Engel Ayurpura: Experiencing The Dolomites’ First Ayurvedic Hotel

By Nicola Venning

2 months ago

Nicola Venning retreats to the South Tyrol

Nicola Venning jets off to the Dolomites, where Engel Ayurpura’s new Ayurvedic wellness offering provides a health haven.

Read the C&TH Guide to Responsible Tourism

Inside Engel Ayurpura, An Italian Ayurvedic Hotel

Exterior of Hotel Engel Ayurpura

© Tiberio Sorvillo

My head tilts back and warm herbal oil drips gently onto my forehead before slinking onto my hair and covering it completely. Ultimately, a litre of medicated oil is slowly poured over my head. If that sounds messy and unpleasant, it’s not. I am enjoying Shirodhara, a classic Ayurvedic treatment which encourages relaxation and is the highlight (so far) of my stay at Engel Ayurpura, the only Ayurvedic hotel in the Dolomites.

Recently opened, Engel Ayurpura is the wellness offspring of the adjacent Engel & Gourmet spa hotel which has, in one form or another, been in the same family for over five generations – so they know what they’re doing.

I am here for a three and a half day introduction to Ayurveda, keen to feel healthier and even more keen, frankly, to lose some weight. Most detox courses take seven to 10 days, so I have started a few days early at home by cutting out alcohol and meat, painfully reducing my caffeine intake and upping my consumption of vegetable soup.

My day begins with a consultation with Dr Swami Nath Mishra, the hotel’s ayurvedic expert. By simply reading my pulse, he ascertains that my colon and indigestion could be functioning better and outlines a bespoke Ayurvedic treatment which will improve both and expel toxins caused by poor eating habits and too many hours snacking over a computer.

Ayurveda, which originated from India more than 3,000 years ago, is a holistic approach to health and aims to rebalance and maintain mind and body through a broadly vegetarian diet, yoga and meditation.

A treatment at Hotel Engel Ayurpura

© Tiberio Sorvillo

The next morning starts with herbal tea for the liver, made from one of the (boiling) hot water stations in the corridors of the 15 room hotel. This is followed by gentle yoga or a plunge in the azure outdoor, bath-warm, salt water pool. Swimming through a cloud of steam on a bright winter’s morning with a majestic snow-capped mountain looming above me is almost a cure in itself. Breakfast follows with more herbal tea (there is no coffee or dairy here) and turmeric-infused porridge with stewed fruit or a light chicken broth. Ever keen, I try both and quickly realise I definitely prefer the porridge.

Lunch and dinner are tailored to our specific needs and most of the meals are vegetarian: for my detox and rebalance, I am given easily digestible dishes such as celery cream soup, pineapple and saffron rice, carrot flan (but no pastry) and curried parsnip root with a vegan mayonnaise. All the meals are unfailingly delicious and surprisingly filling. Frankly, my goal of losing weight looks more and more unlikely. I can have tea with my meal if I must, though my treatment recommends no drinking immediately before, after or during meals. And definitely no alcohol, which is just as well as there isn’t a bar.

Differing treatments are arranged over two hours each day. As well as classic detox rub massages, I have Nabhi Basti, a treatment for my stomach in which a ring made of chickpea paste is placed around my naval which is then filled with warm oil. It sits like a warm puddle on my tummy – hopefully helping my digestion – and is surprisingly soothing. My favourite treatment is Marma Abhyanga which, similar to acupuncture, applies pressure at Marma points around the body to release tension and improve lymph flow. I have never felt more relaxed, and afterwards head to the Bio sauna by the pool, although I could use the smaller one in my (very large and airy) room.

The restaurant with views over the Dolomites

The restaurant © Tiberio Sorvillo

Gentle walks and fresh air are encouraged and, given the stunning alpine scenery, it’s a very pleasant stroll across the hillside through the woods and into the town centre: Nova Levante or Welschnofen, depending on whether you’re Italian or German. The village is also a ski resort, so it’s a quick cable car ride up the local mountain, Rosengarten. Although skiing is definitely not part of the programme (too energetic), the splendid alpine views more than make up for it.

All guests – who look like wealthy business women, ladies of leisure and retired couples – are given free local bus passes so, next day, I use mine to take the 10 minute journey to frozen Lake Carezza. The stroll around it through hushed snow-covered spruce forest is sublime. Or it would be, if it weren’t for my headaches. The treatment and caffeine withdrawal are beginning to kick in, and the day is clouded with headaches, aches in my legs and a general weariness.

Fortunately there is a solution: the lovely hotel receptionist gives me a turmeric tablet which soon sorts the headaches, and I flop in one of the two relaxation rooms – a quiet, comfy haven with stretch-out and chill sofas, as well as infra-red warming wooden recliners. It does wonders for my legs but nothing for my attention: I’m asleep within minutes.

Day beds at Hotel Engel Ayurpura

Day beds © Tiberio Sorvillo

But then Engel Ayurpura is that sort of place. The décor is all soothing taupes and creams with light wooden floors and acres of glass. Wherever you turn, there are stunning, often snow-capped mountain views. A gentle aroma of pine (the hotel’s bespoke perfume) permeates the rooms and relaxation is encouraged. In fact, most people seem to be in bed by 9pm. Besides promoting health and rest the Ayruvedic way, the hotel, which is pleasantly warm throughout, is also energy efficient and aims to be as sustainable as possible. So if travelling to Italy for a short break seems environmentally irresponsible, take heart: SkyAlps, the airline which flies into Bolzano (only a half-hour’s drive away) uses small planes (Dash DHC-8 Q400) which save up to 50 percent in emissions compared to other jets and are quieter.

The day of my departure, the fourth day (but the seventh since I started practicing at home), I wake feeling surprisingly refreshed and invigorated. The headaches have gone, I have no aches and have rarely felt so clear-headed. My skin glows and best of all, I have lost two pounds in weight. I wish I were staying a little longer.


Double rooms at Engel Ayurpura start from €230 per person per night. The approaching Ayurveda four day programme starts from €840 per person. ayurpura.hotel-engel.com

Sky Alps operate twice-weekly from London Gatwick to Bolzano, from £184 each way. SkyAlps.com

A round-trip flight from London to Bolzano emits 152kg of CO2e. ecollectivecarbon.com

Black Eats Festival