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Extreme Lengths People Will Go To For Wellness

Old-school (and old school–inspired) European “health spas” offer body purification and youth-enhancing fixes in the form of punishing routines

1. The Relaxing Spanish Cure

Where: Sha Wellness Clinic, Alicante, Spain

What it’s about: Located on the Mediterranean coast, Sha is among the cushier wellness clinics in Europe, but it still promises total body transformation. Argentinean business executive Alfredo Bataller Parietti opened the clinic in 2009 after meeting a naturopathic doctor who cured him of digestive problems that had plagued him for years. Sha blends Eastern and Western medicine with natural therapies and chef-prepared macrobiotic food (no starving here!). Several one-day packages are offered; start with an exhaustive health exam that includes an electrocardiogram and optional DNA testing. 

What to look for: Ozone therapy and serotherapy, which aims to regenerate the body’s own healing system with an intravenous cocktail composed of vitamins, trace minerals and molecules customized to your goals (weight loss, fewer wrinkles). 

What it costs: From $295 per day


2. The German Regimen

Where: Schiffmann Spa and Health Hotel, Mülheim an der Mosel, Germany

What it’s about: Schiffmann resembles a European dorm, and regulars check in for detox holidays and therapeutic pampering (salt-oil rubdowns, pulsation massages) in the German countryside. Inspired by the principles of Dr. Otto Buchinger, the father of fasting, most programs entail colonics, liver compresses and a sparse diet of fruit juices, vegetable broths, carbonated water and teas. Guests can also go on guided hikes or submit to the Kneipp pool—where the water fluctuates in temperature to stimulate blood flow—or alkaline baths to draw toxins out of your system. 

What to look for: The Gentle Fasting
program. If extreme deprivation isn’t your thing, try this less intense option, which lets you dine on porridge, soup and alkaline-friendly foods like beets. 

What it costs: From $615 for a five-day stay


3. The Bulgarian Bootcamp

Where: Dr. Emilova Wellness Clinic, Varna, Bulgaria

What it’s about: Dr. Ljudmila Emilova, a specialist in cardiology and rheumatology, founded this no-frills clinic on the belief that fasting stimulates the organs, improves the metabolic system and slows the process of aging. More than 40,000 devotees have flocked here to enjoy a daily diet of one to two kilograms of fresh fruit, juices and herbal teas mixed with honey. With no time wasted on meals, you have plenty left to dedicate to body-improving activities like water gymnastics, medicated sea water inhalations, mud treatments and alternative medical procedures ranging from ultrasounds of your organs to hydrocolon therapy. 

What to look for: The ionophoresis treatment, a 30 minute “cleansing” session that involves placing your feet in a tub of salty water while an electric current extracts toxins from your body. 

What it costs: From $112 per day


4. The Futuristic Medical Fix

Where: The Paracelsus Clinic, Lustmühle, Switzerland

What it’s about: The most medical option, Paracelsus is run by a team of 10 physicians who combine traditional and experimental techniques to treat acute and chronic health conditions (ulcers, allergies, weak immune systems). The campus, which opened in 1958, will be expanded this summer and is for out-patient services only. Guests stay at nearby hotels, then shuttle over for tests and treatments, such as whole-body hyperthermia to improve blood flow, biomechanical stimulation to boost muscle energy and chelation therapy to remove traces of heavy metals from the bloodstream.

What to look for: Biological dentistry, which is integral to the Paracelsus method. Dentists rely on suction, metal-free implants and low-frequency drilling to heal the mouth holistically. 

What it costs: From $1,822 for a weeklong stay