September 24, 2008

Spas of Africa

Enlist your inner adventurer and embark on a journey to Africa, the “cradle of civilization.” A continent brazenly diverse in its geography, from sophisticated, ancient cities such as Cairo, to dense forests of the central countries, undulating deserts of the North West and open savannahs populated by animals that still run wild, Africa continues to capture the world's imagination.

With Spas of Africa as your guide, discover a history of personal adornment and beauty reflected in a growing spa and hotel industry, one sophisticated by the richness of wellness offerings from haute hotspots Morocco, Egypt or South Africa, yet also carrying this spirit of luxury to jungle lodges in the heart of harsh, yet beautiful landscapes.

Spas of Africa

September 18, 2008

SpaFinder Announces 2008 World's Favorite Spas

SpaFinder, Inc., the global spa resource, today announced the winners of its prestigious 2008 Readers' Choice Awards, revealing spa-goers' favorite spas across the globe - by continent and country/region. In addition, new favorites in remote locations such as Kynsa, South Africa and Queensland, Australia demonstrate how a fresh generation of spas are enticing global travelers.

SpaFinder Crystal Award Winners for 2008, recognize the most extraordinary spa on each of six continents. This year's winners are:

Africa: Pezula Resort Hotel and Spa, Kynsa, South Africa
Asia: The Peninsula Hong Kong, China
Australia: Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Queensland, Australia
Europe: Brenner's Park Hotel & Spa, Baden-Baden, Germany
North America: Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico
South America: El Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Notably, this year marks the first time that a non-US spa took home the North America award. And several of these Crystal Award winners have leapt to the forefront virtually overnight: Gwinganna has been open only two years, while Pezula has been open only three.

SpaFinder Country/Region Winners for 2008
Awards are given for the top spa in each of 27 countries and regions. Four new countries have been added this year, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, and Singapore, reflecting significant growth in these spa markets.

In the United States, Arizona retains its leadership as the favorite spa state with Canyon Ranch Tucson taking the top US spa spot this year. Elsewhere, repeat winners include the Peninsula Spa in Hong Kong, Brenner's Park Hotel & Spa of Germany, Rancho La Puerta of Mexico, Kurotel Longevity Center of Brazil, St. Anne's Country Inn of Canada, The BodyHoliday of St. Lucia, Ananda in the Himalayas of India, Four Seasons Resort Bali of Indonesia, and Chiva-Som of Thailand.

September 5, 2008

Spas of America Debuts Amerispa's Eight Quebec Spas

Montreal, Quebec -- September 5, 2008 -- Spas of America, the fastest-growing spa travel website, today announced new member spa listings for Amerispa and its eight Quebec resort/hotel spa locations. Montreal-based Amerispa, one of the leading spa brands in the industry, operates prestige spas in choice locations throughout "la belle province."

"We are pleased to showcase Amerispa to our targeted spa travel audience," says Spas of America president Craig Oliver. "Their presence on our website benefits our existing spa listings and provides our customers from around the world with eight fabulous Quebec options when seeking exciting and rewarding health and wellness travel experiences."

Louise Brossoit, vice-president of Amerispa, says: "Our spas illustrate a variety of resort and hotel experiences and are a perfect complement to the natural beauty and history of Quebec. We're excited about introducing our one-of-a-kind experiences to Spas of America's global audience."

Each Amerispa location on Spas of America has its own unique full-page listing complete with a 300-word description, 10 images, a detailed map and complete contact information. Spa aficionados will delight in the 'You Deserve' treatment at each location. At Le Château Bonne Entente, guests can experience Amerispa's Bamboo and Lotus massage. This treatment combines a relaxation massage with an aquatic-plant cocktail mask, with bamboo, water-lily and lotus extracts. This hydrating experience softens the skin for an exquisite moment of well-being. All Amerispa locations can be viewed at

Amerispa, a leader in the Canadian spa industry, operates eight prestige spas in Quebec: Auberge Godefroy, Fairmont Tremblant, Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, Château Bonne Entente, Hilton Lac-Leamy, Omni Mont-Royal Hotel, Sheraton Laval, and Westin Resort & Spa Tremblant. Amerispa, focused on refreshing the body and spirit, offers guests the ability to relax in an enchanting, cozy and luxurious environment. Friendly health and beauty professionals serve guests in either English or French. Signature treatments include the Remineralizing Clay Massage, Warm Pebble Massage, Elixir Ice Cider Body Wrap and Exfoliation, and Enchanting Body Wrap. Various facials, manicures and pedicures are also on offer.

Spas of America is a global online media company focused on healthy living and travel. The Spas of America website showcases over 600 of the best day, resort, hotel and destination spas in the United States, Canada, Mexico Caribbean and South America to spa travelers around the world. Since the site launched in 2005, over a quarter million customers have visited Spas of America also operates the websites,, and

September 3, 2008

Taking the Waters in Uruguay’s Gaucho Corner

To many travelers, Uruguay is known — if at all — for Punta del Este, the Atlantic coastal beach resort called the South American Riviera by Argentine landlords who have gobbled up the peninsula’s seaside real estate.

In good times, that image guarantees steady business for the seafood restaurants and the boutiques that serve the luxury hotels and condominiums. But being tethered to Argentina’s tumultuous economy has its risks, and Uruguay has suffered from financial crises that originated in its larger neighbor.

Of the 1.8 million visitors to Uruguay in 2006, more than half were Argentine. But quietly, Uruguay is developing a second vacation spot that may help uncouple its tourism fortunes from Buenos Aires. It has found its best hope 3,000 feet underground, in the hot springs along the Uruguay River, a once-isolated region that even Uruguayans lump in with the rest of the “interior” — anywhere outside Punta del Este and the capital, Montevideo.

Since the discovery of the hot springs in the 1940s, by an oil exploration team wildcatting along the Argentine border, Uruguay has developed an impressively varied string of private resorts, public campgrounds, water parks and dude ranches. All tap the Guaraní Aquifer, the largest in the continent, funneling its toasty and mineral-rich water into indoor and outdoor baths.

That effort has sparked internal migrations during holiday weekends, when Montevideo, home to nearly half the country’s population of nearly 3.5 million, empties. It has also kept the border crossings busy at the Uruguay River across from northeastern Argentina, the route from both Buenos Aires and Asunción, Paraguay.

But word of the hot springs has not spread far. Americans who make it to Uruguay, mostly on cruise ships, are still almost certain to drop anchor in Montevideo and Punta del Este only.

There is reason to believe, however, that this might be changing. As American travelers trickle across the Río de la Plata, they are discovering in the hot springs an authentically Uruguayan experience that comes without sacrificing the comforts of the coastal resorts.

Arapey Thermal is at the top end of hot springs lodgings, and it is also the most remote, some 350 miles from Montevideo and with little access to an international airport. But the resort’s owners have settled a patch of civilization in gaucho country.

At check-in, members of the hotel staff slap a cerulean bracelet, the color of Uruguay’s flag, on the wrist of overnight guests, bestowing access to five thermal pools, a movie theater and tennis courts. It is also the key to the restaurant, where the culture of the hotel’s spa — an oasis of hot steam, hot tubs and hot-stone massages — gives way to Uruguayan excess. Sure, there are rice cakes and grapefruit with the café con leche at breakfast. But by lunch, all that wading in warm water has built up an appetite, so the buffet is piled high with grilled chicken in orange sauce, with the crispy skin left tantalizingly in place, and hunks of beef and sausage off the parrilla, the traditional grill.

Nor is there pressure to rise with the sun for yoga, not with dinner ending around midnight and guests partying to karaoke in the game room. But just because you can follow your facial with a filet mignon does not mean there is no relaxation. For that, the isolation helps, leaving few options for the afternoon but to float until your fingers prune. The indoor and outdoor pools connect beneath a glass divider, and swimmers, like seals at an aquarium, come and go without retreating to their towels. In the South American winter, the air outside is cool at night, but when a light rain sends up steam from the pool, clouding the planted palms and nearby pasture, the land feels almost tropical.

In Salto, the nearest city, Uruguay has converted former military housing into the Hotel Horacio Quiroga and burrowed into the hot springs. As at Arapey, the location seems unlikely for a tourist destination, evidence of the hot springs alchemy that has seen tilapia farms materialize in spring-fed ponds and artisanal queso thermal (thermal cheese) factories open in the countryside. There, as at many of the region’s hotels, the hot springs water — pumped from 2,300 feet to 6,500 feet below ground and emerging as hot as 108 degrees — rains down from wide showerheads. High in iron and calcium, believed to lower blood pressure and relax muscles, it is also poured from glass pitchers and frozen into ice cubes.

“When there’s an economic problem in the region, Argentines stop coming and that causes a major problem,” said Mónica Lozano, the hot springs specialist for the Uruguayan Ministry of Tourism. “We’re looking for other places to promote these sites.”

Horacio Quiroga has not exorcized all traces of its institutional past. The outdoor pool overlooks the Salto Grande Dam, source of 70 percent of the country’s energy. Guests cannot hear the turbines, but the soundtrack of bubbling water and classical music is interrupted by the slapping of pool noodles against the water’s surface and the “uno, dos, tres” of a martial exercise instructor. There is less cosseting than at Arapey Thermal; the plastic lawn furniture shakes as guests carve their tenderloin, and the napkins housed in metal dispensers can hardly absorb a teardrop.

But there are advantages to the casual atmosphere. Barefoot guests roam the corridors robed in the white uniforms that hang in pairs in room closets. And there are no forms to fill out for borrowing a bicycle, so guests who sleep through the morning stroll tour the 540-acre property on a whim, pedaling past neat lines of planted pines and eucalyptus inhabited by a startling variety of brightly colored birds.

Horses are available for meandering off the pavement toward the woods and the orange grove that encircle the water park and its wave pool and towering slides. Hypnotizing digital displays announce the water temperature in three thermal baths.

Farther south, the regional government runs the Guaviyú hot springs, keeping prices low enough for backpackers looking to kick back by a dozen indoor and outdoor pools.

A day at the park costs about a dollar and visitors can rent a heated cabin for as little as $25 a night. The village that has grown around the pool includes a butcher shop that ensures that the grills behind every cabin are always smoldering and that the evening air is perfumed by Uruguay’s famous, grass-fed meat.

“In the area, there are other hot springs. But this is the safest country in the region,” Ms. Lozano said. “We have a reputation for being very calm.”


The Arapey Thermal Resort and Spa (Termas del Arapey, Salto; 598-76-82005; is an hour north of the city. A superior room on a weekend costs $125 a person, including three meals and the merienda — the traditional late-afternoon snack.

The Hotel Horacio Quiroga (Parque del Lago Salto Grande; 598-73-34411; is about 20 minutes outside downtown Salto. The hotel provides a free shuttle from the bus station. Except during holidays, the weekend rate for a double junior suite, with breakfast, is $172.

New York Times