Spa Vacations


Author: Travel Alberta

The ancient Romans knew a thing or two about spas. While Alberta's Aboriginal peoples were discovering the healing benefits of mountain hot springs, Roman warriors halfway across the planet were plunging into mineral hot springs to heal battle wounds. The Roman population soon caught on--in fact, the word "spa" comes from the Latin "salus per aquam," or "health through water."

You'll think of Rome when you visit Calgary's Spa Europa. This luxurious day spa features the statues, pillars and marble that evoke the ancient Mediterranean--and its Turkish Hammam Treatment offers a modern twist on the Byzantine and Roman empires. "In ancient Greece, bathing would be a ritual," says co-owner Laura Ezekiel. "Now, bath is 'in and out' - it's not a ritual any more. Our Turkish hammam, however - our signature treatment - is a ritual."

At 3.5 hours, the treatment includes head-to-toe exfoliations, aromatherapy steam sessions, hot and cold hydro treatments, Swedish massage, cucumber mini-facial and a full body milk rinse--along with a hair shampoo and condition, and scalp massage. And, to keep up your energy levels, there's an elegant lunch, too. "It does everything," says Ezekiel. "It refreshes and purifies mind, body and soul."


The Romans transported their love of baths throughout their far-reaching empire--a legacy that the crowned heads of Europe made their own. Mountain spa resorts, with views as good for the soul as the treatments were for the body, became especially popular in the 1700s and 1800s. Today, that legacy flourishes at the Willow Stream Spa in the Fairmont Banff Springs resort--just 90 minutes from Calgary, and tucked into its own stunning alpine valley. Sarvar Thermal Crystals, distilled direct from Hungary's Sarvar springs and containing such ingredients as potassium, magnesium and iodine, turn the pool at the heart of the Willow Stream into a truly therapeutic soak.

"The Hungarian mineral pool is the traditional spa," explains Pam Ouellet, assistant spa director. "It has the healing waters that assist in relieving sore muscles and aching joints, promoting circulation, and detoxifying and re-mineralizing the body." She suggests that spa guests also spend time in the nearby hot, warm and cool plunge pools, with their cascading waterfalls (all of which look out onto magnificent Mount Rundle.)

The Willow Stream taps into another European tradition in its thalassotherapy treatments, which literally mean "from the ocean." Ouellet explains that--from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea--the sea contains minerals, trace elements and vitamins that are indispensable to our lives.

The Willow Stream's Thalasso KUR treatment, she notes, uses sea-borne ingredients that nourish, rejuvenate and detoxify the body, starting with a re-mineralizing algae body wrap, continuing with a sea salt bath, and finishing with a marine firming cream. Your body will thank you.


In the mountain resort town of Lake Louise, 30 minutes from Banff, the Post Hotel's Temple Mountain Spa evokes a European feel, with its beautiful dark woods, slate and glass tiles--but its unique new signature treatment takes you to Thailand, says spa director Anne Witzaney. The Thai Herbal Stem Massage uses herbs such as ginger, cumin and plai (from the ginger family), wrapped in unbleached cotton, steam heated, and then used in a kneading and rolling movement as part of a traditional Thai massage. "It's a wonderful experience because of the aroma," she says. "It helps release toxins and improves circulation, and is combined with deep pressure to release blocked energy, and increase awareness and vitality." And while the aromatherapy might take you to Asia, she notes, you still wake up in the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by peaks, glaciers and lakes--making it an ideal Alberta spa vacation destination.

There's more of Asia at the Eveline Charles day spas in Calgary and Edmonton, with their Indo-Chine Fusion. The Coco-Nilla body scrub combines coconut milk and crushed vanilla beans, followed by a tropical mist Vichy shower, Javanese floral bath, and shea butter body wrap, plus massage. Can you say "aaaaah"?


You can wrap yourself in Europe in Kananaskis, 1.5 hours west of Calgary, where the Delta Lodge's Summit Spa body wraps use the best of European ingredients. Need a Rocky Mountain spa weekend to recover from your week? Try blissing out to a blend of French and English lavender, or detoxifying with a combination of creamy spa mud and Italian mineral salt thermal waters. Need some stimulation? How about pure marine algae from Brittany, with a slenderizing and firming effect?

About the author: Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site.