Arriving at San Luis Retreat Hotel & Lodges’ main clubhouse (essentially a humongous timber lodge in the Italian South Tyrol), as soon as that first warm woody inhale hits my system, I can feel the tension flowing from my body. It’s often said that smell is the most powerful sense for evoking emotions, and this is love at first sniff.

Although, turning on the spot to take it all in, San Luis is an absolute feast for the eyes too - from the mighty wood rafters criss-crossing high above, to the soul-pleasing geometry of the wood-tiled floor. Flickering candles and lily-filled glass vases sit artfully atop rustic-industrial coffee tables next to giant linen sofas - not to mention the huge log fire crackling away.

It’s a perfect harmony of style and soothing. I’ve not even reached the check-in desk and already I’m under a San Luis spell.

This is exactly what the Meister family was hoping for when they first opened San Luis back in 2015. It’s the family’s second hotel - they’ve run Hotel Irma, in the nearby town of Merano, for multiple generations since it opened in 1924 - and there are clear similarities between the two. Both embody traditional Tyrolean hospitality and impeccable standards and style, both are spas, and both have that personal touch that chain hotels can never quite match. But that’s where the similarities end.

Despite the name, San Luis isn’t really a hotel at all, rather a 40-hectare Alpine oasis nestled at around 1,480m above sea level on the Avelengo/Hafling plateau, a two-hour drive from Verona Airport.

Instead of rooms, guests stay in their own private chalets or ‘tree houses’ on stilts; some scattered around the resort’s 5,800-square-metre lake, others sat a little further back, hugged by the forest beyond.

There are currently 26 chalets and 16 tree houses, from romantic two-sleepers for couples to six-sleepers for groups and families (although San Luis only allows kids aged 12 and over and there are strict spa and restaurant curfews to ensure a peaceful, grown-up atmosphere).

Each has its own kitchen, lounge, hot tub and mini sauna, and some have steps right down into the lake. At the heart of it all is the clubhouse, which leads onto the spa on one side and the restaurant and bar on the other.

Here for a weekend, I’m keen to make the most of the chance to relax, so I head straight for a spa treatment. If there was any hint of tension left in my muscles after that Alpine-aroma hit, it’s all gone after 80 minutes with Steffan, who intuitively tailors my massage to the areas that need it most. Spa treatments start from E44/£38 and booking ahead is advised.

However, there’s no doubt a big chunk of the spa’s therapeutic magic lies simply in its setting and design. There’s a well-equipped modern gym, a generous steam room and sauna - but a swim at San Luis is next level. The indoor pool, cocooned in that bewitching timber goodness, has a roaring fire at one end and gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows with views onto the lake at the other.

A sliding glass door lets you swim out to a heated infinity pool, where after a few dreamy laps, you can clamber out for an invigorating dash down the jetty to the Jacuzzi on the lake.

The South Tyrol is a nature-lover’s dream with miles of trails to explore - and it’s those hills, trees and the fresh mountain air that works the biggest wonders on your wellbeing. Forest-bathing may now be a wellness buzzword, but mountain folk have always been tapped into Mother Nature’s healing powers.

San Luis guests can grab an e-bike and cycle around the winding valley roads, or head out on foot for a hike. The trails are well marked and you can pop to reception to grab a map and chat through suitable routes.

We take a three-hour meander through the forest up to Wurzer Alm ( cyclists and hikers can refresh and refuel.

Host Ulli gives us a traditional dumpling-making masterclass (E150/£129 for a group, which you can book in advance through San Luis), and we spend a merry hour-and-a-half sipping prosecco with elderflower and mixing chunks of stale bread, eggs, milk and flour with our hands.

After 10 minutes in simmering salted water, our dumplings are served steaming and coated with melting Parmesan, alongside piles of crunchy chopped cabbage.

The following day, we stretch our legs with a 45-minute walk to Knottnkino, which translates to ‘rock theatre’ - a rocky clearing on the hillside where rows of seats have been installed, so ‘theatre-goers’ can sit and watch the spectacular ever-changing scenery. We’re treated to a show of wispy cloud wrapping its way around the endless layers of peaks stretching across the horizon, while meadows in the valley below are green and glossy from the morning rain.

It’s only really in recent years that UK tourists have started to cotton on to the Alps and Tyrol regions being great year-round destinations, and not just for ski holidays.

While magical under blankets of snow (at San Luis, you can skate on the lake when it freezes over too), each season offers its own rewards.

Your star

San Luis offers chalets and treehouses from E305/£263 per person on a half-board basis. Visit