Summer's all-star spas

If you want real downtime and relaxation, plus healthy food and invigorating therapies, staying at a good spa ticks all the boxes. Over the past year, we investigated spas with some novel approaches, including DNA testing in Ibiza and a programme based on an ancient southern Italian tradition of detoxing. Sea-water and seaweed fans will revel in classic French thalassotherapy, which uses these natural extracts in a range of head-to-toe treatments. For UK options, The Good Spa Guide ( is a valuable resource. • Alliance Pornic Resort Hotel Thalasso & Spa, near Nantes, France,

The area around Nantes on the Northwest coast of France offers a range of hotel spas, which visitors flock to year round. The welcoming ocean-side Alliance Pornic Resort Hotel Thalasso & Spa blends delicious (mostly organic) food and comfortable bedrooms with a medical approach to wellbeing. As well as general health, there are resources for slimming and cellulite reduction, sports fitness, young mothers, backache and rheumatism plus beauty treatments and a range of different massages. Water jets for hydro massage and seaweed scrubs are a staple, together with heated sea-water pools, part of an ‘aquatic trail’ featuring Jacuzzi areas, streams, cascading showers and whirlpool baths.

Chateau des Tourelles, near Nantes, France,

The nearby Château des Tourelles is a modern hotel built around the original turreted château. The emphasis here is on preventive health: eating well, moving more and managing stress better. So the thalassotherapy treatments focus on sleep, stress reduction, digestion, slimming, joint flexibility and general vitality. Algae-based facials are excellent. The hotel is family-friendly, with resident and visiting children scooting around the lobby and three to four generations eating in the fabulous restaurant

Thirty Eight Degrees North at Aguas De Ibiza,

Thirty Eight Degrees North, which is attached to a five-star hotel perched on the golden east coast of Ibiza, specialises in bespoke health and fitness packages based on your DNA . (You take a simple mouth swab test from beforehand.) Our tester discovered she does not have the lactose processing gene so is better without dairy products and that her genes respond to power training rather than just endurance. Trying out dance, kickboxing and suspension training delighted our stuck-in-a-rut reviewer, as did the Clarins spa and cleverly balanced seasonal menu.

Vair Spa at Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy,

When I trialled Louise Parker’s Beach Body Plan for YOU magazine, I visited the Vair Spa in Italy. Tranquil and luxurious, Vair is attached to the five-star Borgo Egnazio Hotel, a honey-coloured purpose-built village by the coast. (Families are in their element here, but I was very happy on my own.)

This mind and body wellness centre focuses as much on promoting happiness as on physical wellbeing and relaxation. There are fantastic beauty treatments, nutrition, naturopathy, iyengar yoga, ortho-bionomy (a potent type of bodywork), massages and aromatherapy plus other mind/body therapies such as music and dance that make you revel in spontaneous expression.

The three-day Tarant programme, based on an ancient local tradition of expelling the toxins from a spider bite, focuses on drawing out the contaminations of modern life. Some clients say they reinvented their lives afterwards; for others it might be a tad too far into myth and mystery.