Imagine, if you can, a cross between an Austrian mountain hamlet, a five star hotel and a conference resort – all dedicated to world peace and set in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Not easy I know, but I can assure you that the result is something very special indeed.
This unique hybrid is Das Almdorf – a property that is also self-titled as a World Peace Eco-Resort or more simply just as Luxury Chalets & Eco Cottages. This is a collection of some fifty-odd traditional buildings set high in the lovely rounded Nockberge mountains of Carinthia in Austria’s largest UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The original village of 28 buildings was the fantasy of Karl and Isabelle Steiner who, whilst on their own holidays, dreamed of spicing up a traditional cabin holiday without sacrificing the finest in accommodations, food, and service.
They found an idyllic slice of national park land and carefully made an in-depth study of local traditions and techniques before starting construction. The result was a cluster of individual chalets on a wooded mountain slope, that looks over a magnificent Alpine valley. Their attention to detail was so perfect that the little hamlet actually looks like it has been there hundreds of years.
The concept unsurprisingly proved highly successful, so much so that the village has recently been expanded with Prince Alfred of Lichtenstein as the new chairman. They have carefully doubled the number of cabins with further dreams of hosting world leaders for peace and reconciliation summits. There has been the same attention to detail with each pretty chalet handmade and immaculately decorated in a cosy Alpine style.
The luxury concept too has been expanded since the Steiner’s dream. The new cabins are larger and carefully fitted out with every comfort. As well as wifi and big screen satellite TV there are extras like big wooden bath tubs, glass rainforest shower cubicles, log fires, sauna and hot tub. Perhaps the ultimate luxury for wine-lovers, most have their own wine cellar. Older cabins have also had makeovers and also feature luxury bathrooms and extended facilities.
Most cabins are different, take from two to six persons, and regular clients always have their own preferences. Some picking the atmosphere of the older village, whilst others opt for the space in the larger new cabins.
An excellent breakfast is served in your chalet’s own dining room by the friendly staff, who are also on hand throughout the day for any other requirements. Perhaps you might like to have your evening meal served in your cabin or need to request a sleep-inducing herbal pillow from the pillow menu?
There is an admirable holistic approach to the operation with ‘sustainability’ a key concept. The village was built from local pine by Austrian craftsmen and is serviced by heat from a central biomass boiler using responsibly sourced wood chip. The restaurant uses organic and local products whenever possible – the majority of the meat, for example, coming from the Nockberge region, where each individual cow has its own pasture.
Dining is typically in the newer, but traditionally styled, Wirtshaus restaurant although on special occasions, for private events and in peak seasons, the more rustic Gasthaus Fellacher in the old village is also available. The meals we had were superb, the attention to flavour and quality more than matching the care taken in sourcing.
The world smallest establishment is also here. For those times when a private restaurant for two is the only thing that will do, the Holzknechthutte is right on hand – a tiny cabin with one table and a private chef! It also has a view to die for – a big picture window with an astonishing panoramic view across the unspoiled valley below.
Any five star hotel of course also features a spa. Das Almdorf’s is set in to the hillside in the ‘old’ village and occupies three levels of a very cosy cabin. Watching our heads on the low ceilings we were guided down to the lowest level for the signature Herbal Bath treatment which took place in a fabulous log-beamed room lit only by candles. Soaking in big wooden tubs a hot herbal infusion was added from a bubbling vintage cauldron which hung over a crackling log fire. We were treated to a shoulder massage, before moving on to a bed of hay (supplied by the neighbouring farmer) for a foot massage and some quiet relaxation. Heavenly.
In winter it is a great base for skiing. The Turracher Hohe is an excellent, and recently expanded, area within the Reserve and well worth taking several days to explore thoroughly. Falkert is a smaller family-oriented area which also has great open powder slopes when the conditions are right. A little farther Bad Kleinkirchheim is a larger linked area, with lots of good skiing on graded runs with, whisper it, plans afoot to potentially link to the two smaller areas in the future. Fingers crossed.
Apart from skiing, perhaps just relax at your log cabin or take a hike through the Nockberge Biosphere Reserve. In summer there is lots more – activities like biking, lake swimming, climbing and via ferrata make it a dream for active and family holidays. Local towns like Villach and Klagenfurt have fascinating historical centres and cities Ljubljana and Salzburg are also within striking distance.
Carinthia is most definitely an area free of mass tourism – a place where you really can ‘get away from it all’. This is an over-used phrase but here is however entirely appropriate, with Das Almdorf the perfect base. We cannot wait to return.
Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Das Almdorf.