Escape to the great outdoors, in the Austrian Tirol

With lockdown measures easing across the UK and beyond, plus flights to Innsbruck resuming on 1 August 2020 (with easyJet) it will be the perfect time to escape to the great outdoors in the Austrian Tirol

Although the Austrian Tirol is renowned for its wide range of ski resorts, the region can often be overlooked during the summer. However, the warmer months are ideal for a quiet, relaxing and healthy break surrounded by colourful wildflowers, lush meadows and magnificent peaks. 

Towards the beginning of the pandemic, the BBC reported that air pollution and CO2 fell rapidly as the virus spread. For example, London’s air pollution levels were down by almost 60%.   

However, even before COVID-19, the environment – and how to protect it – was becoming an ever-bigger topic, with travellers thinking more about conservation, organic foods and sustainability when booking holidays. 

With its green, family-friendly core values, a stay at Grafenast Bio Hotel is the perfect solution. Found at an elevation of 1,300 metres in the village of Pillberg (less than 40 minutes’ drive from Innsbruck) it is the ultimate rural retreat; guests can rid themselves of the stresses of the past months and sink into an oasis of calm. 

The owner, Peter Unterlechner, describes his hotel as the perfect place to “slow down”. He continues: “It goes down to the values and the philosophy of the people behind this special place; it’s down to the way it’s run. It’s about preserving and protecting the place we love the most. This is an approach that cannot be marketed to guests, but this caring attitude is our biggest gift”.  

Having been in the family for three generations, the Grafenast has won several awards for sustainability, is now a recognised Bio Hotel (hosts with the highest ecological demands) and the restaurant has been awarded a Green Toque (an Austrian certificate for award-winning locally-sourced vegetarian and vegan cuisine). 

As well as delicious food, guests can also expect TV-free rooms, minimal wireless internet (service is provided in one room), a solar-heated outdoor pool, a meditation room, Panorama Spa and hiking paths from the front door. Basically, a place to leave any worries behind… 

Always keen to stay ahead of the trend, Peter Unterlechner is continually looking at ways to improve the sustainable approach, from offsetting carbon emissions by using renewable energy sources and promoting public transport whenever possible, to eco-conscious composting and recycling programmes. He says: “Whereas in most hotels, guests will leave a carbon footprint of up to 12 kg of CO2 per person per night, the impact of guests at the Grafenast [per night] is a mere 3.4 kg. What’s more, we compensate our remaining emissions by supporting an Amazon reforestation project”.