As the sun warms up the frozen ground and the once glistening snow gently melts away, the Ottawa-Gatineau region wakes up to the wonder, beauty and vitality of spring. Ottawa, Canada’s beautiful ice-covered capital, is transformed into a lively landscape where birds chirp and blossoming, colourful tulips reign by the thousands. Spring is a time of rejuvenation; and where better to rejuvenate your mind and body for the coming warmer weather months than at Nordik Spa-Nature?
Located in Chelsea, Québec, just a short 10-minute drive from Ottawa’s downtown core, Nordik is the largest day spa of its kind in North America, offering indoor and outdoor massages, seven cold and temperate baths, eight unique sauna experiences, an infinity pool that overlooks Ottawa’s twinkling downtown core, as well as a restaurant and a cozy fire lit lounge complete with comfy leather couches.
With its rustic, log cabin-style buildings, large windows and a picturesque setting (the spa is nestled just at the edge of the luscious Gatineau Park), “Nordik” as it’s known locally, offers each guest an oasis of tranquility in any season. Nordik is also home to Källa, a unique salt water floating pool that is only the second of its kind in the world, as the other one is located in Switzerland!
I can tell you from experience that if you’re looking to soothe your mind, your body and really disconnect from the stress of everyday life, Källa is for you.
Housed in a cave-like structure located five meters (16 feet) underground, Källa’s soothing capabilities are evident from the moment you walk in. A wave of hot air and tranquil spa music greets you as you make your way down the warm concrete stairs to a dimly lit, waveless pool. No matter the busy activity of the popular spa outside, Källa is quiet and serene.
Once at the bottom, you’ll find a natural rock setting, floating pillows and the shallow Källa pool, which with its 12 per cent Epsom salt-saturated water, heated to about 37 degrees Celsius, invites you to lie back and feel completely weightless.
It might take a few minutes for you to get comfortable with your floating pillow. But once you are, the thick, blanket-like water and the tranquil spa music playing under that water quickly lull you into a meditative, relaxed state. And as you slip into near oblivion, a warm breeze blows over your body, echoing a gentle, soothing Caribbean island wind.
The Källa pool is designed to accommodate several bathers at once. But according to Nordik’s website, the pool’s rounded edges allow water to flow continuously, which lets bathers move around freely without disturbing others. During my own Källa experience, I floated around gently and did not notice other guests entering or exiting the pool.
It is recommended to experience Källa for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the health benefits and the level of stress relief you are hoping to achieve. Though Källa is a supremely relaxing experience, it is similar to the Dead Sea as it offers health benefits such as accelerated wound healing, improved blood circulation, increased creativity and reduced inflammation, among others. Källa is also accessible.
The unique treatment costs $40 CDN when purchased in addition to Nordik’s Thermal Baths and Saunas experience. A 60-minute Källa treatment can also be purchased on its own for $70 CDN.
For me, it was a lovely addition to my spa experience, as it really allows you to disconnect and focus on yourself. I would recommend to first enjoy a dream-like state in Källa, then head back out to Nordik’s more social baths and saunas experience.
Nordik spokesperson Marianne Trotier says that Källa is beneficial for anyone that needs to relax their body or their mind. “People who don’t really like getting massages earn the same benefits pretty much,” she said in an interview with Ottawa Tourism, adding the treatment is great for pregnant women and for athletes with sore muscles. “It’s also great for people with degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, who just want to ease the pain for a couple of days,” she said.
In addition to Källa, Trotier says the spa’s saunas are not to be missed. “We have eight different sauna experiences and each of them is unique,” she said.
As you walk from one end of the beautifully landscaped spa to the other, the choice of sauna experience is yours as Nordik offers different areas heated by steam, wood or stone. Trotier said that in the colder weather months of spring, fall and winter, Nordik makes sure to keep its saunas “hot, cozy and warm.” “People actually think that they could be cold in the wintertime, but there are so many great hot spots to just hang around and still be in nature,” she said.
After relaxing in Källa for a while, I wandered over to the Finlandia sauna, where Nordik’s “Aufguss ritual” is performed four times daily.
Announced by a gong, this 10-minute sauna session features an infusion of essential oils. As you sit in the dry Finlandia sauna, a mixture of water and essential oils is poured onto the hot stones. The resulting vapour is then moved through the air by an Aufguss master, who uses a towel to agitate the air and gently fan guests. The essential oils create a pleasant smell that awakens your senses, while the agitation of the air creates a more intense dry heat. This ritual is worth attending just to see the Aufguss master in action, but it is also a treat on one of Ottawa’s cooler days.
Trotier says that in terms of North American spas, Nordik offers the largest variety of sauna experiences. She added however that Nordik is still expanding its sauna experience, planning to open a new Russian sauna experience this summer. “Banyä,” Trotier said, “is kind of a mix of a steam bath and a dry sauna.”
She noted that Banyä will enable Nordik to offer exfoliation treatments and more Aufguss-style rituals, adding that guests will also be able to take a cold shower and go directly back into the heat. “It’s offering an experience that we don’t have in North America yet. It’s an inspiration from Europe that we’re going to bring here,” Trotier said.
According to Nordik, the spa’s new Banyä area will also offer a quiet relaxation area, as well as a yoga and meditation room. Banyä is expected to be open towards the end of summer 2016.
Whether you like to brave the cold or you want to take advantage of that hot springtime sun, Nordik is a great place for a restful retreat. Trotier says that in the colder weather months, Nordik has many great assets to keep guests warm such as closed gazebos with wood burning fireplaces and heated porches. In the warmer months, she says guests can take advantage of outdoor Adirondack chairs, hammocks and short, scenic walking trails. “In the summer, people enjoy the outdoors more,” Trotier said. “But that would pretty much be the difference.”
For now, Nordik is a day spa –with the exception of two overnight lodges: Nordik Lodge and Alpina Lodge, which can be reserved for special events by groups of roughly 10 to 16. But by 2017-2018, that “day spa” status could change, Trotier says.
She noted Nordik is in the process of market and soil research studies to see if a 100 to 300-room hotel could be built on the property. “It’s really at the start of the project,” Trotier said. “But it’s definitely something we’d like to have and offer to our customers for maybe 2017 or 2018 at the latest.” She added that Nordik still has 20 acres of land available for development.
If you’re coming to Ottawa and you’re thinking about visiting Nordik, plan to spend anywhere from three hours to an entire day there. Its spa services, thermal baths and saunas, as well as quiet rest spaces such as Tellura, which offers heated stone beds, make it easy to lose track of time.
You can also take advantage of Ottawa Tourism’s Shop, Dine & Unwind package that offers accommodation as well as entry to Nordik’s Thermal Baths and Saunas experience or a Signature Spa treatment at Holtz Spa, Ottawa’s first luxury spa. Whatever experience you choose, you’re sure to be pampered and relaxed.