During the late 19th and early 20th century as tuberculosis and influenza epidemics created a need for wellness retreats for patients with respiratory illness, the concept of the sanatorium was born.

These establishments were generally built in places considered healthful to the lungs: destinations where dry air, mountain pristine-ness or sea breezes were thought to help people recover faster.

Sanitariums themselves were a combination of hospitals and wellness hotel retreats—most vividly described in period fiction like Thomas Mann’s novel, The Magic Mountain (1924) set in Davos, Switzerland. They were staffed by doctors and nurses as well as by physical therapists and sometimes by master chefs as well. The more well-heeled sanitariums rivaled the best Victorian luxury hotels.

Destinations considered healthy like Arizona and Colorado actually saw a huge influx of health seeking travelers after the 1918 influenza epidemic and throughout the era that tuberculosis raged. Some destinations like Lošinj, Croatia still have respiratory health facilities cheek-by-jowl to their luxury hotels and spas.

As the world holds an indeterminate travel pause and people collectively consider where they will go as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic allows them to, it is interesting to look back on and consider places where our grandparents believed the natural elements could help heal body and soul for the top of our collective Post-Covid travel wish lists.


Once known as “the world’s sanitarium” for the numbers of travelers who flocked to Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs for their health, Colorado was considered the idea place to recover from respiratory illness because of its fresh, mountain air and cool altitude. Famous travelers who came here for their health included Doc Holliday, Robert Frost and Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir.

Lošinj, Croatia

Lošinj, Croatia is an island in the North Adriatric, a short private plane flight away from Venice. In the 19th century, the island began to be known as a health giving oasis, especially for travelers with respiratory issues. The island is home to the “immortelle” herb (as well as rosemary and lavender) that grows wild throughout and which is considered healthful for the lungs. The island’s long tradition as a wellness retreat continues today in its (currently closed) spas and luxury hotels like the Hotel Bellevue and the Hotel Alhambra, both managed by the Jadranka Group.


Thomas Mann set his novel about sanitariums in Davos, Switzerland but the Alpine country has scores of health-centric spas and Bads where post-Covid-19 travelers can plan to breath fresh air and bathe in hot springs after the Covid-19 pandemic ends. Two of these are Bad Ragaz in St. Gallen, Switzerland and Yverdon-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel.

Both Bad Ragaz and Yverdon-les-Bains are home to natural thermal springs and luxury hotels (currently closed).


Arizona became known as a haven for respiratory wellness in the late 1890’s when travelers first started flocking to the state for the dry, clean air and warm winters. One resort, the Castle Hot Springs Resort and Spa, in the Bradshaw Mountains, a two-hour drive from Phoenix, was one of the first working hotel/spas in the state, boasting an ancient, hot spring that was once used by local Native American tribes for healing after battle. During the 1940s, American soldiers came here to recuperate after injury. One of these soldiers was President John F. Kennedy. The resort closed for a time and planned to reopen this spring—a plan that was postponed through April 30th for now.

While the resort is closed, its massive greenhouse and property farm are selling fresh produce to Phoenix locals.

Until you can book this amazing property again, you can enjoy this YouTube Video of the springs flowing over mineral-rich rocks, surrounded by local Saguaro cacti.



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