It's pretty much impossible to leave Austria not feeling better than you did when you arrived; refreshed, revived and positively glowing with vitality. While diminutive in size, the nation is blessed with some of the most pristine landscapes in the world, in addition to a longstanding spa culture and a way of life that puts wellbeing front and centre. It's not short on culture either, whether ancient castles, whimsical art installations, or the many festivals to be excited about this year.
Our trip starts in Vorarlberg, Austria's westernmost state. This exquisite but compact stretch will take you from the serene shores of Lake Constance - where the open-air Bregenz Festival is held each summer on a floating stage, this year's headliner being Madame Butterfly - to the mountains in just an hour. Open in Vorarlberg since December 2022 is the Falkensteiner Hotel Montafon, a climate-neutral eco-haven and architectural triumph - think lots of pine, glass and indoor greenery. Here, too, you'll find the recently expanded DreamAlive Sleep Lodge, located in the Great Walser Valley, a spectacular Unesco-listed Biosphere Reserve. This 360°-glazed mobile hotel pod, a first of its kind, has a sumptuous outdoor bed set-up that will have you switching off and kicking back in the restorative mountain air in no time.
Tyrol's Tobadill, left, and the Aqua Dome Hotel spa. | Photo credits: Roman Huber / Austrian National Tourist Office; Aqua Dome.
Moving across to Tyrol, with its picturesque peaks and vivid pastures, there's a plethora of spas. One of the finest among them is the otherworldly Aqua Dome Hotel in Längenfeld. Another worth exploring is the recently reimagined Biohotel Stanglwirt in Wilden Kaiser, a family-owned establishment with a 400-year history. It now has a 11,984sq m sustainable spa, complete with a rock crystal steam bath and waterfall grottos, and a 65-hectare organic farm that supplies its botanical lotions and potions. For a culture fix, don't miss Swarovski Crystal Worlds. This glittering alpine wonderland features 18 chambers inspired by artists including Andy Warhol and Salvador Dalí, the newest of which, Umbra, was designed by James Turrell. Still not tired? Head to Gradonna Mountain Resort in East Tyrol, which has its own team of certified sleep sommeliers to assist with a luxurious night's rest.
The Salzburg Festival, left, a yearly celebration of music in the city. | Photo credits: Tourismus Salzburg GmbH; Daniel Ordelt / Austrian National Tourist Office.
On to the state of Salzburg and its namesake capital. Birthplace of Mozart, bursting with concert halls, museums and galleries, and undoubtedly one of the prettiest, and most walkable, cities on earth, Salzburg is a perfect place to practise the art of getting lost on purpose. Be sure to book yourself a table, though, at The Glass Garden restaurant. Housed below a newly constructed glass dome within a 14th-century castle, it has garnered the nation another Michelin star. Music lover? This year's Salzburg Festival, from 20 July to 31 August, is set to be another blinder, with performances of Verdi's Macbeth and Mozart's Figaro.
Lake Millstatt, left, and a scenic bike trail in Leogang. | Photo credits: Susanne Einzenberger & Charly Schwarz / Austrian National Tourist Office.
Leaving the city behind, there's a new spa to look forward to. Coming this spring, Atmosphere by Krallerhof, in Leogang, will have as its centrepiece a 50m-long infinity pool that merges seamlessly with a vast natural swimming lake. You needn't check in anywhere, however, to reap the potential health benefits of the region's refreshing Krimml Waterfalls - the highest in Europe - where patients of the nearby Hohe Tauern Health spa visit for "inhalation aerosol therapy", or in layman's terms, breathing in the cascade's revitalising mist.
Down we hop to Carinthia, and the natural paradise that is Lake Millstatt, where couples will love "Bivouacs under the stars". The collection of upscale, WiFi-free romantic tents dotted around the shore offers idyllic seclusion - with hotel service if required. Notable, too, is the state's new cutting-edge Bleib Berg Health Retreat, situated in the Dobratsch Nature Park. Treatments are centred around the centre's "Stay Young Method", where guests undergo a full medical analysis and can partake in everything from cryotherapy to bathing in the on-site mineral-rich thermal water tunnel. Make sure to sharpen up your language skills before arriving - all therapies are conducted in German.
Lake Attersee, left, and the sun-kissed trees of Styria . | Photo credits: TVB Attersee-Attergau / Moritz Ablinger; Harald Eisenberger / Austrian National Tourist Office.
Onwards to Styria, and Austria's most eccentric wellness complex, Rogner Bad Blumau, where art meets healing. This kaleidoscopic maze of domes, mosaics, pools and mountains is the brainchild of renowned Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and is famed for its "Vulkania curative lake", fed by highly mineralised water from a nearby volcanic spring that is said to feel like liquid silk. Also in Styria is the 50-year-old Strutz-Mühle, a flour mill set over a gurgling creek that was recently voted by the Austrian public as the most beautiful place of the year.
We wrap up our tour of the nation's greatest draws in Upper Austria, where painter Gustav Klimt was inspired by the spellbinding light around Lake Attersee, and where stargazers will relish the country's first designated Dark Sky Park (an expanse where light pollution has been reduced sufficiently to allow clear views overhead). Spend a night in the country's first dome wellings, found at the Bubble Tent Hotel in Weyregg, before a spot of paddleboarding the next morning. Or delve into the magical Böhmerwald woods and sleep in one of the floating treetop cabins at Bohemian Forest Village Ramenai, which was opened just before the pandemic hit by an enterprising doctor and a mountain guide. If you visit in the springtime, nip over to idyllic Lake Traunsee, 24 March to 1 May, and raise a glass at the convivial Wirtshausfestival "Felix". A vibrant celebration of the region's famed tavern culture, it's a locavore's delight.
Although Austria is rich in tradition and historic charm, it is also a forward- thinking country with a contemporary approach to its feelgood offerings that sets it apart. So while you're there, don't miss a pilgrimage to the trendy state capital of Linz, the third-largest city in Austria, for a taste of its urban treats. The enthralling Mural Harbor Gallery is one of the world's largest outdoor graffiti galleries.
Definitely worth a visit, too, is the Ars Electronica Center, also known as the "Museum of the Future", dedicated to electronic arts. Visitors can look forward to fascinating exhibitions on AI, robots and genetic engineering - inspiring enough to give you a mental reboot that will match your newly recharged body.
Main photo credit: Karolin Pernegger / Austrian National Tourist Office.
Discover more of Austria's wellness and cultural appeal at austria.info