There is a particular part of Andalusia on the eastern coastline of Spain, a stone’s throw from Portugal, known as Costa de la luz or “Coast of Light.” And it does indeed have a dazzling luminosity – not to mention a cloudless blue sky and 75km of golden beaches. Walking here is a delight, so not surprisingly, the AMA Andalusia Health Resort offers walking as one of its activities. One of the fitness team will take you down to the endless sands or through the dunes and nature reserves to get your early morning fix of ozone on this always breezy coastline facing the Atlantic.
AMA is quite keen on fitness – there are indoor and outdoor gyms, as well as aqua gym in the mornings. Then there are various fitness classes and programmes as well as personal trainers to take you through an individual gym session and more relaxing classes such as yoga and Pilates, too. There’s a golf course 200m from the hotel and another ten within an easy drive (this is Spain, don’t forget). There are also five pools and an extensive hydro-spa with a variety of saunas, steam rooms, ice baths and cold plunges. There are two beautiful individual hammams.
You can go a la carte and choose what you fancy or you can go for a retreat with a particular focus. These include weight control, detox, beauty and healthy ageing and, besides beauty therapists, there are specialists in physiotherapy, psychology and nutrition as well as doctors to assess your needs and guide you in the best direction. The content of these retreats is being reshaped by Selma van Asselt, the new Dutch spa manager who is bringing real vision plus some new treatments. Having sampled one of them, I can only say – sensational!
I was down for a session with Selma and the rather vaguely named “Special Facial Treatment.” Let me say first of all, this was the best facial I have ever had though, so much else was involved, I’d question whether it even was a facial. But, oh boy, it was special. Facials are often a formulaic sequence – someone slaps on a series of products, cleansing, toning, masks, moisturiser. This was totally different.
So, there were crystals (including an amethyst on my forehead, rose quartz hearts in my hands), I was cocooned in hot towels between applications of hand-mixed potions, and at various points my knees, feet and arms were massaged. Selma used cupping and rolling to detox my skin and tiny circles and pressing on facial points (even my nose!) to stimulate the lymphatic system. Then she worked deep into my shoulders and the top of my spine – this was more relaxing than many massages I’ve had.
The products were all natural – there was a honey mask and argan oil, extra argan mixed in to feed my thirsty skin. “Yes,” said Selma, “it’s leaky skin. You should eat the skin when you have fish, that will help.” It’s hard to remember precisely the order and the applications, though, because this was such an intuitive and individual facial, things changed as we went along. I was down for 60 minutes but it turned into more like 90 of sheer bliss. I could have stayed for days. Afterwards, my skin was glowing, fine lines had disappeared and, even better, it was just as good the next day. It gave fresh faced a whole new meaning.
There is much more to come at AMA. Already, you can have a high-tech facial featuring hyaluronic acid (not as scary as it sounds – it occurs naturally in the body and it plumps and moisturises) or one that uses Oxygen therapy or plant stem cells. There are massages involving volcanic stones, pindas (small sacks of aromatic herbs) or bamboo and a Hawaiian one that emulates “the gentle rocking of waves on the body.” Aside from the authentic hammam treatments (they’ve brought a Moroccan therapist over specially) there are body treatments with green tea, sapphire and sea salt, and chocolate.
The hotel itself is all pretty new with huge rooms (generous balconies, big sofas, desks, a mini-kitchen with herbal teas and miniature slabs of organic chocolate with flavours like orange and pepper). The bathrooms are futuristic with big tubs and walk-in showers. There are two restaurants that feature lots of very fresh fish and shellfish, local meat, game, vegetables and fruit with a strong Andalusian influence – beetroot salad with goat’s cheese and black olives; smoked lobster; prawn carpaccio; prickly pear soup in a frozen lake (a rather amazing pudding).
It’s a relaxed, laid back place, though if you want to enjoy the beach probably best avoided in August when there is a tourist invasion. The rest of the year, though, this is quite a sanctuary both in the natural environment and because of what’s on offer at AMA. This spa is already looking good and clearly has even more to give. Go now before everyone else discovers it.
For more information, visit www.ama-resort.com.