Story and photos by Carole Edrich
© Jeremy Hoare
Image–conscious inhabitants of fashionable Buenos Aires are under constant pressure to appear glamorous and eternally young. In the drive to stay beautiful the locals (Porteños) expect and get a lot from their surgeons, gyms and spas. Driven partly by the siren lure of foreign money but also by the demands of wealthier Argentines (who are rediscovering the vacation value of their own country) spa standards are also high outside of Buenos Aires. As a result, the discerning sybarite can find luxurious spas in Argentina that are both destinations in their own right and excellent bases for exploration with treatments a fraction of their cost back home.
Alvear Palace Spa and Fitness Centre, Buenos Aires
Located in its own purpose–built minimalist suite, this newly opened Spa and Fitness Centre has a wide variety of herbal, marine and mineral treatments as well as the full La Prarie product range. Special offerings include 'beauty express' for those with little time to spare for their spa retreat and an acupressure treatment designed to speed recovery from jet lag. As you'd expect from such a high quality hotel, spa staff are well accustomed to meeting ad–hoc guest requirements and costs are not considered constraints. This long–awaited complex also boasts a state–of–the–art techno–gym and highly qualified staff and it will be interesting to see how services develop in response to client requests over its first year.
Treatments from $85
The Spa at Patios de Cafayate, Cafayate
Conceived and run by its Uruguayan owners, this spa is situated in its own custom–designed building, a short and easy stroll through the hotel gardens. Treatment rooms and petal–strewn fountains surround a light and airy indoor solarium and a central heated swimming pool (there's a larger one in the hotel grounds as well). Every relaxation room boasts a stunning view, but to appreciate it from a Jacuzzi or private plunge pool, book around mid–day as cooler outdoor temperatures cause condensation to form on the picture windows.
Staff are a mix of locally trained and imported practitioners qualified in massage, alternative therapy or traditional beauty treatments. Managed separately to the hotel, this spa has its own research laboratories and combines popular wine therapy techniques with innovations derived from tried and tested pre–Columbian health and beauty traditions. The luxurious and lasting results have proved so popular with guests that many order products for delivery back home when they're done. * Be advised though that this hotel has declined considerably since it lost its Starwood Luxury Collection status, so check recent guest reviews and consider newer Grace Cafayate instead.
Treatments between $50 and $450
Faena Hotel and Universe Gym, Spa & Hammam, Buenos Aires
Fashionistas flock to this Philippe Starck–designed hotel which has a spa with an eastern feel, including a stunning blue–light zen meditation room. While individual treatments are private, the Turkish Hammam, relaxation room and jacuzzi are social places and the terraced outdoor pool is a place to see and be seen.
Treatments are themed around beauty, style and spirituality, with "therapies for the soul" such as pranic healing (to revitalize the body's energy aura), ayurvedic massages (to balance mind and spirit), one–on–one yoga, meditation sessions, aromatherapy and the ever–popular La Prarie range. In addition to regular private treatments the spa has a series of offerings that combine its clientele's desire to be seen and pampered at the same time of which the four–handed reflexology treatment plus sunscreen application by the pool is a great example. There's a stunning freshly squeezed juice menu and glamorous locals with spa and gym memberships frequent the Faena Bar on a Saturday night.
Juices $12, treatments from $79 Four–hand sunscreen and reflexology by the pool $256
© Hotel Llao Llao
The Spa at Hotel Llao Llao, Bariloche
Although the hotel is in an unbeatable location with sublime panoramas to be seen from every window, the spa is in the lowest floor and some treatment rooms have a restricted view. However, the service and staff are top–notch, the treatment and therapy menu is extensive and the products rich and efficacious. This is a long-running favorite as a spot for a truly relaxing spa vacation in Argentina. Clients are treated to a high level of personal service with custom–blended essential oils and traditional French treatments. My favourite treatment, the Llao Llao Mitotheraphy uses locally grown rose hip oil to tone and condition facial skin and muscles and others speak highly of the specialist massages for golfers and skiers. It is common for guests to continue using the spa's excellent products after their visits and the teas served, which are also custom blended, are so popular with guests that many continue to order them by mail when they leave.
$250 upwards Special combination programmes $209 to $538
© Jeremy Hoare
Cavas Wine Lodge Spa, Mendoza
This is an outdoor, medina–style spa created by Pondal Malenchini. It is beautifully designed, with holes in the wall to soften the bright desert sun, a fountain in the spa's centre and the sound of water running from open–mouthed frogs to counter the aridity of Mendoza's dry air. That Mendoza is wine country is reflected by the spa menu which includes a variety of lush wine therapies including a crushed Malbec scrub, Bonarda (red wine) bath for circulation, and moisturising Torrontés wine wrap. Although more regular and conventional treatments are also provided (the four–hand massage is fun) their Olivotherapy range of products (developed from the same olive oil beauty approaches used by ancient Greeks and Romans) are particularly luxurious and also available in all rooms. All Cavas' therapists are fully qualified in medical massage therapy as well as other alternative treatments.
$44 to $260
The Best of the Rest
Owned and run by a doctor, this boutique hotel and spa has a small fitness room and selection of wine therapies and treatments. The hotel also includes an excellent restaurant and hosts small wine tasting groups.
Sheraton Park Towers Spa, Buenos Aires
Equidistant between Puerto Madero and the Centre, this spa has a large outdoor pool, hairdressers and experienced, qualified masseurs who are happy to discuss exercise, stretching and diet with clients when appropriate. The hotel–spa complex also has two gyms, the smaller of which is available for guests wishing to train in a comfortable silence.
Nivel 23, Hotel Panamericano, Buenos Aires
© Carole Edrich
The huge indoor rooftop pool of Nivel 23 would be impressive on its own, but has the additional benefit of the most stunning urban view in Argentina. There is little to beat swimming under the glass wall into the open air where you can see panoramic views of the Obelisc, Avenida de Julio, Recoletta and even Uruguay on a clear day. A good range of breakfast foods and healthy snacks is always available and the treatment menu, although fairly standard is good. Tailored packages are available and locals and guests often relax around the pool over a late breakfast or early evening snack.
Estancia Colomé, Salta
© Carole Edrich
Although it's not strictly speaking a spa, staying at the remote and luxurious Estancia y Bodega Colomé is beneficial to mind, body and spirit. While the establishment is a quiet, well run and exclusive biodynamic ranch and winery, the fact that everything is locally sourced and clients are subject to the high, clear air of the mountains of Salta are healthy bonuses. The ranch also offers relaxing massages, herbal baths and body massages.