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A trip inside a world-class spa

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Spa patrons relax at beautiful, scenic Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, Que. A sister location currently under construction in Winnipeg is expected to look similar.

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Spa patrons relax at beautiful, scenic Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, Que. A sister location currently under construction in Winnipeg is expected to look similar. Photo Store

Did you know the largest spa in North America is a spectacular, sprawling setting on a hillside in Chelsea, Que.?

And that Winnipeg’s Wildwood Park neighbourhood will soon be home to its sister facility?

If you’ve driven down Crescent Drive lately, you may have noticed construction on the edge of Crescent Drive Golf Course. This is the development of Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature, a thermal spa set in the heart of nature. It’s the second Canadian location for an exceptional spa concept that has been popular for centuries across Europe.

The idea of a thermal spa is to go through purifying cycles alternating hot and cold, with rejuvenation in between. The year-round indoor-outdoor haven slated for Winnipeg will feature techniques and rituals from Nordic countries, with cold, temperate and hot Nordic baths, Finnish saunas, aromatic steam pavilions, waterfalls, and relaxation areas for unwinding and re-energizing.

It will also offer massage and body treatments, and a fully licensed, locally-sourced restaurant and patio for spa guests. All this and it’s only stage one, with additional expansions in coming years already being envisioned.

Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature will open in Winnipeg in early 2014, with a third Nordik Group slated for Whitby, Ont., in 2015. But first, before both of these, came Chelsea, the mother of all spas.  

Nordik Spa-Nature opened eight years ago in the nation’s capital region, nestled in the Gatineau Hills a short drive from downtown Ottawa. North America’s largest spa is simply extraordinary, with seven outdoor baths, an infinity pool, a floating pool, and seven saunas, each unlike the others.

Nordic saunas are wooden buildings using dry heat produced by overheated stones. My favourite was the tiny Barik sauna, built from red cedar and designed with a shape like a barrel lying on its side. I had to crouch to enter, and once inside, couldn’t stand up. But that’s okay, because on this day, it was all about lying down.  

The multi-level rocky landscape is thoughtfully designed with solitude in mind. There are hammocks, hanging chairs, giant beanbags and oversized cushions. Lawn chairs circle fireplaces in gazebos, and beach loungers line the simulated sandy beach complete with the sound of ocean waves. Indoors you can recline with musical headphones, stretch out on hot marble slabs, or just nap on mats. It’s all purely pleasurable.  

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the mother of all treatments was waiting below, five metres deep into the rock, in a minimalist and dimly-lit subterranean setting.

Nordik Spa-Nature’s Källa pool is the second of its kind in the world (the other being in Switzerland). The saltwater floating pool invites you to experience weightlessness and timelessness in a silent underground cavern. The air temperature is perfectly calibrated to match your body’s temperature, which matches the water’s temperature, creating one sensation of mental and physical bliss.

It truly allows you to drift away and forget about time and space, your physical self, your worries, your cares, your thoughts, and pretty much everything else, including… uh, what was I saying?

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