Fertile Ground: Why Austria Is Our Favourite Wellbeing Destination

Fertile Ground: Why Austria Is Our Favourite Wellbeing Destination

Austria’s 2023 line-up – from slick, climate-neutral boltholes to waterfall-based wellness therapies and food festivals – offers travellers a deeper connection to the country’s wild landscapes and diverse cultural heritage than ever before

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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
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
, 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.

Tobadill, Tyrol
Aqua Dome Aqua Dome Hotel, Austria

Tyrol’s Tobadill, left, and the Aqua Dome Hotel spa. | Photo
credits: Roman Huber / Austrian National Tourist Office; Aqua

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.

Salzburg Festival
Salzburg Summer

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
, from 20 July to 31 August, is set to be another
blinder, with performances of Verdi’s Macbeth and Mozart’s

Lake Millstatt, Austria
Leogang Nature Park, Austria

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
, 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.

Styria, Austria

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
, 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

Definitely worth a visit, too, is the Ars Electronica
, 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.

The Lowdown

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Snowy alpine scene in Austria

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