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South Africa’s best wellness getaways you never knew existed

With self-preservation and healthy living at the top of most people’s minds going into 2024, what better way to plan your holidays this year than around what makes you happy – and we’re talking body, mind, and soul. Whether that revolves around starting your day in the gym, hiking as the sun rises, paddling down a pristine river, being pampered in a spa, or simply sitting poolside with freshly squeezed juice, we know just where to go this year.

Based on my own experiences, here’s my roundup of the best South African wellness getaways for 2024, many of which I bet you’ve never heard of. 

Starry Starry Night

Starry Starry Night, a remote mountain retreat located between Barrydale and Montagu, may not tick the traditional boxes of a wellness retreat in that it features no spa and no gym, but honestly, both are completely unnecessary here. That’s because with just three accommodation options on the property, accommodating a maximum of 8 guests, the mountain is yours, and yours alone to explore.

Get fit on three marked hiking trails, before enjoying the most refreshing of dips in a natural mountain rockpool, without another soul in sight. And when weary muscles call at the end of the day, the wood-fired hot tub with spectacular views of the valley is the ideal place to relax. There’s also a yoga mat in your room for those early morning sun salutations and a fresh herb and vegetable garden is yours for the picking so that you can nourish your body as well as your soul.  

The Palace of the Lost City

While it may seem like something out of a theme park or fairytale, Sun City’s most lavish hotel is the ideal place for a wellness retreat. Removed from the bright lights of the casino and the bustling beaches of the Valley of Waves, The Palace sits like a sanctuary in South Africa’s sprawling resort complex and the new Royal Spa is the place to be.

Nestled within a private garden area, with a backdrop of lush, tropical trees and a trickling stream, complete with a calming waterfall, this is a place not just to enjoy a treatment but where you can spend an entire day just getting away from it all. While the treatment menu features massages, body wraps, and facials a plenty, a unique spa cafe menu promises to revitalise from the inside out with raw juices, ceviches, poke bowls, salads, and more. Spend the night here and you can also take the time to relax at not one but two, deliciously quiet pools, stroll through the forested gardens, or indulge in a high tea at The Tusk Bar and Lounge. 

St James of Knysna

Nestled alongside the tranquil Knysna lagoon, the St James of Knysna, a member of the Cape Country Routes, will make you feel like a whole new person as soon as you walk through the door. Leave your worries behind the minute you turn off the N2 highway and onto the private peninsula that is home to this boutique hotel.

Days here are best spent enjoying that book you’ve been meaning to get to but can never seem to find the time to pick up, alongside a koi pond, or while watching the local fisherman potter around the lagoon. Barge cruises around the still waters are also included in the rate while a variety of spa treatments can be booked to be enjoyed in the comfort of your room. And when the need to get active calls you can enjoy a game of boule outdoors, or take to the water on a complimentary canoe.

The Cavern Drakensberg Resort & Spa

Located in what is arguably one of the best locations in the Drakensberg, the Cavern offers a unique blend of natural beauty, tranquility, and holistic well-being. Here the therapeutic effects of nature can be enjoyed with daily hikes (with options for the fit or the family traveller) as well as horse rides to enjoy the exquisite mountains, lush valleys, and pristine streams and rock pools.

Nestled within the resort’s wild gardens you’ll also find a world-class spa, providing a range of rejuvenating treatments. Here, the importance of nourishing the body with wholesome and nutritious food is also recognised and three meals a day, as well as snacks, are included in the rates, and while it may be hard to tear yourself away from the dessert table, the delicious salad spreads are just as tempting. Reconnecting as a family is also one of the best ways to nourish your soul and with various activities for all ages including lawn games, movie and game nights, and a complimentary kids club, there’s no better place to do so. 

Evergreen Manor and Spa

In the heart of Stellenbosch, Evergreen Manor and Spa, another Cape Country Routes member, is like a haven of tranquility. Once you step inside the verdant courtyards with their sparkling swimming pools, you’ll quickly forget that you are in fact within walking distance of all the most popular restaurants, shops, and art galleries this trendy town has to offer.

It offers the perfect blend of old-world charm and modern comfort that makes you feel like you’ve come home to some bygone era. The vintage aesthetics offer opulence and refinement while a private on-site spa that isn’t open to the general public allows you a place to enjoy a quiet moment away from it all. 

Fancourt

Fancourt is famous for having some of the best golf courses in the country, but what you may not know is that the hotel is well worth a visit in its own right as a wellness destination. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Outeniqua Mountains, with the rooms surrounded by tropical vegetation, you’ll immediately feel the effect the serene surroundings have on your soul. The Fancourt Spa may also be one of the best in the country.

Aside from offering all the typical treatments you would expect, venture to the lower level and discover a private, adult-only roman bath and jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, and tepidarium. Of course, beyond golf, there’s also an array of recreational activities to enjoy such as yoga sessions, hiking trails, tennis, basketball, and netball courts as well as access to top-notch gym facilities. You can even try your hand at fishing in one of the lakes on the property or meander around the golf courses and through the houses on a bicycle. The options are endless.

Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve

A stay at the remotely located Cape Country Routes’Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve outside of Oudtshoorn is all about reconnecting with the world around you in a sustainable way. Here a totally solar-powered property sits on a 4000-hectare reserve, home to a wide variety of game that has been reintroduced to the area.

The Swartberg Mountains provide the backdrop to challenging hikes over the rough terrain as well as more relaxed nature drives, while spa treatments are available in the privacy of your room, and nights are best spent gazing heavenwards at the sky. With a home-cooked breakfast and hearty three-course meal included in the rates, you can really relax knowing that your every need is taken care of.

Janine Avery

Janine Avery is a travel writer from Cape Town, South Africa. She is a lover of all things nature and loves to explore new places, enjoying any form of travel from basic tenting to lazing in luxury lodges.

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