What does “wellness” mean to you? Sea-kayaking through Myanmar’s Mergui archipelago? A spiritual retreat in Tibet? A yoga and detox week in Bali?
Related article: Inside the London spa celebs are loving
There can be few better places in which to indulge in restoring body and soul than the German foothills of the Alps. This region of Upper Bavaria, south of Munich, is blessed with clean Alpine air, emerald forests and towering snow-capped mountains. It is dotted with charming lakes and a plethora of natural spas and wellness resorts where you can immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the area.
Try a Bavarian hay bath, for example, in which you are cocooned in damp hay and medicinal herbs from organic Alpine meadows. Or discover the delights of a Kraxen stove, a sauna lined with straw where the heat releases the fragrances. Slide into a wooden bathtub full of heated mountain pine mud extracted from a 10,000-year-old moorland or douse yourself in organic whey; apparently it does wonders for the skin.
For my wife and me, wellness also includes exercise, so we also wanted to scale mountains, cruise across lakes, cycle through forests and get the wind in our hair. This wishlist led us to a charming hotel and one of the most authentic places we have ever stayed: the Bachmair Weissach at the southern tip of Lake Tegernsee.
Dieter, the amiable porter, placed our bags in a wicker trolley and, as he led us to our room, gave us a weather forecast (warm, sunny) and explained the food on offer (all tempting). He also told us where could start to embrace the wellness: right on our balcony gazing at the mountains, listening to a pristine meltwater stream and sipping chilled Pali apple juice. Perfect.
Later that afternoon, down in the hotel’s spa, my wife had an organic lavender salt scrub treatment while I padded from the tepidarium to the saunarium to the steam room before cooling down with handfuls of ice delivered courtesy of a stone lion’s mouth. I then took a few steps along an indoor reflexology stream that has been created by diverting some of the mountain stream water and running it over smooth grey stones.
The wellness has spread to all the other corners of the hotel too, thanks mainly to clever designs by the hotel’s owner Korbinian Kohler. Herr Kohler’s dream was to recapture his own wellness memories; the comfortable, peaceful and cosy feelings he experienced in this region as a boy. “I wanted to create a place in which guests could once again experience freedom and tranquillity … a place of happiness,” he told me. After much work and an incredible attention to detail he’s succeeded.
Everything is designed to soothe the spirit and calm the mind. The un-showy, oak-panelled lobby makes you feel like you are arriving at a friend’s country manor house rather than a hotel; there’s even a small, quiet library space with inviting sofas.
Entering the hotel’s award-winning Japanese restaurant, MIZU, from the library bar involves gliding down a curved walkway, and when strolling in the expansive grassy grounds you are never out of earshot of the burbling stream. The wellness, and luxury, surrounds you. MIZU boasts no fewer than three Japanese chefs, and the superb maitre’d talked us through the dishes and a bewildering array of sakes, some of which are rare in Japan let alone Bavaria.
Early next morning the helpful front desk team sketched out a climbing and cycling route for us (the benefit of local knowledge!) and we set off for the foot of Mt Wallberg. We took a cable-car most of the way up leaving ourselves a 20-minute scramble to the summit from where we had 360o views across the Alps, down into the valleys and along the length of Tegernsee lake.
That afternoon we hopped on mountain bikes (the hotel keeps a good selection) and pedalled through birch woods and wildflower meadows, and along the lakeshore past millionaire mansions to the small spa town of Bad Wiessee. The place has been a spa centre since the 1920s when an iodine-sulphur spring opened to the rheumatic public. Today the huge sauna and bathing complex Bade Park Bad Wiessee does the job.
On our return journey we paused to hire a small eco-friendly, battery-powered elektroboote for a turn around the lake. For us, a big part of wellness is peace and quiet, so it was bliss to cruise over the tranquil Tegernsee on a virtually silent boat rather than one with a chugging outboard motor.
That evening, sipping Aperol Spritzes in the library bar, we had that wonderful glow of physical exhaustion: our legs ached but our minds were calm. And of course, after all that exercise, our stomachs were growling but the hotel’s 150-year-old Bavarian restaurant Gasthof zur Weissach was offering roast pork in dark beer sauce with white asparagus … so all was well.
The best of the rest
In Bad Wiessee, Bade Park has a series of inside and outside pools, including a waterfall pool, a springwater whirlpool and Kneipp hydrotherapy.
Check out the award-winning luxury medical health resort Lanserhof Tegernsee.
Among the woods around the southern end of Lake Tegernsee are some of the most sumptuous houses in Bavaria. A few have been turned into natural therapy practices, or ‘naturheilpraxis’. The hotel should be able to recommend one or two.
Check out the spa treatments (including the Alpine meadow mud bath) at the Das Johannesbad hotel in Bad Kohlgrub, just north of the popular town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Singapore Airlines has flights from all major Australian cities to Singapore with connections to their daily hop to Munich. Start the wellness early by booking a couple of seats in their excellent Premium Economy cabin.
Images courtesy of Matthew Brace and www.bachmair-weissach.com/en/