The Nordik Spa-Nature is located in a semi-rural area of Quebec in Canada, but it’s only a 10-15 minute drive away from downtown Ottawa, the capital of Canada. It claims to be the largest day spa of its kind in North America, with an impressive amount of outdoor facilities, indoor and outdoor treatments, three different spa experiences, a yoga room, dining areas serving healthy, high-end food and a boutique. For those in the National Capital region, it’s pretty much the largest and nicest spa around.
The facilities are the stars of the show at Nordik and most of them are outside. The huge relaxation and healing center is mainly focused on thermotherapy and relaxation techniques from Scandinavian countries. Nordik has divided up its property into three different “experiences” so each spa-goer can choose the level of serenity they want: the Kaskad area is completely silent, the Borëa area is the whisper-level section, and Panorama area is the social section specifically geared towards sharing your spa moments with others.
Within these different experiences, there are four cold and temperate baths which includes an icy waterfall, nine unique saunas, an infinity pool that overlooks Ottawa’s downtown core, as well as a cozy fire lit lounge complete with comfy leather couches. The main idea here is to spend time going through the “thermal cycle” — a heat therapy treatment that involves alternating between hot and cold, followed by a rest period. This relaxation ritual is based on a 2000-year-old tradition founded in Nordic countries.
We saw there was a salt-water floating pool but you have to pay for access separately ($40 CAD), which we didn’t know at the time. This pool is called the Källa experience, and is a large floating salt-water pool dug 5 metres deep into the rock which contains 10 tons of Epsom salt in 1,200 cubic feet of water. Nordik claims that its Källa pool is only the second of its kind in the world, the other being in Switzerland.
We tried as many of the different saunas and baths as we could and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the sheer amount of facilities and the overall quality of them. We went around the holidays, and being the Canadian winter, it was cold and snowing while we walked around in our robes and flip-flops.
I should mention here the only thing I didn’t like about the spa’s offerings: they don’t offer robes or sandals for free like other spas. The only things they provide for free are a locker and a towel. You have to bring your own robe and footwear, or you can rent a robe for $12 CAD. Obviously this is fine for locals but if you’re visiting it kind of feels like a penalty.
I booked two treatments for myself and two for my boyfriend. The first was a 50-minute duo massage we experienced together: “All massages of the same length can be given in “duo mode,” in which the sliding doors between two massage rooms are opened for a joint session. In this way, friends or couples each have their own massage therapist and table but are still able to share this unique experience.” I actually wanted to book specialty massages for us both at the same time, but for some reason when I spoke with the spa rep, we could only have Swedish massages at the same time performed as a duo massage. To me, this is odd (why can’t I have the massage I want?) but perhaps the massage therapists that were available couldn’t do the specialty massages like their “Tonic Massage” (which is the one I wanted), essentially a sports massage.
At any rate, we did get the rooms with the sliding door in between and we each got pleasant French-Canadian ladies as our masseuses. Our massages were straightforward Swedish, with not a lot of communication. Maybe they were hesitant to speak English, but not once did either of them communicate with us after the initial intake questions. They didn’t ask us if the pressure was alright, if we were comfortable, or anything other than “please move down the table and turn over.”
The massages were also very light. They were more of the relaxing variety instead of therapeutic, and we kept waiting for them to dial up the pressure after they got started. We did, after all, tell them that what our problem spots were, and assumed they would work on them appropriately. It was early in the morning when we got these treatments, and the drive to the spa was a harrowing one on slippery snow-covered streets, so I wasn’t in the mood to disrupt my Zen by trying to relay instructions in my rusty French. Both of us would describe our massage service as competent and conservative — they did seem to have some skill but the pressure was so light it really felt like they were holding back. So these were a bit disappointing.
Later on I figured out why it was all so odd and the massages were disappointing. On the intake form, they ask you if you need a receipt. In Canada, massage therapy performed by a Registered Massage Therapist is covered under most health insurance plans and an official receipt with the RMT’s information gives you the ability to claim the cost and be reimbursed. So when they ask if you need a receipt, they are basically asking if you want proper massage therapy, or massages that are performed by unregistered (uncertified) masseuses. I unfortunately forgot about this detail and indicated that we did not need a receipt, so our treatments were not performed by certified professionals, and that’s why I couldn’t get the specialty massages (done by RMTs) I wanted.
I also heard from some Canadian friends that in Quebec the situation with Registered Massage Therapists is a little…loose. Apparently the standards to become registered or certified aren’t that high, and it doesn’t take as much training to get your certification. So overall, supposedly the quality of even professional massages isn’t that great.
The next treatments we got were a “Vivifying Treatment” for me, and a “Face Care for Men” for my boyfriend. The description for the Vivifying Treatment sounded promising: “an energizing, revitalizing and detoxifying care, from head to toe. Vivifying treatment for the body starts with a biological exfoliation of your back and the back of your arms, followed by a thermal mud purifying treatment, and a short back and scalp massage. The experience is completed with an exfoliation and short massage of your feet and half leg, as well as a mini face care (cleaning, exfoliation and massage).”
I wouldn’t say it was energizing or revitalizing, and its detoxifying claim is dubious. There are were no Vichy showers in the treatment room I was in, so the wet paste-like scrub that was put on my back was wiped off with hot, wet towels. She only exfoliated my back, and skipped everything else that was listed in the description. My back did get some sort of mud applied to it, which was then covered in what seemed to be a mylar sheet (like emergency blanket material) for five minutes or so while she gave me a light head/scalp massage.
After all that was wiped off, I turned over and got a mini facial. The product felt creamy and had too much of a fragrance for my liking. This is why I rarely get facials outside of my esthetician’s office — unfortunately most products spas use will cause me to break out even though they say “safe for all skin types” because they put irritating ingredients in them like fragrance, or pore-clogging ingredients that are too heavy for my oil-prone skin. I looked at the products when the treatment was done and it turns out they were by Comfort Zone, a high-end Italian spa brand I was familiar with. That was kind of a bummer, because there are other products in the Comfort Zone line that I like.
So, I didn’t really dig the treatment and didn’t think it was appropriately given based on the menu description.
My boyfriend’s facial wasn’t much better. His treatment wasn’t vigorous enough for his liking, and he thought it was way too light. To him, it seemed like anyone could have been taught how to do that treatment in half an hour, so it seemed pretty amateurish in that sense. There was no sense of professional expertise in delivering a facial, and he felt like he could have just washed his face the same if not better at home. The massage portion of the treatment was barely noticeable as well, as the pressure was way too light to be effective. The therapist didn’t communicate with him at all either, and it seemed like it wasn’t a professionally-trained therapist at all but just a run-of-the-mill service provider not befitting of a spa environment. He thought that it wasn’t even a treatment, he thought it was more of a routine.
Service was coldly professional by the check-in staff, the “information” staff stationed at various places inside the spa and by the attendants working inside and outside. Service by our therapists was also professional, but as we mentioned, their delivery of the treatments was poor and in the end, wholly unsatisfying.
Nordik is the largest and in many ways the nicest spa in the National Capital region of Canada. Spa-going locals aspire to go there because the facilities alone make it a year-round serene, relaxing escape that’s not far away from home or work. For visitors to the region, it offers view of what it’s like to enjoy a Canadian outdoor spa with a ton of great facilities, even in the middle of a deep-freeze winter. If you want high-quality treatments though, be sure to ask for an RMT but be warned that even then, the quality might not be what you are used to if you get regular therapeutic massages.
- 3 areas – 3 experiences (Silent, Whisper, Social)
- 10 exterior baths
- 9 distincts saunas
- 4 restauration offers
- A panoramic pool
- A floating salt-water pool
- Numerious resting places
- A yoga and meditation room
- An exfoliation room
- Outdoor massage pavilions
$$$$ = Pricey (Canadian Dollars)
16 Chemin Nordik,
J9B 2P7 Canada
HOURS OF OPERATION
Sunday to Thursday: 9 A.M. to 11 P.M.
Friday and Saturday – 9 A.M. to Midnight
HOW TO BOOK AN APPOINTMENT
You can book an appointment online, but be aware that even on the English site, the menu is in both French and English and French is always first. Otherwise, you can call the spa to book at 1-866-575-3700 or 1 (819) 827-1111.