Andrew Harper General Manager Meta Carson just returned from a trip to Bavaria, where she stayed three nights at the iconic Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa, Retreat and Cultural Hideaway, a 162-room resort at the foot of the Wetterstein Mountains, about 60 miles south of Munich. Meta truly cannot stop raving about this luxury property, which was a Grand Awards winner in 2014.
Insider’s Tip: There are many special events at this incredible hotel and experiences you shouldn’t miss. Rarely do I make plans before arriving in a destination, but with so many special cultural events, spa treatments, hikes and culinary choices, you might want to consider booking a few activities or making a handful of reservations before arrival. The evening we arrived we enjoyed a classical music performance in the 100-year-old concert hall featuring Ray Chen, a young, incredibly accomplished musician who has played for the Nobel laureates, the Swedish royal family and at Carnegie Hall.
Overall impressions: I can’t imagine a more perfect hotel stay. This family-owned property is exceptional in many ways, not the least of which is the setting. But rarely do you experience such a beautiful setting (complete with quality sport and hiking programs in the Alps) juxtaposed with Michelin-star dining and big-city experiences offered by such a dynamic cultural program.
You can’t stop thinking about: I enjoyed several spa treatments, but experiencing a Hamam treatment in the authentic Hamam spa (the largest outside Turkey!) was something I will book again on my next visit. You can do either a 90-minute or 120-minute treatment, either of which would be incredible to have upon arrival to help with jet lag. It’s something everyone should experience.
Favorite meals: Anyone who enjoys food and wine will appreciate the offerings at Schloss Elmau, whose culinary director is Mario Corti. We had a beautiful five-course meal at Luce d’Oro prepared by chef Mario Paecke. It included wine pairings selected by chef-sommelier Marie-Helene Krebs and was a singular experience. You also have to try the Tom Yam Goong at Fidelio, the outstanding Thai restaurant located in the main Schloss building. It’s the best I’ve ever had, anywhere.
Favorite restaurant, museum or sightseeing: We arranged for a guided hike of the foothills through the forest around the hotel with Johannes Mikenda, the spa services, yoga and sports director for Schloss Elmau. The walk through the woods and rolling hills, through tiny hamlets and ending at the Partnach Gorge gave us a taste of Bavarian life. Our afternoon ended at the Elmauer Alm, a beautiful alpine cabin where the hotel services hikers and skiers during the year, and where you can host a private event. The hike and the Alm were both spectacular.
Where or what to drink: The wine selection is extensive, as is, of course, the beer selection (it is Germany after all!). However, we relied heavily on the bartenders to create cocktails for us and were never disappointed.
Neighborhood to explore: There was so much for us to do on the property — including simply enjoying the setting — that we didn’t venture out during our stay. However, the hotel has five BMWs available for guests to take exploring should you want to see more of the area. Or if you prefer, you can enjoy a drive with a professional BMW driver.
Day-trip suggestions: Ludwig II, King of Bavaria and creator of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, also built a hunting cabin in the Alps in 1872. Although I did not get a chance to reach Konigshaus am Schachen this visit, it will be my primary reason for returning soon. The cabin is a few hours’ hike from Schloss Elmau, and the views along the way are said to be unforgettable. You can opt to skip the first hour of the hike and instead travel by e-bike to get to the alpine experience even faster!
Surprising fact or tidbit: Schloss Elmau has an extensive kids program that has been designed by age. Although I was not visiting during a time when many families might be on the property, there were no less than 10 activities a day offered by the hotel. I often travel with my parents and children, and with so many direct flights into Munich, I think Schloss Elmau would be the perfect multigenerational family destination.
Brought back/souvenir: The hotel offers 16 colors of bathrobes. I brought one in an amazing fiery-orange color, just so I can remember what it was like to be in this special place.
What to pack: Casual clothes, but layers for all seasons. And really good hiking boots if you are going to take one of the weekly hikes with their guides. However, there are miles and miles of beautiful paths that do not require special footwear (or guides, for that matter).
Anything else? Many times we complimented the management of the hotel on the service of its staff. But really it went beyond service: Each staff member was incredibly personable, and as enthusiastic as we were about our stay. It was as if everyone arrived at this incredible place, whether to visit or work, and we all realized how lucky we all were to experience it together.