If you’re thinking about where to go for your summer holiday, you may want to put a stay in Sölden at the top of your list. The Alpine resort in the Ötztal Valley, in the Austrian state of Tyrol, is known as a top ski resort, but it’s also definitely worth a visit in the warmer months.
Flying into Innsbruck on our first mountain holiday with our childen, aged 12 and nine, we found ourselves marvelling at the spectacular views while still on the tarmac.
It was a 40-minute taxi ride to our hotel: Das Central – the only five-star hotel in the area – whose tagline is ‘Alpine. Luxury. Life’.
It was luxurious, but without being stuffy. The hotel, the biggest in Sölden and known for its strong food and wine philosophy, has 125 individually decorated rooms and suites.
We had a spacious deluxe family suite set over two floors, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room.
We felt very at home – not that we were in it much, for there was plenty to do before relaxing in the hotel’s swimming pool and its 10 saunas and steam rooms.
The staff were attentive, but unobtrusive. The hotel general manager, Angelika Falkner, took the time to introduce herself to each table at dinner, which was a lovely touch.
Speaking of food, we mostly dined in the Feinspitz, which offers a nightly five-course gourmet menu, starting with seasonal salads. The attention to detail was remarkable and the choices seemed endless; alongside the meats, there were vegetarian and local fish options each night.
With such variety and exquisite plating, our children generally eschewed the kids’ menu. Each night, they declared: “This is the best dessert ever!” – until the next.
Away from the eating, this was also an active break. Area 47 – named because of its longitude position – is the largest outdoor adventure park in Austria. A half-hour drive away (and with discounted tickets for hotel guests, and cabins you can stay in), it is perfect for thrill seekers.
There are 35 sports to practise, Europe’s only deep-water solo climbing wall with a water landing, as well as Austria’s highest diving platform at 27.5 metres. You can rent motorbikes, paraglide, abseil, swim, canyon, tour caves and race in an indoor track and much, much more.
Our kids spent a morning at the water area, where the oldest headed straight for the blob (a huge airbag that launches you into the water) and the vertiginous waterslide.
After lunch, we did a rafting tour with another family. All the kids loved jumping into the water, safely overseen by our guide.
The next day, we took the cable car up the mountain to the Mittelstation and then followed the map through to the Marendzeit for some truly stunning views.
After a fortifying lunch at the Gampe Thaya inn (where our kids discovered they like goats’ cheese!), we hiked down the forest trail, where the only sounds were the cowbells and the river.
Dinner was at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, the 2-Toque Ötzaler Stube. The rustic cabin-style dining room is the oldest part of the hotel and has a warm, intimate ambience. The food is forward-thinking and typically local.
Among other exotic morsels – again, all beautifully plated – we savoured arctic char and turbot, although special mention has to go to the smorgasbord of dessert: a wooden platter that included a sweetie dispenser, blueberry cake, white chocolate praline with raspberry, elderflower with sorrel jelly and playing cards made of white chocolate. A month’s calories in five minutes!
Another spectacular meal was had at ice Q, the Das Central-owned gourmet restaurant that doubled up as the Hoffler Klinik in the James Bond film Spectre.
At the top of the Gaislachkogl Mountain, 3,000 metres above sea level and reached by two cable cars, we watched the clouds obscure the alpine peaks only to reveal them again in all their glory five minutes later. My husband might have pretended to be a spy while enjoying his strudel.
The 007 Elements cinematic installation is a must for Bond fans, taking the visitor on a journey through nine galleries spanning the history of the films and brand, with a behind-the-scenes look at Spectre’s mountain chase sequence.
The lure of the scenery necessitated a guided hike (free for Das Central guests). Wolfgang Santer, a nature park guide, taught us about the different leaves and trees, and made the trip more fun. We followed the Mooser Steg water trail, and lay in wooden hammocks, ate wild strawberries and learned about historic irrigation techniques.
But there was more food, this time cooked by yours truly in a fondue, in the Das Central wine cellar: with more than 30,000 bottles, it’s the largest in the country.
We couldn’t leave Bike Republic Sölden without a ride. Roland Falkner of RideOn bike school took us to Längenfeld (home to the Aqua Dome, one of Europe’s largest thermal spas) along the stunning Ötztal Cycle Trail, which, thankfully, was mostly gentle.
There’s a synaogogue in Innsbruck, the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde für Tirol und Vorarlberg, dedicated in 1993 and built on the site of the shul destroyed during Kristallnacht.
It was a wonderfully active holiday, one we all loved and which the returning guests clearly did as well.
Alex’s travel tips
Alex and family stayed at Das Central, where double rooms cost from €153 (£133) per person per night, based on two sharing, half-board.
All guests receive the Ötztal Premium Card.
Tour guide Wolfgang Santer: email@example.com