As I recently discovered on a sunny summer day, a trip to Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature is actually so much more than just relaxing — it’s a full sensory experience. The entire Thermëa experience, including everything you see, smell, hear, taste and touch is deliberately designed to bring about the ultimate in relaxation. My senses were fully engaged and it was glorious!
Driving up a quiet residential street just south of downtown Winnipeg, Thermëa seems to appear out of nowhere, with its Nordic-lodge vibe. But upon a second look, the spa fits seamlessly into the treed neighbourhood, nestled next to the Crescent Drive Golf Course. If the exterior looks inviting, then I’m not sure the word to use to describe the scene when you get in. Cleaned-lined timber buildings housing the spa’s saunas and relaxation areas surround the pools where the relaxation magic happens.
For the visual learners, signs let you know how to complete the thermal cycle – a cycle of hot (saunas), cold (cold or temperate pool), followed by a period of rest. Maps posted around the facility or that you can grab from the registration desk outline the areas where you can complete the cycle.
The combination of cozy buildings and inviting pools is further enhanced by the lovely rustic-chic landscaping. We arrived before the spa was open to the public to snap a few pictures (because no phones or cameras are allowed during operating hours — if you’re looking at your phone, then you’re doing the whole relaxing thing wrong) and I got to enjoy the serene and peaceful view.
In a place where people are asked to keep their voices down or not to speak at all, the sounds of the spa come through loud and clear. First, I noticed crackle of the fire and the sound of the waterfall — the Iceber cold waterfall gently splashing into the cold plunge pool below. Then, I noticed the gentle spa zen house music soundtrack heard throughout the outdoor areas. As I laid on a lounger during a rest period, I closed my eyes and just listened: the notes of a piano sonata floated gently down, the constant hum of the waterfall in the background, punctuated by the periodic yelp of an unsuspecting guest experiencing the shock of cold. Every now and then a laugh escaped from the fire pit or the forest beach – a rest area set below the relaxation pavilion. The leaves rustling gently in the breeze and the thwack of a tee shot from the next door fairway, even a far off lawnmower was an excellent reminder that I was experiencing the absolute best kind of relaxation. And then I heard the gentle rumble of the gong, an auditory signal that the next sensory experience was about to begin.
It’s called aufguss, which is German for “infusion”, and this ritual in the Finlandia dry sauna happens twice a day. As I took my seat on the middle row of benches (pro tip: the top is the hottest), I saw the balls of ice next to the wood burning stove and the music swelled to a dramatic crescendo as Thermëa staffer Avery came in came in and explained the ritual. The ice balls were infused with essential oils, the scents released with a sizzle when placed on the hot stove. The scents of red mandarin and lavender filled the sauna, followed by lemongrass, and then peppermint. Each scent was dispersed through the sauna as Avery twirled and whirled a towel above her head, her lovely towel dance spreading the scent in wafts to each corner.
In the Vaporo, the steam saunas are also an aromatic experience with the scent of orange and eucalyptus in each sauna. After spending 10 minutes (maybe it was more, maybe it was less — time passes in mysterious ways at Thermëa) in the steam sauna which opened my pores, I gently rubbed the lavender exfoliation salts over my legs, trying to recreate the same kind of feeling I experienced during my body treatment.
In addition to the thermal cycle of hot, cold, relax, I upped the ante on my relaxation hand with the Relaxation Treatment, choosing it from a range of massages as well as face and foot treatments. The treatment started with a full back exfoliation, which was like an incredible scratch to an itch I didn’t even know that I had. Next, a warm layer of paraffin wax was draped over my back in what felt like the longest and warmest hug I’ve ever had. Then Breann, who was providing my treatment, began a full body massage with a Mediterranean aromatherapy blend, which was infused with citrus, basil and jojoba oil. While each part was intensely relaxing, I got shivers — like the super good kind — during the scalp massage. I cannot even describe how amazing that felt.
But then again, the whole Thermëa experience is designed to make your feel amazing. Feeling the change in temperatures does things to your body. Starting off in a hot sauna (I took at peek at the temperature gauge in the dry sauna which holding steady at 68° C), I felt the sweat trickle down my face, back, chest, legs as the heat worked to eliminate toxins from my body. Next, the extremely refreshing plunge into cold – either the 10° C cold waterfall or pool or the 25° C temperate pool (which seems a lot colder on a warm summer day than in the middle of winter!) causes a release of adrenaline, a shock to the system. And then adrenaline is replaced with endorphins during the rest period, enjoyed for 10 to 15 minutes, or up to an hour or longer if you fall asleep (pro tip: don’t forget your sunscreen if you plan to rest in the sun). The recommendation is to do the cycle three times, but since your entry fee gets you in for the whole day you can do the thermal cycle as many times as you want. Or if you’re like me, you can just bring a book lay in the hammock as puffy white clouds float above you.
While it’s no surprise that you need to stay hydrated — I enjoyed a delightfully refreshing cucumber and basil-infused water throughout the day — what was surprising is how all that relaxing really made me hungry. Lunch or dinner on the patio is a must during a summer visit to Thermëa (pro tip: you can enjoy your drinks anywhere there is outdoor seating). I enjoyed an amazing pineapple margarita, a hint of cinnamon was the perfect compliment to the fruity flavour. Lunch was a tasty smoked ham and gruyere cheese Croque Nordik with a side salad of peppery arugula, smooth ricotta, and sweet blackberries.
Special packages let you taste more of Thermëa’s menu offerings – the Tuesday night Girl’s Getaway includes a selection of tapas and ice cream for dessert, along with a sparkling wine. Foodie Wednesdays is a four course meal along with wine pairings. And during Lounge Thursdays, a mixologist will tell you the stories behind the Thermëa-inspired drinks. Even the summer-only Yoga & Spa package will engage your sense of taste — after a 90-minute yoga session enjoy a freshly-made smoothie.
For me, previous visits in the winter and spring just don’t compare to the extra level of relaxation offered by the sight of blue skies, the sounds of birds chirping, the smell of flowers blooming, the flavours of fresh berries and the warm touch of the summer sun. I reached the ultimate in relaxation. And me, and my senses, can’t wait go to back and do it all again.