Storfjord Hotel, Norway
Leave the hustle and bustle of modern life and step into a Scandinavian folk tale to discover Storfjord Hotel on Alpine Norway’s fjord fringed wooded hilltop. With a log cabin ambience in a tranquil spot, enjoy panoramic views of the stunning Sunnmore Alps and overlook one of the largest fjords in Norway. For an authentic culinary adventure Scandi-style, visit a local fjord farm and sample delectable food which has been hunted, fished and harvested from the surrounding woods and mountains and prepared using traditional techniques. The visit also includes a lesson in traditional Norwegian baking right in the farm’s old bakery. Try your luck at baking Norwegian flatbread, Nonsvik Lefse (potato pancake) or traditional Water Kringle (butter-layered pastries). To satisfy the adventurist spirit, there is also fishing, sailing, hiking, sea safaris and skiing to choose from.
Executive Edge Travel’s Co-Founder & Head of Leisure Yvonne Verstandig’s ‘Travel My Way’ tour to Norway includes a stay at Storfjord Hotel
Did you know?
Storfjord Hotel is famous for its fine collection of cheese from local producers and Storfjordbrygg, the hotel’s locally brewed Ale only served at Storfjord Hotel.
Milaidhoo Island, Maldives
Can a culinary ‘treatment’ address both the physical and mental hurdles that prevent a good night’s sleep? Hidden in the heart of an UNESCO biosphere reserve, Milaidhoo Island in the Maldives offers five different curated mood dining menus paired with wellness treatments designed to transport guests into a state of Zen. Choose from ‘Deep Sleep’, ‘Getting into the Milaidhoo Mood’, ‘Sunrise Awakening’, ‘Curious Adventures’ or ‘Sunset Chill’ – all created to change a person’s mood. The most popular, ‘Deep Sleep,’starts with a peaceful spa treatment in the early evening to relax the body followed by a light dinner with naturally occurring ingredients in the menu that encourage sleep. After dinner Milaidhoo’s resident yogi leads you in a private moonlight meditation on the deck of your villa to calm and slow the mind. The evening ends with a scented candlelit bath. At Milaidhoo Island, guests aren’t thought of a holiday makers but as ‘storywriters’, crafting their own dream holiday.
Hulbert House, New Zealand
Fancy a luxury cruise with your own private chef? In Queenstown New Zealand, Hulbert House makes this exceptional dining experience a reality. Start with a Milford Sound day cruise then helicopter into the heart of Fjordland before boarding an elegant cruise complete with on-deck hot tubs. Enjoy an alfresco seafood lunch prepared by a private chef with delectable blue cod, crayfish and bluff oysters. After lunch cruise the Fjord, go fishing, try your luck at cray-pot pulling or dive deep in an ROV submersible. On the way back to Hulbert House, be sure to ask the pilot to land on a glacier. Hulbert House, skirted by a picturesque white picket fence, is a boutique retreat brimming with vintage style, from the Bakelite light switches down to the cast iron radiators. Magnificent views of Lake Wakatipu are captured from every individually designed room. Local staff will keep you busy suggesting spa treatments to golf excursions to the hippest wine bars and restaurants.
Dar Ahlam, Morocco
Dar Ahlam means ‘House of Dreams’ and dream you shall as you dine in the most dramatic settings. Meals are an enchanting daily surprise. Never dine in the same place or taste the same dish twice and tables are set up in different locations depending upon the day’s theme. Savour traditional Moroccan specialties and the latest culinary innovations in spectacular outdoor settings such as overlooking the Atlas Mountains and Morocco’s stretch of the Sahara desert or the hotel’s gardens designed by Louis Benech, the famed designer of the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. Desserts are dreamed up by French pâtissier Pierre Hermé. Dar Ahlam is a renovated 19th century Kasbah with 13 suites and one villa – all have fireplaces and oversized bathrooms. The ultimate Moroccan adventure? For a little extra, spend the night under the stars in the desert in a tent for two.
Dining is a treat with four restaurants and three lounges, each a special and distinctive experience. Bond over Horhog, a traditional mutton stew cooked with hot stones which is a Mongolian meat dish representing thousands of years of nomadic Mongolian lifestyle.
Terelj Hotel, Mongolia
Pure luxury nestled in the carefully protected, almost uninhabited wilderness in Mongolia’s Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Terelj Hotel is renowned for outdoor adventures from bird-watching to hiking and climbing or horseback riding through meadows of edelweiss, grassy steppes and forest-covered mountains. Although sparsely populated, the park is home to nomadic Mongolians, so if you are lucky, interact with the authentic people of Mongolia who are hospitable and gracious. Dining is a treat with four restaurants and three lounges, each a special and distinctive experience. Bond over Horhog, a traditional mutton stew cooked with hot stones which is a Mongolian meat dish representing thousands of years of nomadic Mongolian lifestyle. This dish embodies the spirit of togetherness and sets the beginnings of friendship. Complete the night’s festivities with a local Mongolian vodka made from fermented horse milk.
Vestibul Palace, Croatia
With a mere 7 exclusive suites, Vestibul Palace is Split’s most extraordinary place to stay set in the heart of the Diocletian’s Palace beside the ancient Roman vestibule walls. Merging three distinct architectural styles, Roman, gothic and Renaissance, the palace’s interior is by contrast modern in design whilst highlighting original architectural features in the rooms. In this ancient setting, Vestibul Palace presents UNESCO themed dinners offering guests the opportunity to dine amongst the city’s breathtaking UNESCO World Cultural Heritage monuments. Choose from dining in the Emperor’s Square directly in front of the hotel or in St. Andrija Church accompanied by a one-hour concert by Dalmatian Klapa singers.
Dukes of London, UK
In the centre of historic St James’s Mayfair, where King Henry 8th built his palace in the 16th century, Dukes London has been an exclusive retreat for royalty, politicians and musicians. Choose from modern or classic style accommodation whilst savoring British gastronomic delights. With quintessential English charm, enjoy a butler served picnic in nearby Green Park curated by Michelin-starred Chef Nigel Mendham and packed with traditional treats including Scotch eggs, broccoli quiche sprinkled with pine nuts, poached salmon with lemon mayonnaise, and artisan cheese paired with scrummy chutneys. The kid’s menu keeps little ones content with pigs in blankets, homemade crisps and strawberry trifles. The idyllic alfresco setting is perfect for a romantic date for couples or a party with friends.
Relais San Lorenzo, Italy
In the historic walled city of Bergamo Alta, Italy, Relais San Lorenzo blends modern with antiquity. Step out of Relais San Lorenzo onto Piazza Mascheroni and wander through the winding streets of the walled city, then return to Chef Antonio Cuomo’s Italian dishes created with fine local produce well-rooted in the flavours of the Bergamo tradition. For a special culinary treat, dine in an archeological site of Roman and Medieval origins dating back to 300BC. In one of Lombardy’s most lovely towns, Relais San Lorenzo features a sensual spa, a gourmet restaurant, a terraced bar and houses 30 rooms and suites overlooking the neighbouring church.
Small Luxury Hotels culinary delights straight from the book
Purchase a copy of the SLH Cookbook Main Courses Volume 3 which presents a collection of handpicked recipes from the brand’s portfolio over 520 hotels in more than 80 countries. The SLH Cookbook features 142 tantalising main dishes curated by internationally recognised chefs; from local tastemakers to globally renowned masters of their craft, who champion regional produce and gourmet experiences designed to tempt the taste buds of discerning travellers.
“Ubud has long been a holistic mecca where indigenous healers ply their craft when Western medicine has fallen short. In a secluded area of Ubud, blending ancient healing and new science in a modern integrative approach, COMO Shambhala Estate captures the essence of nature’s spiritual tranquility while teaching guests how to achieve real results in holistic wellness…” ~ Kimberly Rosbe
Ubud after midnight
After learning I was headed to Bali, my American friends joked, “Perfect, you’ll get your own Eat, Pray, Love story,” channeling Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir.
But arriving at COMO Shambhala Estate in Ubud after midnight as torrential downpours blanketed the property’s mystical, mist-covered jungle, it wasn’t Liz Gilbert on my mind. Instead, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s famous quote echoed in my head: “One cannot reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.”
Bathed in the warm Balinese rain as I descended the cliff side steps to my villa in the dark, the sense I was about to embark upon a spiritual journey in an otherworldly place was palpable. I drifted off to the sound of streaming water outside, and, as I soon uncovered, inside as well…
A river down below
Waking at sunrise, the morning light revealed my luxurious wooden stilted villa precariously hanging over a steep ravine cascading down to the Ayung River far below. The setting was old world Bali – shrines and Hindu temples with flower and fruit offerings and hand woven ornaments, moss covered grand gateways leading to stone paths along terraced fluorescent green rice fields, water gardens full of giant lily pads.
Ubud has long been a holistic mecca where indigenous healers ply their craft when Western medicine has fallen short. In a secluded area of Ubud, blending ancient healing and new science in a modern integrative approach, COMO Shambhala Estate captures the essence of nature’s spiritual tranquility while teaching guests how to achieve real results in holistic wellness which last beyond their stay.
I thought, “Who doesn’t want to achieve wellbeing and pursue balance in our everyday lives?” With this fundamental hope, I succumbed to the therapeutic cocoon of COMO Shambhala Estate. What I found was the pinnacle of exclusive escapism and a higher mind and body focus that renewed my life.
The wellness journey begins
Sally Halstead, the wellness manager at COMO Shambhala Estate, had left me a welcome note suggesting I hydrate, digitally detox and explore the grounds before my wellness journey began.
So I meandered around the estate as the sun began to slice through the mist igniting the lush undulating grounds. Embracing the ambience of a traditional Balinese village, all of the rooms, suites and villas belong to one of five sprawling sanctuaries each complete with personal assistants, sweeping views, pools, lounges, private dining areas and shaded pavilions.
Etched amongst the river and jungle, all accommodation exists within the setting of a Residence (Bayugita, Tirta Ening, Tejasuara, Wanakasaand Umabona) and each Residence is themed after nature’s five elements – wind/air, water, fire, wood and earth.
Eating well & inner peace
After an immune-boosting, mineral-rich breakfast straight from the pages of COMO founder Christina Ong’s The Pleasures of Eating Well cookbook, resident Ayurvedic expert Dr Prasanth assisted in a guided levitation meditation after a very grounding talk about ancient Ayurvedic principles.
By now, whether you lean towards Western or Eastern medicine, we can all accept that we are mind-bodies and the two can’t be separated in the treatment of overall health.
‘Thri Dosha’ theory stipulates that the elements of air, fire and water in our bodies are in perfect balance. Without this ideal state of balance of dosha, aggregations and deficiencies occur. Dr Prasanth firmly believes that if you “know your Dosha, you can change your life”.
Healing the Ayurvedic way
Dr Prasanth’s integrative medicine concept is based upon Ayurvedic science, yoga, naturopathy and conventional science and he tailors individual wellness programs for each guest based upon their Ayurveda consultation and Dosha mapping.
Dr Prasanth clarified to me that the specialty of COMO lies in the individualized and detailed approach given to each guest about their health requirements and objectives. On the first day of each stay, bespoke Wellness Programmes and a plan of treatment are developed for each guest ranging from Ayurvedic or cleanse and detox aims, to actively jumpstarting a new fitness regime or even rejuvenating the mind and soul. Nutrition is also valued as an intrinsic part of the holistic experience at COMO Shambhala Estate – raw, delicious and healthy foods that entice taste buds while complementing energy and blood sugar at both on-site restaurants Glow and Kudus House.
Continuing the path to renewal
The path to renewal persists after guests leave Dr Prasanth elaborated: “We become a part of their continuing health journey by keeping in touch through follow-up suggestions. This holistic 360-degree approach helps us to make a lasting transformation in guests’ health and lifestyle.”
COMO Shambhala is renowned for its intuitive and empowering experts, from yoga masters to life coaches to nutritionists to chakra healers. These resident wellbeing specialists are there every step of the way to activate and balance energy flow.
Speaking of flow, as a yoga advocate, I wanted to test my skills at the mother of all yoga resorts. However, my private COMO Shambhala Hatha Yoga session revealed I have completely incorrect breathing techniques. My yoga teacher abandoned the flow sequence and sat right down on my mat directly in front of me and said, “You have to learn to breathe. It will change everything.” For the next hour, he showed me literally how to breathe with his hand on my stomach monitoring the depth of each inhale and exhale. Slowly, I felt my mind and body start to open up.
The COMO Way of Life
COMO is not just a brand but a way of life. When Christina Ong, founder of COMO, opened her first COMO Shambhala Wellness Retreat at COMO Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, her aspirations weren’t to build a global wellness empire, but instead her intention was much simpler.
Christina wanted to merely expose guests to the integrated benefits of yoga. Graciously, Christina has always acknowledged those who influenced her life and her brand from her world renowned yoga teachers Rodney Yee and Judy Krupp to her dear friend, personal inspiration and fashion icon Donna Karan.
Over the years, chefs, nutritionists and healers all have contributed to COMO’s unique holistic wellness understanding. From city centres to island retreats to highland resorts, today COMO is synonymous with living a healthier, better life with a portfolio of hotels around the globe which adhere to this philosophy.
Urban retreats & private islands
The portfolio keeps expanding from urban wellness retreats COMO The Halkin in London, COMO The Treasury in Perth, three COMO Metropolitan hotels in London, Bangkok and Miami Beach, to COMO’s resort portfolio including private island hideways COMO Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, COMO Cocoa Island, and COMO Maalifushi in the Maldives as well as tropical destination COMO Point Yamu in Phuket. For the truly active traveller, COMO Uma experience resorts in Bali and Bhutan, including the newest resort, COMO Uma Canggu keep broadening the COMO way.
COMO Uma Canggu – Surf Spirit
COMO Uma Canggu, opened in February this year, has brought an innovate spin on the surf spirit to Bali’s southern coast. COMO Uma Canggu’s Beach Club is currently the hottest gathering spot in Bali a mere steps from the ocean where upscale surfers and sophisticated travelers alike mingle pool side complete with live acoustic musicians and a COMO restaurant featuring healthy juices and light seafood fare.
Walking down hundreds of steps and winding jungle paths, I finally arrive at a sacred spring of mineral-rich water on the Estate’s property used to fill the resort’s Vitality Pool.
A Sacred Spring
Back in the mountains of Ubud, COMO Shambhala Estate, the flagship property, remains the source of the COMO inspiration.
Since its opening in 2005, COMO Shambhala Estate has transcended a destination spa to represent the standard by which other wellness retreats around the world aspire to. Expect your mind and body to experience harmony while striving for a fresh perspective on personal wellness. From the flawless spa treatments to the Asian therapy wellness programs, organic cuisine, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and bounty of nature activities in the lush surroundings, COMO Shambhala Estate could be the paragon of perfection when it comes to destination wellness retreats.
But it all has to start with a willingness and motivation for renewal and each individual must commit to ongoing lifestyle changes with a proactive approach to wellness.
With this lofty purpose in mind, the last day of my stay at COMO Shambhala Estate I descended alone to the spring water source. Walking down hundreds of steps and winding jungle paths, I finally arrive at a sacred spring of mineral-rich water on the Estate’s property used to fill the resort’s Vitality Pool. Surrounded by silence, the jungle setting personified absolute peace and tranquility. This water spring is revered by the Ubud locals for its healing properties and used by the villagers for a Balinese ritual and ceremony.
Legend says it’s holy water. Lao Tzu’s quote came again to my head. This time, my own ‘streaming water’ was finally still.
Harnessing this sacred water and armed with a local clear crystal around my neck, believed by Balinese doctors to be ‘the most powerful healer’, I vowed to take COMO’s practices home with me.