The Dolomites, Italy’s unofficial adventure capital, are home to alps so stunning they were declared a UNESCO site. While the mountains are a favourite destination for alpine activities like skiing and hiking, the northern Italian region is also one of Europe’s best-kept spa secrets. For centuries, Bolzano (the entry point to the region via train) has been known for its mineral-rich natural springs, which fill historic bathhouses and are channelled into spa hotels. The farming culture has also ritualized hay baths (soaking in a tub of medicinal herbs, wildflowers, and heated hay), which local spas still offer in a modernized form.
Over the past few years, new hotels and spas have helped cement the region’s reputation as a European wellness destination with designs similar to Scandinavian minimalist chic. Two of these are the recently rechristened Como Alpina Dolomites and Forestis, the sustainable hideaway that feels as if it’s floating in the surrounding forest.
Como Alpina Dolomites is perched on one of Europe’s highest plateaus and offers ski-in, ski-out access to the Dolomiti Superski carousel, which stretches across three Italian provinces and encompasses the largest network of lifts and slopes on the planet. The Singapore-based Como group’s wellness-focused properties range from private islands in the Caribbean to the Himalayas, including Como Shambhala on the Alpe di Siusi, which offers a panoramic indoor-outdoor pool framing the saw-toothed peaks, honey body scrubs, and a Finnish sauna with afternoon Aufguss, a ceremonial dance with essential oils and ice balls melted over hot coals.
Cross the valley to Hotel Gardena Grödnerhof, owned by the local Bernardi family for three generations, to see how a century-old guest house has transformed into the first five-star property in the village of Ortisei—complete with a 12-seat Michelin-starred restaurant, Anna Stuben. The contemporary three-storey spa mixes Ayurvedic approaches developed in India more than 3,000 years ago with an alpine-chic aesthetic (rustic wood panels and stone around the centrepiece chandelier-crowned pool) and an array of amenities ranging from an aromatic steam bath to a biosauna and cold-water pool.
On the edge of the Dolomites, is the Forestis, a former sanatorium built for Austrian aristocrats in 1912 and now converted to an eco-hideaway. At an altitude of 1,800 metres, the hotel was inspired by the local landscape, with three towers of suites designed to resemble tree trunks, rooms outfitted entirely in local wood, a rooftop bar intended to give the impression of a mountain summit, and a culinary menu revolving around forest cuisine and foraging. The hotel’s spring water, from one of Europe’s purest springs, is naturally filtered by dolomite rock, foraged finds from the meadows are preserved, dried, or infused in syrups for cocktails, and drinks take a cue from the Celts, who used essences from the forests like herbs, bark, and scrub in their rituals, which form the basis for Forestis’s bar menu.
Dolomite-filtered water also fills the stone-lined pool, and spa treatments are designed around the surrounding trees: mountain pine, spruce, larch, and Swiss stone pine. Days are punctuated by activities such as sunrise hikes, afternoon sauna sessions, and sound baths, wyda (Celtic yoga), and custom wellness treatments that combine energy flow, healing stones, and tree frequencies designed to rebalance the body the way nature does.