Before this summer I’d never visited Austria. Famed for its ski resorts, I’d always thought of it as a winter destination and as I dislike the cold, I automatically discounted it.
Being rather accident prone – yes, I’m the idiot who required ankle surgery following an unfortunate encounter with a spin bike, tracksuit bottoms, and a swiftly-rotating pedal AND the fool who ended up with two black eyes following a collision with a surfboard in Barbados – I always thought it wiser and safer to stay away.
But when a travel press trip opportunity dropped into my inbox as part of the day job to visit Austrian village Neustift, with Inghams Lakes & Mountains, I decided to say yes:
A) It was June so there were no snowboards or skis in sight
B) It was a chance to tick a new country off the list
C) It was an opportunity to stay at the luxurious 5 star spa hotel – something I’d never done
D) I’d feel safe travelling in a group (regular readers will know that I’ve been struggling with bizarre reactions affecting my airway , which makes travelling and eating out quite tricky).
On the descent into Innsbruck Airport, I instantly knew I’d made a mistake in not visiting this green and pleasant land before. Flanked by towering mountains, the runway was the prettiest I’d ever seen.
My love for this spectacular environment was cemented even further on the 30-minute drive to our accommodation as we weaved our way luscious landscapes and chocolate-box villages scattered with wooden chalets overflowing with vibrant ivory and violet blooms. And by the time we pulled into the charming 5 star Jagdhof Spa Hotel, I was positively speechless (rare for me). The residence, which has been run by the Pfurtscheller family for the past 40 years, was situated at the foot of the Stubai Glacier, and the scenic views from my spacious pine-pannelled suite were the best I’d ever seen.
Our action-packed itinerary included hikes and strolls through the 530 miles of beautiful marked walking trails within the Stubai Valley, visits to villages including Fulpmes, a Stubai Super Card giving us free daily return journeys on a number of mountain cable cars, and a trip to the beautiful 500-year-old late Gothic Tratzberg Castle, in Inn Valley. The only downside was that we had very little time to enjoy the hotel’s superb facilities.
Usually, when I travel my choice of room is generally cheap and basic. As long as there is air conditioning and a bed, I’m happy. I’d much rather be out and about exploring the country than cooped up in a hotel room and budget apartments leave more money for experiences, right? But this was a work gig (granted, a lovely one), I wasn’t responsible for the accommodation and staying in a fancy hotel for the first time really opened my eyes, so much so that I’m planning a return visit – now there’s an about turn!
Below, I’ve rounded up five reasons why you should stay at the 5 star Jagdhof Spa Hotel.
REVEL IN THE VIEW
At this hotel, you are rarely very far from a breathtaking view. Marvel at the magical peaks of the Stubai Glacier, listen to the sound of the fast flowing Ruetz River, breathe in that invigorating clean mountain air. This place really is a fantastically pleasant assault on the senses. And there’s no end to the vantage points to choose from. Try the outdoor hot tub, a giant hammock in the landscaped gardens, or a seat on one of two flower-filled sun terraces as you enjoy the complimentary traditional afternoon cake.
GRAB YOUR GOWN AND GO
Each room has a fluffy dressing gown, slippers and little wicker basket that you can pop your book or magazine into and walk with to the spa area. The most taxing decision you’ll have to make is deciding where to park yourself. There are more than 20 bathing, relaxation, steam and sauna areas – my eyes almost fell out of their sockets when I was chilling in an indoor whirlpool and a gentleman walked out completely starkers from the naked sauna zone. Up until that point, I hadn’t spotted the sign. Honest. Another thing that’s easy to miss is the meditation room, which is on your left as you walk out of the Joyful Wellbeing spa area. Romantically lit, it’s immensely calming with a water feature and comfortable padded seating. It’s also next to a blissfully peaceful area dotted with waterbeds that sit underneath a ceiling resembling a star-filled sky. Oh, and if you really fancy splurging there’s even a private spa suite for hire complete with giant swings, a lounge area and tea bar.
INDULGE IN A SPA TREATMENT
Facials. People rave on about them but up until recently I’ve always struggled with problem skin so have never been a fan. However, I tried a 60-minute !QMS Relax-o-firm treatment on my visit to Joyful Wellbeing area. My nerves evaporated as soon as my friendly therapist began speaking perfect English and gently guided me through what she was doing. At the end, I walked out with glowing skin and my colleagues commented on how well I looked. There are 13 rooms here offering all manner of pampering experiences, but they’re popular so it’s best to book in advance. Saying that, last-minute beauty deals are sometimes advertised on the day on a stand outside the spa, so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled, too.
EXPLORE THE FRESH FRUIT AND FOOD
Eating out is very tricky for me these days due to my histamine intolerance and I was worried I’d spend my time in Austria permanently famished. Far from it. The hotel chef bent over backwards to accommodate me. Upon request, the kitchen caters for gluten-free and vegetarian customers, as well as those with food intolerances and on calorie-restricted diets.
Before I left, I asked a German colleague to write down every food ingredient I react to in her native language with an explanation of why it’s dangerous for me to ingest such food. Lemons, limes, oranges, alcohol, tomatoes, vinegar, fermented foods…the list goes on and on but she kindly did this and I simply handed the guide over to the chef. He ensured there was plenty of salad and vegetables for me to tuck into and whisked me up wonderful egg dishes too.
Meanwhile, my fellow journos enjoyed the five-course dinners on offer. One evening a crustacean soup starter was served with cognac cream, another evening saw a desert of pineapple soup with a melon sorbet and pomace brandy desert conjured up. It’s worth noting that most of the meals are prepared using home-grown and regional produce – the hotel aims to support local farmers. The other good thing is that complimentary fruit, nuts and seeds are liberally dotted around so if you’re feeling peckish, there are healthy snacks to hand.
EMBRACE THE TRADITION
The great thing about visiting new countries is embracing new cultures and traditions and I ended up wearing a dirndl! All the female staff working at the hotel were wearing this traditional type of clothing, which is donned to mark special occasions including weddings. I loved my turquoise number (borrowed from a member of staff) which comprised a blouse, bodice, skirt and apron although it was rather tight across the chest. Apparently, this is normal and if you CAN breathe in it, it’s the wrong size. No chance of that. I also adored the fact that the Jagdhof produced it’s very own newspaper every day containing weather forecasts, spotlights on hiking trails, that evening’s dinner menu, and useful tips.
When in Rome…or in this case Austria! Of course I was the only one who ended up wearing a dirndl, a traditional dress worn in certain states (in this case Tyrol) for special occasions. Apparently, it's too large if one can breathe in it! I certainly struggled but still managed to accidentally drop a couple of salad leaves down the front. Couldn't fish them out though 🙈 #fail #dirndl #spotthetourist #experienceinghams 📷 @themaninseat7f
When I arrived in Austria, I felt burnt out, stressed and in desperate need of a recharge. 72 hours later I left looking and feeling like a new woman. Austria – and a summer stay at the Jagdhof Spa-Hotel – was just the tonic I needed.
Inghams is offering a seven-night holiday on a half board basis at the five-star Jagdhof Spa Hotel in Neustift, Austria, from £1,429 per person, based on two sharing in Summer 2018. Price includes return flights to Innsbruck, private airport transfers, guided walks, hot and cold buffet breakfasts, afternoon cake and five-course evening meals. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/lakes-