Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof, Austria
A stylish, nurturing wellbeing retreat in the Tyrolean Alps
Best for: Relaxation and rejuvenation in a stylish environment.
Not for: Gym bunnies and serious pool swimmers – the gym and pool are small.
Takes up to 30 guests
This gentle, family-run wellbeing retreat in the picturesque mountain village of Hinterhiersee combines authentic ayurveda programmes tailored to European tastes with holistic treatments and complementary medicine to help you relax and rejuvenate. Come for nurturing wellbeing breaks or more intense programmes to detox, lose weight or boost your immune system. Interior design is both comfortable and slick, and the focus is on nourishment rather than deprivation. Read all about ayurveda.
The place itself, which is small, intimate, comfortable and friendly but also extremely stylish – it’s India, meets the Tyrol, meets Designers Guild. There is a spiritual, romantic feel to it all and the food is superb. This is truly somewhere to feel nurtured.
Whilst English guests are made to feel welcome here and staff speak good English, the retreat is targeted mainly at German speakers. Some classes are held in German with English translation (though the teacher is expert at this), magazines, newspapers and explanations in The Spirit Lounge are all in German, and there’s only one English language channel available in the rooms (CNN).
Choose a light or intense wellbeing programme of treatments and therapies and enjoy delicious healthy food, supportive yoga, hikes, fresh air and a nourishing dose of spirituality.
Sonnhof offers a wide range of different health and wellbeing programmes that combine authentic ayurveda with modern medical and complementary methods to help you achieve your health goals, from relaxation, rejuvenation or detoxing to help with diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep problems, stress and weight loss.
Your programme starts with a consultation with resident ayurvedic specialist Dr Gaurav Shauma, who then recommends treatments and a menu plan. There’s also a resident GP and naturopath, Dr Alaettin, for those with particular health concerns. There’s a general emphasis on reducing the effect of busy and stressful Western lifestyles.
Most people come here to take a Panchakarma, or ayurvedic detox programme – a rejuvenating cure which includes regular consultations, the daily administration of ‘ghee’ (clarified butter) and treatments tailored to your ‘dosha’ or body type. Ayurvedic massages use oil and herbs liberally, and there’s a wide range of other ayurveda treatments on offer to suit different constitutions. You can find out all about how ayurveda works here.
Ayurvedic PLUS treatments target western health issues such as fatigue, sleep disorders, chronic back complaints, allergies and food intolerences, susceptibility to infections, general immune deficiency and asthma.
Holistic treatments on offer in addition to ayurveda include acupuncture, reflexology, lymphatic drainage, ear candling, cranial osteopathy and osteopathy. Facials using Thalgo products and manicures and pedicures are also available.
There’s a strong spiritual approach to activities at Sonnhof, and the mind and emotions are given due attention. Weight loss programmes include a nutrition interview with a psychotherapist, for example, and one to one ‘mind detox coaching’ is available to help people to learn to love themselves and recognise their strengths using meditation, yoga, breathwork and energy exercises. Private classes in qigong are on offer, and some of the group walks include elements of qigong or tai chi along the way, such as breathing, relaxation or gentle movement.
There are two or three themed group hatha yoga classes on offer each day with a local teacher including yoga for stability, yoga for your back, detox yoga, and so on. Some are taught in English, some in German with translation, and on our visit the teacher, Andrea, was seamless in moving between the two. The yoga room feels full with 12 participants standing in a semi circle, but has a lovely calm feel and is enhanced by a view on to the garden. The adjoining room stocks a plentiful supply of all the usual props, leaving the yoga room entirely uncluttered. Private classes in both yoga and qigong are on offer, and serious yogis will be drawn to the room as an ideal place to retreat for private practice.
There are daily hikes organised in the beautiful surrounding countryside, including around the nearby lake. These may involve travelling some distance to the start point, so check the details with reception before signing up. Or just take yourself off alone to walk or run. There’s a small gym, and a small and very warm swimming pool with large windows overlooking the lovely garden – this is excellent for mobility and relaxation, but not suited to serious distance swimmers. In Winter you can ski if you so desire and have the energy – there is a ski slope yards from the retreat.
Do your research and prepare before you go to get the best out of what is on offer. Decide what you want to achieve – whether that’s simple relaxation or a full ayurvedic detox cure. Most guests are from Austria, Germany and Switzerland and are generally”regulars” who are well known to the Sonnhof, though all are welcome. If possible book treatments in advance at times which do not coincide with classes you may wish to attend.
When to Go
The retreat is open all year round. When you go will depend on whether you prefer to be in Austria with snow on the ground (there is a ski slope yards from the hotel) or in warmer months, to take advantage of some fabulous local hiking or generally being outdoors.
A great deal of thought and care has gone into the menus here and the food is a real highlight. There is a big focus on nutritional health and on learning to enjoy well cooked, locally sourced, seasonal and organic food rather than coming away with a lots of things you are not “allowed” to eat. Food is beautifully prepared and presented, and the waiting staff are attentive and helpful. Caffeine and alcohol are served on request but not encouraged.
The Anapurna Buffet is a small, intimate space where breakfast and tea are served and teas and juices are available throughout the day. It adjoins the main restaurant, aptly named Budda’s Palace, a calming and delightful place to eat overlooking the garden where soft oak and delicate colours of mauves and pinks add to the overall sense of harmony at meal times. You will feel very happy soaking up the calm whilst being served your delicious meals.
Menus vary depending on whether guests are detoxing, seeking ayurvedic food only or taking the full menu. Food is locally grown, seasonal and organic, much of it from the Sonnhof’s own farm. No meat is served, otherwise the focus is on nourishment rather than deprivation. If you are on a detox or Panchakarma treatment plan, then a vegetarian diet will be served and the main three course meal is eaten at noon with only a light snack in the evening. For others, lunch is the lighter meal with a soup, salad and breads.
Breakfasts are a delight, with a vast and colourful array of fruits, cereals, nuts, breads, home made jams and honey from the property’s hives, kedgeree, cheeses, eggs, porridge and more. There is a lovely “tea buffet” with a wide range of herbal teas available plus black tea and coffee if requested as well as juices (and all the ingredients to juice your own); fresh, dried and stewed fruits; nuts and ayurvedic cakes.
At dinner there is a choice of three menus – the Panchakarma and Detox menu, an Ayurvedic Fountain of Youth menu, and the main Sonnhof menu, which consists of five courses of salad, soup, pasta, a main course (of fish, vegan or ayurvedic) and dessert.
A sample Sonnhof menu might start with salad from the buffet, then be followed by a Mung Bean soup with cumin, homemade dosas (lovely light pancakes) with saffron pearls, and a choice of three main courses (Ayurvedic: Hemp Rice Balls with oriental vegetables and Jerusalem artichokes; Vegan: Aubergine filled with mediterranean risotto and basil sauce; Fish: Fillet of gilt head bream with potato and marjoram souffle and leek and corn vegetables). Desert might be buttermilk with fennel (an unlikely but a wonderfully delicate and delightful concoction).
The Sonnhof’s own Lindhof farm adopts sustainable farming methods, using organic, traditional and gentle growing methods and growing heritage varieties. This makes a valuable contribution to local agriculture and bio diversity.
Hinterthiersee 16, 6335 Thiersee, Tyrol, Austria
Transfer Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes by car