It picks. All over the body. As if an army of ants would drill on it. The head cinema is rattling, showing small insects and all other life that is raging on a mountain meadow. But the smell is heavenly, of herbs, I could well stand it for a while – in a hay bath.
But a quarter of an hour is enough to get body and mind going. The hay comes from the lush alpine meadows in the Gsieser Valley in the Three Peaks region, explains Evi, our hostess at Hotel Bad Moos – Dolomites Spa Resort.
In the past, mountain farmers used its healing power to recover from strenuous labor. Today hikers enjoy the wellness ritual in the Sesto 4-star superior hotel.
And that starts with a bath in the wooden tub. Linen sacks filled with hay, previously heated, release their fragrance in the warm water. A fire crackles in the fireplace, logs crackle, relaxation is not long in coming.
Then it's off to the actual hay bath – also naked, wrapped up to the neck in dried mountain hay. "One night in the hay and you're like new," promises hotel manager Evi. I don't stay that long, but even after 20 minutes I feel relaxed.
Ideal is such a hay bath after a hike. Ours was a real pleasure tour today – from Prato Piazza to the Strudelkopfe in 1 1/2 hours.
Strudelkopfe: Gipfelvesper with a view of the 3 Peaks
The beautiful route leads through the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park – from the Bruckele parking lot via the Prato Piazza leisurely upwards, where a super panorama of the Three Peaks awaits you.
But also the path itself is not stingy with photo motifs: ancient stone pines, whose trunks have been shaped by wind and weather into works of art. Orchids, wildflowers, gentian and even real edelweiss, which unfortunately is rarely found anymore.
Fir jays, which are actually called stone pine jays, pick the cones to pick out the seeds. They then hide it as a stock for the winter. By the way: Swiss stone pines are not planted in the Fanes Nature Park, they all grew by themselves. The trees, from whose "sap" also the delicious Zirbenschnaps is won, can become up to thousand years old.
We start at the Prato Piazza. In front of us the Cristallo group (already part of the province of Belluno) rises with the deep cut of Piz Bubena and the small peak of Monte Cristallino.
On the right lies the Seekofel above the Pragser Wildsee lake with its 2.810 m high peak, whose northern side borders on the lake.
Impressive also the Hohe-Gaisl north side, which is considered difficult to climb among mountaineers. Because of its gray color the mountain looks like an elephant's head, says our hiking guide Walter.
On the forest path we hike to the Strudelkopfsattel and over easy terrain to the summit cross of the Strudelkopf at 2.307 m. The way back is on the same path. With a total of 300 meters of altitude, the tour can be done well even with less fitness.
3 peaks: Round trip from the Auronzo hut or ascent from the Fischlein valley to the 3 Zinnen hut
You want to get closer? A popular tour for normal hikers to the Three Peaks also starts at the Auronzo Hut (reachable by shuttle bus in summer), from where you can walk around the 3 Peaks. Those who are a bit fitter can cycle from the Hotel Bad Moos to the Fischlein valley and from there climb up to the Drei-Zinnen hut (approx. 1.000 vertical meters).
The first ascent of the 3 Peaks in 1869 brought alpine tourism to Sesto
A little more time is needed for those who want to climb the 3 peaks themselves. 150 years ago this was done for the first time.
Paul Grohmann from Vienna, Peter Salcher from Carinthia as well as mountain guide Franz Innerkofler from Sesto were the first to make it to the top of the Great Peak.
Within only one month they climbed in 1869 the supposedly impregnable Dreischusterspitze, the Langkofel as well as the Grobe Zinne. The hunt for the summit was opened and marked the beginning of alpine tourism in the Sesto Dolomites.
Our hiking guide Walther tells how difficult it was. The equipment alone is unimaginable for us today. For belaying they had thick hemp ropes with them. When they got wet, they weighed three times as much. Also the climbing shoes made of felt were considered progress compared to the hitherto usual nailed ones.
No less spectacular: the ascent of the Grobe Zinne in the winter of 1963 by three roofers from Saxony – and that direttissima, vertically along the fall line.
The Sachsenroute, named after them, leads 550 meters through the wall. More than 220 forged irons and 17 days have needed the three of them. The host of the Aronzo hut came every day with touring skis, brought food and roped up from the foot of the wall: hot drinks, soups, Coca Cola, tea and chocolate. Not the only challenge: Those who had to, called down: Attention, material! All this at minus 30 degrees.
In the valley sulfur spring and peasant baths attract us
In Bad Moos we are much more comfortable – spacious rooms, a nice wellness area with several saunas. And a sulfur bath, whose source has been used since 1754. It is located a little above the hotel, next to the small chapel.
To cool down after the sauna, I dive into the six-degree water in the Cold Sulphur pool and enjoy the mountains in the afternoon from below – comfortably in one of the four-poster beds around the hotel pool. Later I let myself drift in the thermal water, the Dreischusterspitze greets from above.
At least since the year 1650 the bathing springs of Bad Moos are known, later a bath house was built. Thanks to the alpine tourists and their first ascents, Sesto became more and more famous – bathing and drinking cures attracted other guests as well. Well-to-do lawyers, merchants, bankers, notaries from the cities came to the mountains of Sesto with the southern railroad from 1871 onwards. At that time they did not speak of vacations, but of summer retreats.
As one of the few hotels in South Tyrol, the Bad Moos – Dolomites Spa Resort has a spa concession. How beneficial the spring water is, you can feel in the "Bauernbadl" of the hotel, where the tradition is still maintained today.
Sexten: cooking dumplings on the Helm& back through the forest
The next morning we take the cable car from Sesto up to the top of the Helm.
There the landlord of the hut "Schorsch" is already waiting for hard-working helpers for the dumpling cooking course. Chop white bread, onions, bacon and make a smooth dough. Cheese, egg yolk and a little flour, that's it. Actually quite simple, but do they taste as good as those made by a real dumpling professional??
They do. Finished with melted butter and parmesan – a delight. And with fabulous views.
Of course, you can drive up a mountain, stop at the hut, enjoy the view with a tasty Vesper and glide back down by cable car.
But we don't want to be that lazy after all. A nice option would be the two-, three-hour hike on the smuggler's trail. Since a thunderstorm is approaching, but maybe not a good idea.
So plan B: walk from the Helmhutte via Jagerhutte through the forest into the valley. The path is steep in parts, good walking shoes are an advantage. About 90 minutes later we are back in Sexten – freshly thunderstorm showered.
We enjoy dinner in the old parlor, crowned by the legendary dessert buffet of the hotel. And good South Tyrolean wines.
Pragser Wildsee photo hotspot: leisurely round under the Seekofel mountain
Sleeping late is not a good idea if you want to enjoy the Pragser Wildsee in all its beauty. The best chance to have the idyll there (almost) to yourself is very early in the morning.
The best time to take (Instagram-worthy) photos: between eight and nine in the morning. Since the pictures on the social media platform took off, the lake is literally overrun during the day. The locals responded promptly, you can't get in by car after nine o'clock. Correctly so.
At the latest when we turn on the parking lot, is clear: That with the loneliness at the lake becomes nix. A few dozen cars are already parked there.
Poser, Selfieknipser, Shooting starlets are already fully in action. Even a fashion team from Colorado took position in front of the glassy lake. The sun hasn't even climbed over the Seekofel yet – the moment most people here are waiting for, camera at the ready.
Then it goes pretty fast, the first rays peek over the mountain, the water changes from black to turquoise, the rugged rock anthracite becomes a glistening silver gray. Cameras clicking non-stop. It is also a unique sight. And actually succeed in capturing the scene as if you were there alone.
By the way, you can actually do that: a circular hiking trail leads around the lake, accompanied by fragrant fir greenery and the sound of cowbells. Only a few hundred meters and the whole social media circus stays behind. Then you become one with nature. With a little luck a squirrel also looks around the corner.
At the latest at ten o'clock it is time to leave, the photos and impressions in the head of course come with us.
The advantage: You can now have a leisurely breakfast and then – just do nothing for a while. Except to enjoy the day in Bad Moos.
Practical information and personal travel tips
How to get there: By car via the Brenner A22 to the Pustertal turnoff to Sexten. By train and bus: Here you can find the timetable for the journey by public transport in South Tyrol.
Overnight stay: Rooms at the Hotel Bad Moos – Dolomites Spa Resort at booking.com booking (affiliate link: You don't pay a cent more, we get a small commission)
- Strudelkopfe:SS49 to the branch-off into the Pragsertal, via Schmieden to Bruckele. From the parking lot Bruckele there is a shuttle bus to the Platzwiese (3 Euro/person each way, every 20 min)
- Dumpling cooking course and hiking on the Helm: from mid-June to mid-September every Wednesday in the Helm restaurant. Up and down you come comfortably with the cable car directly from Sexten. Here you can register for the dumpling course. And here you can see the hike on the Schmugglersteig at Outdoor active or. download.
- Pragser Wildsee: the mountain lake in the Pragser Valley is located at 1.500 meters above sea level between Brunico and Dobbiaco in the Braies Dolomites and is part of the Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park. Access with your own car is limited (July through September closed from Schmieden between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), but there is a shuttle bus. From the inn at the Pragser Wildsee, a beautiful, easy to walk circular trail leads once around the lake, takes approx. 1,5 hours.
This is an editorial contribution, which might nevertheless have an advertising effect under certain circumstances. The trip was made with the kind support of the Dolomites Region Three Peaks and the Hotel Bad Moos – Dolomites Spa Resort. For my research I partly cooperate with tourism associations, tour operators and hotels. This has no influence on the nature, content and scope of my articles, my opinion remains as always my own.