Once the Christmas party season is over, thoughts inevitably turn to those twin January obsessions: diet and detox. But instead of signing up for an expensive gym membership that you'll never use, why not escape the winter gloom with a few days on a spa break, with nothing more strenuous to do than choose your treatments and splash in a pool?
With year-round sunshine guaranteed, the Portuguese island of Madeira is a great place to break up the long weeks of winter, and many of the hotels have excellent spa facilities. Quinta das Vistas is an elegant former manor house, perched in the hills above the capital Funchal. Its Chandra spa offers a fantastic range of Asian-inspired treatments, yoga and meditation classes.
The Hungarian capital has been a spa destination since Roman times, when it was colonised because of the thermal springs, and throughout history the city has been famed for its beautiful public baths. Most famous are the art-deco Gellert Baths, built in the 1920s, although the Kiraly baths date back to the mid 16th century. Many hotels in Budapest, such as the Corinthia, offer excellent spa facilities.
A restorative break doesn't necessarily mean going abroad. In the winter the Cotswolds are free of the hordes of tourists that usually flock to the region, and the hills and villages feel wonderfully peaceful. Whatley Manor is a gorgeous country house hotel with an award-winning spa, Aquarius, that boasts one of the largest hydrotherapy pools in the UK and a wide range of massages, scrubs, wraps and rituals.
It might not be the first city you think of for a relaxing break, but staying in a riad in Marrakech feels like an oasis of calm compared to the frenetic streets outside, and many offer excellent spa facilities. La Sultana is a beautiful, five-star hotel comprising four separate houses, in the heart of the Kasbah area. The spa boasts two hammams, balneotherapy baths and open-air massage cabins.
If you think it takes more than a couple of days to unpick all the Christmas indulgence, the Wellbeing Weekend at L'Albereta, a luxurious spa hotel in Italy's Po valley, should prove you wrong. Three days of hydrotherapy sessions, massages, herbal therapy sessions and a conference on the 'philosophy of health' are a great way to kickstart a fitter, healthier lifestyle.
If the whole family needs a break, the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire is a great choice, with a well-equipped kids club and 18-hole golf course. It's also home to a Sequoia spa, where the huge range of ESPA treatments, beautiful black-tiled pool and extensive programme of exercise and yoga classes saw it voted Best UK Spa by readers of Conde Nast Traveller.
If you've a little more time to spare, opt for a week in the Spanish countryside, under the care of in:spa, which creates retreats designed to reinvigorate body and mind. Accommodation is in a luxury hotel in Sotogrande, with days a mix of exercise, yoga classes, massage and time with a personal trainer and nutritionist.
Restorative treatments aren't all indoors. In Reykjavik you can soak in warm, natural pools, where the thermal waters are hot enough to bathe outside even in the depths of winter. The Blue Lagoon is the most famous, but the unique landscapes and countryside, and the complete peace and quiet, can be equally good for reviving tired spirits.
Bath's history as a spa town rivals that of Budapest, and the city is home to the UK's most state-of-the-art public spa facility, with an outdoor rooftop pool and wide programme of treatments. Stay at nearby Lucknam Park, and you can take advantage of the hotel's own world-class spa facilities, with a 20-metre pool, five thermal cabins and nine treatment rooms.
Back on the tourist map after the Arab Spring, the Tunisian capital offers a vibrant mix of warm sunshine and exoticism, to help banish the January blues. The Residence is the country's best hotel and has a world-class thalassotherapy spa, offering a wide range of restorative seawater treatments, massages and therapies.