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8 Country Spas & Retreats

8 Country Spas & Retreats

Pampering, luxuriating and revelling in tranquillity are the order of the day at these country oases. Book a special occasion or an indulgent treat for yourself at one (or more) of these country spas & retreats…

1. Western Cape – Babylonstoren, Drakenstein Valley

Situated between Franschhoek and Paarl, Babylonstoren has at its heart an eight-acre garden designed along medieval lines by French architect Patrice Taravella. It is from this amazing garden that all the herbs and honey are harvested for the spa treatments. Feet are washed with infusions of lavender or rosemary, bunches of tussie-mussie are hung in the bathrooms of the 13 rooms of the hotel, and honey is collected from the beehives and used in scrubs. Even your breakfast eggs are gently removed from under the warm feathers of a hen. At the spa, clad in grey-veined marble is a traditional hammam, or Turkish bath. There is also a double- and a single-treatment room. Green is the defining colour and nature is never far away. Outside is an enclosed, secluded, reeded area where you can lie on loungers, their feet perched somewhat incongruously in a beach of sand. This is a place where you can be completely at one with the beauty of the setting, the scents of the garden, the drone of bees and the gentle bubbling of water in irrigation canals. Cellar tours, garden tours and estate tours keep you occupied between a scrub or massage. Therapists trained in renowned spas in other parts of the world ensure top-quality treatments. – Di Wemyss

2. Gauteng – Kievits Kroon, Near Pretoria

Spa Relaxation Lounge

When you combine the Cape Winelands with Highveld countryside you’re bound to find room to breathe. Put that on 16 quiet hectares just 45 minutes from Sandton, add the luxury of a spa with full thermae facilities and you’ve got the unique experience of Kievits Kroon. The Winelands Spa, overlooking the hotel’s green central quad, is one of the venue’s centrepieces. Spacious shower facilities with complete wet area – sauna, Jacuzzi, Swiss shower and plunge pool – are a warm welcome. But be sure to leave time for a lie-down in the relaxation lounge, where the dimmed light and piped music will have your stress turned down close to zero before a treatment. Packages range from moms-to-be specials to the True Romance overnight option for couples. After your troubles are melted away by hot stones and skilled hands, enjoy several dining options on the estate, including picnics on the lawn, the signature Granita restaurant and the more relaxed poolside bar. Kingsley’s is the place to be for a chatty afternoon tipple and to catch the rugby on TV. Across 142 rooms, primarily in Cape Dutch style but including six traditional Zulu huts, accommodation ranges from standard rooms to the two exclusive VIP suites. – Ian Macleod

3. Eastern Cape – Woodall Country House & Spa, Sundays River Valley


Coddled by citrus orchards that sweeten the air is the Woodall Country House & Spa in the Sundays River Valley – just 10km from the entrance to Addo Elephant National Park. You could say it’s the minutiae that characterises this five-star place, from the steaming facecloths on arrival and the graciously handwritten welcome card to the Lindt Lindor chocolate ball on your pillow. The spa is comprehensive, with a saltwater pool, massage therapy, a hydrotherapy bath, steam shower, sauna, heated Vichy shower, chromotherapy shower and a couples massage room. There are skincare treatments, pedi- and manicures and even a junior spa menu. The gymnasium overlooks a reed-lined pond teeming with indigenous waterbirds. The underground wine cellar has clinched several awards, and the menu shows creative use of local fare with the six-course dinner typically taking you on a nouvelle cuisine journey through the multicultural kitchens of the Eastern Cape. – Claire Fulton

4. Western Cape – Lanzerac Spa, Stellenbosch


The spa, on the beautiful Lanzerac wine estate on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, set a little away from the five-star hotel, is popular for pamper packages. But I experienced one of my best treatments ever at the hands of Yvette Mouton. She specialises in CranioSacral Therapy and Body Stress Release. Sound too hey-shoo-fully-wow? Well, before my one-hour treatment was regrettably over, I could feel the inflammation from a viral or bacterial bug (who knows which) subsiding. I left adjusted, aligned, invigorated and energised, only going as far as a lounger next to the heated indoor pool to take in the view. Glass sides and a vaulted, see-through roof make the pool, the adjacent Jacuzzi or one of the café tables perfect places from which to watch the scudding clouds, the Stellenbosch mountains, or sunset over the vineyards after a treatment. The spa has seven indoor therapy rooms and two outdoor areas, a Vichy shower and sauna room. There’s a pergola and tables alongside the vines for pastries or a light lunch. I’d recommend a stay on this historic estate with its wonderful food, wine, spa, accommodation and service. – Adrian Rorvik

5. KwaZulu-Natal – Karkloof Safari Spa, Near Pietermaritzburg


The Karkloof Safari Spa is the place to go to switch off from the day-to-day and get spoilt on a beautiful reserve with private game drives, fishing, the stunning Karkloof Falls, and every indulgence at hand, but with health in mind. If you have especially deep pockets, there are detox and weight-management packages and for all residents – whether eating off your personalised menu in the lodge or at the spa – there are delicious raw-food options for every course. Resident guests receive unlimited treatments and the opening times are mere guidelines, with folk wandering dreamily around in dressing gowns well into the night. Treatments from the Thai staff, in the sprawling spa with lovely Karkloof Valley views, eclipsed several five-star resorts I’ve visited in their homeland. Apart from an array of body scrubs, rubs and wraps that read like a fragrant restaurant menu, the massages are sublime and you don’t get better than the yoga massage. On my second hour-and-half, I was amazed at how much further I could be ‘pretzelled’. Personalised t’ai chi and yoga sessions are options and the excellent hydrotherapy facilities include Kneipp pools, a flotation pool, saunas and steam rooms, an indoor Roman bath and an open-air Jacuzzi. Me-time doesn’t get better than this. – Adrian Rorvik

6. Western Cape – Tilney Manor Relaxtion Retreat, Near Barrydale

Tilney Spa

Soothed by the utter peace of the Karoo wilderness at Tilney Manor on the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, I could feel my stress levels ebbing away. As well as the wildlife experience there is the added temptation at Tilney to become still more blissed out in the Relaxation Retreat set by the pool in gardens that surround the guest suites. All kinds of therapies are on offer, with evocative names like Karoo Dream (back, neck and shoulder massage), Karoo Warmth (hot stone massage), Healing Earth Wrap (full body scrub and wrap), to name just a few. Situated near Barrydale off the R62, the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is within easy reach for a weekend or midweek spoil. – Marianne Heron

7.  KwaZulu-Natal – Granny Mouse Country House & Spa, Midlands Meander

Granny Mouse Jacuzzi

Not much can beat the unspoilt countryside if you’re looking for relaxation. But add to that an excellent spa, and you have a recipe for utter bliss. Surrounded by a tranquil garden, the spa at the landmark Granny Mouse hotel in Balgowan on the Midlands Meander, at the foothills of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, is a gem of a place that offers pampering with a capital ‘P’. The wide range of treatments includes a rejuvenating, vitamin-rich Shimmer Milk Hydro Bath (“It’ll leave you dusted with a shimmering veil,” advised my therapist) that is the perfect prelude to an aromatherapy and hot stone massage and skull massage. The staff aim to give their guests a personal experience and, indeed, it isn’t long before you feel as if you’re the only person there. The hotel has two restaurants (The Eaves for fine dining, as well as the Bistro), while accommodation is varied from garden suites and deluxe suites to self-catering at The Farmhouse, 900m from Granny Mouse’s entrance. – Andrea Abbott

8. Gauteng – Chicama Country Spa, Muldersdrift


Situated at the Glenburn Lodge, Chicama is a 30-minute drive out of Joburg or Pretoria that takes you unexpectedly into deep countryside and the Cradle of Humankind. There, in the shadow of the Zwartkops Mountains, and on the banks of the Blaauwbank River, the lodge and spa have been established to take full advantage of the natural surroundings and wildlife sightings, such as the pair of eland we spotted on a hike. The spa has ten treatment rooms, two with private hydrotherapy baths, and a heated pool. There’s also a couples’ treatment room with a private Jacuzzi. Wine is the central theme and wine-based therapies, known for their antioxidant properties, are offered. I indulged in a decadent red-wine back, neck and shoulder massage plus Merlot hydrotherapy treatment. A combination of herbs, fynbos and salts are wrapped in a cloth, infused with warm wine, and used in a massage to exfoliate the skin. The hour-long spoil is followed by a hydrotherapy bath into which you tip about 100ml of real Merlot and then soak blissfully for 30 minutes. Friendly staff, delicious meals and comfortable river-bank accommodation (complete with an Italian coffee machine), make for a memorable stay. – Linda Piegl

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