From grand estates to a hip Nordic spa to a classic chateau—our roving editor-at-large shares four of her all-time favorite Canadian escapes.
Langdon Hall Country House & Spa, Ontario
Chilled lobster from the spa dining menu nibbled in an airy sanctum after a splendorous Valmont facial? A sip of cantaloupe soup as you gaze out the windows at a leafy woodscape right out of Walden? There’s a spa for that . . . at Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, set among manicured lawns designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, in the bucolic hinterlands of Canada’s Ontario, just south of Toronto. Built in the Gilded Age by a scion of the Astor clan, the 75-acre estate, once a grand rural home, holds a romantic mansion and several adjunct buildings, such as the former stables, re-imagined as cosseting suites. Conceived generations ago to incorporate the healing aspects of nature for its residents and their guests, the compound continues to extend a tranquil vibe fueled by the bounty of the surrounding outdoors. More than ten miles of hiking trails, a gastronomic kitchen worthy of its Relais & Chateaux branding, and activities from cooking classes to garden tours fill the hours between spa appointments. Try the firming Lift From the Peaks facial treatment by Valmont.
Manoir Hovey, Quebec
Manoir Hovey, wedged beside shimmering Lake Massawippi in the forest-carpeted, French speaking Eastern Townships region of Quebec never really needed a spa. Nature’s breeze, a cruise on the pontoon boat, the birds singing at dawn, fields of springtime wildflowers, the lake’s water lapping on the bank, aromatic orchards, and romps through the snow in winter sufficed.
But even picture-postcard hotels, conjurers of nostalgia and sentimental old-school good times, buildings with architecture designed to evoke George Washington’s Mount Vernon (as Manoir Hovey was), are embracing the wellness trend, adding brick and mortar spas to their offerings.
Launching this year, the five star Relais & Chateaux estate’s new-built wellness area will include a three-story, lakefront spa pavilion, replete with three guest rooms for spa-loving visitors, as well as seven treatment rooms and an outdoor treehouse-like platform for melding into the soothing beats of nature. An outdoor infinity pool flows into the lake, complete with a hydrotherapy thermal circuit.
RITUAL Nordic Spa, British Columbia
Like latitudinal sisters Canada and Scandinavia share a tendency for frigid weather, colder ocean temperatures, and short, grey, dark winters days. So it’s no wonder that the The Great White North has eagerly adopted the concept of the Nordic Spa, a trend that began to grow throughout Canada even before the pandemic.
Featuring hydrotherapy circuits, cold plunges, saunas and other means of taking the body to temperature extremes to boost immunity and provide a cozy social spot for wellness seekers, Nordic-style spas have made a mark. One of the newest, RITUAL Nordic Spa in Victoria on Vancouver Island, occupies prime real estate in the hip hood of Harris Green. Stretching 3,500-square-feet, it features a self-guided circuit experience with four saunas, a warm Himalayan salt lounge, Nordic showers, an indoor cold plunge pool, bucket showers, an herbal-scented steam room, and more.
Book a spa suite for a private experience. Eschew your robe and don a towel instead to support RITUAL’s sustainability efforts, and they’ll purchase carbon offset credits on your behalf.
Spa at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta
You’ll play hard in Banff National Park, one of the world’s most jaw-dropping locations. A high altitude dreamscape of forest and mountains with a limpid lake at its heart, the wilderness holds an unexpected site: a castle. As a haven of repose from active, sun-drenched days spent outdoors (hiking, kayaking, biking, and beyond), Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise brings a dose of elegance and refinement with its storybook crenelations, towers, and promise of pampering amid regal-inspired nooks.
Up the coddling ante in the salubrious subterranean Spa at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. A place of quietude, proffering treatments meant to doctor the skin after nature’s extremes (sun, wind, and dryness) and reset weary muscles for the next day’s physical efforts, the spa soothes with facials by both Tata Harper and Kerstin Florian, as well as signature body treatments. Recharge with the Soothing Lavender Dreams, both a scrub and a massage.
Becca Hensley is Editor at Large for Insider's Guide to Spas. Based in Austin, she writes regularly about travel and spas. She believes a good story draws you in like laughter in a crowded room, and challenges you to do it justice. Her work appears regularly in Austin Monthly, Travel Channel, Toronto Star and National Geographic Traveler.