Harmony, balance and long-term rejuvenation are the gifts waiting to be discovered in the Austrian Alpine region of Saalfelden Leogang. Our CocoCouple, Omo and Eulanda, discovered those qualities and more when they stayed at 5-star Nature Hotel Forsthofgut, Leogang. This luxury hotel, built around the philosophy of creating harmony with nature, was the perfect base for experiencing summer in Saalfelden Leogang.
What is a “Nature Hotel”?
We discussed several possibilities during our one-hour drive from Salzburg Airport, heading south-west towards the Austrian region of Saalfelden Leogang.
Could it be a hotel where guests sleep in the open forest? Could it be one made entirely out of naturally occurring and sustainably sourced materials? Or could it be a hotel that simply encourages guests to spend time outdoors in nature?
When we arrived at 5-star Nature Hotel Forsthofgut, we were pleased to discover that the answer to our question included all of the above and more.
Nature Hotel Forsthofgut (Naturhotel) also turned out to be the perfect base from which to explore the towns of Saalfelden and Leogang and their surrounding landscapes.
Visit Saalfelden Leogang
If you decide to skip the quintessential Austrian postcard city of Salzburg in favour of exploring the ‘greener half’ of SalzburgerLand, you will be rewarded with a world of incredible natural beauty.
The towns of Saalfelden and Leogang are nestled within the Saalach Tal and Leoganger Tal valley and surrounded by soaring mountains. Alpine peaks dominate the horizon and lush green meadows, lakes and unspoilt forests complete the picture-perfect landscape.
Saalfelden-Leogang is a year-round destination. In the winter, the region forms part of one of Austria’s largest ski circuits comprising Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang, and Fieberbrunn (a total of 270km).
The hills and mountains also come alive in the summer, not with the sound of music but with the buzz from hiking, mountain biking and other warm-weather outdoor activities. A major highlight in Leogang is its competition-grade mountain bike park which attracts downhill biking thrill-seekers of all ages and abilities every year.
Nature Hotel Forsthofgut complements these natural and man-made attractions by offering a stunning and luxurious property which puts visitors to the region right at the heart of it all.
Waking Up at Nature Hotel Forsthofgut
Arriving at Hotel Forsthofgut to find a large welcome board at the entrance bearing our family name made us feel very special. With check-in formalities quickly completed, we were offered a quick tour of this remarkable property run by Christina and Christoph, fifth-generation members of the Schmuck family.
Heritage, tradition and luxury combine to great effect at Hotel Forsthofgut. From the outside, you are looking at traditional alpine architecture. However, upon entry, you are embraced by a contemporary space which tastefully combines key design elements such as wood, leather, stone and soft fabrics. The resulting feeling is one of warmth, relaxation and luxury.
Our earliest and most significant impression of Hotel Forsthofgut came from our first-floor WaldHaus (Forest House) Lebensquell suite. The WaldHaus is a newer section of the hotel that was built as part of renovations in 2011.
Our first instinct was to immediately walk to the far side of the room, throw open the floor-to-ceiling terrace windows and marvel at the spectacular view of the Leogang mountains. Mountains make you feel like you are in the presence of greatness.
A high ceiling amplified the space while panoramic windows invited ample natural light into the suite. The spacious living room, a soothing box-spring bed, and the large double-sink bathroom completed the layout of the suite. Scented wood panels and a muted colour palette achieved a visual balance with the surrounding nature.
Through thoughtful design, Hotel Forsthofgut creates harmony between the guest and the surrounding landscape. This is even more evident in the winter when guests can ski directly from the slopes into the hotel!
The real treat was waking up at Hotel Forsthofgut the next morning, stepping out on to the terrace and inhaling the fresh mountain air.
Culinary Biking Tour around Leogang
Breakfast at Hotel Forsthofgut is a market-style affair where a diverse range of carefully selected items is laid out in a stall-like pattern. This healthy start set us up for a day of moderate activity with a pre-arranged electric biking culinary tour.
From the number of people around us wearing helmets and other protective gear, mountain biking was clearly the main sporting activity in Leogang.
However, for those of us with lower adrenalin-related ambitions, Leogang thankfully offers a variety of options. The region promotes itself as a wellness destination with a range of activities designed to provide relaxation, excitement and the inspiration for visitors to live a healthier lifestyle.
We picked up our e-bikes from the Elements Outdoor Sports shop at the Asitz Valley station and were introduced to our guide Sabine Enzinger. Sabine is an experienced tour guide and downhill mountain biker.
After a quick e-bike handling and safety lesson (which also served as a great warm-up) at the Riders Playground, Sabine led us out of town and uphill into the countryside to explore. Our cycling itinerary included stops at local organic farms, a farming cooperative and someone’s back garden which doubled as a schnapps production site.
Saalfelden Leogang has a strong agricultural community of which around 70% are organic farmers. Growers and producers focus on high-quality local products including meat, eggs, cheese and vegetables. This farming philosophy enhances the credentials of the region as a destination for sustainable holidays.
During the tour, we were grateful for the e-bikes which provided an extra boost for our untrained muscles and were easier on the joints. By the end, however, we were grateful to return to the relaxing comfort of Hotel Forsthofgut.
Experiencing Europe’s first waldSPA
Hotel Forsthofgut is home to the award-winning ‘waldSPA’ (forest spa), Europe’s first. This unique spa concept continues the hotel’s philosophy of preserving harmony with the alpine environment.
Relaxation rooms, saunas and fitness rooms feature regionally sourced materials, invigorating scents and natural ingredients, all designed to extend your experience with nature. A summer highlight is the opportunity to experience one of the hotel’s signature treatments outdoors in the forest.
A pre-dinner visit to the outdoor adults-only rooftop pool was the perfect way to recharge our bodies after our earlier e-biking exertions. The 25m infinity pool proved to be an oasis. For an hour, we swam under the watchful gaze of the Leogang Steinberg mountains, immersing ourselves in a world of relaxation.
Hotel Forsthofgut – Preserving Harmony with Nature
On our last night, we secured an outdoor table for dinner. We wanted to preserve the harmony we were starting to develop with nature for as long as possible.
While watching the sunset over the mountains and listening to a live 1930’s music cover band, we surveyed the menu. Hotel Forsthofgut leverages the availability of regionally sourced, fresh and organic ingredients to offer a nutritious menu, making the best from the Alps accessible on a plate.
There was a poached brook trout fillet dish with our name on it. This paired well with that evening’s sommelier’s choice of a 2013 Merlot from the Bernhard Ernst winery in Deutschkreutz, Austria.
Burying ourselves in a nook at The Botanist after dinner, we sampled cocktails from the hotel’s modern bar, reluctantly counting down the hours until bedtime.
The proprietors of Hotel Forsthofgut have done an excellent job of promoting the Saalfelden Leogang philosophy of providing visitors with a long-term sense of rejuvenation.
We might never be able to recreate the harmony and balance we experienced in Saalfelden Leogang. However, we now know where to go whenever we seek those things.
Getting there: The nearest airport is Salzburg, 70km drive to Leogang. A holiday shuttle is also available at €44 per person.
Autumn bonus: Hotel Forsthofgutis offering a 5% bonus on autumn stays if you book four weeks prior to arrival. This offer is valid from September 15 to November 30, 2019.
Save money: Use the Saalfelden Leogang Card (free for tourists) to gain access to city buses, cable cars, swimming pools, museums and selected activities.
E-bike (tour version) rental is €30 per day (helmets and protective gear not included). Visit Elements Outdoor Sport Bike School for a bike fitting.