Story by Claudia Laroye
I can feel the bead of perspiration trickling down my nose. It drips onto the wooden slat floor of the wood-fired Finnish sauna. I’ve only been breathing in the heavy air for less than ten minutes, but I’m ready to exit the hot phase of the hydrotherapy cycle and plunge into the cold pool for a dip. The pores close as my body hits the 10C water, and the blood rushes back to the surface. As I settle into the fireside lounge chair with a view of the forest, my body tingles with energy. I smile to myself. Phase one complete – repeat until spa nirvana has been reached.
The Scandinavian tradition of soaking in a hot spring pool, sweating it out in a Finnish sauna and dipping into a cold pool on a repeated ‘hot-cold-relax’ cycle has been enthusiastically adopted in Quebec. Perhaps it’s the northern affinity of embracing winter – la belle province has always done that in the most positive of ways (think Quebec Carnival and its snowy MC Bonhomme). So the fact that so many Nordic spas are located within a two-hour drive of Montreal shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It’s worth noting that the benefits of hydrotherapy – detoxification, stress relief, and mind and body relaxation – can take place in any season under the sun. The endorphin rush and release of well-being hormones that result from a visit to one of these six Nordic spas will ensure that your first experience will not be your last
The philosophy that celebrates the natural world of Le Baluchon Eco Resort revolves around the themes of relaxation, adventure, gastronomy, farming, culture and the outdoors. From nature walking to horseback-riding, cycling to yoga, guests staying in one of four auberges (lodges) are encouraged to do as much or as little activity as they wish. For those wishing to maximize access to the resort’s spa facilities, book a contemporary room in the De L’Ile Lodge. The resort’s Nordic spa is located in this auberge, overlooking the Rivière du Loup. The spa features the best aspects of Nordic baths – hot saunas, hot tubs, cold plunge pools and intimate relaxation areas with views and sounds of the river. Massage therapy sessions can be experienced in a traditional indoor setting, or in nature –outdoors by the Tremble waterfall, or up in a tree canopy overlooking the forest.
Carved into a hillside of Precambrian rock, La Source is a tranquil spa oasis in the maple and birch tree forest of the Canadian Shield. Located outside of Rawdon in the Lanaudière region northeast of Montreal, La Source is focused on providing a natural spa experience. The spa uses geo-thermal technology for heating the baths, as well as the walkways and floors in winter. The scandic-inspired buildings terrace into the rocky hill, interspersed by thermal baths, cold pools, relaxation areas and colourful red hammock pods. Guests are encouraged to spend a half day relaxing and rejuvenating the spirit, listening to birdsong and waterfalls. The silence policy is not in effect in the spa’s Bistro, which features local artisanal meats, cheeses and vegetables. Do try the plateau de terroir launedois, a platter of excellent regional products, including the exquisite Pizy, a soft cow’s milk cheese.
Soaking in a hot tub, overlooking nothing but the forested hills and calm waters of Lake Sacacomie, it’s easy to feel completely alone and at peace. The rustic log buildings of Hotel Sacacomie are nestled in the pine forest bordering the Mastigouche wildlife reserve in the picturesque Mauricie region between Montreal and Quebec City. The hotel’s GEOS Spa features an uninterrupted view of the lake, dry saunas, including one with luminotherapy inspired by the northern lights (think hot discotheque), cold baths with an icy waterfall, and heated relaxation areas. Should your thoughts turn to more active adventures, hiking, kayaking, fishing or paddling the rabaska (large birch canoe favored by the 17th fur traders) are just a scenic walk down to the lake.
Nestled in the Laurentian forest, along the shores of the Diable River, this nationally renowned spa and one of Quebec’s first hydrotherapy facilities has recently unveiled some new improvements. Scandinave Spa Mont-Tremblant has added a huge infinity edge spa with a waterfall, dry sauna, steam bath and a cold pool under a Nordic waterfall. This is in addition to the existing Finnish sauna, thermal pools, and fireside relaxation areas. The spa’s emphasis remains on mind and body relaxation in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere in harmony with nature, so silence is golden.
A converted ferry boat that once plied the waters of the Richelieu River is the urban spa oasis of Bota Bota. Now docked on the St. Lawrence River just steps from Old Montreal, this luxurious spa is a chicly designed escape from, but with views onto, the city. Guests can float away the day enjoying the hydrotherapy water circuit of outdoor hot and cold plunge pools, Scandinavian saunas, steam rooms and silent rest areas both on and off the ship. The Bota Bota Gardens offer a natural green space adjacent to the outdoor pool and relaxation rooms, while the on-board restaurant is affiliated with the Auberge St-Gabriel, with Michelin-starred chef Eric Gonzalez at the helm. The floating restaurant’s menu showcases healthy dishes enhanced by local produce from the Qeubec region.
As one of the largest spas in North America, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Spa Le Finlandais in Rosemère wouldn’t be a haven of peace and relaxation. But the extensive grounds and themed spa buildings allow for as much pampered privacy as you can handle. With twelve saunas, thermal and arctic baths and waterfalls, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, and unique experiences, including lounging in giant bubbles and multi-sensory quiet rooms, this spa really does have something for everyone. The spa has an extensive menu of massotherapy treatments, and a cozy bistro overlooking the main spa area. Grab a book and relax by the river’s edge in between treatments. Spend the day with friends, or book one of sixty suites at the adjacent hotel to enjoy a couple’s weekend getaway.