When life gets in the way, escape to the Swiss mountains
Spa Traveller Wellness ‘romance’ correspondents, Claire and Jason, rediscover harmony and balance in the spas of St Luc in the Anniviers valley of Switzerland
Whatever one plans, it’s fairly certain life will get in the way, and that’s when I start searching online for an escape. Nothing too avaricious, but definitely something involving a place where we can unwind and remember why we love each other.
So, it’s serendipity when I get a call to review a spa hotel in St Luc in Switzerland. It nestles in the Valais region and is one of a string of villages and hamlets across the area.
We flew courtesy of Swiss Air to Zurich and once again, this is the airline that pays attention to detail. The check-in was seamless – not a queue in sight, and there was the usual basket of Swiss chocolates proffered as we got off the plane – a small but signature touch.
After a smooth train ride of two hours to Sierre, we were picked up by our driver Michel and taken by taxi to St Luc village in the depth of Val d’Anniviers. The Hotel Bella Tola was the first to open in the Anniviers valley in 1859 and has the coveted status of belonging to the Swiss Historic Hotels family.
The addition of their spa in 2004 was a brilliant idea for this belle époque hotel and its attraction lies in its contemporary design and exclusive treatments.
It’s easy to become swept away by rhetoric in brochures, but this spa offers something that is hard to find: a bespoke experience created by local herbalists who know about the properties of alpine flowers and herbs that grow locally.
The hotel spa’s USP is the ‘Ritual Anniviers’ which is a treatment of 110 minutes and is designed to aid your muscular and joint tensions. As this is an excellent skiing and hiking area, I can see why they’ve included this treatment in their spa experience.
The treatment rooms are beautifully designed and the hotel’s owner, Anne-Francoise Buchs-Favre, has sourced local silver birch wood to grace the walls and create an ambience of all things natural while you receive your massage.
After ten minutes of steam bath to open the pores, and with pine scents to really feel relaxed, you are scrubbed with yarrow flowers. This humble plant used to be seen as a common weed, but it’s becoming known as one of the most healing plants in the repertoire of herbal remedies due to its versatility.
Its Latin name, Achillea millefollium, reflects the tale that it was given to Achilles by the centaur, Chiron, so he could use it on the battlefield. Modern day skiing and hiking is certainly much more amenable than this, but you get the gist that yarrow has properties that sound promising.
After the exfoliating scrub, you are given a body wrap with clay from the nearby glacier of Moiry above Grimentz. Anne-Francoise and her team really do go there with jars and spoons!
Following this, you are massaged with oils containing a combination of sage, thyme or mint.
The after-effect is that sense of simply ‘being’.
You can lie on one of the relaxation beds and take yourself out of your body and into space. Perchance to dream… (well it is a romantic break).
After a wonderful gourmet dinner, I am feeling far too mellow to think further than my feather pillow. As testament to our tranquil state, I want to assure you that Jason snored first (that well-known species of ‘man predictable’). After an elbow nudge (or six) he got the message and was quiet. And me? I went to sleep feeling balanced and whole again. And I remembered why I love him.
This beautiful part of Switzerland hasn’t always been a stranger to British tourists – it was very popular with affluent Victorians. Indeed, the Hotel Weisshorn, perched on its own at over 2,300 metres, was built to accommodate the British to indulge in their newly-invented sport of mountaineering. Whilst the men were out risking life and limb their wives could relax taking in the airs 1km higher than the highest peak back home.
Today, that mix of activity and relaxation has been honed to perfection with skiing, ice climbing and hiking (summer and winter), balanced by boutique spas, fine dining, and wonderful local wines that the Swiss keep to themselves.
Add the clear skies offering that spectacular view of the stars you get at altitude and I’m hard-pushed to think of a more romantic place to spend time with the love of your life.
The ski area has recently seen investment in new lifts and, though compact, the area gives plenty of variety and with trees, craggy peaks and breath-taking views and it does feel special.
The Rhone valley is spread out below and on the horizon you can see all four of Switzerland’s 4k peaks including the unmistakeable Matterhorn. Despite all of this, less than two per cent of visitors come from the UK, making it an exclusive gem.
The spa area was small but perfectly formed. A swimming pool, sauna, steam bath and jet showers were complimented with treatment rooms that were tasteful for both men and women, being furnished with natural woods and linens.
A log fire by the relaxation beds completed the feeling of being part of the family rather than just someone passing through. It was a perfect retreat after a day hiking up a mountain and a great transition before we went for well-earned delicious cocktails.
All images Switzerland Tourism and Valais/Wallis Promotion/Christian Perret
UK to Zurich:
SWISS offers up to 115 weekly flights from London Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester to Zurich.
The fares include all airport taxes: one piece hold luggage and free ski carriage (excluding Economy Light fare).
Fares start from £71* one-way (Economy Light fare) and from £86* one-way (Economy Classic fare)
(*Please note this is a leading fare and is subject to change, availability.Terms and conditions apply.)
Swiss Travel System: www.SwissTravelSystem.com
By road, rail and waterway throughout Switzerland: The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad.
The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination.
Prices are £94 in 2nd class and £151 in 1st class.
Hotel Bella Tola: www.bellatola.ch
Hotel Weisshorn: www.weisshorn.ch
Restaurant Tsape: www.valdanniviers.ch/tourism/restaurant-tsape-chandolin.html