For thousands of years, Scandinavians have been relaxing in serene, natural settings, using traditional hot, cold, relax circuit methods. This popular practice—known as thermotherapy—hails from the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland but over the years has gained popularity across Canada and the U.S. The circuit provides health benefits for physical, mental, and emotional well-being, including relieving stress, detoxifying the body, and improving circulation.
Here are three Nordic spas that offer a course of calm, wellness, and euphoria—repeat.
Just minutes away from Reykjavik’s city centre, a 2,000-year-old Nordic tradition can be experienced at Sky Lagoon. This hot spring spa is where the sea meets the sky, where the stress of the everyday is left behind, where heritage and healing meet. Here, Icelandic bathing begins with captivating views from the 70-metre infinity edge at the Oceanside Geothermal Lagoon—step one in the Seven-Step Ritual. The next step is the cold plunge, which stimulates your immune system and reduces inflammation while providing a natural endorphin rush), followed by the sauna overlooking the North Atlantic to open pores and remove toxins. Next, cold mist stimulates the senses, followed by a cleansing sea salt scrub, the steam room to open pores, and finally, cleansing in the gentle, refreshing shower.
Icelandic tradition extends to the design of the space. The exterior front wall is constructed like historic turf houses, which offered comfort and shelter through extreme weather on the island. Inspired by Iceland’s oldest pool, the cold plunge looks exactly like the original cold pools of the past.
Following this rejuvenating experience, Smaak Bar offers tasting plates with a nod to Icelandic’s dining history, featuring dishes and drinks from local vendors.
In the untamed wilderness of the Yukon, a sparsely populated territory abounds with natural scenic beauty.
Eclipse takes the traditional Scandinavian ritual using water naturally heated by the earth, and encourages guests to do the thermotherapy (or known as contrast temperature therapy) technique in the indoor saunas, steam rooms, jetted tub, or outdoor hot springs – before plunging into the cold mineral pool. Snow is another option to cool down during the winter months.
When it’s -20°C (-4°F) outside, guests are invited to take part in the Hair Freezing Contest. Don’t worry, the warmth of the hot springs keeps you cozy.
For the relaxation period, check out the heated lounge beds in the relax room or read your favourite book in the solarium with views of the Ibex Valley and Miner’s Range mountains in the background.
Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler’s iconic thermal spa is surrounded by an old-growth rainforest and rugged Coast Mountain views. Guests are challenged to sink into complete silence and a digital detox while journeying through cycles of hot (15 minutes), cold (30 seconds), and relaxation (15 minutes) installations spread over 25,000 square feet.
With several heated pools to choose from, the dry sauna is the ghost pepper of heat when it comes to the hottest option. But if a heated pool is more your style, pull up a seat in silence and let a jet massage your sore muscles. From here, a plunge into the invigorating cold pool provides several health benefits, including tightening pores, improving circulation, and releasing endorphins—once you get past the shock of submerging your body. Stay strong and breathe on—it’s the key to getting through it. Once you do the circuit a few times, your body will begin to adapt, and before you know it, you’ll be able to last more than a minute. The final stage of relaxation takes place in a hammock, lounge chair, or indoor bed, where ambient music envelops you in a warm cocoon of silent splendour.