Mexico's Growing Spa Scene: Spas in Morelos
There is no doubt that visits to Mexico's spas are on the rise. Although hard figures are not available, Orlando Hidalgo of the Mexico Spa Association (MexSpa) estimates the number of spa visitors in Mexico is growing at the phenomenal rate of 50 percent per year.
"The spa industry is coming of age," he said. "Now you can really say 'Build it. The clients will come.'"
A visit to two new "spas de destino" - the choicest of spa categories - in the state of Morelos show why the republic's spas are drawing so many visitors.
In Morelos, spas, healthy holidays and spiritual retreats have long had a firm footing because of the state's excellent climate, wealthy foreign population, and centuries-old tradition of the balneario or mineral water bath.
The Hostal de la Luz, in Amatlán, is owned by a plastic surgeon who has a holistic approach, while La Casa de los Arboles in Zacualpan is a converted private home, branching into the spa world but emphasizing indigenous Mexican accents. Both have a more spiritual approach to well-being than the majority of Mexico's established spas, and both lie in breathtaking settings that place them firmly in the luxury end of the market. Neither allows children.
At Hostal de la Luz, it is the natural setting that first strikes the guest. The design and layout of this unique spa have been carefully designed to allow visitors to absorb as much as possible of the deep green and blue mountains near Tepoztlán. All rooms face the Quetzalcoatl mountain and have bay windows with dusky rose cushions and meditation chairs for visitors. The swimming pool, perched on a ledge and sculpted of brown and gray rock, also provides a magnificent view, as do the hammocks on the sun deck and Shambala, the spa's new circular restaurant.
Spa treatments are a la carte, and only just beginning, but a weekend at Hostal de la Luz includes some novel and well-taught classes, top-notch temazcal (Aztec steam bath) and a Saturday evening concert.
Tai chi and walks in the woods are included, but truly outstanding was the drumming class with "Mo," both therapeutic and invigorating, and very good for social contact.
A local lady conducted the temazcal, with considerable aplomb. The herbs were deliciously fragrant. As the sun set over the mountains, the cleansing ritual with incense before entering the steam bath filled one with a rush of anticipation. My only criticism is the song that she sang that we were asked to join in with had inauthentic Christian leanings, and should have been more pantheistic. However, sitting in the bubbling jacuzzi under the stars, while sipping the hot honeyed tea that follows and complements the ritual, more than compensated.
This may not be the place for people who hate omnipresent tinkly piano and pipe music or feel their hackles rise at New Age pretensions. I found the view, exquisite adobe rooms, architecture, pool and classes more than made up for the drippy music (you can turn it off in your room) but my husband was gritting his teeth much of the time.
However, Hostal de la Luz offers a superior weekend getaway for people who know how to make the most of a spiritual retreat. It is small, private and in an unrivalled setting, and can be a place of light and tranquility for those who regularly practice meditation and yoga or who follow other similar practices. For the inexperienced, but open-minded, it offers a taste of some of the best elements of New Age philosophy and holistics.
La Casa de los Arboles also offers unique enchantment in its setting, but in this case it is a marvelous eccentricity that overwhelms the guest. Named for the many hectares of orchards that surround it, as well as lush trees within the grounds, this hotel used to be a private home of a European-Mexican family. Local artisans have peppered every surface with eye-catching mosaics that feature real animals and fantasy creatures, as well as biblical scenes and reproductions of Disney characters.
Personal and aesthetic details make a strong impression, from sculpted relief snails topping columns, the surrealist sculptures of Sergio Bustamante, numerous fountains, four swimming pools (two covered), an antique bar, ivy-clad turrets and even a miniature Hansel and Gretel cottage, built for the family's granddaughters and still housing a few abandoned toys.
One is clearly inhabiting a work of art and the staff works hard to keep up with such high visual standards, being of an exceptionally high quality for Mexico: The chef offers to prepare dishes if those on the menu do not meet the guests' fancy, new robes and towels appear in the rooms at the blink of an eye, beds are thoughtfully turned down, and waiters provide impeccable service.
In its own self-contained area, with gardens and two pools, the spa experience begins in a wooden chalet, with tea and oxygen bar, and lounge chairs so guests can look out on the garden as they await a 15-minute consultation. Gravel pathways lead to fragrant and airy treatment rooms, which boast a range of facial and body treatments.
However, the holistic treatments are what seal Casa de los Arboles as one of the jewels of Mexico's spas. These are the two temazcales and Janzu, (often described as a form of Zen meditation through movement in water) which takes place in a lemon-shaped covered pool with incense and faint music. Although elements of massage feature in this aquatic dance, where the client is manipulated gently by the therapist, this can be quite an intense lesson in trust and submission. The more relaxed you become, the more spectacular movements you can achieve - such as complex underwater somersaults combined with whole and half twists, a gymnastics both physical and cerebral.
Therapists - distinct from facialists - are highly-trained and dedicated young people from the capital who speak fluent English and are well informed about the history and spiritual and physical benefits of their treatments.
Neither of these pioneering Morelos spas is typical of Mexico's spa scene, but both are leading the way to increased spiritual offerings and much higher quality in the services provided.
www.hostaldelaluz.com Hostal de la Luz Km 4 Carretera Tepoztlán - Amatlán de Quetzalcoatl Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, Morelos, México
www.hlasquintas.com and www.spalasquintas.com Tels: 01 777 318 3949, or 318 3877, Fax: 318 3895 Reservaciones: 01 (800) 990 1888 Blvd. Díaz Ordaz 9, Cuernavaca, Morelos, CP62440.
Tel: (01 or +52) 739 / 395-3374 Public relations tel: (01 or +52) 777-305-0038
www.lacasadelosarboles.com Casa de los Arboles Abasolo 9 bis, Zacualpan de Amilpas, C.P. 62890, Morelos, México Tel: (01 or +52) 731 / 357-4560, and in Mexico City (+52 55) 5629-9903 Fax: 01 - 731 / 357-4106
By Barbara Kastelein
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