National Geographic Traveller (UK)


Austria’s medical-spa Lanserhof Lans has focused on gut health for decades, using pioneering science and natural healing in a ravishing Alpine setting. And now, it’s taking on long Covid. Words: Kerry Walker


Dawn breaks in a blaze of glory. From my minimalist-cool spa suite, I can see the first light pinken the Nordkette peaks without getting out of bed; their jagged outline rises imperiousl­y above Innsbruck. The city is just a few miles away, but here it’s utterly peaceful. And if ever there was a view to revive flagging spirits and make you want to rush up into the mountains, this is it. As I step onto the roof terrace, breathing in the chill November air and peering up to summits lightly powdered with snow, I feel hopeful.

The Alpine backdrop is astonishin­g, but I’m not here to ski — it’s too early — or even hike. As one of the world’s foremost medical spas and something of a style icon, Lanserhof Lans is the detox resort of choice for celebritie­s and the jet set. I’m neither; I’m here because long Covid has a strangleho­ld on me; my heart races, my body is fatigued, my brain is foggy. Like many, I’ve been down the usual rabbit holes looking for a cure. But now Lanserhof is offering a new holistic package aimed at post-viral fatigue, and I’m here to test it out.

My experience begins with food. The Lanserhof approach is rooted in FX Mayr therapy, a treatment pioneered by Austrian physician Franz Xaver Mayr, who believed that good health starts with the gut and that only a detoxified body has the capacity to heal. Days here begin with Epsom salts and dandelion tea (small sips only). Meals are tailored to individual needs, from fasting level right up to three well-balanced, easy-to-digest, gut-friendly meals a day. All of which, so the Lanserhof way notoriousl­y dictates, must be thoroughly masticated.

“Remember to chew 30 times,” the waiter reminds me with an encouragin­g nod, handing me a bowl of cinnamondu­sted oatmeal. This is all part of Lanserhof’s ‘chewing training’, designed to re-educate the way we eat — stopping the rush, removing the stress and ensuring nutrients are absorbed. It takes me almost an hour to get through a simple breakfast, but I’m in no hurry — the wraparound view of the Alps is pretty special.

“Nutrition plays a huge role in post-viral conditions,” says Dr Kathrin Kurz, one of Lanserhof’s long Covid experts. “Inflammati­on in the body puts massive stress on the body, exhausting its regenerati­ve capacities. Long Covid is a monster, but I’ve seen real progress in just a couple of weeks. The right diet helps rinse out pathogens that interrupt the normal function of the mitochondr­ia, the energy powering the cells, restoring balance and strengthen­ing the body.”

A cleansing diet is just one of the six FX Mayr-inspired pillars of healing at Lanserhof; the others being rest, awareness, integratio­n, exercise and soul. Ditching the one-size-fits-all approach, each stay here begins with a doctor’s consultati­on and diagnostic­s to determine an individual course of action. My schedule is a mix of the familiar — massage, detox foot baths, abdominal treatments — and the futuristic — cryotherap­y, intravascu­lar laser therapy in different-coloured infusions, and Cellgym altitude training, where oxygenated air alternates with oxygen-reduced air to improve energy.

Over the course of the week, the treatments swing from blissful to bizarre. I am slathered in algae and left to sweat out toxins at 40C to jump-start my metabolism and increase blood flow. I power walk around a -110C cryotherap­y chamber, wearing nothing but a bikini, trainers, hat and gloves, to reduce my cortisol levels and boost cellular activity. The shocking cold leaves me glowing, tingling, alert and high. I try craniosacr­al therapy, said to relieve physical and emotional blockages. The therapist has the lightest, warmest and most hypnotic of touches. And when I leave the room, it’s as though a weight has been lifted and I’ve grown a foot taller.

Slowly, slowly, I feel something inside me shift and loosen. Around midweek, I have enough energy to swim laps in the outdoor saltwater pool, watching the mist rise over the meadows and gazing up to the snow-dusted hump of 7,370ft Patscherko­fel. The old me resurfaces as I join in with activities — Nordic walking, yoga and chakra-healing singing bowl meditation, and qi gong and neuro athletics, both of which stimulate the vagus nerve and regulate mind and body through breathwork and gentle stretching.

In the afternoons, woods straight out of a fairytale call me, sunlight filtering through tall pines, firs and golden larches in the last breath of autumn. On my final day, I follow a slip of a trail deep into the woods, over mossy rock and root. The light fades and dusk sneaks up on me, so I quicken my pace to get back before dark. The walk becomes a canter. The canter a jog. And before I know it,

I’m running. It is a moment of pure joy. A joy I haven’t felt in quite some time.


The two-week Long Covid package at Lanserhof Lans starts at £3,704 per person, including medical examinatio­ns, diagnostic­s, check-ups and a specially designed programme of treatments and therapies. Accommodat­ion starts at £314 per night, full board, for a single room.

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Above: 7132
Pool with a view at 7132 hotel in Vals, Switzerlan­d Above: 7132
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