Why Austria is nature’s playground
Healing; it’s what Austria is renowned for. With 50% of its land covered in forests and more than 2,000 turquoise lakes dotted about the country, this is a place with the ability to magic away stress.
On a recent detox retreat in Innsbruck, I couldn’t get enough of my natural surroundings and daily walks in alpine forests, with only the twittering of birds and rustling of tall conifers for company.
Days here can be wiled away walking and skiing (two thirds of Austria is dominated by the Alps), horse riding or cycling.
The Sölktäler Nature Park in Styria is one of Austria’s largest parks; a wonderland of spruce-moss wooded talus with underground corridors made from natural forming rocks. Seeing a beautiful new sight is rejuvenating for the mind, as integrative psychotherapist Hilda Burke explains: ‘Nature is good for the brain – repetition and constant exposure to the familiar in urban environments causes our brains to get lazy. By taking ourselves into a new unfamiliar landscape, we discover new things. It refreshes us.’
WALK THE BLUES AWAY
In fact, a recent study carried out by the University of Exeter Medical School found that being near green spaces reduces common modern-day ailments, such as anxiety and depression, as fewer stress hormones are present in the blood.
The Alpe Adria Trail is an awe-inspiring way to try out some green walking. The full walk is 700km long stretching through Austria, Slovenia and Italy finishing at the Adriatic Sea but it is broken up into 43 parts, each one 17km. En route, see the majestic sites of the Grossglockner and other natural wonders. Meanwhile, watersports enthusiasts will want to visit Area 47, a water adventure park set against the stunning backdrop of Ötztal-Bahnhof.
Combining a wine trail with cycling is another good way to see Austria. The Styrian region, known as ‘the Tuscany of Austria’, with its undulating lush green vineyards, has the perfect climate for growing grapes.
En route, cyclists can relax in one of the region’s natural thermal water spas. Rogner Bad Blumau, a wellness centre, offers the hottest (100°C) and largest outdoor spa with the highest mineral content in Styria.
INDULGE THE SENSES
The tourism industry has seen a steady growth in people looking for a more authentic holiday experience and farm holidays in Austria are on the up.
There’s the chance to spend some family time at a farm in Hopfgarten in the Kitzbühel Alps, or enjoy rewarding ‘work’ as a couple in Lindenhof in Scheffau am Wilden Kaiser. There’s something special about waking up to collect eggs for breakfast. These experiences offer guests a unique chance to join real farmers and locals, as they go about their daily lives, sowing, reaping and farming animals.
If a tranquil stay sounds appealing, then take a trip to the Virgental Valley, where you can learn to forage and get creative.
Here, you can stay in one of Austria’s many ‘Wanderhotels’ (school of wild herbs) and enjoy gentle hikes foraging for herbs and flowers to create delicious meals, make tinctures or natural remedies. Such a simple activity is about more than just learning. It gets us back in touch with the seasons and the healing qualities of plants.
WELLNESS AT ITS HEART
Austria isn’t short on sleek detox centres, with The Lanserhof and The FX Mayr Clinic being two of the most luxurious.
Lanserhof Innsbruck is currently undergoing a refurbishment, so it’s opened a pop-up in nearby Kitzbühel, a quaint town surrounded by alpine trees. Many visitors frequently return as they find their long-standing mystery illnesses are fixed.
Austria has some of the best wine in the world so a stay at The Loisium Wine and Spa, in South Styria, combines wellness with the sensory experience of wine. It’s set among vineyards but there are hikes through the Windischen Buhlen, one of Austria’s most important wine regions.
Afterwards, relax in the outdoor heated pool, glass of wine in hand, and take in the stunning scenery. Double rooms from 150 euros per night (losium.com).
5 EXPERIENCES TO CONNECT WITH NATURE
Overlook the Fisser Mountains and learn how to produce your own natural medicine cabinet. Stay at Hotel Chesa Monte from 117 euros per night.
THE GREEN RING
View the mythical lakes and sit among the trees. Stay in a wooden bivouac shelter to get the full experience. (lechzuers.com)
Enjoy gentle cycling through some of the best vineyards in the country, stopping off with a picnic among vines. Visit steiermark.com to plan.
In Semriach, get up to milk the cows and be a farmer for a few days. Stay at Zehenthof Farm from around 420 euros per week (farmholidays.com).
Bond with your four-legged friend before embarking on an adventure of gentle pastures, perfumed meadows, foaming waterfalls and more.
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