High above the River Tagus, on the 23rd floor of the Myriad Hotel, the Sayanna Wellness Spa, one of Lisbon’s newest and most futuristic spas, is also the city’s loftiest.
From the start, you’ll feel like you’re floating with the clouds as you look through floor to ceiling windows in every room—starting with the change rooms. At that height you can undress right next to a full-length window and not worry about being seen from the street. Most people don’t even bother closing the curtains, not so much for the street and rooftop vistas but for the bird’s eye view of the Tagus.
Here the river is so wide and calm you’d swear you were looking over the ocean on a windless day. Only the 17-kilometer long Vasco da Gama Bridge (the longest in Europe) gives any hint that the hotel is actually standing in a river (its parking garage is actually below the water level) and not the Atlantic Ocean. You can see the bridge from most rooms, but the sauna is the most relaxing for bridge and river contemplation. Its entire outside wall is made of glass for the most expansive views from a sauna anywhere in Portugal. Another glass wall opens onto an airy hallway.
Opposite the sauna, the steam room is the only room in the spa that does not feature a view of the river—which is not so much in deference to acrophobics (people who have a fear of heights) as it is utilitarian: here any windows would simply fog up.
Sayanna Wellness is a personalized luxury service created specifically for Sana Hotels and offers a variety of treatments—from massages to facials to full-body scrubs—each in a room with a view. Spa manager João de Freitas likes to point out that ‘our [the spa’s] location on the top floor makes for a lot of light, which induces relaxation.’
Other amenities include a twenty-four hour fitness center, an indoor pool with four massage chairs and two massage beds all submerged in the pool, a Turkish bath, a flotation tank (called ‘floatuarium’), and bi-thermal and sensations showers in which numerous jets project water at different temperatures (bithermal) and/or various pressures and speeds (sensations). The resulting thermal shock and hydro massage are said to stimulate circulation, ease muscle tension, relax the mind and body, and induce vitality. The spa also offers mood enhancing and energy balancing services that include color therapy and aromatherapy.
Four treatment rooms include a VIP Couples Suite with a petal-strewn tub abutting a five-meter wide window. From here the view extends along the north shore of the River Tagus over the Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations) where futuristic white pavilions with soaring geometrical roofs still stand as reminders of the World Exposition of 1998, all the way to downtown Lisbon, about a 10-minute drive southwest of the hotel.
Portugal hosted Expo 98 in commemoration of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India 500 years earlier. When the World Fair was over, Lisbon continued to develop Parque das Nações into a new urban riverfront district of contemporary architecture and public art that was in complete contrast to the historic landmarks that lay within the city’s core. Expo’s most iconic viewing landmark, the 145-metre high Vasco da Gama Tower, became part of the supportive structure for the Myriad Hotel, which opened in 2012 looking for all the world like a giant mainsail in continuation of Expo 98’s seafaring theme.
The spa is the cherry on top of this trendy five-star hotel that emulates aspects of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab. Treatments begin with a consultation in the reception area followed by a welcoming foot ritual in one of four treatment rooms. The Sayanna Wellness signature massage uses argan oil and a variety of techniques such as acupressure and long, deep movements to encourage relaxation and well-being.
Other treatments range from conventional aromatherapy, hot stones, bamboo deep tissue massage or manual lymphatic drainage, to specialty massages such as ‘mother-to-be massage” and ‘local massage.’ The latter consists of the therapist tailoring the massage to focus on specific areas of tension and adjusting the pressure and methodology accordingly. A music menu featuring Mediterranean, classical, new age, and meditative water sounds also allows guests to enhance their experience with their choice of soothing background sounds.
My treatment consisted of a signature massage that began with the trademark footbath in a bowl of lemons, limes and rose petals, followed by a foot scrub of bamboo and jojoba oils. For the next hour, the therapist kneaded and coaxed my jetlagged joints and muscles in a variety of mostly Asian-based modalities. Her soft voice was barely audible ‘…the good energy in… the bad energy out…’ By the end of the treatment I was relaxed to the point of being all but comatose. The therapist held an inhalation bowl of scented herbs under the face cradle and lifted me out of my reverie.
Massage sessions end much as they begin at Sayanna Wellness—with the best views in all of Lisbon over the River Tagus. All massage tables face the windows and convert into comfy chaises longues when manipulated into a sitting position at the end of the session. The therapist leaves the room, telling you to ‘Stay as long as you like… there is no hurry,’ leaving you to bask in the views of water and sky, totally relaxed and in utter seclusion, sipping on either herbal or iced tea and nibbling on dried apricots, dates and almonds. Your feet won’t even touch the floor until you’re ready to head for the shower, which you can take right in the same treatment room if you want to prolong the moment, or in the change room nearby.
Although there is a public lounge with munchies and bright red lounge chairs alongside the pool, the individual spa suites with their cloud-white palettes and sky/water views are more conducive to feelings of serenity and post-spa relaxation.
The hotel/spa experience here is trendy and technologically advanced, yet calming in a ‘floating above the earth” kind of way.
Monica Frim is a travel writer and international diplomatic correspondent for Diplomatic Connections. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org