The Aqua-Dome, Austria
Whilst surfing the net looking for unusual getaway destinations I was targeted with a Facebook ad for what looked like a villain's lair from a James Bond movie. The Aqua-Dome is situated in a picturesque valley in Langenfeld, Austria and would be the perfect location to avoid the watchful eyes of MI6.
I decided immediately that we needed go here and began watching the various promotional videos and searching for prices - to my horror! For a 4 night stay, half board in the winter season the Aqua-Dome will set you back around £300 a night for a standard room with a mountain view. Reluctantly I booked through booking.com and parted with my deposit...
Where is the Aqua-Dome and how to get there?
There are several ways to get to the Aqua-Dome depending on when you plan to arrive or how much time you have. The most local airport is located in Innsbruck approximately 1 hour by car or taxi, there's a train service that will take closer to 2 hours and will still require a short taxi ride to reach the resort. The downside of flying into Innsbruck is that there are a limited number of flights per week meaning it can be difficult to make the most of your stay.
Our tip: Fly into Munich and hire a rental car for the 3 hour drive through the stunning Austrian mountains. Munich airport has a far greater capacity and so there are more flight options plus there are a number of familiar car rental agencies at the airport including Sixt and Enterprise, who make it easy to find your car using allocated parking. We hired a brand new Audi A4 convertible with unlimited mileage for €800.00 (5 days) but you can get an average hatchback for around €250.00. One word or warning - make sure the attendant has switched the satellite navigation over to English BEFORE you walk to the car!
The Resort: Depending on what package you opt for you'll get a room in the 4 star hotel, obviously they're all stunning! The standard room didn't disappoint and comes complete with his/her robes, flip flops and your entry to the resort. Watch out for minibar prices as they are fairly expensive.
Our tip: The concierge will more likely offer you a tour of the facility - say yes! It took us some time to work out how everything worked and where it all was! If driving to the resort you'll be able to park in a secure underground facility, though we did find that it filled up very quickly.
When checking in you'll be given a magnetic wrist band that grants you access to all of the spa facilities, which is a great idea. There's a tunnel in the basement that leads you under the hotel to the Spa, which is an experience in itself. The Aqua-Dome is open to the general public (those who can afford it) until 7pm daily, which we found a little overwhelming as there were lots of families and small children in the pools.
Escape: The Aqua-Dome's two upper floors house all of the Spa treatment areas and some additional quiet areas for quests only - but be warned! The first floor is nude only, expect to be told off by the staff if you're caught in the pools wearing a bathing suit. Despite this there are some quiet sanctuary's with outdoor Jacuzzi's and a bar where you can relax the day away in style - our only criticism of this floor was the lack of poolside service but perhaps we're expecting too much?
Catering: At €300 a night we had very high expectations and the Aqua-Dome didn't disappoint. Throughout your stay you'll be allocated the same table which is prepared for 8am daily and the service was exceptional. Choose from a huge range of buffet foods, which included a European interpretation of an English breakfast along with meats, pastries, fresh fruit and various yogurts.
Dinner alternated daily between a large buffet selection with table service for starters/deserts to an 'A La Carte' menu other nights. The wine selection was very good - though fairly pricey, so be careful what you order. Overall the Aqua-Dome's catering facilities were exceptional and the food was delicious, we chose to eat lunch out most days, there are several nice restaurants in the local village though most speak very little English. Alternatively you can grab a sandwich or snack at the bar inside the Spa itself if you wish.
Evenings: Are the times when you realise why you've gone all the way to the Aqua-Dome, after 7pm the facilities are open to guests only until mid-night. Relax outside under the stars in one of the three large heated pools and listen to some soothing music - most nights we were sharing the pools with 2/3 other couples and the mood was amazingly chilled. The Aqua-Dome's three outdoor pools each have their own personality one being salt water (our favorite) one containing sulphur and one fresh water pool. Sitting with a glass of wine under the stars with mountains either side is the absolute epitome of relaxation and we'd recommend it to anyone!
What else is there to do locally?
Walking distance: There's a nice walking trail approximately 2-3 miles long that takes leads to a steel suspended bridge (Hangebrook Bridge) overlooking the valley, which is visible to the rear of the Aqua-Dome. We walked this in the rain but still found the trail great fun, allow about 3-4 hours to take it all in.
Starting co-ordinates: 47.072860, 10.972834, (view on our map) the trail parallels a small river called Grieser Landesstrabe uphill for sometime before it brings you to a small farm with a stunning Chapel. Continue past this and uphill towards the steel bridge, where you'll have the opportunity to take some stunning pictures of the valley. Check out the highlights in the video above.
A short drive: There are several other walking trails and sites to see locally that include the waterfalls in High Tauern National Park, you can walk the trail in a day and climb the falls on a guided tour if you're feeling energetic (view our map).
A day out: Alpenzoo, Innsbruck is a quaint little zoo on a hillside in the city - its around an hours drive but can be a little tricky to find. Entry will cost you €11 each and you'll need to pay for parking. The zoo takes around 3-4 hours to walk around and is a great day out, it is located next to the city train which shuttles tourists/locals back and forth from Innsbruck. If like us you're curious about reaching to top of the mountain range above Innsbruck you'll need to dig deep! The train will take you one more stop up the mountain where you'll need to take a series of 2 cable cars at a total cost of nearly €100 each! The journey will take you about 20 minutes and at each stop there are facilities and a small catering service (the coffee is excellent). The summit Hafelekar just above Skiverleih-Skischule Seegrube-Hungerburg am Berghotel is stunning at just over 2300m.
Before you go home: Why not take a slight detour on your way back to Munich airport and visiting Kolbensattel for a few rides on their Alpine Roller-coaster and Toboggan. Depending on the season prices for 3 goes on either/or are around €30, when we arrived the whole park was completely empty and was great fun.
Check out a similar toboggan run we reviewed in Switzerland in 2018.