In earlier times, a spa visit was about bathing in hot, au natural, healing waters — picture Roman soldiers soaking in the mineral rich, hot springs of Spa, a small Belgium village.
Thankfully these waters, that rise from far below the earth’s surface and are the result of volcanic action millions of years ago, still remain. Of the many steamy hot springs in Canada, a few are also part of wonderful spas.
When we take stock of Canada’s natural hot springs with full-service spas, here are the Big Four:
HARRISON HOT SPRINGS
Starting in the west, which happens to be a hub for these watery treasures, head for Harrison Lake in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. Tucked into the base of the illustrious Coast Mountains and on the shoreline of the picture perfect lake are two smelly, steaming springs that boast temperatures in the 40 and 60 degree C. From this location the water is cooled and pumped to pools in the nearby village.
There are five swimming pools at Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa and many of the treatments at Healing Springs Spa begin with a soak in the mineral-rich waters. The piece de resistance of this spa, which opened in 2001, may well be its private Signature Room that, although anyone can book it, cries out for couples to indulge in the Time for Two Celebration.
A gorgeous, deep roomy tub, soft lighting, even a faux starry sky sets the mood for a soak, a Moor mud treatment followed by a choice of a relaxation, reflexology or shiatsu massage. Lovely and It all begins with the healing waters – little wonder that the Coast Salish People revered this locale as the ‘healing place’ in the 1800s.
FAIRMONT HOT SPRINGS
Steamy hot springs go hand in hand with the Canadian Rocky Mountains, as though Mother Nature is determined to show off the best of the west. In the early 1900s soothe-seekers arrived in B.C.’s Fairmont Hot Springs and headed into the ‘palatial sanitarium’, a bathhouse where mineral rich water soothed their aching muscles. At
this site today, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort welcomes guests to experience the same feel good feelings.
A favoured treatment at The Natural Springs Spa is the Sacred Nature Organic Ritual: 75 minutes of your full body being exfoliated, nourished and massaged with fragrant, organic creams and oils. As with all treatments at the spa, you may begin or end with a swim or soak in the mineral-rich pools of the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort where 1.5 million gallons per day flow from Canada’s largest hot springs. (It is emptied and cleaned daily.)
BANFF HOT SPRINGS
Surely one of the most famed hot springs are at well-named Banff Hot Springs. Surrounded by towering mountains it is Alberta’s heart of outdoor recreation and following an adrenaline-hyped day, you can rejuvenate at Pleiades Massage & Spa. Hint: to complete your energetic day, the mountain high spa can be reached via a wooded trail from near the Fairmont Banff Sprints Hotel. (Even if you aren’t staying at the famous ‘castle’ make sure you stroll through and enjoy the ambience and history.)
Once up the mountain -you can drive – go for a wrap and deep massage at Pleiades Massage & Spa; combine it with a visit to the plunge pool and outdoor hot springs pool. It is simply the thing to do while in Banff. Don’t you love it that Pleiades is pronounced ‘play-at-eez’ and is the Greek name of seven stars. You are sure to feel like a star after this day. There is also a Pleiades Massage & Spa in Radium Hot Springs, B.C.
TEMPLE GARDEN MINERAL SPA
Temple Gardens Mineral Spa opened in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1996 and changed the once-sleepy town forever. Thanks to ancient sea beds far below the earth’s surface, as well as some ingenious townspeople who piped its mineral rich waters, today guests of the luxurious resort bask in warm geothermal waters and take treatments at The Sun Tree Spa.
Tough to say which will impress the most, the magnificent rooftop, indoor/outdoor pool (hint – it’s particularly magical under a blanket of stars) or the treatment at The Sun Tree Spa. Consider the Wild Rosehip Prairie Wrap that combines a healing and regenerating wrap utilizing the prairie’s own rosehips along with exfoliation and face and scalp massage.
Hot water and hot treatments are a winning combination at Canada’s hot springs. Such a nice touch that we can embrace the same pleasures as those experienced by ancient Romans.
Judi Lees is a veteran travel writer based in British Columbia