Welcome to wellness island: The healing retreat in the Adriatic where a Sea Tox programme and mineral rich air will give you that Gwyneth glow
- Rachel Johnson explores the Croatian island known for its healing prowess
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Every woman my age (I’m in my 50s) is aware of the fashion for cleansing, championed most visibly by the radiance of Gwyneth Paltrow, who sups bone broth and says her life’s aim is to support her detox, as if Detox is a poor wee rescue donkey.
I lean more towards the ‘Like what you eat, eat what you like’ system but am ready to try anything to stave off the inevitable. So an invitation to ‘Sea-Tox’ (it’s both a noun and a verb), on an unspoilt Croatian island in the Adriatic, sounded hopeful. I’ve never met a spa treatment I haven’t wanted to last for ever. And I was told that the air on this island has magical properties, thanks to its location, flora and climate. I would lose weight, sleep like a top and never feel what the doctors call TATT (tired all the time).
As my dream is to live by the sea and swim every day, I was in.
But let’s start at the beginning: the 3am alarm call for the 6am Easyjet flight to Rijeka, a port city in the northern Adriatic I’d never even heard of. There are other ways of getting there but I was assured this was the best. A sign in the arrivals hall welcomed me to ‘the healing garden of Europe’, which was promising as I felt half-dead.
From Rijeka airport you drive to a ferry which takes you to an island called Losinj (pronounced losshin), declared by the Austro-Hungarian empire to be a climatic healing resort. Indeed – as I kept being told – the entire isle is an outdoor spa. Why? Well, every lungful of moist, salty, mineral-rich sea air, perfumed with jasmine, pine, sage, myrtle and rosemary, is manna for your lungs. And as we take around 20,000 breaths a day it is claimed that only five nights of sleeping in Losinj with your window open will help with ailments from asthma to hypertension.
From Rijeka airport you drive to a ferry which takes you to an island called Losinj (pronounced losshin), declared by the Austro-Hungarian empire to be a climatic healing resort
The nine-hour journey from my front door was more than worth it when we arrived at the airily modern Bellevue Hotel, Cikat bay, with its herb gardens, the tree line against a deep blue sky, and its very belle vue: the clear turquoise sea. This place seemed to be beckoning me to tox as soon as I’d had lunch on a sunny terrace overlooking the Adriatic.
The creator of the Sea-Tox programme is a stunning blonde wellness guru called Melissa Mettler, who told me over grilled fish and vegetables that I was packing at least seven days’ worth of activities and treatments into four.
She explained that the reputation Losinj has as a healing island dates from the 19th century, when a man called Ambroz Haracic established that the place is to air what the Galápagos Islands are to wildlife. There is a high concentration of humidity and minerals in the air, augmented by the scents and oils of Aleppo pines, the canopy of which forms a lid on this airy cocktail of natural goodness, plus olive, juniper and tamarisk trees. There are 1,200 species of wild herb on the island, many of them medicinal.
My Sea-Tox began with an analysis in a medi-spa, which took a matter of seconds. By my standing on high-tech scales and gripping the handles, the machine somehow took readings from the extremities of my body regarding fat, muscle and skeletal mass. I am in the normal range but my waist – ladies d’un certain âge may relate – has all but disappeared and at 78cm was only two centimetres short of being in the danger zone for diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
‘Women with a waist circumference of more than 80cm and men with one of 94cm have an increased risk,’ the young woman in a white coat and spectacles told me. My total body water was also slightly on the low side (normal levels are 50-55 per cent for women), so that was a reminder to keep my fluids topped up.
After my checks, it was straight to the treatment room for a Sea-Tox massage with essential oils produced on the island in special stills from local pines and herbs.
Day two, the wellness momentum really picked up: a hike from the top of the island to a cove where we did lymphatic draining exercises in the limpid sea, a shade cooler than body temperature. After lunch, more treatments were a variation of massages, with cupping and rollers for added welly.
The four days passed in a blur of activities, treatments and meals. Cryotherapy (three minutes in a coffin full of dry ice) resulted in the best high ever. Cold water immersion – fill a Jacuzzi with ice and sit in it, Wim Hof-style, for at least three minutes. It was so busy, I never opened my book and almost groaned at the sight of the massage bed and the sound of tinkling music.
The reputation Losinj has as a healing island dates from the 19th century, when a man called Ambroz Haracic established that the place is to air what the Galápagos Islands are to wildlife
The creator of the Sea-Tox programme is a stunning blonde wellness guru called Melissa Mettler, pictured
What about meals, I hear you ask?
The official Sea-Tox diet plan was low on carbs and sugar but I was allowed to have whatever I wanted – cocktails, wine, pudding, bread. It is up to the patient to resist temptation. Which I didn’t.
After four days, I felt bursting with health, vitality and energy. I slept deeply, with the windows wide open, swam every day and never felt hungry. But – full disclosure – this was because I ate my bodyweight in grilled fish and vegetables and, after two nights, moved to the next-door Alhambra Hotel to continue the Sea-Tox. Unfortunately the restaurant there has a Michelin star, and it would have been a crime not to try everything on the tasting and signature menus, including paired wines and puddings. So I did. However, my Sea-Tox was so successful in terms of rest and sleep that I didn’t want to re-tox the moment I landed back at Gatwick.
I was too greedy to lose any weight, but if I’d done a full week or fortnight on the 500-calorie-a-day regime (it starts with supergreens and ends with bone broth and nothing much in between apart from something called psyllium colon cleanse tea), I’m confident I’d have shed several kilos. And probably a decade from my face.
A room at Hotel Bellevue starts from around £235 per night; a three-day Mini Sea-Tox starts from around £515; losinj-hotels.com
TRY A DIY SEA-TOX
How to enjoy the benefits without the spa stay
Ideally you need to live by the sea. If you are lucky enough to do so, aim to spend an hour in it every day.
That may be swimming, freedive meditation or simply floating. Do your own lymphatic drainage by shaking and twisting in the sea. Use sea mineral and sea plant products on your skin at home: magnesium and iodine take the starring role, as iodine stimulates the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism and body temperature.
Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 synaptic functions in the body, playing a crucial part in converting the foods we eat into energy our cells can use, as well as keeping glucose levels stable. Magnesium is not naturally produced by the body and is best absorbed through the skin.
If you’re not within easy reach of the sea, try outdoor yoga, breathwork, forest walks or simply enjoy a long bath with essential oils.
Ideally you need to live by the sea. If you are lucky enough to do so, aim to spend an hour in it every day. Stock image used
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