Armchair Travel: Hotels and Wellness Retreats We Love—Online

Photograph courtesy of Six Senses Laamu

Armchair Travel: Hotels and Wellness Retreats We Love—Online

Wanderlust, at this point, is officially just a lust—with no promise of an in-the-flesh experience any time soon. But some of our favorite retreats, safaris, spas, and hotels are giving as good a virtual travel experience as it gets, with every sort of program: There are cooking classes from an Italian master and from an Irish slow-food institution; meditations from gurus in upstate New York, the Maldives, and the red rocks of Sedona; safari rides teeming with lions, elephants, and monkeys; piñata-making, drink-mixing, and gorgeous photography in spades. Grab a shaker and learn how to mix that spicy cocktail you think about flying to Utah for, downward dog to the sound of the Uruguayan surf, and (mentally) travel to some of our favorite places on earth—from the comfort of your couch.

Make Pasta and Pastry

  • Villa Fontelunga

    Villa Fontelunga

    Fontelunga is a new discovery for us. It’s hidden in the hills just outside Cortona, Italy, and we have yet to visit in person, but we feel like we already know its cozy nooks and Tuscan vistas by heart. Our lens into this gorgeous, old-world Italian escape is the daily Instagram cooking show hosted by co-owner Paolo Kastelec. Kastelec and his husband, Philip Robinson, run the hotel themselves, and their warmth and exuberance shines through each video. Every day, Kastelec tackles a new Italian dish—tiramisu, proper gelato, pasta alla Norma—in the villa’s rustic kitchen (our favorite so far: creamless pasta carbonara). He posts the ingredients and the dish in photos, then conducts the tutorial through a series of videos posted to the feed. Follow along there and jet (mentally) to Tuscany’s olive groves.

  • Ballymaloe House

    Ballymaloe House

    Ballymaloe House and its nearby cooking school are famous for many things, chief among them the introduction of the slow-food movement to Ireland. The formal five-course suppers hosted in the dining room each night are legendary, culminating in desserts by pastry chef JR Ryall, who’s managed the iconic dessert display at Ballymaloe for years and has popped up in restaurants like King in New York. Now Ryall is whipping up chocolate-and-whiskey cookies, zesty lemon cakes, and Ballymaloe’s beloved (and according to Irish herbal tradition, healing) carrageen moss mousse, all in easy-to-follow, step-by-step Instagram videos.

  • Massimo Bottura’s Quarantine Master Class

    Massimo Bottura’s Quarantine Master Class

    Between Modena’s Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana and the newer Casa Maria Luigia in the Emilian countryside, chef Massimo Bottura is synonymous with New Italian cuisine. These days, though, he’s taking us back to basics, livestreaming nightly recipes—slow-cooked ragu, homemade gelato, and improvised tiramisu—from his kitchen. The beauty of Bottura’s #kitchenquarantine series lies in the fact that, right now, Bottura is just like the rest of us, trying to get dinner on the table with whatever ingredients are handy, dressed in sweats. Novice cooks can easily follow along, and more-experienced home chefs will love Bottura’s nuggets of advice and innate skill. Watch and build an appetite for the real thing at Osteria Francescana and Casa Maria Luigia when reservation lines reopen. Buon appetito.

Go on Safari and Take a Road Trip

  • &Beyond


    Across South Africa’s green plains, elephants are grazing, lions are hunting, and hyenas are prowling and shrieking. Safari operator &Beyond is capturing it all on daily livestreamed game drives that can last up three hours, with &Beyond’s skilled guides pointing out hard-to-spot animals and explaining whatever wonders the vehicle comes across—it’s as if you were a guest in the Land Cruiser. Now, right after the rainy season, is a particularly stunning time to tune in, as the landscape is colorful and lush. Note that the first forty-five minutes of streaming is dedicated to young viewers—the guide themes commentary around questions kids might ask or have asked (submit via Twitter with the hashtag #wildearth or on &Beyond’s YouTube). The rest is spectacularly for the rest of us, though also still perfectly kid-appropriate.

  • Virtual Road Trips

    Virtual Road Trips

    To relieve the extreme wanderlust many of us are feeling right now, a bunch of travel insiders and editors have teamed up to take us on bucket list road trips, virtually. This well-traveled gang includes Yolanda Edwards of YOLO Journal, Marie-Louise Sciò of Il Pellicano, and the duo behind Rome’s Chez Dédé, among others. Prepare to sip Aperol on Amalfi’s glamorous terraces, island-hop across the Dodecanese, explore the interiors of Tuscany’s hidden gems, and cruise along Guatemala’s turquoise coastline. Tune in to any of their Instagrams to watch this collaborative magic unfold, much like a real-life road trip. These colorful, insanely escapist visual stories are precisely the kind of armchair travel that has us pulling up Google Maps, dropping must-see pins, and filling our online baskets with G. Label swimsuits.

  • Wilderness Safaris

    Wilderness Safaris

    The perceptive folks at Wilderness safaris in Africa are delivering a taste of their camps’ unique brand of bush magic via their social channels. Expect poetry readings from South African poet Ian McCallum, chefs from various camps whipping up signature recipes, livestreamed game drives, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the insane logistics involved in running tented camps from middle-of-nowhere locations in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Follow the hashtag #IDreamofAfrica, or tune in to more expansive videos on their well-curated YouTube channel.

  • The Fife Arms

    The Fife Arms

    Scotland’s Fife Arms, renovated and run by international gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth, is all out-of-this-world art-packed interiors, always-lit fires, and a can’t-describe-it warm vibe that has guests booking return visits before checking out. Now a well-produced podcast transports you to the downy Scottish highlands in a cool, quirky way. You’ll hear about the hotel’s renovation, world-class art collection (Picasso, Man Ray, HRH The Queen, Louise Bourgeois), local stories, traditional remedies from its in-house forager, and more. Also totally worth it: The Fife Arms Instagram feed scrolls like a gallery visit, with staffers highlighting their favorite artworks, snippets of Braemar history, and the odd stunning Scottish vista thrown in for good measure.

  • Paws Up

    Paws Up

    A national park that’s entirely private sounds like a fairy tale, but Paws Up is set on 37,000 acres of pristine, completely undeveloped Montanan wilderness splintered by the rushing Blackfoot River. Can’t wait to visit? Us, too. In the meantime, Paws Up has put together a set of epic playlists that absolutely transport us. Head outside if you can, or just open a window to the breeze, press play, and dream.

  • Auberge Resorts Collection

    Auberge Resorts Collection

    Some of our very favorite resorts and bolt-holes sit snugly under the Auberge umbrella—and under the #AubergeatHome social initiative, they’re also some of our favorite travel sites right now. On Instagram, Los Cabos’ Chileno Bay has pretty fantastic piñata-making workshops (for kids and all other pinata enthusiasts), while the chefs at Aspen’s Hotel Jerome are cooking (and teaching) family-friendly versions of their signature dishes. Other properties are mixing cocktails (we loved the tequila-infused Horse Thief from Blue Sky in Utah) and recipes (chef Lacey Lou Franklin’s easy pickles from the Mayflower Inn are unbelievably delicious) under the same hashtag.

  • Six Senses

    Six Senses

    Six Senses, an empire of wellness-forward hotels and spas in places like the Maldives and East Asia, is sharing wellness master classes via an incredible YouTube channel and on Instagram. Video tutorials range from stretching and guided meditations to marine biology classes for mini explorers and food to cook with your kids. On Instagram, follow the hashtag #AtHomeWithSixSenses to experience escapist snippets of life from the various properties—there are monkeys jostling in the trees in Vietnam and sunsets that set the sky on fire, and all of the photography is just spectacular.

Breathe, Stretch, and Get Centered

  • Mii Amo

    Mii Amo

    Mii Amo is sharing meditation classes, mantras, and beautiful escapist imagery through its Instagram account—and we love it all. The meditations, led by the hotel’s in-house mindfulness team, are each less than seven minutes long, so they’re the perfect take-a-breath moment to start or end your day. Each class (held on Mondays) reflects a different theme, so grab a cushion, take a breath in, and give your mind a few minutes to decompress.

  • Vik Retreats

    Vik Retreats

    This Chilean vineyard and hotel run by two art enthusiasts devoted to modernism and biodynamic growing methods now extends to three exquisite properties, two of them in Uruguay: Vina Vik is a Frank Gehry–esque vineyard hideaway in Chile, Estancia Vik is Uruguay’s answer to a dude ranch, and then, in surf-centric Jose Ignacio, there’s Bahia Vik. To bring a sense of these stunning properties to former and prospective guests, Isabella Channing—who owns the Shack Yoga in Bahia Vik’s wellness center—is leading daily vinyasa classes live on Instagram. The classes are conducted in both Spanish and English, and glimpse outward to the beauty of Uruguay as you draw inward through the practice. The site is also planning online cooking classes with its incredible chef Marcelo Betancourt. Stay tuned.

  • Mohonk Mountain House

    Mohonk Mountain House

    The grande dame of the Hudson Valley, Mohonk Mountain House, is bringing a dose of upstate serenity to your living room with mindfulness sessions conducted by its in-house director of mindfulness, Nina Smiley, PhD. Each session is limited to a hundred attendees, so be sure to register in plenty of time. Pick a slot that suits, get comfortable, and give your frayed mind a break under Smiley’s soothing tutelage. Mohonk is also taking full advantage of its scenic location with virtual hikes and even a virtual tulip festival, all streamed via its Instagram.

  • Kripalu


    Berkshires’ yoga and wellness retreat Kripalu has taken its famously restorative classes online. Its website is packed with helpful information on how to tackle isolation in a healthy, mindful way, and the online classes, hosted on Facebook and Instagram Live, include dance, meditation, breathwork, self-massage, yoga, and even cooking demonstrations. Hop on the site and block off time in your calendar to tune in and connect with these wonderful teachers and practices. Or, better yet join their just-launched subscription service, Kripalu Connect.