By Kristina Smith
Amidst spectacular fall colors I drive the winding roads of rural Quebec, Canada, enjoying every moment of this solo time to unwind. Just past the picturesque village of Old Chelsea, tucked away on the outskirts of Gatineau Park, I find what I am seeking – Nordik Spa-Nature, the largest day spa in North America.
Up the steps to the property it is quiet, and a calm peace settles. Though large, the spa feels very hidden, like some secret I’ve stumbled upon.
Warmly greeted, I’m given a bathrobe and towels (exchangeable, anytime) along with a wristband for locker, food, and beverage. I change into a swimsuit, ditch my phone (already, bliss!) and head outside. I am struck by how modern it is, like a luxe mountain lodge, with gorgeous treed surroundings, natural rock features and wood and birch furnishings I immediately must have at home.
First things first, the thermal cycle. A 2000-year-old relaxation ritual, thermotherapy is a 3-step cycle that alternates from hot to cold, followed by rest. For heat, you have sauna, to eliminate toxins through sweat and stimulate the immune system. Here there are 9 saunas, each with its own unique features and temperature – 2 are steam baths in the Mediterranean tradition and 7 are dry saunas. (When you hear the gong head to Finlandia sauna to experience the Aufguss ritual – truly something to check off your bucket list!)
Next comes exposure to cold, 10-15 seconds submerged in a cold pool, icy waterfall or (in cooler weather) a walk in the cold air. This necessary – and refreshing! – step produces a thermal shock, which will close your pores and release adrenaline, the hormone that stimulates the body.
The last step is rest, which slows the adrenaline secretion to make way for endorphins. Your choices here are endless…make your way to one of the numerous hot tub pools or the relaxation chalet with heated benches. Kick back in a suspended chair, an outdoor pavilion with woodsy fire, the infinity pool, or forest beach deckchair in summer. I actually fell asleep in a secluded hammock swaying in the breeze, I was that relaxed.
The circuit can be completed in any of the three sections spread amongst the stunning surroundings. Kaskad for silence and inner reflection; Borëa for romance or whispering with friends; Panorama for social time – think happy hour in spa robes. (An aside here: during my Friday visit silence was not enforced in Kaskad, and the social areas were quite rowdy. I’m told that’s not the norm but best to be prepared if a solo retreat is what you’re seeking).
I woke up from my hammock-ing in time to head off to my treatment, a spectacular 60-minute California massage. Using long, fluid strokes, this treatment is designed to relieve stress through sculpting and “wrapping” the body as opposed to deep tissue pressure, increasing blood flow and circulation and clearing blockages (which apparently I had plenty of in my jaw and neck). It was pure bliss, and I ambled out feeling extremely mellow.
Capitalizing on this intoxicated feeling, I decided to take in the Källa treatment next, and though I have floated in saltwater tanks before I was wholly unprepared for what awaited.
Inspired by the Dead Sea, this floating salt-water pool is dug 5 meters deep into the rock and contains 10 tons of Epsom salt in 1,200 cubic feet of water. A rare privilege, it is only the second of its kind in the world, the other being in Switzerland.
In the soft blue neon light, I found myself a neck pillow and eased into the warm water, carving out a spot amongst the other Källa-goers to float in the cavernous, vault-like space. After a couple of minutes your heart rate slows, you let go, and mental and physical relaxation literally washes over you. The atmosphere can only be described as unreal. (If you’ve ever wanted to try floating for the weightlessness but were put off by claustrophobia, this unique experience was made for you).
After Källa I repeated the thermal cycle a couple more times, interspersed by some delicious pastries and coffee at Mëzz | Café, one of four restaurants on-site. Feeling entirely blissed out, I checked into the charming Auberge Old Chelsea B&B in town, nipping out to the local Chelsea Pub for a late dinner and craft beer before falling into a deep and restful sleep.
Plan Your Visit
Magical in every season, from winter wonderland to spring renewal; lush summer to cozy autumn, you can easily spend the entire day here, enjoying the circuit and Källa experience interspersed with lunch, dinner, and cocktails.
We recommend Nordik Spa-Nature’s Wellness Package that includes the Thermal experience, massage and bathrobe rental. They also offer packages that include a hotel or B&B stay to extend your stay.
Book your spa getaway at chelsea.lenordik.com.