like a goddess with copious amounts of warm and cool water, followed by a thorough body wash, and a bubble massage where the therapist creates clouds of bubbles with the use of a special towel that surrounds you like a daphine-scented cloud (an exotic flower from Western Asia).

This was, in many ways, the highlight of my luxurious vacation.

Ritz Carlton Cooking

Ritz Carlton Cooking

After our Turkish Hamam, we headed to the Ritz Calrton Istanbul’s Çintemani restaurant for dinner, an exciting autumn menu designed to celebrate local seasonal produce and showcase a unique approach to the culinary traditions of Turkey. Highlights on the autumn five-course degustation menu from then Chef de Cuisine, Ali Ronay (now at Raffles). His menu included Turkish puff pastry with pumpkin and pomegranate, lamb from the Thracian region and Turkish pancakes, while the à la carte menu was a whirlwind journey around the country’s regional flavors from Thracian beef fillet, prawns from Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, tuna and octopus from Dardanelles, veal from Balikesir, and chicken from Bandirma on the Sea of Marmara. The fusion of local flavors and innovative cooking techniques made the dishes so unique and mouth-watering that I can honestly say I’ve never quite tasted food like this before. Prawns were infused with Turkish Raki brandy, Bosporus bonito fish was prepared in traditional tomato and onion ragout, while mullet from Dardanelles was dressed with virgin olive oil from Bodrum. Innovative techniques included lamb prepared à la sous vide (a method of cooking vacuum-packed food in a plastic pouch at a set temperature often in a water bath) and cheesecake created from Aegean curd and seasonal pumpkin.

Now are you hungry to check it out?

Rates from $269/night

www.ritzcarlton.com/istanbul

Other amazing places to stay in Istanbul:

  • Kempinski Ciragan (truly historic and palatial)
  • The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul (can’t go wrong with the always solid Four Seasons)
  • Pera Palace (a Jumeirah property so expect proper opulence)
  • Georges Hotel Galata (a unique boutique property with an intimate vibe)
  • Hotel Ibrahim Pasha (another boutique property in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul on a quaint quiet street)
  • The House Hotel Nisantasi (a smaller elegant modern hotel)

Bars and Restaurants to check out:

  • 11:11 (open Wed. – Sat. this hotspot is owned by the son of one of Turkey’s famous singers)
  • Public (where you want to people watch and party)
  • Poseiden (one of the top fish restaurants in Istanbul with classic mezzes & raki in an upmarket terrace atmosphere)
  • Casita (late night peruhi aka. vegetarian Turkish pasta with yoghurt & mint… yum!)