Unwinderies: A Guide to SA’s Stress-Free Zones

A mountainside massage with spectacular views and sea air. An elephant-back safari through lush vegetation. From the heart of the Drakensberg and Magaliesberg mountains to the edge of the Atlantic ocean, here are 10 places to release, uplift and rejuvenate your spirit.
Snow-white escape
Swiftly zigzag down the slope at high-speeds while you absorb the beauty of the stark white mountain range around you. Set at a staggering 3001m above sea-level, Ben McDhui is the Cape’s highest mountain peak and is home to the only ski resort in Southern Africa, Tiffendell. After a magnificent day indulging snowy adventures, warm up with sundowners of Shnapps and Gluhwein at South Africa’s highest pub, the Ice Station. Gaze at the stars through your window and curl up beside a roaring fire in your luxury wooden chalet, or go for a sophisticated bite to eat, cooked up by world-class chefs. For the less daring, explore the surrounding forests, taking a walk to see the frozen waterfalls and make a snowman to accompany you home. (From R2222 per package, 086-178-7909, http://www.snow.co.za)

Wild Horses
Experience a silence so complete in this idyllic corner of the Drakensberg, where life seems to stop in its tracks, only to be reawakened by the sound of a galloping horse. Sprawling the foothills of the Drakensburg escarpment, Wild Horses 5-Star Mountain Guest Lodge offers the perfect African-style getaway of breathtaking sunrises, lazy sunsets and activity-filled days to inspire you body and soul. Explore the mountains on one of the lodge’s specially-bred horses, or pamper yourself with a massage and facial in the luxurious surroundings of your sandstone suite or secluded hillside gazebo. Too horizontal for your liking? Go down to the riverside to learn the art of fly-fishing, or go for a game-viewing boat ride with a glass of bubbly in hand. (From R950 per person; 058-622-7000; http://www.wildhorses.co.za)

Wonder of Nature
Ever dream of flying high over pristine forests and swooping over cascading waterfalls in a helicopter or hot-air balloon and then enjoying a traditional English breakfast with sparkling wine, while you ponder your next adventure: an elephant back safari? At Cybele Forest Lodge and Health Spa, nestled in the forests of Mpumalanga, adventure safaris and body pampering, fit for a king, are dreams that do come true. A sumptuous granite hydrotherapy bath awaits you in a private courtyard, after your captivating morning game drive adventure, viewing SA’s Big Five. Limited to 28 guests at a time, the lodge ensures personal attention and privacy, with heated pools accompanying six of the luxurious suites. (From R1265 per person; 013-764-9500, http://www.cybele.co.za)

Country Meander
Watch the countryside pass you by as you lounge in one of the world’s most opulent trains: the Pride of Africa of Rovos Rail. Beautifully restored wood-panelled coaches offer spatious accommodation as you embark on your romantic rail safari, meandering throughout South Africa, Namibia, Vic Falls and Dar Es Salaam. Feel nostalgic, as though you’ve stepped back in time and sense how the opulent furnishings and period décor create an ambience of pleasurable grandeur. Dine on the five-star cuisine and the finest SA wines aboard the train and then retreat to your luxury suite, decked out with a private lounge, en-suite bathroom and Victorian bath. (From R4540 per journey; 012-315-8242; http://www.rovos.com)

Heaven and Earth
Surround yourself with the essentials: an experienced masseuse, blue sky, azure ocean and indigenous fynbos on the slopes of the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range in Cape Town. Breathe in the fresh air as the strains of the day are soothed away in the outdoor glass-enclosed gazebo spa. Recognised by the Conde Naste Traveller as the 3rd best in the 2008 Reader’s Spa Awards, the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa offers exclusive packages where guests can experience a helicopter ride from the V&A Waterfront to the spa, where they eventually slip into fluffy gowns and indulge themselves in holistic relaxation therapies. Stay the evening and try some of the finest meals at the Azure restaurant, created from the freshest ingredients grown at the spa. (From R995 per person; 021-437-9000; http://www.12apostleshotel.com)

Quiet Time
Eyes closed and sitting in lotus position, is the largest hand-carved Buddha statue outside the East, quietly overlooking the exquisite Zen raked sand gardens, pagoda and winding Umkomaas river. Perched on a ridge at the head of a valley in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Buddhist Retreat Centre invites you to contemplate life, forget the outside world, meditate in manicured gardens, and at night, slip into the silent slumber of your en-suite cottage. Learn about Buddhist philosophy and meditation, or try your hand at Japanese brush painting, drumming or kite flying. Paring the freshest organic lacto-ovo-vegetarian cuisine with a retreat offered at the centre, will leave you feeling detoxed and peaceful: a recipe for tranquility. (From R95 per day; 039-834-1863, http://www.brcixopo.co.za)

Release the Artist in You
Paint, play with clay, draw with chalk pastels, charcoal or create your own collage, simply put: let your creativity run riot! Discover and explore your inner and outer worlds through art mediums and writing at art retreats run throughout the year at Cedar Guesthouse and Stanford Valley B&B in Baviaanskloof and Overberg, respectively. Spend the night in comfort, dreaming up fantastical creations and manifest them in a medium of your choice the next day. And if you’re worried about your skills as an artist – don’t! Absolutely no experience is necessary to create a masterpiece that you can be proud of, whilst relaxing into the moment of art-making. (From R3300 per person; course co-ordinator: Elaine Millen; 021-788-6493; http://www.elainemillin.com)

Sanctuary of Stillness
Honouring the great paths of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam, Temenos in McGregor, brings religion and spirituality together in one sacred space, like a monastery of old. Welcoming all who seek refuge from the pressures of the outside world, Temenos, meaning sacred space, was in ancient Greece a temple dedicated to Gaia. Winding paths leading to secret gardens of spiritual upliftment and meditation abound, including a well, chapel, Baraka shrine and Zen garden. Indulgent body therapies are offered during your stay, as well as yoga retreats, wellness weeks and a workshop on emotional freedom technique. Sleep peacefully in the self-catering cottages equipped with fireplaces for chilly nights. (From R420 per person; 023-625-1871; http://www.temenos.org.za)

Wine, Sweet Wine!
The day is perfect: blue skies, a green vineyard as far as the eye can see and wine to whet your pallet. Arrive at Stellenrust wine farm in the Stellenbosch region of the Western Cape, at 10am sharp and meet the owners over a tantalising glass of Cap Classique, as they share some of the history of the farm with you. After finishing your last sip of wine, a tractor-pulled wagon will escort you deep into the vineyards, where you’ll pick from a selection of grapes using scissors and a traditional basket. Back at the cellar, you will stomp the grapes and brew your own wine and enjoy a full wine-tasting presentation. Magnifique! (From R500 per person; 021-880-2283; http://www.stellenrust.co.za)

Into the Wilderness
The Karoo: a sprawling expanse of grassy landscape, dotted by little towns, which welcome the weary traveller. Situated in the world renowned hamlet of Nieu Bethesda, Ganora Guest Farm is perfect for star-gazing, canyon hikes, mountain biking, 4X4 trails, picnicking and above-all, unwinding. Not only does the farm have its own collection of fossils dating back 240 million years, but it also conducts guided tours to see San rock art, Khoi shelters and Bushmen artefacts, discovered on the land. The farm’s cosy accommodation is full of rustic charm, with its wooded roofs, stone walls and downy duvets that will have you ready for another day of wherever the mood takes you. (From R260 per person; 049-841-1302; http://www.ganora.co.za)

I do Believe in Fairies!
Fairies and goblins come alive at the fantasy dining and accommodation experience at Goblin’s Cove, situated in the Magaliesberg Mountain range. Decorated by well-known artist and sculptor, Charles Gotthard, Goblin’s Cove is a magical place to explore, as it twinkles with fairy lights at night and by day, is alive with shoppers browsing the Fairywinkle shop and Gobble ‘D Gook Coffee Nook. Guests can stay at the converted luxury train coach on the property and are served a scrumptious dinner basket with silverware and crisp cotton napkins. After stepping outside to bid the fairies goodnight, be lulled to sleep by the sound of birds in the aviaries close by, whilst you enjoy your midsummer nights dream… (From R376 per person; 014-576-2143; http://www.goblins.co.za/)

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Published in The Oprah Magazine, July 2008, Vol. 7, No. 7, p. 101.(Please note that the copy posted above is the unedited version of what was published in the magazine and will differ slightly. To read the edited version of the article, please click on the images for an expanded view.)

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