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Learn about the health and anti-aging benefits of hydrotherapy.

La Belle Province might be famous for poutine, maple syrup and smoked meat, but lately the region is on the Canadian radar for its multitude of water circuit spas.

It’s tempting to skip the bracing cold dip or shower after a luxurious steam, sauna or soak (especially if the cool tubs are outside in the winter), but the combo of hot and cold is an integral part of the hydrotherapy ritual. Heat slows down the activity of internal organs and encourages blood vessels to expand, which increases circulation. The relaxing effect of warm water also reduces stress levels and can relieve pain, joint stiffness, arthritis and inflammation. (That’s why you always see hot tubs in the locker rooms of professional athletes!)

But to reap the full benefits of hydrotherapy, the after-shock of immersing in an ice- cold dipping pool or taking a Nordic shower is a must. The cold causes blood vessels to constrict and pushes the blood back into your internal organs, which improves circulation and encourages the lymphatic system to detoxify. Plus hydrotherapy can do wonders for your skin, improving elasticity, shrinking pores and giving skin a healthy post-bath glow. A bonus: the hot/cold exchange provides some powerful cardio without the exercise!

The final step requires one to hydrate and relax in a spa’s “quiet room” or relaxation space: you’ll need 20 minutes to re-regulate the body’s natural rhythms. If you complete the water circuit properly (each spa typically has a route outlined with time increments at each station) hydrotherapy also boosts the immune system, encourages better digestion and improves skin and muscle tone.

Typically, access to the hydrotherapy area is included with a treatment or for a small extra fee, but most spas with comprehensive water circuits also offer stand-alone access passes. Here’s where you can go to enjoy some of the best hydrotherapy in Canada.

Strom Spa Nordique, stromspa.com

Five minutes from downtown Montreal is a massive pampering complex set upon its own private lake looking onto a forest on Nun’s Island. It’s like going to the country without leaving town. A multi-level water circuit with hot and cold waterfalls draw stressed-out urbanites in droves, but the genius of its design ensures that you can always find a spot to call your own. Multiple glassed-in quiet rooms (one with a fireplace) provide solace while the outdoor fire pit and café provide a place to quietly socialize. Try the Tropical Treatment ($89, 60 minutes) to instantly transport your senses to sunnier climes. It’s a full-body exfoliation using raw sugar cane granules and virgin coconut oils and ending with a mango enzyme body wrap. Water circuit access: Fri-Sun $46; Mon-Thurs $34; nights after 6 pm $29.

 

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Bota Bota Spa, sur L’eau, botabota.ca

Set in a reconditioned ferry boat permanently docked in the quays of Montreal’s famous Old Port, this spa’s water circuit includes two levels of outdoor hot tubs and inside cold dipping pools, saunas, steams and “porthole” quiet rooms. It’s a hip and modern space—Richard Branson once commandeered the entire ship for a private party. The spa’s signature facial is the Bilberry Tide ($90; 60 minutes), which is designed to hydrate and nourish dry, sensitive or delicate skin. Water circuit access: Weekdays-unlimited $55, three hours, $45; weekends-unlimited $65, three hours, $50.

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Morin Heights - Baltic Station, merispa.ca

Amerispa’s newest Nordic installation in the Laurentian Mountains is an hour north of Montreal in Morin Heights, which is touted as the cross-country ski capital of Quebec. Cresting the Simon River and surrounded by towering pine forests, it’s an impressive stand-alone complex with multiple levels of water circuit stations with waterfalls and indoor labyrinths of treatment rooms and relaxation spaces, plus a bistro specializing in local fare. Try the signature Elixir Ice Cider Massage ($50, 50 minutes) using local Quebec ice cider infused with vitamins and mineral. Water circuit access: Seven days $43; Nights after 5:30 pm $33.

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Domaine Chateau Bromont, amerispa.ca

Amerispa now runs the facilities located an hour east of Montreal in Domaine Chateau Bromont Resort, cresting a ski hill and an 18-hole golf course. Their new “Aquationic Park” has two thermal pools, 52 powered water jets, more than 15 stations, including a Nordic and a thermal waterfall, a “walking against the tide” section and submerged bicycling option. Inside steams and saunas are also within a Hammam. Separate spa suites in the Pavilion des Sens (Hall of the Senses) ensures guests can literally live in their robes from room to treatments and water circuit without entering public areas. The hotel also has an indoor pool and four hot tubs on an upper deck. A signature Fresh Cream and Papaya with Pineapple Body Wrap ($115, 50 minutes) with vitamins, minerals and vanilla should whet your appetite for some real food later at the gourmet dining spot, Les Quatre Canards Water circuit: Seven days $45. 

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