Sensoria Dolomites Hotel Review: is this the most relaxing spa hotel? – Women’s Health UK

10 minutes, 38 seconds Read

Have you ever hugged a tree? Truly leaned into looking a little doo-lally and stretched your arms as wide as you can around a time-withered trunk? You might think I’m totally deranged, but being a tree-hugger shouldn’t have the ‘woo woo’ reputation it does.

Studies show that forest bathing reduces stress, improves immunity, helps with high blood pressure and can even aid trauma recovery. In short, spending time around trees makes us healthier.

Well, walking around Sensoria felt to me like hugging a tree. Like stretching out my arms and wrapping the bark in my open embrace, absorbing the woody scent of the blonde pine as I floated through each room left me feeling held and cosy in its generous arms as it hugged me back.

It’s a place of safety, comfort, lightness, luxury, but most of all of nature. From enjoying a local tea in the moss-clad courtyard in the centre of the hotel, to staring out at the ancient forest on a bed in the floor-to-ceiling-windowed spa, horse-riding up hillsides or gawking with wonder at the majestic Sciliar massif mountain from the folds of your duvet – Mother Nature is a permanent resident at Sensoria.

Snuggled in the Alpine village of Seis am Schlern, the hotel was designed to be different. It stands out from the local B ‘n’ Bs and humble ski hotels nearby.

As I sit down with the owner, Lea Oberhofer, to chat to her about the minimalist, Japanese-inspired design of the hotel (and to get a candid answer about why she took such a huge project on), I’m instantly fascinated by the feeling she evokes when telling her story. This place has been designed from the soul, and it shows.

Why build a wellness hotel?

Lea’s parents were 17 and 19 when they met as kitchen and front of house staff at what was then called the “Ritte Hof” hotel (meaning “riding place”, we’ll get back to that). After falling in love with each other and the craggy mountains they’d made their home, they came back at 23 and 25 years old to look after the property together.

lunch at sensoria dolomites

Mum with her healthy lunch

catching up on emails in the sun at sensoria

Catching up on emails in the sun

Fast forward a few decades, and their full-of-life daughter decides to quit her high-flying job in the city and put her whole heart – along with that of her husband, as he runs it with her – into giving the hotel a new lease of life.

‘I want to change how people perceive travel,’ Lea tells me. ‘It has to be authentic and it has to show passion, it has to nurture lightness. The reason we’ve made the hotel all-inclusive is because we want guests to always feel like we’re being generous, but in an honest, natural way.

‘Trawling menus every night and worrying about the price can really punctuate an experience with pockets of stress, and we don’t want people to feel anything but relaxed here.’

She called the hotel “Sensoria” because the vision was to create something holistic and healthy that calmed every single one of our five senses. The name was born over a long aperitivo (like many great ideas!) and has become the whole essence of the place.

‘The gold in some of the Sensoria branding is inspired by Kinsugi – the Japanese art of fixing shattered crockery with gold leaf paint, often making it even prettier than it was before.

forest bathing on the spa beds

Forest bathing again

forest bathing on the spa beds

Forest bathing on the spa beds

‘I wanted to pay respect to the old hotel that I grew up in, but acknowledge that we’re giving the building a new golden era of life that promises to be beautiful, if not perfect.’

The Japanese inspiration doesn’t stop there, either. The pale wood throughout and panels and beams in the spa are evidence that Lea takes lots of inspiration from the serene sanctuaries this country holds dear. The building invokes the sense of calm that I’d imagine a Japanese tea house would foster, forever kept safe behind those sliding pale-wood doors.

And are the rooms nice?

The hotel boasts two suites and 45 minimalist, pine-lined rooms which are where I imagine all the ‘morning routine’ green juice, tidy desk videos on Instagram and TikTok must be filmed. It’s a setting designed to diminish stress – any cortisol cling-on from flight delays or desk-side drama simply dissipates as you cross the threshold of these rooms. The blonde wood and tidy, clean, luxurious features make for a space that facilitates and fosters calm.

sensoria mountain view room

The view from our terrace

Our room was such a haven, and I’ve never had a mountain view like it. I visited in winter but still the sun shone through the panoramic windows, illuminating the already bright design. We had our own private sauna and a hot tub on the spacious terrace, with front row seats to the “enrosadira” every evening – the moment the sun dips and the tips of the mountains are imbued with a warm pink. I can imagine this is just as special, or even more so, in the balmy summer months.

Was the food healthy?

In short, yes. There’s a real focus here on local, seasonal food that fits the setting but is still, crucially, mouth-wateringly delicious. Yassine, the chef, endeavours to design a menu that changes daily (what a thrill!) except a few steadfast evergreen dishes that sit reliably on the menu each night.

Although every dinner in the Anima restaurant was exquisite, my favourite part was the daily lunch buffet. Much like the dinner, lunch provided different delights each day, with an array of raw ingredients to enrich the more complex, rich sauces and dishes with some organic, local goodness and added nutrition, without it feeling forced.

I’d been reading Ultra-Processed People by Chris van Tulleken before this trip, so I’ve taken it upon myself to adopt the role (that nobody asked for) of processed food whistle-blower of late. Standards are highest when visiting expensive spa hotels, but I can’t deny you’ll still find me enjoying cheese and beans on toast at the end of the month when the finances aren’t financing. Anyway, as a result of my incessant ingredient list-inspections, I was on high alert about the menu being inconsistent with the wholesome, healthy atmosphere that the hotel offers.

sensoria dolomites honeycomb

Fresh honeycomb for breakfast

sensoria dolomites breakfast raw food

Raw foods for a nutrition boost

But I was impressed. Lea told me that people often complain that they didn’t have strawberries at breakfast when they weren’t in season, or that the menu changed and people couldn’t pick what they had the night before, that the whole experience meant every day was different (I despair!). But we all know nutritional variation is the key to a healthy gut microbiome, and strawberries really should only be served in season, but I’ll stop being boring about it all now.

We didn’t miss out on fun, despite having what felt like a really healthy holiday. We danced to the live music that they put on in the bar, did a wine tasting with a local vineyard owner and had bubbles in the hot tub. Stomping around in the fresh mountain air, however, and munching on high-quality ingredients meant we never felt uncomfortably full or groggy.

Tell us about the spa

This is probably the biggest draw of the hotel. We were hit with the healing aura of the spa area as soon as we strode in. The sun soaked the corridor in a pool of gold, warming the wood through the windows, streaking the floor and making our winter-worn bodies feel real again. As we walked up the stairs to the pool area, we both audibly gasped, giving each other one of those looks you share when you know you’ve hit gold. This is a special place.

The sun continued to creep in through the floor-to-ceiling windows near the forest bathing beds, with pine trees prickly and dancing in the wind within what feels like touching distance. You feel like you’re actually in the forest here, hugging those trees and being embraced in return.

the outdoor pool at sensoria

The outdoor pool at Sensoria

me swimming in the steamy pool

Me swimming in the steamy pool

The indoor-outdoor pool is pure heaven. Wrapped in our impossibly-soft gowns and gliding around in our slippers, we watched the steam rise up off the water amid the lush green grass outside. When you swim from indoor to out it gets even more special. Turning back to see where you’ve swum from, you’ll spot the Scilliar massif mountain keeping watch over the hotel, welcoming skiers onto her freshly-snowed slopes in winter and showing off her blanket of green in summer. This is a magical place that brings new charms with each changing season.

There’s a menu for every treatment you can think of – even getting a little holiday mani if you forgot before you left – and there’s a fully-equipped gym which boasts the same view as the forest-bathing beds, plus a yoga studio and classes you can join in with every day.

sensoria dolomites gym

Forest bathing on the cross trainer? Fine!

dolomites gym sensoria

Mum gawping at the gym views

In keeping with Lea’s dedication to healing and health, there are various “soulful healing” retreats she’s running throughout the year for guests to experience the full 360-degree restorative effects of this reposeful hotel.

The hotel is adults-only too, so no need to worry about jarring noise while you’re having a treatment or relaxing in the pool. It would make a heavenly honeymoon spot, come to think of it.

Is it a good place for an active holiday?

It couldn’t be better. Most people visit for the skiing ft. spa combo (there truly is nothing like a heated pool and massage after battering your body on the slopes), but the mountains do typically provide the perfect playground for activity-seekers, and the Dolomites are no exception.

You might have got a clue from the hotel’s original name, Rite Hof, but our favourite activity was far from the first mountaineering sport that might come to mind. Horseback riding. Both my mum and I used to ride when we were little but neither had done it since – a fair few years longer for her, she’ll be pleased to hear me say. But neither of us had ever experienced it like we did with Nadia, our wonderfully patient instructor.

hiking the alpe di siusi with mum

Hiking the Alpe di Siusi with Mum

horse riding in the dolomites

Horse riding at Nadia’s riding school

At the start of our session, I’d developed a nervousness about these huge, proud creatures that didn’t cross my mind as a bolshy child. It’s so curious, particularly for someone who’s never had a bad experience, but much like learning to ski as an adult, I’d developed an acute and intense awareness of my mortality the older I get. But Nadia ironed that out in no time, and our horses were gentle and calming enough to create a real moment of serenity and mutual understanding that you can only get by interacting with animals.

While we were there we also went on a gorgeous hike through the Alpe de Siusi mountains, where we stopped half way for lunch at Rauchhutte restaurant and indulged in a pancake-omelette and jam mash-up of a local dessert, which I’ll always remember. The restaurant is family run and gives cosy chalet vibes in winter, with a huge outdoors with view of the mountain in summer. If you can drag yourself away from the lunch buffet at the hotel, that is…

alpe di suisi restaurant rauchhutte

A photo montage of the family who run the restaurant

view from rauchhutte restaurant

View from Rauchhutte restaurant

The verdict on Sensoria

After speaking to Lea for a while, I realise that my first impression of the place – that it has been designed with so much care and love – was spot on. Lea calls the hotel her ‘soul project’, and that truly shines through.

You can tell that Sensoria has been designed from the soul, for the soul. We left feeling lighter, brighter and determined to take everyone we know to lay their head here for a few days for themselves. It’s everything you can hope for from a mountainous spa escape in the forest – my stay here was like one of those hugs you can still feel around you even after you do, reluctantly, have to let go.

Book your unforgettable stay from £165 per night per person on a double occupancy basis, including the all-day inclusive package.


How do I get there?

There’s been a bit of a trend for luxe hotels opening their doors in the Dolomites thanks to direct flights now operating from London to Bolzano, only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Book your flights with SkyAlps for £335 return here.

Three more mountain escapes…

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