Mighty Mountain

Writer Kate O'Brien | November 12, 2018

More than 300 days of sunshine a year is reason enough to visit the small Alpine region of South Tyrol, tucked beside the Austrian border in the northernmost part of Italy. Alto Adige, as the Italians call South Tyrol, is Dolomites country where valleys, lakes, forests, orchards, vineyards and hot springs enclose the tiny sunny villages. Fine dining comes guaranteed with more Michelin stars here than in the whole of Italy and locals are proud of their apple strudel, honey, jams, cheeses and meats. Hand in hand are world-class spa facilities, a vast outdoor playground for hikers, bikers, photographers and adventure seekers and the perfect place to just be surrounded by majestic mountains.


The results-focused Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot is one of the industry’s best-equipped medi spas. The Chenot Method, devised by French biologist Henri Chenot, is based on the Chinese belief that most problems stem from poor digestion and the state-of-the-art medical centre in the basement of this grand hotel has earned its reputation as the place for complete detoxification. According to its skilled staff, weight loss may occur as a desirable side effect.

Here a team of doctors, nutritionists and therapists guide guests through a comprehensive body reset, combining full body medical testing, dietary modifications (600-calorie daily menus), exercise, deep-tissue massage, hydro-aromatherapy, hydro-mud and hydro-jet therapies, blood oxygenating procedures, and vitamin and mineral supplements. The beauty treatment centre offers a variety of hyaluronic, Botox and other skin rejuvenation treatments.

Meals revolve around natural, vegetable-based, hypoallergenic foods with menus designed to rebalance the body. When not in the spa, there are regular cooking classes, walks, lectures and time to browse Merano’s boutiques.



Time seems to stand still at the peaceful San Luis retreat high up on the remote Avelengo plateau just short of the Austrian border.

Tastefully designed and managed by the Meister family, San Luis offers 22 chalets circling the lake, each with private hot tubs, saunas and cosy open fires and 16 cleverly designed single- or double-storey forest treehouses equipped with spacious bathrooms, kitchens and private saunas.

Accommodation is full board with breakfast baskets placed in guest chalet or treehouse at their preferred time each morning to maximise time in fluffy dressing gowns taking in views! Menus befit the region’s Italian-Austrian heritage, with substantial Alpine classics like smoked pork, dumplings, Weiner schnitzel and local cheeses for those refueling after a day hiking, to lighter Mediterranean plates of seafood, salads and pasta. A Vital Kitchen’menu is available for more calorie-conscious guests.

The floor-to-ceiling windows in the spa frame stunning views and facilities include an inside-outside pool, hydro-massage in the middle of the lake, saunas, steam baths, tailored fitness sessions, facials and massages including foot therapy and lymphatic drainage with emphasis on local herbs and oils. Here too lies the opportunity for the forest to become your therapist by walking barefoot through the trees, swimming or naked bathing in the forest lakes. 

San Luis is glorious in summer, morphing into a winter wonderland later in the year with roaring fires by the pool, ice-skating, cross country skiing, hiking in the beautiful Dolomite mountains or staying warm in your cosseting chalet.



No roads, cars or noise, Vigilius Mountain Resort is reachable only by a short cable car ride from Lana, South Tyrol. This multi award-winning eco hotel lies like a massive fallen tree in the larch forest and a sustainable song to San Vigilio’s incredible mountain landscape. Wood, stone and large expanses of glass are the main construction elements and this low-energy aesthetic carries through the property, decked out exclusively in renewable materials and soft fabrics, with energy fired by regional biomass from local farmers.

Organic is the only way at Vigilius and guests can enjoy a cosy alpine breakfast or starlit evening dinner in the resort’s Restaurant 1500 modelled on a classic hay barn. Here local produce bursts with goodness, and vegetarian and gluten-free options are a highlight as the owner founded the leading Dr Schar GmbH gluten-free product company.

In the ground-level spa, an indoor infinity pool with panoramic views of the Dolomites opens onto an open-air whirlpool, all water resourced from local springs. Indigenous herbs and flowers including detoxifying juniper berries, St Johns Wort, arnica and anti-inflammatory larch combine with skincare brands like Salin de Biosel and Sodashi to cleanse and nourish face and body.

A highlight of the extensive spa menu is the signature Silver Quartzite Primordial Stone Massage in which fine local silver quartzite and warming tree oils are deeply massaged over the body, accompanied by a grounding incense ritual and rhythmic chanting.

As with other hotels in South Tyrol, Vigilius thrives on bringing guests closer to the stunning surrounds, horse riding and paragliding offering a novel means of writing your own mountain story.



Hotel Quelle is one of the few hotels in the region with family wellness at its heart. Perched at 1,400m in the spectacular Valle di Casies in the Dolomites, the hotel has been part of the Steinmair family for over 60 years.

The 69 rooms and suites echo the glorious Alpine surrounds, with local pine and bark bringing the outdoors in making for a warm atmosphere. The Alpine village look is completed by the hotel’s own chapel, dedicated to Saint Christopher the patron saint of travellers. Food is as expected in this remarkable culinary-rich region with emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, many gathered from the hotel’s own garden or sourced locally.

Wellness facilities include seven pools, two extending from the indoors outside, an outdoor Kneipp and barefoot walking path set within the gardens, steam rooms, daily sauna infusions and the only Snow Sauna in the Alps (a powdered snow room used to cool down after a traditional sauna) and an ice lounge designed to treat sore and tense muscles.

The Family Wellness programme includes parent-child treatments in the dedicated family spa, as well as children-centric activities combining creative play with mountain hikes, pizza making, fitness classes, supervised mealtimes and movies, while parents enjoy a customised facial or massage using products including Dr. Joseph, Eva Garden and Ägyptos.

Air doesn’t come any fresher than Quelle’s great outdoors and views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are stunning.  Guests are encouraged to or join the guided sunrise excursions to the hotel’s mountain hut overlooking the Dolomite peaks. With 26 miles of trails ready for exploration, cross-country skiing and Nordic walking are top of the agenda during winter.


While winter visitors come to enjoy the 130km of ski slopes on their doorstep and those arriving during the summer months can enjoy hiking, biking and climbing in the vast Dolomites