It’s no secret around the Spafinder offices that I have a love affair with a certain all-natural beauty brand. Of all the products I’ve tried over the years, I always find myself going back to using Amala, meaning “most pure” in Sanskrit, recommending it to friends and family, and noticing a major difference in my skin if I go too long without it – frankly, it just works and knowing that it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, well, that’s just the icing on the cake. So you can just imagine the pure elation (there’s really no other way to adequately describe my joy) when the Amala Beauty team invited me to visit their super sustainable headquarters in Oy-Mittelberg, Germany and then make a stop to try treatments, and some seriously amazing cuisine, at the renowned Dolder Grand in Zurich, Switzerland.
There’s something to be said about Central Europe – in fact the two times I’ve had an “I’m so in awe of what I’m experiencing” travel moment have been in this region. Between the landscape, the architecture, the people, and the food – the moment we touched down in Germany I had that same “ah-hah” moment I had when I visited years earlier. We took a scenic drive from Munich to Oy-Mittelberg where we’d be staying in a nearby hotel for the night, the Panorama Hotel Oberjoch, a ski-and-spa resort which is perfectly picturesque and features some impressive alpine views. After a quick lunch we were off to the Amala and Primavera headquarters which we’d thankfully get to visit again the following day. To say the building is impressive would be an understatement – it is quite frankly unbelievable and not just because I am such a fan of the products they create inside.
The state-of-the-art, 72,000- square-foot carbon-neutral headquarters opened its doors in May 2011, becoming Germany’s first administrative and production facility of its size to systematically use sustainable building practices while utilizing feng shui and energy flows to encourage productivity! The building, which is surrounded by gardens, heats and cools itself without the use of fossil fuels – rainwater tanks are used for the cooling system in the summer and to flush toilets and the building is heated using an infrared system combined with solar power, a heat recovery system, and an air heat exchanger. Behind many of these incredible endeavors is Kurt Ludwig Nübling, General Manager, whose passion for sustainability, positive energy, and the brands they’ve created was contagious as he took us on our tour. When you think of the phrase, practice what you preach, Primavera and Amala truly couldn’t take that more to heart because the products created within these eco-friendly walls are just that.
Made with the highest-quality organic, fair-trade ingredients, Amala skin care products have been a staple in my beauty cabinet since I started working at Spafinder. “It is not a retail brand,” founder Ute Leube explained at our lunch meeting, “it’s a spa brand.” In 2008, Ute and her incredibly talented team dreamed of creating a professional spa product that used natural ingredients in order to deliver visible results. They worked around the clock to create an unheard of 50 recipes in 10 months, developed specifically for spa treatments – now, years later, Amala products are used in some of the most sought after spa treatments in prestigious spas around the world. To this day, no new product is launched without a treatment to accompany it. They launched first at the Grand Floridian in Orlando, Florida, and after a year branched out into other spas including the Six Senses and Mandarin Oriental brands, as well as Rancho La Puerta where Amala made a connection with Therese Martirena, Assistant Spa Director and Treatment Manager at the Dolder Grand. Therese loved the products so much she brought them into the spa at the Dolder Grand, making Amala’s European debut and our next stop.
The Dolder Grand is perhaps the most majestic hotel I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. As we drove up the winding hill and caught glimpses of its castle-like spires I literally felt like I was transported into a fairytale. From entering the impressive lobby, to checking into my room which offered views of Zurich below me, every detail was thought out, down to the aromatherapy that filled the hallways of the newer Spa Wing where I was staying (a true use of scent with intent!). Perhaps the best way to explain how regal the hotel is, is to share that while I was waiting for one of my two spa treatments (more on that later!) I was sitting across from the stunning Georgina Chapman, co-founder of Marchesa (whom I saw again in the lobby with her husband, Academy Award-winning producer Harvey Weinstein), in the words of Rachel Zoe, “I die.” No stranger to fame, the hotel has opened its doors to the likes of the Leonardo DiCaprio, Liz Taylor, Nelson Mandela, and even Einstein!
Nestled appropriately amidst untouched woods elevated high above the bustling city below, The Dolder Grand, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, has something for every guest that enters its doors. Foodies will rejoice over chef Heiko Nieder’s amazing cuisine served up in The Restaurant, an elegant fine-dining experience which has been awarded 18 GaultMillau points and 2 Michelin stars and was the location of perhaps the most mouth-watering vegetarian meal I had ever experienced in my life. As well, on Sundays from 11:30am-2pm guests must head to The Garden Restaurant to enjoy the lavish, buffet-style brunch, which truly blew me away (and had me having dessert for breakfast… sorry, I’m not sorry.).
Those who crave culture and beauty will find it in the hotel’s impressive artwork collection, which includes works from Salvador Dali, Henry Moore, Camille Pissarro, and the not-to-be-missed 36-foot-long Andy Warhol hanging with pride above the reception. Guests can even borrow the hotel’s art iPad to guide them through the 124 pieces, creating a museum-like experience without ever having to leave the property.
If you’re really looking to go all out, the hotel’s four Top Suites are on a whole other level of extravagance. There’s the two-story, 4,300-square-foot Maestro Suite, inspired by conductor Herbert von Karajan, the Carezza Suite inspired by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, the Masina Suite inspired by the glamour and cinema of the 1950s and actress Giulietta Masina, and my personal favorite, Suite 100, inspired by the Rolling Stones and complete with pink and black retro-style furnishings and a guitar signed by Keith Richards himself, which I felt the need to touch like a total creeper.
Among all of these outstanding highlights, what stands out most is the 43,056-square-foot Dolder Grand Spa, which blends European and Swiss therapies with a Japanese influence to create a truly unforgettable oasis. The spa features 18 treatment rooms, 2 spa suites, separate areas for men and women with steam baths, aroma pools, saunas, and more, and a co-ed Aqua Zone with a sanarium, steambath, snowparadise, and 5 Sunaburo, Japanese-style. So, pretty much before even experiencing a treatment my jaw was already plastered to the floor, little did I know that it was about to become that much more impressive. My first day at The Dolder Grand I experienced an Organic Aroma Massage by Amala (60-minutes; $215 USD), and it was everything I’d come to expect from an Amala treatment. You are able to customize your massage by selecting one of Amala’s high-quality organic aromatic oils, which you can take home with you after your treatment, and then your therapist treats your body and mind with a Marma vital-points massage followed by a full-body massage. I was feeling completely relaxed after the treatment and ready for a lovely boat cruise around Lake Zurich followed by a dinner at a traditional cheese fondue at Restaurant Walliser Kanne. Side note: Do not skip a trip to Spruengli for some amazing Swiss chocolates – I may or may not have bought out a small portion of their store.
After such an amazing introduction to the spa I was incredibly excited to go back the next day for my Nature’s Organic Firming Facial by Amala (60-minutes; $239 USD), especially because it would be utilizing my favorite Amala collection which uses cocoa extracts to help firm skin and reduce fine lines. While I knew what to expect from the products, I had no idea what to expect from the treatment, because what I thought would just be a lovely facial turned into the best spa experience I’ve ever had, which I do not put lightly and my eyes are literally filling with tears thinking about it, literally. My therapist, not only gave me such an unbelievable facial that my skin left looking and feeling radiant, she also gave me a massage that left me feeling like I had an out of body experience. The entire treatment put me in such a state of calm that it officially set the bar and has become what I have compared all treatments to since.
But, what impressed me most, and what brought my trip full-circle, was that before beginning the facial my therapist asked me what skin care products I use regularly because my skin was remarkable (something I pride myself in). Her only suggestion for me as I left the spa, and headed to my room to pack up and head home to the States, “keep using Amala.”