Watsu at Canyon Ranch Kaplankaya

Canyon Ranch Kaplankaya outdoor pool

A state-of-the-art development nestled on Turkey’s Aegean coast, the Canyon Ranch Kaplankaya Wellness Resort is the luxury health franchise’s first foray outside the US

When the American property developer Mel Zuckerman turned 40 he decided to give himself a full physical check-up. In return, he got a nasty surprise, as the results revealed he had the body of a 70-year-old. A combination of poor diet and stress was taking its toll.

Zuckerman recalled: “In 1968 my doctor had no suggestions [for managing stress], except that I ‘should stop taking things so seriously’. A lot of help that was.”

Over the next 10 years he continued to pile on the pounds. Then his father, who was a regular smoker, died of lung cancer. Zuckerman described that moment as a “wake-up call”.

He checked in to a fat farm and met fitness coach Karma Kientzler who devised a programme that would not just dramatically reduce Zuckerman’s weight but also inspire him to set up the Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, which opened in 1979. The aim was to provide a more holistic approach to health beyond simply beating the bulge.

Canyon Ranch has been named best destination spa by Condé Nast Traveler on no fewer than 11 occasions. A roll call of A-list guests includes Kate Moss, Shakira and Eva Longoria, and its two resorts in the US (plus spas in Las Vegas and on cruise liners) have made 88-year-old Zuckerman a billionaire. Kientzler, meanwhile, is the group’s executive fitness director.

Recently, the franchise launched its first venture outside the US at Kaplankaya, on the coast of the Aegean Sea in Turkey. Built into a terraced landscape that guarantees a sea view for each of its 141 rooms and suites, the Kaplankaya resort also boasts its own private beaches. Its relative proximity to the Middle East is designed to benefit from the growing popularity of wellness resorts among wealthy Arabs.

The resort opened in July 2016 and upon arrival you will immediately be struck by the sheer size of the place. The wellness centre, which includes spa, fitness, health and healing facilities, spans some 100,000sqft. By comparison, a football pitch covers around 80,000sqft. Kaplankaya even has its own on-site A&E department.

You can contact Canyon Ranch in advance if you want to focus on a particular wellness programme so they can tailor your stay to your specific requirements.

Alternatively, you can try the Bod Pod, which looks a bit like a life-size space-age capsule. The pod assesses your body composition and formulates an effective exercise programme.

What’s Watsu?

Canyon Ranch boasts a mind-boggling array of different programmes for mind, body and soul. However, the standout treatment from the ones we got to sample was, without doubt, Watsu. One member of our party had tried this relatively new treatment at a spa in London and initially couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. This, she confidently assured us, was an altogether different experience.

You enter a circular room, climb into an oversized hot tub and an instructor guides you around the pool for 50 minutes, taking you through a series of choreographed movements. At first it feels a bit like synchronised swimming with an instructor.

When you get out of the pool you are so relaxed to the point that you are in a dreamlike state and have to sit down for 10 minutes to regain your balance. Once you’ve got your bearings, you get up and feel like you’ve been reset and rewired.

Some treatments are a triumph of hype, marketing and, if we’re being honest, new-age nonsense, but everyone we spoke to was in agreement that this was something else.

Like most wellness resorts, this is a retreat geared for adults. Kids under 14 can stay in the villas free of charge and there is a complimentary kids’ club, but the restaurants are for adults only.

The resort operates an alcohol-free policy. Guests are allowed to bring alcohol on to the premises although it does seem to rather defeat the object if you come all this way to cleanse your body and mind.

You can also attend talks and seminars. We attended one on how to sleep better, which may, in itself, sound like a cure for insomnia but was surprisingly enlightening: did you know that the deterioration in sleep patterns could be traced back to the invention of electricity?

Rates come with the option of full board and there are two on-site restaurants that place a strong emphasis on the well-documented benefits of the Mediterranean diet. One of the restaurants, Wild Thyme, even offers complimentary cooking demonstrations where the chefs show you how to prepare their nutritious dishes.

All of this is geared to ensure that your sense of wellbeing lasts beyond the point where you leave the resort.

View the Canyon Ranch Kaplankaya gallery

Getting there

Director flew from Gatwick to Milas-Bodrum Airport with easyJet which flies six times a week from May to October. Return flights start from £84.

It takes approximately one hour by car from the airport to the resort. For a supplementary fee you can travel there by yacht
or helicopter.



Rooms start from £282 per day. Treatments cost extra. Full board starts from £467 per day and includes meals, beverages, fitness classes, wellness programme, motorised water sports and a detox hydrothermal experience.


About author

Ryan Herman

Ryan Herman

Alongside his work for Director, Ryan has written for SportBusiness International, VICE Sports, Populous, Audi and Gallop Magazine and was previously editor of Sky Sports Magazine.

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