Surrounded by regal palms, the Pyramids in Florida can transport you to a new world, where the monumental architecture of ancient Egypt meets Southwest Florida’s subtropical landscape, and the naturopathic European lifestyle blurs with quintessential American vacation culture. This summer, I brought my best friend along for a little wellness-driven staycation at the hidden gem.
Pyramids have a long, storied history throughout the world. Of course, we know the ancient Egyptians used the structures as tombs for royalty, representing their journey to the afterlife. In the 1990s, meditation pyramids started popping up in India, where they are said to channel energy through the seven chakras. Now, I set out to discover their purpose in Estero, where Austrian homeopathic doctor and reiki healing practitioner Gerti Höntzsch has created a wellness village centered around the structure’s healing energy.
Gerti and her late husband, engineer Walter Freller, built the village in Estero in 1997, after years of studying pyramids in their native Austria. She wanted to create a center where visitors could decompress and improve their overall wellbeing. She was familiar with the region’s laidback manner and agreeable climate and jumped at the opportunity when a 20-acre plot went up for sale in Estero’s residential San Carlos Park community. Over the years, the pair built 26 pyramid rental homes (ranging from about 1,100 to 2,200 square feet) and preserved half of the property for a nature trail, teeming with wildlife and tucked-away fishing spots. They eventually added a mineral lake, plus other outdoor amenities to enrich physical and mental wellbeing.
Gravel crunches beneath our shoes as we make our way up to the reception, another pyramid. From there, the team’s massage therapist, Christel Pionteck, who runs the show when Gerti is in Austria, walks us past a row of single-family pyramids, each positioned with lake views and designed with ample privacy. The sun reflects off the two-story windows that front our accommodations, the Luxor sits up on a hill, backed by the wooded preserve. Luxor is the largest model, featuring an open living-dining floorplan and a spiral staircase leading to a sunny loft at the structure’s peak.
Back in Austria, before starting this venture, Gerti found that spending time inside a pyramid is linked to better sleep and overall body function, because the structure is believed to generate, transform and transmit energy. (That is said to include reducing the electromagnetic radiation from our devices and Gerti’s in the early stages of creating a digital detox pyramid with minimal electronics). In her field, which is classified as alternative medicine, it’s all about the flow of energy within your body and your environment. The Beethoven bust at the community’s entrance reflects her ethos: According to Gerti, Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” puts off the same alpha wave (the brain wave that works when you’re relaxed) frequencies as those in a pyramid. “Beethoven was deaf at this time; he didn’t hear his music. He wrote the music in the way he felt the frequencies,” she says.
After settling in, we take off on foot to explore the rest of the idyllic village. Despite the summer sun, we stay cool as we stroll through the shaded, botanical path—a fragrant tunnel of mango and avocado trees, bougainvillea and passion flowers—that encircles the property leading us to a small herb garden. The crunchy gravel path gradually shifts to soft sand as we come across an alfresco fitness area with a volleyball court and a yoga pavilion, where we see the team is busy installing a thatched roof.
My senses are heightened as I step out from the shade of the trees and approach the horseshoe-shaped Kneipp reflexology walking path, with its patches of stones, bark and sand warming in the afternoon sun. The team brought in 2 tons of natural materials, including volcanic rock, from around the world to create the Kneipp path, inspired by naturopathy forefather Sebastian Kneipp’s studies on minerals and stones for healing. The staff offers guided tours of the reflexology path, as well as yoga classes and morning nature walks, upon request. But, my friend and I opt to test the Kneipp path on our own. I kick off my sandals and step up to the first section, walking slowly through about 2 feet of tiny pebbles that shift beneath my heels and slip between my toes. Gerti says these smaller rocks stimulate your organs as they gently press on different areas of the feet. We continue, venturing cautiously through 12 textures—shifting from flaky bark to smooth stones to sharp lava rocks to grainy sand—each said to target specific areas like the pancreas, lungs, heart and lymphatic system. The process forces me to be in the moment, taking in each sensation.
Afterward, we wade through the nearby mineral pool to reset our soles. While the Luxor sits back against the preserve, the majority of the units flank the property’s mineral lake, which is full of favorable levels of natural magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium and selenium. A fountain in the middle filters oxygen through the water, and the lake taps into quartz, copper and magnesium iodine reserves to naturally clean the water.
As we float in the warm water, the magnesium and sodium soothe my muscles, releasing the tension of a week spent bent over a keyboard. And, I swear I can almost feel a rush of energy from the calcium, which is said to improve circulation. I step out into the sun, the heat tingling against my skin, and take note of the water beading on my shoulders, potassium and selenium revealing soft, radiant skin. I look up at my friend, sprawled out blissfully on one of the ergonomic lounge chairs the team designed to help elongate the spine. On the other side of the lake, a family plays in the sandy kids’ area, not far from a cabana-style bar— they don’t have a liquor license or bartender, but people are welcome to bring their own libations.
Back at the Luxor, we fire up the gas grill for some meat and veggies for dinner, using herbs we’d collected from the garden. There’s no on-site chef—or housekeeping. Instead, guests are encouraged to explore the surrounding area, source produce from places like Fort Myers’ Southern Fresh Farms, or reel in a fresh catch from the fishing holes along the nature trail that snakes through the property’s preserve.
We end our trip by exploring the wooded trail, where monarch and zebra longwing butterflies land on wild bushes of Spanish needle flowers and a gently rolling canal streams over the rocks alongside the wall of pines and palms that grow throughout the path. We take a moment to sit on a bench that overlooks a nearby neighborhood just across the stream. We reflect on the past 24 hours spent at this hidden oasis, like a secret garden in the bustle of residential life. We’d both spent the better part of our lives in Southwest Florida, and yet it was like we were experiencing its serenity for the first time.