Looking out the window as we wizz through the Austrian countryside, in a giant and soundless TESLA, I am surrounded by mountains and rolling fields of yellow flowers. It is EXACTLY what I thought Austria would look like but even more impressive. It reminds me of the Maldives in the way that none of the postcards or photos live up to seeing the real thing in person. I’m here to explore the countryside of Leogang just 1hr 20mins from Salzburg. I’m here to get active, eat well and thoroughly relax. I’m here to see what the isolated eco-resort, Forsthofalm Hotel, really has to offer.
Salzburg is quite a famous place. The birthplace of Mozart AND the setting of the Sound of Music. There’s so much to do and see in Salzburg and its stunning surrounding areas that you could easily miss something spectacular. To avoid that happening to me I made sure that I brought my Marco Polo guide with me. It was filled with all the info I needed on Salzburg city itself (attractions, hotels, points of interest etc) as well as the surrounding towns and mountains. I was so impressed that it had a couple of pages of info on Leogang, where Forsthofalm is located, considering it’s such a tiny town. It’s such a handy size so I just popped it in my pocked when I was heading off on a hike. Not to mention, it has MAPS, because signal isn’t always great in the Alps. Inside the guide you’ll find info on all the hot spots like the Salt Mines, Mozart’s birthplace and more. If you’re heading to the Salzburg area then I highly recommend it, I mean, for £7.99 you can’t really go wrong, here’s the link.
Forsthofalm is a family run hotel in Leogang, Austria. The manager, Markus, took the time to give us a tour of the hotel himself. His sister, Claudia, met us in the restaurant and it turns out that she also produces the oils and products for the spa by hand. We also saw Markus’ mother around the place, making sure everyone was happy and comfortable. She had the biggest smile and chatted away to us in German despite my obvious lack of understanding, hah. The hotel itself is set in the mountains of Leogang which form part of the Eastern Alps. It is designed to give you the best views of the surrounding countryside. There are windows EVERYWHERE. The hotel is made nearly entirely from different varieties of wood. The walls are Spruce and are supposed to help soothe you to sleep by lowering your heart rate (not 100% on the science behind this but we certainly did feel quite sleepy during our stay). Their busiest season is, of course, ski season. There’s a chair lift and slopes out the back of the hotel, so it’s super convenient if you like to ski. If you prefer things a little quieter then a visit in summer might be a better option. The hotel is aimed at couples but does lend itself to other groups such a girly weekends or a relaxing retreat. They do allow a small amount of children as guests, but there is a limit depending on the season so make sure to enquire in advance. Personally, I wouldn’t bring children there as I reckon they’d be quite bored. It’s definitely a more adult-friendly resort.
The rooms are large and have a definite alpine lodge feel. There’s a little dining area, a sofa and TV. The beds are super comfortable, I didn’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. The bathroom is clean and modern. The toiletries are all sulphate free and some are made in house by Caludia. I was impressed with the lather the products gave as I normally don’t trust hotel toiletries. Robes and slippers are provided in room and are very handy for lounging around poolside. The rooms can be quite warm at night so if you run hot I’d ask at reception about lowering the room temperature. There’s also a balcony with a couple of deck chairs and a small seating area, not to mention a stellar view. The stars at night are absolutely stunning. The wifi is decent but tends to log you off every now and again. You’ll just need to disconnect, reconnect and log back in. There is no fridge, which is something I REALLY don’t understand in hotels, but that’s just my personal issue. I love cold water. Each room has a colour theme. Mine was a sort of purple colour, but others can be green. Overall I loved the room. Apart from the fridge I couldn’t fault it.
They take their food very seriously at Forsthofalm. Around 80% of the food used in the hotel is organic and a lot of it is sourced from local producers. They have a huge list of organic, sulphate-free wines, which hopefully means no hangovers. Vegans, vegetarians and coeliacs are catered to at all times of the day. There are plenty of healthy options and it’s quite easy to eat well during your stay. So if you’re on a strict diet Forsthofalm won’t force you to break it!
Forsthofalm is slightly unusual with its meal structure. Breakfast runs until 10.30am and is a buffet. Make sure you’re there on time because they start clearing everything away at 10.25, no hanging around. There’s an omelette/egg station which I frequented during my stay. The cheese and tomato scrambled eggs were delicious. There’s fresh baked bread every morning and it tastes like home. A slab of raw honeycomb is also laid out every morning at breakfast which I though was quite unique.
There is no lunch served apart from during peak season in Winter. So, if you like to snack, you’ll need to bring food with you. There’s no on site shop. You’ll have to walk 45 mins each way (down and up a mountain) to get to the local Spar. There is a sort of afternoon snack from 3pm-5pm. We usually found ourselves starving by 3pm so we were always the first people down there. There’s plenty of food at the afternoon snack, it’s really more like a small lunch buffet. There was always a soup, some sort of main (chickpea curry with rice, pasta with tomato sauce etc), plenty of bread, various salad bits and a few different dessert options. It is plenty to tide you over until dinner. There’s no water or juices left out so you’ll have to order from the bar for any sort of drink.
Dinner can be quite an event. Every night the menu changes. There is a set 4 course meal which we took advantage of during our stay. Each course has a couple of options. For mains you can also choose something from the grill, but you would pay a €15.00 supplement on top of the price of the 4 course meal. I am not a particularly picky eater but I dislike sweet with savoury during a main meal, so there were a couple of sauces/jus’ that I avoided. But otherwise, I definitely enjoyed the food. The wild garlic soup and the polenta main course were my favourites.
Up in the Skyspa there’s an honesty fridge with some soft drinks and water. There’s also a few jugs of infused water and herbal teas available. If you’re peckish there’s a couple of bowls of nuts and dried fruits. If you’d like a drink then the cocktail list in the bar is quite extensive. Marius, the bar man, makes a great martini.
The spa is one of the main attractions of Forsthofalm. I have never seen a treatment room with a better view. The beds look straight out to the mountains! The products used in the spa are made on site by Claudia. Herbs are grown in the hotel’s garden and are also foraged from the surrounding forest. The spa is open until 8pm which is quite unusual for a spa, but a welcome surprise. There are 5 main treatment “moods” at the spa. Energy, love, soul, muscle and brain. You can choose your mood by smelling the different oils used in the spa or based on the description of the techniques used. I went for energy. I received a neck, shoulder and back massage using a citrus-smelling oil along with a cold stone massage. It was light pressure, which was perfect for me (I can’t tolerate those painful massages that bring tears to your eyes). After the treatment you are given some sugared apple slices and infused water depending on your choice of treatment.
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Forsthofalm was because of their activities program. There are various activities that change each day. The schedule is usually posted on the notice board at reception and is given out at dinner for the following day. There is a room upstairs by the pool where the classes take place. Or, some will take place outdoors. There’s yoga classes, yogalates, back roller classes, trampoline fitness etc. These are all included in the cost of stay. There’s also organised nature walks and options to try downhill biking and hiking. During the winter, of course, there are plenty of other options such as snowshoeing, skiing, tobogganing etc. They even offer helicopter skiing to Northern Italy! We went for a hike down to the town (and the Spar) and the views were absolutely stunning. It was what I would call a medium difficulty level. If you’re young and in good health it will make you sweat but it’s manageable.
If you don’t fancy walking you can rent e-bikes for around €28/day. The swimming pool is on the roof and, as expected, has spectacular views. There’s seats in the pool with massaging water jets if you can’t get an appointment at the spa. Also in the Skyspa rooftop area you’ll find a gym with state of the art equipment along with several chill out rooms, a steam room and two saunas. The saunas look right out over the mountains. I’ve never been in a more scenic sauna in my life. Do beware though, if you’re not used to saunas in Europe you might get a shock when people enter completely naked. We wore of swimsuits, of course, but we saw a few naked guest slip into the adjacent sauna. Luckily they didn’t come and join us. It could have gotten a bit awkward. Forsthofalm also host free guest events such as cocktail making classes and barbeques on the terrace.
How to Get There
To get to Forsthofalm your best bet is to fly into Salzburg, hire a car and drive (around 1hr 20mins) to Forsthofalm. However, the road up to Forsthofalm is very steep, narrow, winding and has a sheer drop on one side. If you’re a nervous driver you can leave your car at the bottom and organise a pick up from the bottom of the hill. But, having your own car would be a big plus as the hotel is quite isolated. Otherwise you can organise a pick up from the airport. The Tesla costs €190 each way for a maximum of 5 people. That includes a glass of bubbles. If you need something more affordable there is a holiday shuttle that picks up at Salzburg airport and drops off at several hotels in the area. It takes longer but only costs €44.00 per person, so if your group is 3 people or less then it’s probably worth taking the shuttle. However, if there’s 4 or more of you then I’d pay the extra to take the Tesla transfer. You can fly direct from Gatwick to Salzburg with Ryanair. You can only fly from Dublin to Salzburg direct at certain times of year. We flew from Dublin to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Salzburg with Lufthansa. Your other option is to fly directly to Munich (easily done from Dublin or London) and drive from there. It’s only a 2 hour drive. It might work out cheaper if you flew with Ryanair and rented a car. A transfer from Munich to Forsthofalm with the Tesla costs €390, which is a bit steep for most people, but really depends on your price point.
What Did I Think?
To be honest, Forsthofalm took me a day to get used to. I’m so used to modern hotels where everything is on and everyone is available 24/7. I got locked out of my room at 11pm, but the reception was only staffed until 10pm, so I had to ask the bar man to get me a new key, but he had no idea how to do that, so he had to call the chef and it was a bit of a long-winded exercise. Eventually I was let back into my room. BUT, once I got used to it all I really enjoyed my time there. It’s such a stunning and relaxing setting. The food was great, the staff were lovely, the activities and spa were excellent. I loved it. The only improvement I can think of is that they should have a small shop/convenience store on site selling snacks, toiletries and other essentials. The walk to the Spar is a bit intense just to get a stick of deodorant. But overall I would definitely recommend it. It’s nice to stay at a hotel owned by a family and one that is so concerned with being green and using organic products. I really appreciated that side of it.
Rooms at Forsthofalm start from around €110/£97 per night.
*I was a guest of Forsthofalm during my stay. However, my thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.