Travaasa Austin, a new resort in the Texas Hill Country, is named from a combination of “travel” and the Sanskrit/Kannada word “pravaasa” (“journey”).

Although by most any measure India is a “fur piece” from Texas — imagine how a “sacred cow” might go over in barbeque country — Austin prides itself on being an enclave of cultural diversity.

Thus the Travaasa concept, with its emphasis on providing “innovative hospitality” at an “experiential destination” actually blends nicely with a vibrant city whose motto is “Keep Austin Weird”.

Travaasa is removed from the Austin bustle — 25 minutes from downtown on 210 acres of Balcones Canyonland Preserve.  Its 70 well-appointed rooms divided among seven lodges allow guests to enjoy natural habitat in a restful setting.

Out the backdoor: Texas Hill Country Hiking.

The idea here is a variation on the “tune in/tune out” philosophy of the New Age:  turn away from the daily grind to focus on “core pillars of experience” which include adventure, culture, culinary arts, fitness, and spa wellness.

All this sounds good to me, so I start off the adventure segment with some strenuous hikes into the surrounding canyonlands.  I could have opted for “equine experiences”, which include rides into the hill country, as well as lessons in cowboy roping and archery.  I could also have signed up to tackle a challenge course called “Prickly Pear” designed in partnership with Outward Bound. 

Ride off into the Hill Country sunset.

“Culture” spotlights Texas.  There are programs featuring local musicians, story-tellers and visual artists as well as lectures on Hill Country ecology. 

Fitness classes focus on balance, posture, core work, and flexibility.  They include yoga, Zumba, Barre, and simplified fitness.

Relax at Travaasa's Spa.

Tired from hiking around the property, I go off to the spa for a sports massage and wind up much the better for it.  The spa complex features an array of massages, healing rituals, and body treatments using only organic, bio-energetic products.   You can sign up here for courses on meditation and breathing.  The spa also incorporates a lovely infinity-edge pool overlooking the Hill Country.

The property décor features contemporary Western finishes.  Accommodations all feature Eastern exposures, with unobstructed views from every room. All rooms have queen-sized beds (many with two queen beds), organic cotton comforters and linens. and complimentary Wi-Fi.   Guests can choose between Hacienda rooms, which include flat-screen TVs, or spa Casita rooms, which are furnished with yoga mats and stretching ropes.  All guest rooms offer a deck or patio.

All rooms have unobstructed views of the Hill Country.

Travaasa Austin provides fresh, organic, farm-to-table style cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily in Jean’s Kitchen. Menus are updated on a quarterly basis to reflect the changing seasons and rotate on a daily basis over a seven-day period. Guests can make new friends at the Community Table or dine on lighter fare including snacks, coffee, and smoothies in The Spur. The wine list mirrors Travaasa's environmental values by featuring organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines made by boutique producers, while also showcasing wines from some of Texas’s finest wine producers.

Organic dining on the patio at Jean's Kitchen.

Cuisine is on display at Jean’s Kitchen, where Chef Benjamin Baker utilizes local produce, meat, fish, and dairy to create healthful meals with a Texas Fusion flare.  Texas wines and craft beers are among the featured products.  Culinary lessons emphasizing quality ingredients are an integral part of this program.

On the environmental side, Travaasa Austin is a winner of Treehugger’s 2010 Best of Green Award for “best resort.” The property’s green features focus on sustainable site selection, water efficiency, energy efficiency, sustainable materials, and indoor environmental quality.

Autumn at the eco award winning Travaasa.

This includes: 1) eco-friendly techniques implemented throughout daily operation, including waste minimization, reuse and recycling of all possible materials, composting, local and organic food sourcing, recycled paper product usage, and sustainability education; 2) preservation of land: only 34 acres are developed out of the 210 acre property; 3) utilization of recycled materials, renewable resources and energy-efficient utility systems, many of which were locally acquired during construction; 4) low-emission building materials; 5) rainwater storage for irrigation; 6) xeriscaping utilizing native drought- and pest-resistant plants; 7) low-flow water fixtures on all faucets on property.

With 6,700 square feet of indoor and 9,000 square feet of outdoor flexible space, Travaasa provides a fine venue for retreats and meetings.  Planners can choose from a variety of settings ranging from ballroom spaces with audio/visual equipment to parlors with couches and wrap-around porch.  Outdoor spaces like the lovely Soldago Gardens include a spacious handcrafted wood and stone structure within.

The infinity pool at Travaasa.

Travaasa Austin offers a variety of lodging plans.  The “Your Travaasa” package includes accommodations, complementary access to a robust schedule of daily programming, a la carte meals, spa services, and private lessons.

“Total Travaasa” is for guests who would like the convenience of unlimited access to all of the resort’s amenities and programming within a single package rate.  This plan includes accommodations, three meals daily, unlimited snacks, access to all of the property’s experiential activities, and a daily $125 credit good toward a spa treatment or round of golf at a nearby course.

At Travaasa Austin there is plenty of activity to keep guests occupied over several days.   First time visitors to Austin, however, also may wish to explore this colorful city.

Austin Overtures offers ninety minute orientation tours of the city and environs in vans which leave from the downtown Visitors’ Center several times daily.  You will want to explore the city center and state capital district on foot.  Highlights include the capitol building itself and adjacent University of Texas, which hosts the LBJ Library, State History Museum and the Harry Ransom literary collections.

Austin is renowned for its Tex-Mex restaurants (try Chuy’s, Texas Chili Parlor or El Rancho) and the surrounding towns for down-home Texas barbeque (drive out to Mueller’s in Taylor or The Salt Lick in Driftwood).  Country music and dance venues abound.

Somewhat farther afield but reachable on a half-day trip are traditional German settlements like Fredericksburg and New Braunfels.  The scenic Hill Country is also home to the LJB Ranch (including the Texas White House) near Johnson City and the impressive National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg.

Feature by Jerry Nemanic, Jetsetters Magazine Editor; photos by Todd Nemanic and courtesy of Travaasa..