A feeling of wellbeing

Body, Soul, Spirit and Mind – Canada has relaxing and rejuvenating wellness activities to nourish all four. Charlotte Flach looks at some of the best options

Body

Canada is a heavy hitter when it comes to Spa breaks, with options often set against a backdrop of the natural elements. For alpine-chic, Alberta’s Kananaskis Nordic Spa puts a Canadian spin on a classic Scandinavian concept. Blending spaces for silent reflection with cosy nooks perfect for striking up a conversation, its outdoor pools overlook views of the imposing Rocky Mountains. 

Even spa veterans will be left in awe by Ste. Anne’s Spa. Located in the tiny town of Grafton, about 90 minutes east of Toronto, the Spa looks like a rustic cottage from the outside. Unlike most Spas, laughter and conversation is encouraged, with a menu of over 35 treatments, from hot stone massages to reiki treatments.

New to the scene, Groupe Nordik was due to open its first spa village concept in Ontario in winter 2022. The Thermëa Spa Village in Whitby has an on-site capacity for 700 people.

Rituals include Aufguss ceremonies – a multi-sensory experience inside the sauna – a Rhasssul mud treatment, Himalayan salt inhalation sauna and the Källa saltwater underground floating pool.

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Soul

There’s nothing like a farmers’ market for picking up some fresh, healthy produce, while sampling the best local fare.

Those in the know in Yellowknife, NWT, get their produce and mingle with the community every Tuesday from June to September at the Yellowknife Farmers Market. 

Farm to table is big in Canada and Nova Scotia’s Gourmet by Nature tour operator offers wild food experiences for foodies, foragers and nature watchers. 

This small-group experience teaches visitors how to prepare and eat local wild foods that are sourced from the forests, lakes, streams, oceans and fields of Nova Scotia.

Steeped in the peaceful auras of the nuns who walked its corridors over 400 years ago, Le Monastère des Augustines in Québec is a hotel-cum-wellness sanctuary. 

Situated in the heart of the city but offering a serene space to disconnect, clients enjoy yoga classes, Spa treatments and sessions with a holistic health consultant. 

One of its main draws is its mindful eating concept, with nutritious meals served daily and breakfast eaten in meditative silence.

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Mind

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ blends hiking with meditation. The trend consists of walking mindfully in the woods using all of your five senses, and is scientifically proven to improve mental and physical health.

Vancouver Island offers guided forest bathing, with walkers strolling slowly through an ancient forest, interacting with the surrounding through touch, sight, and sound. Even the sense of taste is stimulated in a tea session which rounds off the experience, complete with edible plants such as liquorice root and lemon balm.

Performing a ‘downward dog’ during a yoga session on a frozen lake should be a bucket list experience – and it can be ticked off in Winnipeg. Then head to Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature, with its Aufguss ritual which takes place in the Finlandia dry sauna twice a day. Ice balls infused with essential oils are placed over a hot stove in a heated cedar room, releasing scents of red mandarin, lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint into the room. 

A new outdoor accommodation experience is available in Ontario: Arcana offers experiences to maximize the benefits of nature, including science-backed wellbeing rituals that allow participants to “easily access nature’s restorative superpowers”. On-site experiences include a private sauna, hikes and guided forest bathing on 15 kilometres of marked trails and a custom meditative sound journey. 

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Spirit

At the Xat’súll Heritage Village in Soda Creek, overlooking the Fraser River in British Columbia, visitors can immerse themselves in the daily lives of the Xat’súll people. Learn to make traditional crafts, join a lava rock pit cooking demonstration and visit a sweat house. 

Traditionally, these have been used by First Nations people as part of cleansing rituals and spiritual journeys. The day can be rounded off by spending the night sleeping in a traditional teepee or pit house.

The Powell Lake Outdoor Learning Centre is new and located at the crossroads of the Sunshine Coast Trail and the Powell Forest Canoe Route. It offers cabin accommodation, sweat lodge teachings and other First Nations cultural learning programmes as well as star gazing with night sky lectures.

Experience a spiritual awakening by taking on a shaman’s quest. The Huron Traditional Site, located in Wendake, on the Huron-Wendat Reservation, is just 15 minutes from Québec City. 

The authentic recreation of a Huron village allows visitors to experience several fascinating elements of First Nations culture. Those taking on the quest will be encouraged to develop ways “to control the natural elements, predict the future, find lost objects, and interpret dreams by passing a series of ‘tests’.”