As overnight stopovers go we couldn’t have asked for much more. The setting certainly was spectacular. To the rear the Swiss Alpine peaks rising high above us, to the front great fields of crisp white snow leading off into the distance and the valley below.
The welcome was warm and the hospitality generous with mulled wine on tap and hearty bowls of pasta or cheese fondue to feed our hungry bellies.
Unique hand-crafted works of art adorned the walls of every room, and the outdoor hot-tub offered up outstanding views of the starlit skies above.
If I had one grumble I’d have to say that the bedrooms were a little chilly, but, as we were staying in an igloo that’s probably forgivable.
Yes, nestling on the slopes above the Swiss town of Engelberg is the Iglu-Dorf Hotel, which offers the adventurous holidaymaker the chance to get a little closer to nature with only the icy walls and an industrial strength sleeping bag to protect you from the elements.
Rebuilt to a new design every winter you can opt for a family room for up to six people, or maybe choose to snuggle up to a loved one in a romantic two person room. As unusual nights out go this one is well worth a try.
Of course Engelberg offers a host of less unusual accommodation and our choice, the recently updated Hotel Bellevue, offered us some boutique hotel style chic and luxury. You’ll find the Bellevue a stones throw from the railway station which makes the option of travelling there via the very reliable Swiss railways an attractive option.
The main reason for our visit, igloo hotels aside, was to hit the slopes for a couple of days skiing and we were spoilt with pristine pistes and wall to wall sunshine for the duration of our stay.
Spread between two areas Brunni and Titlis you’ll find around 90 km of pistes, mainly catering for intermediate skiers but with a decent amount of space for beginners and novices. Experts will find a few challenging pisted runs but the real draw for them will be the off-piste action. Engelberg has become a little bit of a ‘Mecca’ for skiers who like to push themselves just that little bit harder and test themselves off the beaten track. At lunchtime on the slopes you’ll find a generous selection of mountain restaurants, mostly self-service, offering welcome bowls of carbohydrates to boost your energy levels. Treat yourself to the local favourite ‘Alpermagronen’ which is macaroni cheese with caramelized onions served with finely pureed apple sauce which, surprisingly, is totally delicious.
At the close of the day most skiers should be able to negotiate the gentle blue run back to the cable car station at the bottom of the Titlis area but you’ll have a short walk (or bus ride) back to the centre of the town.
Those not skiing are well catered for both on the slopes and off whether you want to exert yourself on the snow-shoe trails or winter hiking, or simply pamper yourself with a swim, a sauna or a massage, many of Engelberg’s hotels open up their wellness facilities to non-guests.
You could take the cable car ride to the top of the Titlis mountain and take in the stunning mountain views which, rather bizarrely, in recent years have doubled for the snowy peaks of Kashmir in a number of Bollywood movies making it a favourite destination for many Indian visitors.
Also on offer on the slopes is a chance to try out the specially adapted electric snow-mobiles which have all the fun of a regular snow-mobile but none of the nasty smells and emissions.
Engelberg’s charming traditional town centre features narrow shop-lined streets with many bars and restaurants in which to wind down after a hard day on the slopes, you’ll find the nightlife relaxed more than raucous but if partying into the early hours is for you then you’ll find that here too.
A stroll to the top of the main street will take you to the impressive Benedictine Monastery which dominates the town. Founded in 1120 AD, the building dates back to 1740 when it was rebuilt and now also houses a boarding school which attracts pupils from all over the world. A visit to its baroque church is worthwhile to see the stunning interior with its ceiling murals and altar artwork, it boasts the largest pipe organ in Switzerland.
It also home to “the only cheese factory in Switzerland within the walls of a monastery” (a claim which I haven’t researched but I’m prepared to believe), where you can see close-up the traditional cheese making process, and sample their wares.
It may not be the best known resort in Switzerland but it compares very favourably with many of the more illustrious names on the European ski scene, and if you are looking for something just that little bit different then Engelberg, with its igloo hotel, might just be the place for you.
SWISS offers up to 32 daily flights from the UK to Switzerland. Fares start from £113* return, including all airport taxes. (*Please note this is a lead-in fare and is subject to change, availability and may not be available on all flights. Terms and conditions apply.)
For reservations call 0845 601 0956 or visit: www.swiss.com Prices from each airport to Zürich: London Heathrow from £128, Manchester from £149.
Engelberg Airport Shuttle: transfer from Zürich Airport by minibus departing at 11pm each Thursday and Friday between end of November and Mid-April. Price 75 Swiss Francs per person (approx. £53). This needs to be booked online at http://www.engelberg.ch/en/topnavigation/microsites/airport_shuttle
Second class train tickets are available from Zürich airport for 82 Swiss Francs (approx. £58).