An electronics-free retreat center tucked into an old-growth forest in Wisconsin? We went there.
There were a lot of naysayers who said it would never fly—a true destination spa in the woods of Wisconsin—but nearly 20 years on, Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells has quietly but steadfastly proved those naysayers wrong. Since opening in 2003, Sundara has garnered a reputation as a sanctuary from stress and has managed to stay true to its wellness mission. Part of what makes this place special is its intimacy. Sundara (a Sanskrit word for “beauty”) is blissfully tucked away in an 80-acre old-growth pine forest and offers 44 rooms with 10 different accommodation types. Upon arrival, you are asked to sign the Pledging Peace and Quiet agreement and put away your electronics for the duration of your stay. Sundara, an adults-only destination, is electronics-free in all of the common areas.
Less than an hour’s drive from Madison, Wisconsin, and three hours from Chicago, Sundara is popular for girlfriend getaways and team retreats.
“Our guests come here to get away and relax,” shares John Morris, the general manager and former spa director. “We’re a destination spa, but we’re different from a Miraval or a Canyon Ranch. They’re there to change your life, we’re not. We’re here to provide peace, relaxation, serenity, and tranquility.”
This is evidenced throughout in specially designed spaces like Suvela (a Sanskrit word for “silence”), which is a conversation-free lounging area, as well as in the myriad of activities and classes on offer. Spas have traditionally been great places to disconnect and to learn new ways of being, and the pandemic has widened that—reminding us of the critical importance of spa in self-care. Many spas have seen an uptick in travel from those looking for a safe place to retreat—a place to decompress and relearn the basic tenets of being human.
“Everything changed in 2020 with COVID,” says Morris. “I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but the pandemic really transformed the spa industry in a good way.”
So, what exactly might your retreat look like at Sundara? For those seeking a two-to-three-night solo retreat, your itinerary could look like this:
- Settle into a secluded suite overlooking the pine forest. Keep an eye out for wildlife—fox, deer, geese, racoons, and turkeys abound.
- Try an Ayurvedic-inspired spa treatment to calm the mind, body, and soul.
- Walk the chakra meditation trail. Its seven meditation stops correspond to the seven chakras.
- Nap in the hammock retreat at the end of the meditation trail.
- Soak in the spa waters at the 27-treatment-room spa that offers a number of water experiences.
- Clear your mind with the purifying bath ritual, a five-step, self-guided treatment along a circular path in the spa that includes a beneficial cool plunge.
- Take a brisk hike on the trail through the woods or sign up for a forest bathing session.
- Experience as many or as few complimentary fitness and wellness classes as your heart desires, including aqua yoga, yoga in the new open-air studio, culinary demos, and more.
- Swim in the indoor pools or the outdoor pools that are heated year-round. A snowy swim is magical with the fragrant pine trees adding to the ambiance.
- Dine at your leisure at in-house restaurant Nava, where the menu is full of good-for-you plant-based protein options. The property works with a local farmer, seven miles away, who delivers fresh produce weekly.
- Stargaze on your balcony or at one of the many outdoor terraces and appreciate the beauty of the dark night sky.
- Enjoy a soothing bedtime tea and lavender pillow spray as part of Sundara’s new nighttime ritual, and get back in touch with your circadian rhythms.
- Give yourself permission to disconnect either in the common areas or in separate, silent spaces for quiet contemplation.
If you’re interested in exploring what Sundara has to offer, go to sundaraspa.com.