* press trip / invitation
Full schedules, busy jobs, finding time slots in between to catch up with friends or, more importantly, to find time for ourselves. From time to time, we need to force ourselves to take a break and leave it all behind. When you arrive at Gradonna in Kals, East Tyrol, Austria, you will discover the art of slowing down and you'll appreciate the art of doing nothing.
Book a timeout
Even when you want to take it easy at home, there's always something to do. Either cleaning up, doing the laundry or cooking (and cleaning up again later). You know what the game looks like. So, even a very relaxing weekend without any plans usually ends up with some work (to a certain degree). The last two months have been quite challenging for me and it wasn't the easiest time of my life. My partner and I were therefore quite excited to pack up our stuff and leave for a few days to escape it all, and to enjoy a break. Last year around this time, we flew to Lisbon and had a really fun city visit. This time, I was looking forward to being with nature, wellness, and time for ourselves.
Speaking of busy schedules and stuff… Every once in a while, I think it's a good idea to give our body and our mind a break. These breaks are important in our everyday life and I try my best to make sure I do get such breaks during the day (meditate at least once, even if it's only for 5 minutes, and do a few yoga poses, even if it's only a few stretches at the office). Some days, it works out quite well and I find some time for a longer yoga session or even time for a class (which I prefer!), while on other days nothing really works out.
As my days are filled with lots of different activities, my partner and I like to take a break and physically go to another place. We do enjoy city breaks a lot, yet I find I need a lot of energy to discover a city. How come? Well, we walk a lot, we see a lot (since I love to explore and discover), and I need to process all of it too (which I sometimes forget). Maybe it’s the same for you, too? We travel to a destination and are busy with one activity after the other. Once we're back home, we realize we haven't actually recovered. Instead, we're in need of another vacation. Have you ever felt the same?
The purpose of this trip
Gradonna Mountain Resort in East Tyrol is different. We didn't come to explore or discover. We packed our hiking stuff and didn't force ourselves into anything. Whatever comes, comes. That kind of mentality. Driving to the resort, we mostly had rain and even saw the first snow of the season when we drove through the Arlberg area. We actually planned to do some hiking but then again, plans are plans and whatever happens, happens.
Kals am Grossglockner
The village of Kals was first mentioned in a document in 1197. As I read in the hotel's own morning post (which you get delivered fresh to your table each morning so you won't miss any news on what to do at the resort), the most magical place is the Gradonna rock chapel. If you're interested, it's around 30 minutes walking time from the hotel.
Did you know that this special place is also home to white deer? They can be spotted mostly in spring, so if you're there around this time, watch out! This place is simply magical!
Arriving at Gradonna Mountain Resort
The drive from our home was about 4.5 hours. The resort is above the mountain village Kals am Großglockner at about 1350 meters. The hotel is beautifully nestled in the middle of this nature paradise surrounding the mountain Grossglockner (Austria's highest mountain with 3.798 meters). The resort offers a garage beneath the building from where you can walk straight into the hotel.
The hotel's sustainability concept can be felt throughout the entire hotel. The stone floor and walls are a brilliant example of their green philosophy. Their origin is in the marble of Kals. During the construction phase, 2,000 m² of marble showed up. Those blocks were blown up and cut into forms, polished, and placed in the hotel. The lime veins go through the dark rock and give this marble its unique look. Now, entering the hotel, it’s exactly that natural look of the marble together with the combination of wood that was imposing.
We had a warm welcome with the lovely ladies at the reception. We were handed a little booklet with all the information about the resort as well as our keys. As you check in, you also get a voucher for a welcome drink at the bar. If you want, you can also choose to have it as an aperitif before dinner. That's what we did.
At Gradonna, there are different kinds of room choices available. From a double room with a balcony (the cheapest option), to a junior suite with a balcony, and, lastly, the ultimate highlight: the tower suite with a terrace. We were flattered to call such a suite our own for the next few days. If you want such a suite, we highly recommend that you ask for the 10th floor. The view from up there (even if the weather isn't the best) is INCREDIBLE! So if you're deciding to go for the suite, try to book one on a higher level. The higher, the better ;)
Seriously, nothing beats the impressive view over the Grossglockner, the highest mountain in Austria. Every day when I woke up, I was excited to find out what the mountain and the woods would look like this morning. During our stay, the weather was rainy and there was a lot of fog, which made it especially interesting, as the view kept changing every few minutes.
Let's continue with some more details about our tower suite. When you walk around the corner from the reception area, you find two different kinds of elevators just in front of the door leading to the spa area. The one on the left is for all normal rooms and the right elevator is for tower guests only. Now, the view from the normal rooms is already beautiful, but the tower allows you to almost get a 360-degree view as you walk around the suite and especially when you step out on the balcony. The suite is spacious with around 55 m² and is suitable for 2 adults and 2 kids maximum. The living room area is wide and open.
As soon as you unpack your stuff and put your shoes outside, there's really nothing you need to worry about. You find that everything is available. Need some vitamins after the long drive? There's a bowl in the room with Tyrolean apples.
All of the resort’s buildings are built with wood. Every time we opened the door to our suite, we loved the wooden smell. The rooms are built of spruce wood and it gives the entire building, but especially the rooms, such a warm character. I felt like this would be our little apartment for the next few days, and it was so cozy! I can only imagine that it must be so nice to watch the snow fall from those windows. One of my favorite places to sit was next to the window on a cushion, watching the rain falling down. Special materials were also used for the couch and pillows: linen and loden. In the bedrooms, true Swiss pine was used (I love the smell of it!). You might know that Swiss pine not only creates a nice atmosphere, but also promotes our physical well-being and increases our sleep quality.
Need some time for yourself before you get ready to explore the resort? Enjoy the time in the bathroom. From the bathtub, you have a beautiful mountain view. What I can also highly recommend is to enjoy your own private infrared sauna. On one of the days, we had appointments for massages, but unfortunately, due to the storm, they were canceled, as the employees were not able to reach the hotel. We were glad nothing happened to the hotel, as that night the tower was even shaking a little bit. So after a little hike, we decided spontaneously to go to the gym and enjoy our own sauna in the room before dinner. The bathroom offers everything you need and I enjoyed their own vegan product line a lot, named Magdalena's after a family member. All of the products are also available to buy.
Did I mention you don't need to worry about anything? Guest slippers are provided by the hotel, together with a bag, which you can take to the spa area. You can decide to use the slippers during your stay or you can take them home with you. We now have them in our apartment, ready for guests. We have a little part of the Gradonna now within our own four walls and it brings back beautiful memories. Also, a bathrobe is provided. At the collar is a wooden clothes peg that displays the number of your suite. A very smart idea – no bad surprises after the sauna.
In our suite we also find a high quality coffee machine, a water kettle, tablewear and teabags. I do love to have water kettle in the room. It's so comforting to make yourself a tea after a hike outside or after skiing. I also do enjoy a good cup of tea after a long dinner and as a way to end a beautiful evening.
Breakfast the East Tyrolean way
As already mentioned, at Gradonna, you're shown to your table, which will be your table for your entire stay. We were seated next to a window from where we enjoyed the beautiful views during breakfast. The sitting possibilities were of a high quality. We switched places and during dinner, I sat on the bench, while I switched to the chair for breakfasts. Let me put it like this: both were super comfy.
The hotel takes an active approach to sustainability. Therefore, they go without using tablecloths in order to save lots of precious water. Instead, beautiful stone plates are used. There's not many decorations in the restaurant, and as with everywhere else in the hotel, it is quite simply decorated. I read that it was a decision by the hotel managers in order to keep it simple and to avoid stuff that has to be produced only for that matter.
The breakfast buffet is from another world. You get everything you're looking for and even more. My morning ritual looked quite similar every day. I tasted myself through different kinds of cheese and was impressed by their fancy cheese dome which you had to lift. Attached to it was a stone, so it was heavy. We found an enormous bread selection. Not only a lot of different kinds of bread, but there were signs for each bread including ALL the ingredients. I found this especially convenient as I am trying as much as possible to cut wheat from my diet. Therefore I was happy to find a few loaves of bread that I could still eat.
Let's say I cheated just a little bit, though. I couldn't resist a croissant one day, and I just had to try their delicious pancakes together with some maple syrup and homemade applesauce.In one cooking section, there's a chef who prepares eggs the way you want it. There's always a few people in line so better go a few times and check out if a lot of people are waiting. There's scrambled eggs or boiled eggs too, ready to take away to your table.
There's a huge selection of dried fruits, nuts, and fruits for your muesli. A highlight for kids was an entire honeycomb from where you could scrape down the honey. I had to try it too and the honey was delicious.
The buffet is incredibly big and you will find everything that is produced in East Tyrol. From their ham to the eggs, bread, fruits, honey... everything is locally sourced. The hotel dedicates itself to keep it local and therefore you won't find any exotic fruits for example. Let's be honest with such a huge selection you don't want or need any kind of tropical fruits there.
I was excited every day to press my own juice at the juicer. Threw in some apples and carrots and enjoyed the vitamin boost.
I can't tell you how happy I was to have that table next to the window. The weather was bad in the beginning of our stay, yet it was beautiful as we could spend quite some time at the breakfast. We enjoyed the food, had great conversations and watched outside the colors of the trees. The landscape view from the restaurant is so, so beautiful. As it was raining, the fog moved up and down and we always got to see the mountains in a different situation.
Activities at Gradonna
No matter whether you come here in winter or in summer, there's always enough to do. Hiking, alpine climbing, tennis, swimming, golfing, mountain biking, skiing (in winter, of course!), different kinds of local events – you won't get bored. This is a true walking/runner's paradise and perfect for Nordic walking fans. 105 kilometers, 15 different routes... I think there's nothing more to add. If you're looking for a bike adventure, but want a bit of extra comfort, the hotel rents E-Bikes too.
And if the weather is bad (like in our case), don't be sad and enjoy the spa and book yourself in for a massage. If you still need some action, the hotel has its own boulder hall. The key to this room is available at reception.
In case you're traveling with kids, you can decide what you feel like. There are family programs like a family bike tour, and there's also a kids club where your kid(s) can have a great time. The resort says they want to go outside as much as possible with the kids, yet during the time we stayed there, the weather wasn't nice at all and therefore the kids indoor room was busy. There's also a children's restaurant where kids can stay together and the parents can enjoy a romantic dinner.
We couldn't do many activities, as the first two days we had a storm and it got so bad that one day, many hotel employees couldn't come to the hotel because the way to the resort was blocked. So sadly, we couldn't enjoy our massage. We then tried out the infrared sauna in our suite. I really enjoyed sitting in there while looking out into the woods and reading my book.
We wished we could have joined a hike where you collect herbs from the forest, but unfortunately, it was only offered the day after we left. Plus the storm damage was pretty bad, so we just took an easy hike. When you leave the hotel and start walking up, you're basically in the middle of the ski slope. It must be amazing to stay there during the winter, as you can ski directly to the resort (Sounds like a dream, right?). If you stay in one of the resort's beautiful chalets, you can ski to your little house in the woods. It's like in a fairytale, but it's real!
Hiking from the Resort
As mentioned, after the storm, we went for a little hike. It was even snowing a bit. There was a lot of storm damage, and in the woods, some paths were covered by fallen trees. We didn't go all the way up to the mountain restaurant Glocknerblick (1980 meters), but we went in the same direction. Here's how to do it:
Pass chalets 6 and 7 and follow the trail next to chalet 41. The trail leads you partly over the ski slopes from Grossglockner Kals-Matrei and is at the same time a herbal/flower trail. From the top (the restaurant), you're supposed to have an amazing view over the Grossglockner and a few other mountains.
As I’ve already mentioned, there are many culinary highlights at the Gradonna. And if you come back a bit hungry from a hike, from skiing, or from the spa, there's a sports snack available from 2 PM until 4 PM waiting for you at the bar. If you prefer something sweet, there are also different kinds of cakes. Order your coffee along with it and enjoy!
The good thing about the rain was that we used the spa extensively with around 3,000 m2. It's hard to find the right words for this perfect combination of nature, sports, wellness, and indulgence, which is so unique here at Gradonna. Gradonna won the Green Luxury Award by Travel & Lifestyle Magazine, and is listed under "The 100 most beautiful hotels of Europe" by Geo Saison Magazine.
There's a classic spa where you can book facial treatments, manicures, pedicures, massages, and more. Hidden in the spa section is even a hairdresser. Use your time here at Gradonna to take care of your body, soul, and even your hair (using the resort's own beauty product line, Magdalena's). For the Vegan beauty line, the hotel's own water is used. (They have their own source of water at the foot of Grossglockner). This mountain water has a balanced mineral content and is therefore great for hydration. By the way, you can also buy the products online in case you forgot to buy them in the hotel and bring some 'Gradonna vibes' and scents into your own home. That's what I am planning to do (I want to get the room scent and the body lotion!) If you want to, you can buy Magdalena's products here.
As mentioned, the spa is right behind the reception area on the ground floor. You can walk easily from your room to the spa with your bathrobe and the hotel's slippers or your own flip-flops as you wish.
The spa also houses the yoga room (downstairs) and the gym (upstairs before you head to the indoor pool). At the spa reception, there are enough seats available. We liked to sit here for a while after we hit the gym and yoga or after the sauna and enjoyed some nuts and dried fruits, which are offered with tea or fresh lemon water.
Let's have a dinner date!
During our stay, relaxation didn't fall too short. Our daily ritual was to enjoy a long, hot shower in our suite after the sauna. I enjoyed getting ready for our dinner date. It kind of felt like those special evenings when you dress up and get ready and your man takes you out to dinner. That kind of feeling and excitement. Even better, at Gradonna, we didn't need to look for transport, get the car, find the way to the restaurant, and as it was raining, we didn't need to go outside (yaaai!). We took our Dinner Selfie on the way down in the elevator and were excited to have a good time.
Every night, we were surprised by the wonderful creations our waiter served us. For dinner, we found each night the menu on our table. There's a choice between a vegetarian and meat menu, and you can also switch in between as you wish. The restaurant has 13 Gault Millault points and when you look at the pictures, you would have guessed they do a perfect job!
Every day, we enjoyed a 5-course dinner, and most of the time we had to skip the cheese menu in the end and barely took something from the salad bar, as we already knew we'd be full by the end. Sometimes within the menu, you can choose between two main courses. The focus is again on local production and they do mention, for example, where the meat is from (I don't eat meat because of ethical reasons). I find this especially important and once, for example, they stated on the menu: venison ragout from own hunting. Martin tried it and he said it was heavenly. The waiters are all especially attentive. Our waiter was always coming to our table, asking us if we're ready for the next course or if we'd prefer to take a break in between.
About the restaurant: It's spacious and divided into different sections. There's one room where kids can have dinner, but many families do spend dinner together. I was surprised by the kids because they behaved so well. At no point at all was it loud or annoying, and although the restaurant was full, we could have a great conversation. The acoustics of the rooms are perfect.
We were sad when it was time to leave, and yet felt ncredibly grateful to have experienced a stay at Gradonna Mountain Resort. The 'Gradonna feeling' is something I enjoyed a lot. I don't know how it happened, but this place was so relaxing and unwinding. Maybe it was the atmosphere, maybe the natural scents of the woods, the character of the hotel and the staff, maybe it was us... it's hard to describe how relaxing those days truly were. The hotel is led by two directors, one of whom we had the chance to meet in person, Thomas Krobath. The ladies from the reception handed us a magazine about the hotel, together with a loaf of bread. The cutest idea ever! As we were on the way to Martin's relatives in Carinthia, it was the perfect gift from Gradonna. Also, I loved the idea of taking a part of Gradonna home with us. And it couldn't be a better way than in form of a delicious East Tyrolean bread.
Back home, I read through the brochure and found an interview with the director, Mr. Krobath. It was interesting to read about his background. Funnily enough, he spent quite an amount of his childhood at the mountain Grossglockner together with his parents.
I was invited by Gradonna Mountain Resort, yet my opinion is as always my own. We want to thank the entire team of the resort for everything. We enjoyed our stay a lot and I can only highly recommend staying here once in your life (and you will come back as many other guests do too...) It's a place that you'll keep in your heart.