himalayas

Advertisement feature | SUITCASE + Bella’s Magic Mountains

It’s no secret that today’s generation of travellers want to come back from a holiday with more than just a tan. We’re travelling with purpose, often linked to personal growth and development (both physical and mental) that we hope will outlast any bronze hue. While fitness retreats are nothing new, placing just as much importance on psychological well-being has taken longer to kick off, reflecting a western attitude that has long placed greater emphasis on physical health.

Keen to discover those changing the way we travel by looking at both our physical and mental needs, we went in search of the world’s best all-encompassing wellness getaways. This was how we stumbled upon Bella Somerset, a woman leading transformative wellness treks that challenge people to reassess their habits (and themselves) on life-changing adventures with like-minded people.

Aptly named, Bella’s Magic Mountains takes the redemptive nature of travel to new heights through a series of hikes across notoriously challenging terrains, from the French Pyrenees to the Atlas Mountains and the Nepalese Himalayas. The camaraderie of this shared experience leaves participants with lasting friendship and deep connections; she echoes Into The Wild’s ethos that “happiness is only real when shared”.

So often, we know what we need to do to be happier and healthier but our actions aren’t aligned with these goals. No matter which trek you choose, this will be explored through a combination of hiking, meditation and holistic health coaching. The latter is designed to put perspective on destructive habits, helping to reduce perfectionist tendencies and encourage more satisfaction in relationships and your career, while learning to manage stress more effectively.

Bella draws on her own struggles and journey to inform all of her treks, which revolve around:

1) Holistic wellness, goals and intentions, identity development, primary food and happiness 2) Relationships, career, exercise and spirituality 3) Stress, the power of self-care, sugar, habits

We picked out three of our favourite hikes to happiness with Bella, from Nepal to Morocco.

1) The Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

This 16-day trek (21-day round trip) through the Himalayas peaks at Poon Hill and is suitable for those with some hiking experience and a good level of fitness.

Mornings start at 7AM with a 10-minute guided meditation followed by breakfast. After packing up, hikers hit a daily trail which lasts for about six hours and includes 15-minute rests every 45 minutes to maximise weight loss and minimise joint/muscle damage.

Come 5PM, the walking portion of your day wraps up and dinner is served; expect traditional food such as daal bhat (curry with rice and lentils) paired with some Western comforts like vegetarian burgers. Hunker down for the night at a local guesthouse – the legendary Bob Marley Guesthouse is a highpoint – and then hit repeat the following morning. Be sure to pack a swimsuit for the inevitable hot springs soaks, while the post-hike relaxation in Pokhara is a weary wanderer’s delight. The trek is suitable for those with some trekking experience and a good level of fitness; reaching the 5400m Thorong La Pass will leave you with an ultimate sense of achievement.

2) Toubkal Circuit Trek, Morocco

Six days of hiking in the Atlas Mountains might sound less intense than the Nepal expedition, but this is a seriously strenuous hike. Its exertive modus does make relaxing in Marrakech post-trail all the more rewarding, but trust us when we say you will have earned that hammam downtime tenfold.

It’s all about hard work and reward on this one. Day three is tough due to loose scree but as the sun sets you’ll get your first glimpse of the Toubkal Massif – the highest peaks and holy grail of the Atlas Mountains – before a long descent into the village of Azib Likemt to set up camp for the night. At the end of each day, relax with a cup of mint tea while your camp is set up for you, explore Berber villages or paddle along cascading rivers and the turquoise waters of Lake Ifni.

3) GR10, Pyrenees

A scenic march from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, the GR10 in the French Pyrenees is no walk in the park. Roughly paralleling the French-Spanish border, it’s the more popular route than Spain’s mid-altitude alternative, GR11.

The split personality of the trek makes it a bit of a gemini. On day two you’ll board The Little Yellow Train through the Pyrenees and be treated to awe-inducing views before embarking on a picturesque walk to a remote mountain refuge. On day three, expect a five-hour walk from thunderstorm-prone La Caranca to the valley village of Mantet, while day five will see you stray off the GR10 to continue your trek via the Mount Canague summit. This detour makes for a tough hike (and an exhilarating afternoon) that climaxes in a near climb at the top. Take plenty of pictures (and deep breaths) of Pyrenees panoramas before descending into Les Cortaletes.

The Lowdown

Visit @bellasmagicmountainsbellasmagicmountains.com or email [email protected] to begin your journey. With treks starting at £795, it’s an affordable transformative adventure.

Trek dates 2018:

The Annapurna Circuit, Nepal: 30 September – 20 October; 4-24 November, £1250
Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal: 21 October – 3 November, £999
Toubkal Circuit Trek, Morocco: 16-23 September, £795
GR10, Pyrenees: 30 July – 5 August, 6-12 August, £150 (coaching and organisation fee)

Private luxury Nepal treks of 10-12 days available through Steppes Travel including luxury hotels, spa indulgences and a Helicopter trip in the Everest Region.

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