Article and photos by Josette King
My suite overlooked the river and the mountain
I recently came upon Shangri La, crash landing in a lost Himalayan valley not required. My own Utopian mountain paradise was much more readily accessible. Nestled in a pristine valley between the Grossglockner (the highest Alpine peak in Austria) and the Dolomites, the tiny medieval town of Lienz was only a few hours away from Vienna, or Venice. Just a few minutes walk from the center of town along the crystalline waters of the Isel River, the last glacial stream in the Alps, the Grandhotel Lienz was a cocoon of luxury where time and the aging process felt suspended. Although I visited during an exceptionally frigid winter spell, any climactic or indeed, any exterior world consideration faded into irrelevance the instant I entered the lovely white stone mansion-like property.
The inclement weather was a welcome opportunity to linger longer in front of the dancing fire in the lounge; or enjoy the wintery views and crisp mountain air while dreamily floating around the huge heated outdoor whirlpool. What I liked best of all was to lose myself in the stunning two-level spa, with its multiple saunas and steam rooms, serene relaxation lounge and sophisticated treatment rooms where a staff of expert therapists offered a full range of superb massages and spa treatments.
Orangerie dining room
The gourmet restaurant, with its sumptuous breakfasts and imaginative daily degustation dinner menu was further enticement never to leave the premises. As was my exquisite suite with its vases filled with fresh flowers, Nespresso coffee machine, and the oversize chaise thoughtfully angled to offer an equally enjoyable perspective of the mountain and the large LCD television screen.
Lounge and bar
For those less slothfully inclined, Lienz was rich in natural and historical resources, with a 13th century castle just at the edge of town, and well preserved frescoes within its ancient churches. For the hardier souls, superb skiing awaited, with lifts right in the center of town to transport them up to the top of well-groomed, uncrowded slopes. Looking at the spectacular vistas that surrounded the area, it was easy to understand that this was prime four-season vacationing country, and a bucolic retreat where I would enjoy returning any season of the year.