Paradise Valley, Arizona

Joya Spa in the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, Paradise Valley, Arizona

Paradise Found in the Valley of the Sun…By: Christine Wynne

Paradise Vally1A highlight of being a travel writer is partaking in new experiences that I normally wouldn’t be able to do in everyday life. Throughout the years of traveling to various locales, one of my favorite pastimes has become visiting spas. On a recent trip to Phoenix, Arizona I had the opportunity to visit Joya Spa in the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley. While I’ve had the pleasure of being pampered at luxurious spas around the globe, Joya Spa takes luxury to a whole new level.

ParadiseVally2Beautifully situated on 34 acres at the foot of Camelback Mountain, this Moroccan-inspired spa conceived by Sylvia Sepielli provides a quiet sanctuary in which to relax and rejuvenate the body and soul. This tranquil retreat opened its doors in the fall of 2008 and boasts 31,000 square feet, featuring 19 treatment rooms, five are opulent suites complete with private baths with sunken tubs, plush day beds, lavish treatment tables and access to a private rooftop pool with commanding views of the surrounding desert landscape. The suites are perfect for a romantic escape, girlfriends’ getaway or pre-wedding party. Joya Fitness offers a full range of high-tech cardiovascular and strength machines overlooking scenic Camelback Mountain, along with free weight equipment, a stretching station, plus a motion studio featuring yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, belly dancing, core circuit strength training and sunset spinning classes. Joya Spa also houses a salon with a full complement of hair, nail and makeup services, featuring internationally trained celebrity stylists, state-of-the-art manicure and pedicure stations, as well as a private courtyard for relaxation and outdoor manicures and pedicures perfect for a bride-to-be or a mother-daughter bonding experience.

ParadiseVally3A day at Joya Spa is a carefully crafted journey for the senses. Entering the spa is like stepping into a scene from Casablanca. Joya exudes an exotic authenticity through rich colored décor, turquoise and emerald-colored tiles from Morocco and an eclectic array of furnishings. Aromas of citrus, spice and the rare night-blooming flower waft through the building as exotic music including an exclusive Montelucia collection of light jazz, traditional spa and Moroccan music fill the air. Everything evokes a sense of Morocco and Andalusia.

My own experience began with a treat accessible to all, a stroll through InterContinental’s gorgeous grounds complete with exquisite Andalusian-inspired architecture with unexpected touches like 16th century chapel doors brought over from Spain. It would be tempting someday to linger, sampling its ambience over morning tea or lunch at Joya Terrace, however my spa appointment was quickly approaching. Upon entering Joya, I was immediately greeted by a welcoming staff. I was then instructed to leave my cares at the door and begin my journey by cleansing my body and mind through a ritual of rinsing my hands in energetically enhanced waters. Prior to entering the innermost spa, another ritual was performed where I selected a stone from five different jewels representing love, wealth, work, strength and clarity. I then placed the stone in the blessing bowl and stated my wish. The final ritual before my treatment began was one of my favorite features of Joya. Spa goers enter a circular, soothing room with twinkling lights that mimic the night sky of Granada, Spain and through the joy of illumination; all darkness is turned to light.

The spa prides itself on customized treatments including Moroccan inspired body treatments, mineral and clay body wraps, facials and a wide array of massage treatments including progressive relaxation and visualization massage, stone therapy, Thai massage, couples massage and more. But the crown jewel is the Hammam Ritual, which was my treatment of choice. In centuries past, Middle Eastern cultures visited Hammams, which were often attached to mosques, to maintain mental, physical and spiritual health. In these opulently designed bathhouses, men and women came to purify, relax and rejuvenate their minds, bodies and souls. The curative powers of the Hammam led its patrons to refer to it as “the silent doctor” for its curative effects of ailments. A spa culture soon evolved to include therapeutic treatments, spiritually regenerative practices and beautifying techniques.

My journey commenced with a relaxing interlude in the Hammam warming room. The rose scented mist, iridescent heated seats and intimate setting created a mystical, almost holy experience. After a few minutes, my attendant came in to guide me to the gommage or cleansing part of the experience. She lathered my body with a traditional herbal black soap, then exfoliated my skin from head to toe with a Kassa cloth. She then stood behind me and threw large bowls of warm water on me to rinse off the suds leaving my skin feeling soft and supple. Afterward I was lead into a steam room where I was completely enveloped by voluptuous clouds of eucalyptus-scented mist. I lost all concept of time, but after what was probably fifteen minutes, my attendant returned to escort me to a refreshingly cold water deluge to complete the transformative experience. Once the Hammam concluded, I rested for a few minutes in the women’s lounge where I sipped on a Joyambrosia signature drink. Before long, another attendant welcomed me to the massage element of my treatment. I spent the next hour receiving a heavenly relaxation massage. All too soon, it was time to leave. If only I could start all over again, I would try the Joyambrosia Organic Full Body Bliss, and the Soothing Vineyard Facial. I only wish I lived closer!

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