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Nourish the soul: 3 restorative vacation spots in outstanding locales

Rejuvenate your body and mind on these spectacular sojourns. | By Selena Nonagase | February 3, 2022

In today’s harried world, you know how hard it is to find calm and relaxation. To be your best self, you need to be able to take the time to rest and recharge so you can learn new things about yourself. And by reconnecting with nature in far-flung locations, you can nourish your soul while expanding your mind. Take care of yourself in style with:

  • Beauty and meditation: Explore the temples, mountains and bamboo forests of Kyoto, Japan

  • A tropical retreat: Revel in the jungle, beaches and rich local culture of Bali, Indonesia

  • A lakeside getaway: Get off the beaten path onto mountain trails with lush greenery in Hangzhou Tonglu, China

Spiritual retreat: Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto may no longer be Japan’s capital city, but it’s still the country’s cultural heart. With 2,000 temples and shrines, Kyoto is a deeply spiritual place, with ample opportunity for reflection and exploration.

Shunkoin Temple is part of the Myoshinji Temple complex, the largest temple of the Buddhist Rinzai Zen sect. Here, you can practice Zen meditation in a private session with one of the head priests, all while overlooking the temple’s garden. Take a stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk in the Higashiyama area of northern Kyoto, following a stone path from Kinkaku Temple to Nanzen Temple.

In the peaceful green foothills of the Takagamine Mountains, you’ll connect to local culture with some traditional handicraft lessons guided by area experts at ROKU KYOTO, LXR Hotels & Resorts. You can try your hand at creating washi, fine Japanese paper using natural fibers, or practice the art of kintsugi, the repairing of broken pottery with real gold to make it stronger and more beautiful than before.

You can also partake in a tea ceremony — its elegant movements the epitome of mindfulness — while gazing out at a classical Japanese garden. Finally, soak in the resort’s onsen thermal pool under the stars, the perfect way to reflect on the day’s experiences.

Sustainable adventure: Bali, Indonesia

In Bali, you’ll find fascinating culture and rich art traditions combined with a solid dose of adventure in a breathtaking natural setting. Watch a Balinese dance performance, with its Hindu roots, glittering costumes and enchanting accompanying gamelan music, and then learn a few moves yourself . Or learn about the exquisitely handcrafted flower arrangements, called canang sari, that the Balinese offer daily to the gods.

The eco-certified Conrad Bali — where you can partake in all those activities — is positioned directly on the ocean at Benoa Bay, with a lavish collection of pools adjacent to almost a quarter-mile-stretch (about 350 meters) of sandy beach. Check out local sustainability initiatives at the nearby Mangrove Forest Management Center and the Turtle Conservation And Education Center, where you can adopt sea turtles to release into the ocean in an effort to curb the illegal turtle trade.

To get even farther off the beaten path, try cycling to the nearby villages of Nusa Dua and Sawangan, where you can immerse yourself in local life — Conrad Bali can set you up with bicycles. Top off your day back at the resort with an exclusive Balinese moon-viewing celebration, complete with a moonlit beachfront dinner, Hindu priest-led stargazing and traditional purification rituals to cleanse your body and spirit.

Nature's bounty: Hangzhou Tonglu, China

The road less traveled may just lead to Hangzhou Tonglu. This picturesque county is known for its luscious natural landscapes of shimmering rivers, serene lakes and misty mountains. Visit Yaolin Fairyland, a network of limestone caves with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites meticulously carved by water and time. The cave complex is located in Yaolin National Forest Park, where you can hike along rugged mountain paths and traverse the swaying cable bridge.

Drift along the Fuchun River, taking in the lush scenery and watching the fishermen cast their nets as they have for thousands of years. For an extra dose of adventure, book a private guided hiking, caving or rappelling experience in, through or up the Jilong Mountain Caves.

Tea lovers should be sure to visit a Longjing tea plantation, where the region’s famous green tea has been cultivated for more than 1,200 years. Watch the tea-pluckers expertly navigate the undulating jade-green terraced fields. You can even try picking alongside them, selecting tea leaves at their pinnacle to fill a bamboo basket and then taking them back to be roasted. Don’t forget to sample a freshly brewed cup and take away some stimulating souvenirs.

After a day spent touring the hills and waterways of Tonglu, unwind in the airy, sophisticated villas at Conrad Hangzhou Tonglu. Indoor and outdoor pools and a full-service spa will help you wash away the day’s exertions, and the magnificent lake and mountain views make for a postcard-perfect nightcap.

Make your travel memory

Travel is a balm to the restless spirit, and an excellent trip can give you energy, focus and even a new perspective on life. Take the time to make your travel memory — and come back revitalized.

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Selena Nonagase is a writer based in Tokyo. Bylines include BBC Travel, CNN Travel, The Atlantic, The Guardian, etc. She can usually be found drinking coffee in Tokyo cafes and bathing in hot springs in rural Japan.

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