As a wellness writer, I’ve been to plenty of spas in my day. But the big grand pooh bah of all Canadian spas is Nordik Spa-Nature situated in Chelsea, Quebec. Nordik Spa is not only Canada’s largest day spa, it was one of our first Nordic-inspired spa, too. Situated less than 20-minutes away from downtown Ottawa, it’s located in the town of Chelsea, which is super close to Gatineau. Here’s everything you need to know before you getting your Nordik on at this swish nature spa.
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Nordik Spa Chelsea
This likely isn’t how your first Nordik Spa experience in Chelsea, Quebec will go down, but I opted to dive right in with a Banyä treatment. Here’s what happened:
“Bend over,” barks the blonde in a bathing suit. “Do you want it mild or Russian?” she asks.
“Errr, Russian?” I reply.
Moments later this enthusiastic Banÿa Meister strikes my back with birch branches, one, two, three, who can count the number of times? I remain face down on the sauna bench, trying not to flinch as the leafy branches hit my back and legs.
It doesn’t hurt, but I’m still perplexed as to the wellness benefit of getting (lightly) beaten with a branch. Increased circulation, perhaps?
The other spa goers get into it, clapping in time to the Russian folk music, while waiting their turn to get whipped. The hiss of steam sizzling off the sauna’s hot rocks add to the atmosphere. Dudes, it was freaking hot in there!
After getting the full Russian, we’re encouraged to exfoliate with salts infused with essential oils. Whenever you want, you can grab face cloths sitting in buckets of ice water and apply them to your face. Some people hightail it out of the sauna having completed their whipping ritual, but the rest of us line up for the pleasure of having a cedar bucket of freeing water doused over our heads.
“Yeah! It’s like a party!” affirms our Banÿa Meister, after all is said and done.
When we depart, it certainly looks as though a party has taken place. Crumpled face towels are discarded, pools of water and dried birch leaves litter the sauna floor. Stepping out of the Banyä sauna into the breezy autumn afternoon, I feel a tad dizzy, but elated. Hot yoga has nothing on this, my friends.
Nordic Spa Ottawa
This Nordic Spa, situated less than a 20-minute drive from Ottawa, is where you want to escape when the weight of the world is pulling you down. More than a spa, it’s a like an enchanted forest bubbling over with what looks like natural hot springs, tricked out saunas and thoughtful wellness treatments.
But there’s a twist. Here, Nordic spa rituals are woven into all these wonderful amenities. Additionally, Finnish, Russian and German sauna culture are integrated into the many treatments, too.
Unlike many Nordic spas, this Ottawa-region one has three separate areas for you to explore on 10 acres of property. Each zone has plenty of pools, saunas and relaxation rooms to suit your mood. Here for a day with your girlfriends? You’ll want to hit the Panorama section, where it’s totally ok to chat over a glass of wine and cheese plate. (Yes, it’s licensed!)
When you don’t want to be bothered by anyone else’s conversation, head to the silent Kaskad area, to cocoon in a winterized hammock or chill next to the wood burning fire in a relaxation pavilion. If you’re somewhere in between, explore the Borëa area, where you’re allowed to whisper and the pummelling jets inside the Gëser pool (the hottest on property) melt any muscle soreness.
How to Nordic Spa
Now how to do a Nordic spa is to submit yourself to a thermotherapy cycle of getting super hot, freezing cold and then resting at room temperature.
First, you spend 5 to 15 minutes in a sauna or steam room (there are 9 different varieties on property). Next, you’re to expose yourself to the cold so your body releases adrenaline after experiencing thermal shock. Best to do that in one of the bracing plunge pools or hey, why not underneath a waterfall?
Finally, you ought to spend at least 20-minutes partaking in some kind of relaxation ritual. There are hot (and warm) tubs to plunge into, and numerous comfy relaxation areas where you can catch a nap. Or your breath.
On this front, I’d recommend a float in Källa, a saltwater floating pool (so buoyant, you’d think you were in the Dead Sea).
Another unique spa experience you’ll find here is the Aufguss ritual. It takes place in the Finlandia sauna with an Sauna Meister, who arrives with a bunch of snowballs. Since aufguss means ‘infusion’ in German, you know these aren’t no ordinary snowballs.
They’re infused with essential oils and are placed on the hot sauna rocks. As the snowballs melt, they release the fragrant oils, which the Sauna Meister fans using a large towel.
The Aufguss ritual is set to music, making it a totally sensory experience. You’ve got the heat, the scent of the oils and the sounds of the curated music. Bliss.
If you’re looking for massage in the Gatineau region, look no further. At Nordik Spa-Nature, you can get close to a dozen different types of massage on site. There’s your Swedish, deep tissue and hot stone massages. For mom’s to be, there’s a gentle, prenatal massage that does wonders for alleviating the aches and pains associated with pregnancy.
It can be hard to find proper Thai massage (incorporates more dynamic stretching) in the Gatineau region, but you’ll find it here, as you will lymphatic drainage, which sounds gruesome, but I can assure you no drains are involved. Elevate your experience with a massage in nature – inside a wooden pavilion in a thicket of trees.
In addition to massage, you can get facials (for men, too!), footcare, salt scrubs and wraps. It’s a full service spa, y’all!
Nordik Spa Hours
Good news! The Nordik Spa-Nature is open late! Its hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday to Thursdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, they stay open until midnight.
It’s open no matter the weather (rain, sleet, snow) and is only closed one day a year – Christmas. If you’ve made an appointment for a treatment like massage, you need to arrive at least 30 minutes before.
But know this, a girlfriend of mine visited recently on a Friday morning around 10:30 a.m. and it was so packed, she wished she arrived an hour before her treatment. She really cut it close and recommends everyone show up an hour minimum before your treatment. They do have a new online reservation system, allowing guests to reserve both their treatment AND spa time.
Keep in mind, you have to be 16 years and over to visit Nordik Spa-Nature. Guests aged 16 and 17 need to bring ID to gain entry.
Hotels near Nordik Spa
What’s different about this spa is that there’s hotels on property! Nordik Spa-Nature sports two cottages you can overnight in. Nordik Lodge is super near the spa – just steps away and sleeps 12. Nearby Alpina Lodge sleeps 10 in three bedrooms.
I’ve stayed at Nordik Lounge and can’t tell you sweet it was to saunter back and forth between my room and the spa all day and night.
If you can’t secure either of those, Nordik Spa has partnered with over 20 hotels in nearby Chelsea and Ottawa. These hotels range from B&Bs to the Holiday Inn to more upscale properties like Andaz and Le Germain. You’ve got your choice of packages that include a thermal experience, bathrobe rental, plus treatments and meals.
Have you ever been to a Nordic spa? What was your experience like?