In the care of true experts at Park Igls health retreat in Austria

Kathryn Ludlow reviews Park Igls medical health retreat in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria and finds an expert, sincere team of doctors and therapists with a genuine concern for those in their care.

I went to Park Igls health retreat in Austria for a short health boost one cold February, and have little doubt that I will be returning. This place is the real deal, full of staff who have a genuine desire for their guests to enjoy happy and healthy lives and led by a team of doctors who inspire true confidence.

Arriving late on a gloomy afternoon, I was welcomed in to a spacious, bright reception by the warm and efficient reception staff. Given all the information I would need for my stay, in admirably concise form, I was swiftly delivered to my room (clean and functional) and then to see the doctor for my initial consultation. Dr Peter Gartner, the Medical Director heading a busy team of four, was genial, energetic and sincere, and I immediately felt at ease discussing a couple of niggling health issues. After some gentle prodding and careful questioning, he identified possible causes, gave some sensible practical advice and arranged for some tests during my stay.

Programmes pivot around diet here, and Dr Gartner recommended that I follow the Park Igls’ Diet 4 of ‘food combining’, to which I readily agreed, on the basis that it was nearer Diet 7 (the ‘energy diet’) than Diet 0 (‘fasting’). He handed me a bottle of drops to take with water ahead of every meal ‘as though I was having a Campari’, and some some alkaline capsules, and advised me to drink a glass of Bitter Salts each morning – not the best start to the day, but all part of the Mayr detoxification process.

Dinner is served between 6pm and 7pm, and on my first evening I was shown to my table (which was to be mine for the duration of my stay) by a friendly lady who, like all the waiting staff, was in full Austrian dress – a touch which seemed a little incongruous with the functional dining rooms. It struck me that all the waiting team had the cheerful look of people who, after serving up minimalist portions to their guests, would themselves be going home to eat a hearty meal.

Being a keen swimmer, I was pleased to discover that the pool is open until 10pm. Beautifully lit and blissfully empty (guests go to bed early at Park Igls!) I enjoyed having the pool to myself for a nighttime silent swim, imagining how delightful it would be in the summer months when the roof is drawn back. During my stay I also enjoyed the pools’ adjoining sauna and steam bath areas – spacious and pristine, they have one sauna designated as ‘textile’ for those (like me!) who prefer to avoid the Austrian approach of being naked with complete strangers.

My programme was peppered by treatments in clean, clinical and impressive facilities. During a body exfoliation I discovered that the bed magically converted to a water bed, leaving me in a blissfully warm cocoon listening to Handel. Harald and Melanie proved to be fabulous masseurs, expertly easing the aching muscles in my neck and shoulders.

‘The Medical Director Dr Peter Gartner is genial, energetic and sincere and I immediately felt at ease discussing my niggling health issues’

If I had been at Park-Igls in another season I would have been keen to go on some long hikes. But as it was so cold, I discovered instead that I could enjoy a lovely view across to the mountains from the spacious third floor gym, where I had a good session with one of the young trainers. I was also checked over by the delightful Gert, the physio, who, whilst declaring that I was in reasonably good shape, recommended two easy exercises for me to strengthen a couple of weaker areas.

It is for the down time – reading quietly over a cup of tea, say – where I felt that the resort could do a bit more. The public areas are cavernous, which makes it difficult to create a comfortable environment. All the right things are there – plentiful seating, a grand piano, a large tea bar with a wide range of newspapers and magazines, a little library, a snooker table even – but somehow the atmosphere is lacking. Perhaps it is impossible to be in a resort of this nature and not to feel as if you are in a swanky private hospital.

That said, there is no need to be “quietly sitting” for very long, given the extensive range of activities and treatments to schedule in your day. As well as dropping into a few gentle group exercise classes, I fitted in a quick and fascinating visit to Innsbruck, just a 15 minute bus ride away (top tip – make sure you get the right bus back and do not end up in a housing estate the wrong side of Innsbruck as I did!).

Most guests come here for a minimum of a week to experience a full health package, and many guests return year after year. At Park Igls there seemed to be no ‘type’ – guests came alone (both men and women), in couples, and in a couple of cases in small family groups. I met a father who was sticking to the cure staying with his adult son who was spending his days skiing and playing tennis, and an English woman whose life had been transformed by giving up gluten following her first visit (and now “a new woman”, according to her children). Though many are German, Swiss and English, there is an international feel and people come here from all over the world.

I ended my short stay with a final meeting with Doctor Gartner. To my pleasant surprise, I had lost 1.5kg. Dr Gartner took me through a report with advice for the future. He told me that they usually take photos of guests on arrival and departure and that the “before” and “after” guest can look like two completely different people. Perhaps I will test that myself next time around.