10 Best Spa Vacation Destinations

Destination: Run

Looking for a running adventure somewhere unexpected? Enter Intrepid Travel’s North Korea Pyongyang Marathon Expedition (departing 8 April 2016). The trip includes a flight from Beijing into Pyongyang, entry in either the full or half marathon or 10km run, a week of exploring the country, plus a train ride back to Beijing. From $3295 per person, intrepidtravel.com

Bring on that poolside read with the waterproof Kobo Aura H20 eReader. And don’t worry about that (lovely) sun getting in the way either ’cause the touchscreen on this reads like print on paper, even in direct sunlight. Holiday reading just got high def. $229, kobo.com

Grab it

Don’t miss out on your chia seed gains next vacay – instead pack the Goodness Grab & Go Goodness Try-Me Kit. Packed with chia seed oil to hydrate and nourish skin, these essential prods (including cleanser, moisturiser, night cream, face oil and scrub) come in perfect-for-travelling minis. $24.95, priceline.com.au

Photo Gallery of 10 Best Spa Vacation Destinations

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Baltic bliss

Bet you ve never thought about chilling in the Polish Baltic Sea… but here’s why you should: the five-star Havet Hotel Resort & Spa sits in a prime position for total wellness. Think fresh, iodine-rich sea air and thick green pine forests. All you need is the hotel s eight-day ‘Relaxation by the sea’ program to soak it all up. spadreams.com/ havet-hotel

CRUISEY GETAWAY

Tea break

Forget the usual buffet bloat; if you’re on the seas with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (hello, rivers of Europe and Asia!) their new wellbeing program features stretching and fitness classes, yoga, meditation, PT sessions, TRX machines and more. All aboard! uniworld.com/au

Swap a cocktail for a cuppa at the new Orchid Tea Lounge at Rimba Jimbaran Bali by Ayana. Surrounded by lush gardens, you’ll be served up a selection ofworld-class green, black and herbal brews, plus a delish afternoon tea to go with it if you fancy. rimbajimbaran.com

Forget the gondola, the best way to see Italy’s ancient floating city is from a stand up paddleboard, says Emily McAuliffe shouts a tall, dark gondolier as he effortlessly guides his boat around the tight bend ahead of us. “Ciao!” replies my guide, Eliana, as we squeeze past, trying not to scrape our stand-up paddleboards on the rough brick wall of the canal. Ducking under one ofVenices 400-odd bridges, Eliana turns to quip that he’s the most handsome gondolier in Venice. “Most are not like this, so take a good look,” she laughs as the gondola disappears around another corner.

Exchanging pleasantries with gondoliers is all in a day s work for Eliana, who has been running Venice’s only SUPtours for the past four years, allowing travellers to explore the intricate network of canals that serve as the city’s backstreets.

Eliana admits that not everyone is impressed with her unique mode of sightseeing (let s just say that not all the gondoliers are quite so charming!), but she feels SUPs are more in line with the city’s tradition of traversing the waterways with paddlecraft than the more recently introduced motorboats that now infiltrate the canals, so she isn’t about to let a few naysayers get her down.

As you might expect, SUPing in Venice isn’t for the uninitiated (primarily due to said motorboats). Eliana requires her groups to have some paddling experience, so they’ll feel comfortable making quick manoeuvers on the water to avoid bridge head-butts and inadvertent jousting matches with gondolas, where it’s almost certain the SUP will come off second-best. And let s be honest, taking a dip in the famously dirty canals ofVenice probably isn’t high on your holiday bucket list!

Given I have a few years’ experience SUPing the canals ofthe Gold Coast to draw on, I’m keen to put my skills to the test in the narrow, winding waterways. I’ve arranged to meet Eliana at 5pm on a warm Wednesday afternoon – two hours after the service boats have called it a day, so we re not battling peak hour traffic on our boards.

There are two of us on the tour (the max group size is four), and Eliana starts by explaining the rules ofthe canals. Were instructed to always keep a safe distance between us so we can stop to wait for passing boats without running into one another, and she gives us a quick lesson on the Venetian words for left, right and straight-on – premando, stagando and longo – which Eliana thankfully says she’ll call out in English to prevent any language-fail collisions. “And don’t forget, you have to look after me, otherwise you’ll have no chance of finding your way back,” she grins, handing us each a paddle.

I wait for a boat to chug past before climbing out a doorway in the wall straight onto a board that’s being gently pulled by the current. Eliana follows, closing the boatshed’s iron gate behind her, and we set off towards the Jewish Ghetto – the oldest ghetto in the world, which is perched on the outskirts ofthe island. From there we criss-cross the canals to paddle past the house of famous Venetian painter Tintoretto and the elegant Church of Madonna dell’Orto, where two teenage girls are leaning against a wall slurping on fast-melting gelatos. At each intersection Eliana shouts “Oi!” to alert approaching traffic of our presence, and we give way to boats as their drivers plough past with a polite nod.

After weaving our way through a confusing maze of narrow laneways, we come to a long stretch ofwater and pick up speed, heading straight for the famed Grand Canal. When we approach the junction, we peek around the corner to see crowded water buses and taxis ferrying the masses from A to B, but (phew!) turn back to avoid being caught in the chaos of Venice’s main artery.

Spectacular views while sneaking ina workout? Signus up!

Travel fit

Paddling away from the bustle ofthe Grand Canal we find peace again in the hidden canals, where jellyfish drift lazily in the milky green water. As we move through the shadows of weathered buildings battered by the salty air, we see a carpenter sawing timber in a dark workshop, and a few houses down, an old woman peers curiously at us from behind the bright yellow flowers on her windowsill.

After an hour-and-a-half floating through the city, Eliana steers us back towards the boatshed in the Cannaregio neighborhood where we started – but there’s one final test of skill ahead of us before we hang up our paddles. As we pull in, two speedboats whiz past and we bounce madly through the wash, trying our best not to crash-land into a parked boat. When the waves settle we make a quick dash to drag our boards back through the doorway, with wet feet but (thankfully) hair dry.

In a city of cliches and well-trodden tourist haunts, I walk away satisfied to have experienced the magic ofVenice from a totally unique perspective. And given I ’ve just done a decent afternoon’s workout, I find mywayto the nearest gelateria. Because it would be foolish not to make the most ofa guilt-free gelato in Venice, right? 5E

Splash around

Keen to SUP your way through Europe? Dip your oar into the trend here…

SPAIN

Head to Barcelona to get the hang of SUPing on the calm (and scenic!) Mediterranean Sea. molokaisupcenter.com

PORTUGAL

Experience the beautiful Cascais coast with a guided two-hour SUP tour. surfnpaddle.com

CROATIA

Take in Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls from your board, or sign up for a SUP fitness class. standup-paddleboarding-croatia.com

Competition

SURFER FELICITY PALMATEER IS A BEACH BOHEMIAN

Travelling the world for Billabong, riding waves and creating, living a nomadic lifestyle with an endless summer. And now her love for the ocean has inspired a fresh collaboration with Billabong, coming together with the surf brand’s design team to create the Seadream Beach collection – a range of must-have accessories, inspired bythe colour and movement ofthe sea. We have one prize pack to give away, valued at $349.94, including:

BILLA BONG

Competition opens 16 November 2015 and closes 5pm (AEDT) 20 December2015. Open to Australian residents only aged 18 years and over. One entry per person. For full terms and conditions, visit womensfitness.com.au or visit the Women’s Fitness Facebook page at facebook. com.au/womensfitnessaustralia. Please see contents page for location ofthe Women’s Fitness Privacy Policy. The Promoter is Women’s Fitness Media, a division of Bideford Black Pty Ltd.

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