Das Ronacher Therme & Spa Resort
In the heart of Austria’s Nockberg Mountains, at the source of a thermal spring, sits Das Ronacher Therme & Spa Resort, a heavenly oasis of calm centred around its healing waters. It’s the place to reenergise your body and your soul, to fully relax and to enjoy a taste of luxury. With an impressive spa and relaxation area covering 4,500m2, it’s impossible not to come away feeling utterly refreshed.
The Nockberg Mountains are a UNESCO protected area, full of mesmerising lakes, rolling hills and craggy mountains. It’s in the lesser known region of Carinthia, close to the borders of Italy and Slovenia. The sun shines here more than anywhere else in Austria and I soon come to realise that it’s the ideal setting for an exceptional property like Das Ronacher.
My Junior Suite room has a prime view from its spacious balcony over the thermal pool to the tree-covered mountains ahead. The comfy bed with soft linens is exactly what is needed to complete the full day of relaxation and the ideal spot for your body to renew each night.
Meals are enjoyed on the sun-trapped terrace, in the casual bar or the more formal dining hall. I’m on a base fasting programme, designed to clean both the body and soul. It is a detox consisting of fruit, vegetables, salad, fresh seedlings and nuts as the only food intake, which results in a lot of salads and soups.
The idea is to neutralise the acids in your body so that you feel more energetic as well as to help your body to feel fitter, your skin clearer and connective tissues stronger. In combination with treatments, even as a vegan, I felt a big difference through this programme and came away feeling completely revitalised.
Ten minutes after my arrival, it’s time for my first treatment - a 30-minute Ayurvedic massage designed to relax both body and mind. And it fully succeeded in doing both of these. And with this began my time spent moving from appointment to appointment in my fluffy white robe and 'I heart Ronacher' slippers.
The thermal spring at Bad Kleinkirchheim has been famous as a healing spring since the middle ages when people came on pilgrimages to cure themselves with the water. Entering the earth at the top of Brunnach Mountain, the water travels through the earth gathering minerals from the rocks it passes through, until it reaches its source at St Katherin’s Crypt.
On arrival, the water has a natural temperature of 36 degrees celsius, and is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Today the water is believed to help with a wide range of conditions; to stabilise the circulation, strengthen connective tissues & blood vessels, help with rheumatic complaints and healing after operations, accidents and infectious diseases, while more generally it is believed to strengthen the immune system. These waters can be enjoyed in any of the five thermal pools at Das Ronacher as well as as drinking water.
Light exercise is an important aspect of the programme and at Das Ronacher this is under the control of Philipp, who has recently arrived from a few years living in the Peruvian Amazon. His passion for what he does pours into all of his activities as he takes care to make your Das Ronacher the most special experience it can be.
My first morning is scheduled as BeBoard in the indoor thermal pool. This looks a lot easier than it is as I balance my way through a fitness/yoga-style session. While the ropes are tied to either end of the pool, the board still rocks to your every movement. By the end of the session, through Phil's style of effortless encouragement, I was doing spinning jumps, while somehow staying on the board.
My second morning we take brisk walk through the surrounding hillside, through fields and up and down a waterfall. We stop to apply some Agua de Florida which Phil has brought back from the Amazon, believed to have cleansing and healing powers. I notice the powerful role that water has here, while today I’m not in the water, I’m receiving its benefits in another way.
The following day is aqua cycling, just a twenty minute session..easy! Reality: not so. The minerals in the water make movement that little bit more strenuous plus we barely stay seated on the bike. It’s all balancing or hanging with lots of fast spinning in between.
After this, we take the cable car from St Oswald up to Brunnach Mountain, 2,100m high. This area is known to have 1,900 hours of sunshine each year, the most in all of Austria, and this day is a typically sunny one. It is also known for its fir trees which absorb pollution making this some of the freshest air in the whole country.
From here we can see across to the mountains of Italy and Slovenia as well as Grossglockner, the tallest mountain in Austria. We walk along the rim, coming eventually to pyramids of stones, which is a gesture of giving back energy to our earth to show gratitude for what we receive every day, a gesture I very happily took part in.
Lunch this day is at the top of the mountain at the Nock In that has unbeatable panoramic views from its terrace where you can enjoy your food in the warm Austrian autumnal sun.
Alongside this, my daily schedule is full of treatments. Erika, the Spa Manager, whisks me off for my first body detox. I arrive with no idea of what is to happen and leave amazed at the amount of acids and waste products that have left my body through the soles of my feet. After two more sessions, the water is visibly clearer and I can see that in combination with the fasting, there is less colour in the water and I’m feeling much better.
Later, it's Cellgym, altitude training carried out while laying down rather than actually in the gym. Oxidative stress is experienced for five minutes as your body is put under conditions similar to being at heights up to 4,500m, before you then experience three minutes of higher than normal oxygen levels in order to regenerate cells that aren't working efficiently in producing energy. This is repeated five times while I lay back, the easiest work out I’ve every done with noticeable improvements in my fitness by the end.
During the week, I take three alkaline baths, designed to draw out toxins in the body, an external detox for the body. On top of this, there’s nothing more relaxing than half an hour in the bath watching the world through the floor to ceiling windows.
Shiatsu massage is carried out twice, using touch, comfortable pressure and manipulative techniques to adjust the body’s physical structure and balance its energy flow. This is a deeply relaxing experience that can be used to alleviate stress and illness. In me, it definitely left me feeling extremely calm, it’s no wonder I had some of the best sleeps of my life at Das Ronacher.
There are many walks to discover the local area. Two cable cars takes you to the top of Kaiserburg, where a further 30-minute walk brings you to what feels like the top of Austria. It’s another spot with 360-degrees of breathtaking views.
For my final morning, we go for another walk. As I’m preparing to go back to the city, we do some meditative exercises before connecting to Mother Earth and giving thanks for the energy that she has given me during my stay. At the end of the walk, we take off our shoes and socks and go into the water. With the cold I lasted maximum 20 seconds but more likely 10 and come away feeling quite disappointed. But in actual fact, I’ve learnt so much from my time being at Das Ronacher that I can take back to improve my city life.
Then, after four blissful nights, it’s time to leave Das Ronacher. Although I didn’t arrive in bad shape, I leave feeling completely revitalised in both body and mind. I’m grateful for spending four days in nature and filling my lungs with the freshest Austrian air and for being able to experience the special healing waters. But most of all, I’m looking forward to coming back to Austria’s sunniest corner and to seeing it covered in snow.