We visit Hotel Quelle – a top spa and hotel in the Italian South Tyrol

Active relaxation might sound like a contradiction in terms but it’s perfectly possible, as the right sort of physical activity can certainly calm both body and mind. Take the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing,’ which is known to lower blood pressure and stress hormones; or a hike in the woods for a couple of hours, which was shown by a US 
study to reduce the number of negative, ruminative thoughts.
It’s this combination of physical activity followed by rejuvenating rest that is at the heart of the experience at Hotel Quelle in the Italian South Tyrol. It’s a five-star nature spa of understated, wood-panelled luxury, perched at 1,400m in the breathtaking Valle di Casies in the Dolomites.

Hotel-Quelle.com www.jamesbedford.com

Summer activities in the Italian South Tyrol

Starting with the active side, you can walk, hike, and ebike all year round, or enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter. Getting into the great outdoors here is a real treat. The views are stunning – it’s in a Unesco World Heritage Site – the air is fresh and pine scented, and all you can hear is the occasional sound of cowbells.However, if it’s raining and you decide to stay indoors, the hotel has plenty to offer. There’s an excellent gym, and instructors on hand to teach Pilates and other fitness classes, as well as pools, steam rooms and saunas.

Facilites at Hotel Quelle

There are seven pools at Hotel Quelle – an outdoor infinity pool, outdoor bathing pond, two indoor pools, enormous indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, cold plunge pools, and children’s pools (the hotel is family orientated, with a children’s sauna, Jacuzzi and relaxation lounges, plus a kids’ play and entertainment area).

There is also quite an elaborate sauna culture. There are 10 saunas and steam rooms at Hotel Quelle. You can visit the infinity sauna, a huge wooden space overlooking a garden; a waterwheel sauna; an edelweiss sauna; a herbal sauna; an infrared sauna or even a snow sauna (filled with real snow). Then there is the salt cave (you scrub yourself, then hose off); steam rooms; a salt pool; and something called a Kniepp path, which is a series of water jets going from warm to icy cold, which you walk through (a bit like a car wash) post-sauna. You will feel energised afterwards, yet relaxed.

Sauna spectacle

Every afternoon there is an unusual tradition called Aufguss (German for ‘infusion’), where football-sized lumps of ice, infused with aromatic herbs and oils, are smashed over hot coals in the sauna by the ‘Aufgussmeister,’ who then energetically flaps a towel around to waft the hot steam over everyone. This is accompanied by rousing music and iced apple juice. And by the way, everyone is naked! It’s huge fun and if you try it, you’ll never think of saunas the same way again. (The World Aufguss Championship happens in Tyrol every year – you can check it out on YouTube).

After all this frenetic activity comes the relaxation, which – with six different lounges involving swing chairs, candles, furry blankets, mountain views, soft lighting, and no mobile phone use – is utter heaven. Or you can go for a massage or beauty treatment – the facials are especially good, as are the local, natural products they use and the expert, deeply-relaxing massages.

By now you’ll be starving, and possibly ready for a drink. This is where the indulgence comes in as you can sample some excellent cocktails and mocktails in the bar and the dining is divine, opulent and sophisticated. It’s all part of the hugely pleasurable cycle of activity, relaxation and indulgence.

And when the holiday is over, why not carry on the Hotel Quelle philosophy with bike rides in the late summer evenings, early morning walks, finding your nearest patch of nature and embracing the beautiful outdoors, before taking some relaxation and pampering time at home. That way you can head into autumn feeling relaxed and balanced.

  • Getting there: Innsbruck airport is 119km north of the location. The hotel offers a taxi service for the two-hour drive (€200), or you can get a train to Monguelfo / Welsberg (€10-€20) and take the hotel shuttle bus from there. Venice is 250km south, or three hours away by car or train.
  • How much: Prices start at €1,050pp based on two sharing for six nights full board. Family rooms for three to five people start from €1,110pp. This includes access to all facilities but not the spa treatments and drinks.
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