Inside a shower stall at KurSpa, birdsong echoes around me and the sweet smell of jasmine fills the air. The next shower button I push lets loose thunder sounds, “lightning” flashes, and a cold torrent of water. I quickly retreat back to the piping hot Herbal Sauna.
The nature-themed experiential showers at Sparkling Hill Resort, perched on a hill in British Columbia’s wine country, are secondary to the overall spa experience. But they merit mention as an example that every detail has been thought of and implemented inside this extraordinary 40,000-square-foot space.
So, yes, even showering off is memorable.
When it opened in May 2010, the resort, owned by the Swarovski crystal family of Austria, almost garnered more attention for the 3.5-million Swarovski crystals integrated into its design, than for its spa. Lighting panels in guest rooms are embedded with crystals, sparkling prism sculptures stand as art in glass cases, and multiple crystal chandeliers hang like beaded curtains from the lobby’s vaulted ceiling.
But over the years, it won hearts and minds because of its sumptuous spa.
When BC lifted its mask mandate in March and the popular steams and saunas reopened, loyal guests returned for a wellness reset.
KurSpa: The Heart of the Resort
“We refer to the spa as the heart of the resort,” says KurSpa manager Kerry Werner.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the eight themed steam, sauna, cold, and aqua meditation rooms to close for nearly two years because it was almost impossible to maintain physical distance inside the small spaces. The plus side? The closure allowed for upgrades inside the facility, from redone seating in the steam rooms to a fresh coat of paint. The resort still feels new after 12 years.
And when BC lifted its mask mandate in March and the popular steams and saunas reopened, loyal guests returned for a wellness reset.
“We drove here from Vancouver,” says a man inside the sweltering Rose Steam room through a curtain of mist.
The small, octagonal-shaped room smells of roses and glows pink from two rose-petal inlaid and backlit panels. The seats are so hot you might burn your buns.
“Here’s a tip,” our new friends says, leaning closer. “Fill your swimsuit with ice from the Igloo room before you come in. You won’t get so hot!”
It’s but one spa hack my husband and I learn during our first visit to Sparkling Hill. Others? Drink gallons of water. Stake out a chaise lounger in the Serenity Room to bliss out. Do the Kneipp hydrotherapy walk at least four times to acclimatize—the calf-deep water walkway alternates between hot water and H20 so icy your feet ache!
And so we circulate between the steam rooms and saunas, relaxation spaces with views of Okanagan Lake, and the giant hot tub and outdoor infinity pool. Basically, it’s all about the water at this European-inspired wellness resort.
“The Europeans are light years ahead of us when it comes to wellness and taking care of their bodies,” says Werner. Europeans often vacation at resorts in the Alps that are close to mineral pools. They unplug, unwind, and reset, and water is a big part of it, she says.
“For them, it’s always been health through water,” says Werner. “Spa actually stands for ‘sanitas per aquam.'”
The original idea behind Sparkling Hill was to bring that wellness resort concept to North America, and it’s been a huge success.
Unique Spa Treatments & Hiking Trails
Spa treatments such as pedicures, facials, and massages, such as the Himalayan Detox, are so popular, they need to be booked six to eight weeks in advance. Reserve couples treatments like the Empress Sissi even farther ahead. Named after an Austrian empress who’s considered the founder of modern spa culture (she famously insisted on bathing daily), this treatment starts with a 30-minute milk and honey bath accompanied by sparkling wine, followed by a 60-minute side-by-side massage.
If you can motivate to leave the premises, private hiking trails traverse a hilly landscape dotted with pine and spruce trees.
After two days at Sparkling Hill I feel right at home. It’s tempting to wander down to breakfast the final morning wearing my spa robe, like we’ve seen other couples doing, but I don’t think I’ve unwound quite enough for that level of familiarity. I guess I’ll just have to book a return visit.
Lisa Kadane is an award-winning travel and lifestyle journalist based in Kelowna, B.C. Her articles have appeared in AARP, American Way, BBC Travel, Best Health, CNN Travel, enRoute, Today’s Parent, Postmedia newspapers, and many others. When not traveling, Lisa skis and hikes with her family, sips wine in the Okanagan Valley, and makes time for self-care.