Stanglwirt is a slick eco spa retreat, combining holistic wellness with a multi-sport academy and organic farm in the Wilder Kaiser Mountains, close to Kitzbühel in Austria. The resort has been owned and run by the Hauser family since 1722, when it first opened its doors as an inn for local miners. Since then, Clarke Gable and Bing Crosby, among many others, have been entertained by the warmth and musical talents of hostess Anna Hauser (the current owner’s mother) who gained a reputation during the 1940s and 1950s for her folk music gatherings. Compare Retreats wellness expert Kate O’Brien checks into the Austrian oasis for a bit of R&R and horseback riding.
Despite being situated in the Wilder Kaiser Mountains in Austria, Munich is the closest international airport. It’s about a 120km drive through countryside reminiscent of the lush hills and valleys of The Sound of Music, with Innsbruck and Salzburg about 80km drive away.
Part of the Hauser family for the past 10 generations, Stanglwirt has developed organically into a state-of-the-art horse riding centre, tennis academy and contemporary wellbeing destination that seamlessly blends the very best of each, with year-round family fun assured.
Stanglwirt was the first private Lipizzaner stud farm in Austria and a highlight of the horse-riding school is undoubtedly the 20 stylish Lipizzaner beauties that can be seen performing from the hotel’s main lobby area.
The resort’s sustainability credentials are exemplary and the hotel’s own Kaiserquelle spring lies very much at the heart of operations, with underground heat pumps fuelling the pools, spa and bathrooms and fresh spring water, chilled to six degrees celsius at the ready through the property. Additionally, Stanglwirt works closely with the environmental organisation WWF.
Families have been visiting Stanglwirt for decades and most continue to do so (80% are returning guests). Here, children don’t just have their own play area: they have a 200-year-old farm to call their own and days are spent riding ponies, collecting eggs, feeding rabbits and goats, playing tag in the hay, before venturing to the vast indoor Children’s Water World filled with natural stone waterfalls and grottos to career down the 120-metre long giant slide and watch the latest blockbuster movie while guzzling gigantic speckled ice cream cones.
Top-class tennis coaching is assured courtesy of the PBI tennis academy with 14 tennis courts (indoor and outdoor). Guests can warm up at the resort’s own golf driving range before playing on their choice of 12 golf courses within easy driving distance. Fly fishing is a firm favourite during the summer, while the ski school comes into its own during winter.
“Old wood tells stories,” Maria Hauser, the owner’s daughter, tells me. Nature seeps through the 170 cosy chalet-chic bedrooms: the beds are handcrafted from the purest Swiss stone pine wood, believed to help enhance sleep; custom-made dirndl-decked furniture; the freshest organic cotton bedlinen; and of course, a mini Lipizzaner toy for exhausted children to cuddle at the end of a fun-filled day.
Guests can choose between rooms, suites, studios, or ‘Family Rooms’ like the Stammhaus Family Nest and Stammhaus Family Suite, perfect for those travelling with little ones.
Healthy Tyrolean Dining
Holidaying at Stanglwirt is not about deprivation and detox. The menus instead put emphasis on fresh, local produce and a genuine farm-to-table ethos throughout the three on-site restaurants. The cosy Gaststube Gastof overlooking the cow’s original homestead—where they can still be seen munching contentedly—is a winner for families. The herd journeys up the mountains during the summer months to produce much of the cheese (the award-winning Stang mountain is delicious), milk, yoghurt and creamy butter for the hotel, while most of the vegetables, herbs and fruits come from Stanglwirt’s 100-hectare eco-farm.
Breakfast is a feast of freshness, with foraged fruits puréed into delicious jams, local cheeses, eggs (every way), cold cuts and hot meals served in the main family dining room or outdoors overlooking the pools. Award-winning local mountain classics come into their own at dinner and succulent Black Angus beef is always a popular choice, as is mouth melting home-smoked wild salmon from the resort’s own fishery, and the freshest mountain Burrata with plump local tomatoes, all perfectly paired with South Tyrolean wines (organic, of course).
Good things take time: the delicious but filling Kaiserschmarrn, homemade crepe-style dessert with plum compote and ice cream is worth waiting for, so enjoy a leisurely dinner and make sure you leave room.
Results-Driven Wellness & Spa
The revamped 12,000-square-metre, zero-emissions spa represents the latest generation eco-spa experience. While the ambience is hushed, gone are the darkened rooms as this space is bright and very much alive, with vibrant moss on the entrance walls, natural stone grottos, candles, clean white spaces splashed with chic metal ornamentation and reclaimed wooden ceilings which are beautiful to gaze up at while lying on the cosiest of spa beds.
Here, alpine hospitality meets outstanding skincare and honestly, treatments do not come better. The focus is intensive skin therapies, courtesy of internationally renowned German dermatologist Dr Barbara Sturm, Dr. Erich Schulte’s Quick Medical Skin (QMS) formula, Dr Spiller’s pure skincare, Maria Galland and Klapp Cosmetics. These results-driven facial therapies are delivered by an exceptional team of therapists who bring these world-class products to life on our skin.
07:30 Fresh seasonal breakfast buffet
8:30 Morning yoga session
11:00 Herbal pouch massage
12:30 Light lunch in the Kamin Bistro
14:00 Guests choice: Horse back riding on white Lipizzaner horses; tennis with the pros at the on-site tennis school; Golf on the hotel’s own driving range; fishing in the private fishery; or enjoying the resort’s vast (indoor and outdoor) water facilities
16:00 Dr. Barbara Sturm facial or other spa treatment
17:00 Sauna infusion experience
19:00 Drinks and Dinner at the Cow Shed Restaurant
As with the best spas in the business, there are numerous body treatments on offer too: Alpine wraps, an Ayurvedic zone, one-to-one counselling, and massages of every kind, including Thai, aromatherapy, and hot stone. Another unique treatment is Haki Flow, where the body is skilfully stretched and twisted while floating effortlessly on water.
The adult-only water world features pools of varying temperatures including Europe’s largest mineralised saltwater pool (believed to help strengthen immunity), crystal steam grottos, pine saunas, a freshwater swimming lake for cooling off post-exercise, all punctuated with super cosy relaxation zones and a bear-it-all zone.
The revamped Stanglwirt spa rates amongst the best I have experienced and after just one Dr Barbara Sturm facial, my skin looked and felt visibly plumper and brighter, especially around my eyes that are prone to dullness.
Stanglwirt can deceive at first glance, so allow a little time for the magic to unfold—and while it is a family destination, there are adult-only areas that are generally quieter.
What we loved…
The sauna infusion experience offers stunning panoramic views overlooking the Wilder Kaiser mountains. Afterwards, relax in one of the many pools filled with the hotel’s own mountain spring water or in one of the many cosy loungers by the open fireplace, while admiring the beauty of pure nature through the floor-to-ceiling-windows.
Our Insider Tip…
Allow time in your day to chill in the hammock by the relaxation zone, tucked away off the spa reception and watch life unfold in the mini underwater ecosystem.