Some travel experiences leave a lasting impression on us here at House of Coco; especially experiences that challenge our personal choices and inspire us to live healthier and more wholesome lives. Our #CocoCouple, Eulanda and Omo, visited Bio-Hotel Rupertus in Leogang, Austria and learned that wellness, sustainability and environmental awareness can all be part of a great hospitality experience.
Like most people, Nadja Blumenkamp appears shy when you point a video camera at her face. The formality of a press interview can sometimes be a nervy experience.
However, once we start chatting about organic food, she becomes more relaxed. Nadja’s eyes light up and her face breaks into a smile, clearly showing her passion for the topic.
Nadja and her husband Olaf are the second-generation to run the family Hotel Rupertus in Leogang, Austria. This is the place where their creative ideas and passion for hospitality come to life, centred around themes of sustainability, wellness and environmental awareness.
A summer visit to Saalfelden Leogang, an Alpine region in SalzburgerLand in southwest Austria, was our opportunity to experience a different type of holiday, one that left us with a lasting impression.
Getting to Know Bio-Hotel Rupertus
Travellers unfamiliar with the concept of a bio-hotel might be scratching their heads at this point.
The label ‘Bio-Hotel’ as described by the Austrian Tourism Information website, refers to hotels which “guarantee guests environmentally-friendly holidays by minimising the consumption of energy, electricity, water and materials, managing waste and where the restaurants serve organic food.”
Bio-Hotel Rupertus and similar establishments across Europe are specifically designed to meet the needs of environmentally-conscious travellers.
However, what makes a bio-hotel much more than a mere salve for the conscience is their ability to offer world-class hospitality and luxurious experiences while staying true to their eco-friendly principles.
Bio-Hotel Rupertus confirms that this is entirely possible by offering a unique experience that Nadja describes as ‘beautifully curated but conscious’.
“Our aim isn’t to teach people how to live,” Nadja explained. “Rather we simply want to show people what is possible by demonstrating what wholesome living looks like.”
Hotel Rupertus aligns with the stated objective of Saalfelden Leogang’s tourism industry to promote healthy and quality holiday experiences that leave visitors with a sense of long-term rejuvenation.
Is a 100% Bio-Hotel Even Possible?
While sharing afternoon snacks and cocktails in the hotel bar, our curiosity got the better of us and we put this question to Nadja.
“Our hotel has been certified to industry-leading standards for Bio-Hotels,” she began. With our particular interest being food, we asked her to elaborate further.
Meals and beverages are made from locally sourced ingredients and products certified as 100% organic. Hotel Rupertus works with a carefully curated network of regional producers and growers who respect the principles of fair-trade. This includes providing fair wages and humane working conditions for their employees.
Sourcing organic ingredients is an easier task when your hotel is located in Saalfelden Leogang, a region considered to have some of the best organic farming in Europe. Leogang, in particular, is home to around 50 farming families of which almost 70% are organic farmers.
More sustainable farming practices means that farmers can specialise on growing a few items with a focus on quality rather than quantity. “Less is more,” Nadja said.
The Hotel Rupertus restaurant meal plan is also designed to focus on seasonality. Having sampled the dinner menu the night before, we agreed with Nadja that crops in season are more likely to be fresher and of better quality.
After hearing more about how Hotel Rupertus carefully manages their energy, waste and staff welfare, we were convinced that it is possible to provide a hospitality experience that is both sustainable and high-quality.
So What Does Waking Up in a Bio-Hotel Feel Like?
Bio-Hotel Rupertus is a 50 room property built on the edge of rich Alpine forests in a valley surrounded by the Asitz and Leogang Steinberg mountains.
Walking into our first-floor ‘Natural Room’ for the first time, we were embraced by the relaxing aroma of swiss stone pine (a species of pine tree native to the Alps). This design feature was far from being accidental. Nadja’s words about ‘conscious curation’ came to mind.
Our room furnishings were made from regionally-sourced and reclaimed spruce wood. The lighter wood colour amplified the natural light streaming through the terrace doors, enhancing the room’s bright and welcoming feel.
Bathroom amenities – beautifully packaged soaps, gels and creams – are sourced from a small family-run company. Based in nearby Salzburg, they specialise in using only organic ingredients. Refillable bottles reduce the reliance on single-use plastic.
We learned that bedding in the ‘Organic Rooms’ (for guests seeking the 100% organic experience) were all naturally occurring (i.e., no synthetic) fibres. Nevertheless, the towels and sheets in our room were made from 100% organic cotton and felt soft and luxurious.
A metal-free double bed relied on some genius sleep science and provided a relaxing night’s rest.
The next morning, we stepped out onto our south-facing private terrace to enjoy sweeping mountain views and inhale the fresh, crisp air. Eco-friendliness felt very rejuvenating!
Simply Hiking Around Leogang
Breakfast at Hotel Rupertus is a buffet affair, allowing guests to wander around different stands, selecting home-made and fresh items (all organic of course!). This healthy start set us up for a day of moderate activity featuring a pre-arranged guided hike.
Matching their robust winter ski destination credentials, Saalfelden Leogang has an extensive summer/autumn calendar. The summer emphasis is on wellness and rejuvenation, with a range of activities designed to provide relaxation, excitement and the inspiration for visitors to live healthier lifestyles.
The warm weather attracts mountain biking enthusiasts to this region. We were outnumbered by people wearing helmets and protective gear, wheeling their bikes to the Epic Bikepark Leogang to test their downhill skills.
However, for visitors like us with lower adrenalin-related ambitions, Leogang thankfully offers a variety of options. ‘Simply Hiking’, a laid-back experience which includes a hiking pole-sharing programme, is one of them.
After breakfast, we met up with Birgit Battocleti, a local surveyor and hiking guide with Wanderung-Salzburg. For the next three hours, we traversed hiking paths, soaking in Birgit’s expert knowledge.
Dense pine forests are a gift to the five senses. Birgit introduced trees and colourful plant life with a variety of health benefits. Breathing in the natural forest scents was great for boosting immunity. Tasting wild berries added flavour to the experience.
Riedlalm, an idyllic Alpine hut at 1,228m, provided a chance to rest, recharge and enjoy the panoramic views of the Leoganger Steinberg and other surrounding mountains.
Our time with Birgit passed rather quickly and soon were back at Hotel Rupertus.
Bio-Hotel Rupertus – A Gift for the Senses
It is impossible to talk about wellness without talking about finding balance – for the mind, body and soul.
Balancing our earlier activity with a time of relaxation was an appealing prospect. A visit to the award-winning ErholPol Spa (‘erhol’ translates to ‘relax’), the wellness facility at Hotel Rupertus, was the perfect choice for this.
A classic massage and facial treatments, again, using only 100% organic products (including hand-picked herbs), eased the tension from our tired muscles and had a restorative effect.
The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging around the spa in soft, organic-cotton bathrobes and taking a dip in the organic swimming pond amid purifying reeds and waterlilies.
Over dinner, we talked about the consciously curated experience that Hotel Rupertus provided. It was great to see a hotel where guests, the environment and the local community are stakeholders working in mutually beneficial ways.
Words from our earlier chat with Nadja came back to us. “My goal is to introduce guests to what an eco-lifestyle looks like and how wholesome and fun it can be. They will go back home and make their own choices. I hope the Rupertus experience helps them make better ones,” she laughed.
Getting there: The nearest airport is Salzburg, 70km drive to Leogang. A summer holiday shuttle is also available at €44 per person.
Room rates: Summer/autumn 2019 – Natural Room – €120 to €130 per person/per night. Half-board and family packages are available. Contact Hotel Rupertus at [email protected] or call +43 6583 8466 for details.
Save money: Use the Saalfelden Leogang Card to gain access to city buses, cable cars, swimming pools, museums and selected activities.