Welcome to Santanyi: A hidden gem on the Isle of Majorca
The sleepy town of Santanyi in Spain has something special to offer those in need of a health overhaul as well as a bit of culture, discovers writer Nilufer Atik
When most people think about a luxury break, Majorca isn’t usually the first destination that springs to mind. Famed for its lively nightlife, young revelers and Brit-friendly cafes and restaurants, it’s more likely to appeal to those in search of a cheap and cheerful getaway rather than a pampering experience.
Yet there is much more to this Mediterranean island than meets the eye. Head away from the concrete high-rises of Magaluf and the crowds of Palma and you’ll find sleepy rustic villages, alluring shops and cafes, and Caribbean-esque beaches.
One of these lesser-known areas is the municipality of Santanyi on the south east of the island. Situated inland from miles of stunning coastline and beside one of the largest nature parks in the Balearics, this laid-back town is about as authentically Majorcan as is possible, with gold-stone houses, traditional markets, and live local music played in bars and restaurants.
Art lovers can peruse around fascinating galleries like Galeria Sailer, a renovated townhouse which features a selection of modern paintings, sculptures and glass objects alongside pre-Columbian textiles and antiques. For natural sight-seeing there are boat excursions from the harbour of Colonia Saint Jordi to the maritime-terrestrial nature park, the Cabrera Archipelago, which boasts around 30 endemic plant species and endangered animals like turtles and whales, as well as rare species of fish and corals found snorkelling in the underwater caves. It’s great for hiking too and one of the most popular walks leads up to a 14th century castle overlooking the harbour.
But simply just wandering around Santanyi itself is enough for you to get a taste of its charm. Take a stroll along the side streets and you can pick up an original trinket or piece of art or spend an afternoon sun-bathing on one of the many beautiful beaches nearby, such as the white-sanded Mondrago Natural Park.
In terms of places to stay, the hotels in Santanyi are more boutique than resort in style but that’s no bad thing. It gives them a sophistication and splendour you wouldn’t find in an overly-populated tourist area. One of the most popular is the stylish S’Hotelet de Santanyí, next to the town’s church. A former house that has been converted into a hotel, all of the rooms and common areas there feature contemporary artworks.
But the real gem in terms of accommodation is Majorca’s only health and wellness hotel, Cal Reiet. A place where ‘holistic living is a lifestyle’, this elegant 19th century property is set in glorious grounds decorated with exotic flowers and plants and houses its own organic restaurant, yoga and fitness studio, meditation garden and reading library.
There are 15 rooms in total, ranging from the Luxury Romance room, which includes a free-standing bath and mahogany desk, to the Luxury Attic room which enjoys exquisite views on all sides and has the novelty of a swing. The building captures the sun everywhere, but for those who don’t want to sit directly in it beside the Romanesque pool during the day, there are sun loungers on a large balcony overlooking acres of golden fields outside the library too.
Cal Reiet’s decor is neutral and light, with stone floors, contemporary artworks and soft beige sofas in communal areas on which to sit and read or enjoy a herbal tea. It’s evidently been designed with a calming environment in mind, making it the ideal location for holistic retreats. Several are held there throughout the year, led by renowned international body and mind teachers and experts.
The latest to set up home at the heavenly hideaway is the Equilibrium retreat run by husband and wife team Tom Harris and Dr Alice Webb. Tom is a personal trainer and nutrition coach whilst Alice is a practising doctor. Their aim was to provide a wellness break with a difference – combining a medical approach to improving health with a holistic one, so each guest could be given a tailor-made programme during their stay to help them feel better, fitter, more energised, and less likely to develop chronic illnesses.
“We started Equilibrium to bridge the gap between solely medical and solely fitness retreats,” explains Tom. “It is our mission to change people’s lives through a long-term balanced approach to movement, spirituality and nourishment, for lasting health, happiness and wellness.”
Equlibrium retreaters begin their journey before they even arrive at Cal Reiet, by having their blood screened. This is so Alice can determine their overall state of health. A blood testing kit is posted out to each guest before they arrive then returned. The results are then analysed, with everything from the individual’s cortisol levels to blood sugar and internal fat assessed. This helps Alice determine who is most at risk of conditions like anxiety, diabetes and heart disease. A medical MOT is also carried out once at the retreat to determine each individual’s Body Mass Index, blood pressure, heart rate, and lung capacity as well as general wellbeing. This gives the Equilibrium team a comprehensive overview of the person’s internal and external state of health.
“The idea is that you will leave us more educated about your mind and body than ever before, with the tools and knowledge to incorporate what you have learned into your daily life back home,” says Tom. “We want people to make positive changes for the benefit of their health long term, not just while they are at the retreat.”
A typical day begins with a power smoothie followed by morning yoga and an hour-long hike or walk followed by brunch between 10am and noon. There’s a daily educational talk at 1pm covering subjects like sleep, mindfulness and nutrition or one-to-one personal training sessions before lunch around 2pm. Group fitness classes take place at 4pm in the studio and comprise circuit training exercises which can be adapted to suit all levels of fitness and ability. They are tough, but not so tough you feel wiped out afterwards. To give the mind a workout, there are meditation classes outdoors early evening before dinner.
Guests are also treated to massages, a healthy cooking workshop and educational films in the evening. There is no shortage of food either. The retreat chefs put together an anti-inflammatory and cleansing vegetarian menu of locally sourced produce for every meal, including tasty dishes like gluten free pasta with cherry tomatoes, pesto and spinach, vegetable curry with basmati rice, and cacao and walnut mousse. Served buffet-style, the meals are so tasty and plentiful even the most devout meat-eater would be satisfied.
Although the schedule at Equilibrium sounds like a lot to fit into one day, all the classes are optional, meaning guests can pick and choose which activities they want to partake in on any given day. The idea is to nourish the mind as well as the body, so downtime by the pool or in the garden is encouraged, as is a little pampering with treatments such as massages and facials.
“Our aim is to redress the balance between both body and mind and bring harmony, peace and wellness into our guests’ daily lives,” explains Tom. “We want them to enjoy the experience and feel a little spoiled too.”
One of the best things about Equilibrium however is that is doesn’t feel like a typical luxury retreat. Despite the luxurious surroundings of Cal Reiet, there’s a very open and relaxed atmosphere among both the staff and guests.
You begin to feel like one big family rather than strangers on holiday together by the end of the week. And with each guest given one year’s worth of online personal training and nutritional support from the retreat end date, they can continue their wellbeing journey once they return home. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all and recharge not only your batteries, but your health too.
Address: Carrer de Cal Reiet, 80, 07650 Santanyí, Illes Balears, Spain
Phone: +34 971 94 70 47
The next Equilibrium retreat runs from September 22-26 2018. Prices range from £1,800 to £2,400 per person. For more information go to equilibriumwellnessretreats.com.