Summer is a mad dash for the sun. Eager holiday makers put up their ‘out of office’ with a smirk, roll their socks into their shoes for packing efficiency and jet in the direction of the brightest rays and most colourful cocktails. There is a fundamental issue with this; there’s a bottle neck. There are a lot of people, all wanting to go away at the same time, and most of them wanting to go to the same handful of ‘on trend’ destinations where quality and standards get sloppier and sloppier because, hey, the demand just keeps increasing irrespective of that quality. Quite the conundrum. It’s the ‘holiday illuminati’ who, at this point, start looking at counter flow tourism destinations… the places which, whilst being industry leaders in their offerings, are not crushed underfoot by the eager, sun-kissed deluge.
Lech, in the Austrian Alps, can be accessed with ease via Zurich airport with a circa two hour transfer which traverses the Swiss border into Austria and summits the several hundred feet up into the mountain range. This area has traditionally been thought of as being purely a winter sports destination, however, whilst the beaches of the Côte d’Azur swarm and the pool sides of the Greek islands descend into a pseudo-Olympic wrestle in a frenzied bid for the final sun lounger, Lech bathes in celestial tranquillity. This is where ‘counter flow’ holiday-making becomes your ally.
The idyllic Austrian mountain village of Lech sits at a lofty 1,500m altitude and is bisected by the waters of the eponymous river Lech. Come the frostier months it is a highly sought after, exclusive ski resort for the likes of the Dutch and Monaco Royal Families, with restaurants and chalets that groan under the weight of the great and the good. However, in the summer the main sounds to be heard around Lech are those of the river ambling nonchalantly through the village and the distant tinkle of cow bells on the collars of bovine nomads further up the mountain.
Located in the centre of Lech is Hotel Aurelio, complete with its own private chalet, magnificent spa, helipad, mountain views and a well-deserved five star rating. The hotel is a perfect combination of slick refinement and rustic chalet chic. The entry foyer leads into a handsome restaurant area and lounge, where from around 4pm on cooler afternoons, a large log fire roars, exuding aromatic log-fire smoke scent into the room and burns well into the night. Mounted antlers hang majestically above the fireplace flanked either side by trendy modern art. The large sofas which sit opposite are so devastatingly comfortable that they threaten to swallow weary visitors whole. The overall tone that is set is one of pure peace and quiet. It immediately feels like somewhere one goes to put their phone in airplane mode, take in a deep breath of alpine air and let the stresses of the real world dissolve, albeit only for the duration of one’s stay at Aurelio.
The hotel rooms are vast, and each of them benefits from a jaw dropping view out over the Austrian Alps, with lofty, frosty peaks punctuating the skyline as far as the eye can see. However, during these warmer months the hillside leading up to those mountains are a hypnotic emerald green and are speckled with wild flowers. The bedrooms all have large balconies to better enjoy this view, and when I stepped out onto mine there was one thing that immediately struck me – it was the absence of noise. Anyone who resides in a busy city gets so accustomed to the relentless clatter and mania of metropolitan living that you’re simply forced to accept it and drown it out, as I write it sounds as if there is a full on military coup occurring outside the window – but no, that’s just central London. As you pull back the French windows and walk out onto the balcony the silence is palpable. It is so utterly calming that it is almost a balm.
This tranquillity can be pursued with even more proactive aplomb in the hotel’s spa. Gentle lighting reflects off the surface of the 23 metre pool and dances a seductive jig across the ceiling. The only sounds are those of the water lapping at the edges of the infinity pool and the vigorous bubbling of the Jacuzzi, which is off towards the aromatherapy steam room, sauna, plunge pool and floral bath. The treatments offered at Aurelio spa cover all the bases and are designed to relax, rejuvenate and reinvigorate the guests. Treatment rooms are state of the art and the therapists are as welcoming as they are polished.
In terms of culinary offering, Aurelio’s restaurant is highly impressive. Options change on a daily basis and there is a strong emphasis on local fare which keeps everything well grounded. Beef, veal and pork are sourced from local farmers Richard Fischer and Handl Tyrol and even the free range eggs come from Vorarlberg. The a la carte menu represents a refined and contemporary flare with standout examples being Aurelio’s own Wagyu Beef Tartar and the succulent Dry Aged Rump Steak. Should you be on the hunt for something more rustic and traditional the Gasthaus Bodenalpe, which is a ten minute drive (the hotel offers a 24 hour chauffeur service, in Bentleys, what else) will hit the spot. Their iconic ‘Wiener Schnitzel’ is not to be missed.
Final mention must be made specifically to Aurelio’s staff, all of whom are positively effervescent in their sincere eagerness not just to help, but to think three steps ahead to what your needs will be. I found myself treated to the most sublime, impromptu whisky tasting having ordered a tipple or two as a ‘digestif’ following supper at the hotel the night before. A choice of drams was presented to me as I reclined by the fire with such a grin – I think it mirrored my own when I saw what was being presented. Aurelio provides an opportunity to embrace serene peace and escape the manic summer hoards high up in the mountains. I implore you to choose bathing in sunshine whilst trekking across the hillsides rather than scraping abrasive beach sand from unfortunate places.
Bookings may be made for the hotel directly at www.aureliolech.com/en/
Tannberg 130, 6764 Lech, Austria