Austria’s Aqua Dome wellness hotel is just the ticket after a day of skiing at nearby Sölden or Obergurgl/Hochgurgl. The hotel spa’s indoor and outdoor thermal pools, steam rooms, and saunas soothe aching quads, and booking half-board ensures being well fueled before hitting the slopes and well satiated afterward.

As daylight fades, the lightshow begins at the outdoor thermal pools at the Aqua Dome wellness hotel.

Guests staying at the Aqua Dome wellness hotel have exclusive access to Spa 3000, a spa within the spa. It’s a nice retreat after skiing the Tyrolean Alps. (credit: Aqua Dome Wellness Hotel)

Bond meets Ötzi in Austria’s Ötztal Valley

Opened in 2004 and enlarged in 2013, the four-star superior Aqua Dome wellness hotel is sited in Längenfeld in the Ötztal valley. Both James Bond—Daniel Craig in Spectre—and Ötzi, a circa 3300 B.C. mummy, have local ties. Some of the scenes in the Bond flick Spectre were filmed at Sölden, and the on-mountain, interactive 007 Elements cinematic experience brings the flick to life. Hikers discovered Ötzi, the Tyrolean Iceman, in an ice pocket here in 1991.

A nice plus: Guests have exclusive access to Spa 3000, a spa within the spa.

Architecturally, the Aqua Dome’s design leans James Bond futuristic but takes its cue from its Ötztal Alps setting, and on a frigid winter evening, it’s possible to channel Ötzi, when cavorting in the pools. Steam rises from flying-saucer pools joined by a glass-paned, conical structure, and the glass-walled spa building echoes the sharp angles of the peaks surrounding it. Inside, the materials and design reflect the natural landscape, with plentiful stone and wood as well as big windows to enjoy the alpine views.

The hotel, with 200 rooms and suites, dials down the futuristic to an easy-on-the-eyes alpine décor that emphasizes comfort while delivering the expected amenities. Rooms, which range from spacious doubles to family suites are bright and welcoming, with neutral tones, plentiful wood and stone, and red accents. All have balconies or terraces, minibars stocked with nonalcoholic drinks, and fresh fruit; some have fireplaces. In-room amenities include robes, sandals, towels, and a bag for use in the spa. A nice plus: Guests have exclusive access to Spa 3000, a spa within the spa.

Take the thermal waters at the Aqua Dome hotel

Indulge in the thermal waters in both indoor and outdoor spas at the Aqua Dome. (credit: Aqua Dome wellness hotel)

Take the waters at the Aqua Dome wellness hotel

People have been taking the healing, mineral waters here since the 16th century. One can flow with the current from one of two indoor pools with waterfalls and other features to the outdoor pools, where water temperatures range from 93 to 97 degrees. Alas, one has to get out of one outdoor pool to get to the next, and that can be quite chilly and slippery. Consider it an Ötzi experience. The 25-meter pool, in which water temps hover between 77-79 degrees, appeals to lap swimmers.

The sprawling Aqua Dome spa offers both textile-free (many Europeans believe that sweating and bathing au natural is healthier) and bathing suit-clothed areas, including Spa 3000. Both have steam rooms, pools, and relaxation areas. When hungry, head to the restaurant; if thirsty, belly up to the bar. Plan ahead to enjoy a spa treatment, whether a classic massage or facial or a regional specialty, such as Ötztal sheep’s wool cocooning or a Tyrolean honey massage.

The half-board plan includes a generous breakfast spread with hot stations and a five-course dinner or a themed buffet.

The spa’s fitness area—ideal for those not skiing—includes Cybex strength- and endurance-training equipment, as well as Intensic machines for back training and the Easy Torque diagnostic system. Classes and personal training also are available.

One doesn’t go hungry at the Aqua Dome hotel. The half-board plan includes a generous breakfast spread with hot stations and a five-course dinner or a themed buffet. Dinner always includes a choice of soups, salad bar, cheeses, ice cream, and fruit. Most ingredients are sourced locally, and everything is expertly prepared.

The hotel’s public areas also include an inviting living room and a spacious bar and lounge, with an adjacent smoking room.

Austria’s Sölden and Obergurgl/Hochgurgl alpine areas offer seemingly endless above-treeline skiing serviced by high-speed lifts. Both also offer intriguing on-mountain museums. (credit: Hilary Nangle)

Sölden & Obergurgl/Hochgurgl: skiing, motorcycles, spies

A free, winter bus service connects the hotel to the ski region, and you can buy tix as well as rent equipment in the hotel. Opt for the Ötztal Super Pass, which covers 90 mountain lifts and six ski areas, including both Sölden and Obergurgl/Hochgurg. From Sölden, buses connect to Obergurgl/Hochgurgl.

Dine inside or on the deck at the Top Mountain Crosspoint restaurant.

Pair lunch with a visit to the Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum on Hochgurgl. (credit: Hilary Nangle)

At Hochgurgl, the highest resort in the Alps, head to the Top Mountain Crosspoint complex, sited at the apex of the pass connecting Tirol’s Ötztal Valley to Italy’s South Tyrol. The restaurant specializes in scratch-made Austrian and Italian fare created from local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Hint: The pizzas alone are worth the trip.

Look around: Antique motorcycles accent the restaurant’s contemporary alpine-chic décor. No surprise, since the paved Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road over the pass is especially popular with motorcyclists. What is a surprise is the Motorcycle Museum here. Opened in 2016, this private museum houses more than 230 classic motorcycles from more than 100 manufacturers, along with antique cars, and schedules special exhibitions. Even if you have no interest in motorcycles, it’s worth viewing.

Head to Ice-Q for lunch and afterward visit the 007 Elements museum dedicated to James Bond.

Bond, James Bond. Don’t miss the 007 Elements on-mountain museum at Sölden. (credit: Hilary Nangle)

In Sölden, Ötzi meets Bond at Ice Q, the architecturally stunning, glass-walled restaurant built on permafrost at the Gaislachkogl gondola summit. In Spectre, this was the clinic, where evil plans were created. Follow in Bond’s footsteps with lunch. Reserve the Chef’s Table, which includes a window table, glass of Champagne, and four-course menu.

After dining, visit the engaging and interactive adjacent 007 Elements cinematic installation. Before descending by skis or gondola, return to the Ice Q Wine & Tapas Lounge and savor the sunset, along with a glass of wine or Champagne.

Or given the Bond connection, perhaps a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.

Alpine sunsets in Austria's Tyrol are mesmerizing.

Before descending by skis or gondola, pair watching the sunset with a cocktail at Ice Q. (credit: Hilary Nangle)

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • A full-service hotel with a sprawling, well-designed spa known for its thermal waters.
  • Hotel guests at the Aqua Dome wellness hotel have exclusive access to Spa 3000, a spa within the spa.
  • Gondola access to the Ice Q restaurant and 007 Elements experience on Sölden, allowing non-skiers to experience both and skiers who desire, another way down.
  • Road and gondola access to Top Mountain Crosspoint on Obergurgl/Hochgurgl.
  • Excellent, seemingly endless, above-treeline skiing on serviced by high-speed lifts.

Take note

  • While one can follow a map and signage on the mountains, hiring an instructor/guide can make not only navigating the huge Austrian areas easier but also ensure you experience the best conditions consitent with your ability.
  • One sauna section of the Aqua Dome spa requires guests to go au natural, but if you don’t want to parade in your birthday suit, the rest of the spa, including Spa 3000, requires guests to wear swimsuits or other appropriate clothing.
  • The hotel offers a half-board option, which makes breakfast and dinner easy, especially when you’re eager to start the day or too tired to go out at the end of it.
  • If you have issues with altitude, ski the lower areas of both Sölden and Obergurgl/Hochgurgl.



The writer was a guest of the Austria Tourist Office.


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