Innovation thrives in New Zealand - and the latest example is a New Zealand-first, wellness retreat in a spectacular pure alpine location that's just down the road from Paradise.
Overlooking glacial-fed Lake Wakatipu near the alpine resort town of Queenstown, in New Zealand's South Island, Aro Hā is a purpose-built wellness retreat that aims to refresh, rejuvenate and reignite all those who walk through its doors.
The $30-million-dollar project is the brainchild of two American friends - yoga teacher and well-being enthusiast Damien Chaparro (founder of Chrysalis Retreats and formerly at The Ashram) and financially-minded Chris Madison - who share a love of nature and a similar outlook on life.
The duo wanted to find a place where people could embark on a transcendental journey through nutrition, exercise, adventure, alternative health and self-development. After extensive research, which involved travelling south from the north of New Zealand they found the perfect spot for their project.
Aro Hā is located on the Wyuna Preserve, a 40-minute drive from Queenstown, and five minutes from the small historic settlement of Glenorchy - on the way to another little place called Paradise and gateway to Fiordland, Mt Aspiring National Park and some of the most spectacular scenery New Zealand has to offer.
The pristine beauty, alpine flora, fauna and towering mountains reflected in Lake Wakatipu add to the ethereal feeling of the area and the retreat.
Neutral wood, glass and stone allow the building to seamlessly blend into the landscape - an important feature of the complex designed by award-wining Wellington architects Tennent and Brown and executed by Triple Star Management Ltd.
Like guests of Aro Hā - who are asked to completely give themselves over to the experience of the retreat in order to feel the most benefit - the building has given itself to the land.
Aro Hā is not reliant on the grid as it uses New Zealand’s largest privately owned photovoltaic array. It was built using the premise of passive haus and permaculture design, mixed with modern technology. It also boasts the first renewable distributed heating system in New Zealand.
This concept flows over into the food created at the retreat. Organic food gardens provide plenty of fresh options for the menu designed by American chef, author and artist Suzie Bohannon.
The meals - consisting of mostly raw, always vegetarian, paleo-inspired dishes - are created by two accomplished on-site chefs that provide a feast of colour and flavours for the senses.
Situated on 21 acres of sub-alpine terrain, the accommodation is elegant, natural and luxuriant. There 20 rooms can be configured in a variety of ways.
Each room aims to reflect a zen-like ambiance and the idea of openness is ever-present. Guests on retreat - usually around 12 to 15 at a time - are expected to share informal spaces, allowing them to connect with others, as well as themselves.
A wellness retreat at Aro Hā is an all-inclusive adventure that can be done in either five or seven consecutive days. The idea is that guests leave the shackles and constraints of modern life behind, placing their trust in the hands of their capable teachers who will in turn guide them into detoxification of the body, mind and soul.
A day at Aro Hā is pre-planned to the minute. It consists of a dawn-wake up and invigorating Vinyasa Yoga session, a lengthy hike into the surrounding sub alpine landscape. Mindful-meditation, functional strength training, healing body work and contrast spa therapy also make up the time.
There are different themed retreats to choose from with specially selected local and international guest educators making an appearance.
Guests who have accomplished a retreat at Aro Hā find the experience hard to put into words but the phrase 'life-changing' often pops-up, and in natural surroundings as majestic as those provided by the Queenstown area of New Zealand, it’s not hard to see why.
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