Sparkling Hill Resort: the Ultimate Spa and Wellness Retreat in British Columbia, Canada
It was the middle of a cold, dark Canadian winter but sweat was dripping down my back. Outside, the mountainous ground was blanketed in a heavy layer of fresh powder snow, yet my skin was gently prickling from the delicate balance of intense heat and humidity in the air swirling around me. With each deep inhale and subsequent long exhale of aromatic air, I could feel my strained muscles begin to relax and loosen, my mind completely at ease. I pondered to myself if I had ever been in a place like this before; a rare place that unconditionally exudes peace, calm, and tranquility.
This rare place is Sparkling Hill Resort.
The resort - an architectural gem
Built in 2010, Sparkling Hill has quickly established itself as Canada's - some might even say North America's - premier spa and wellness destination. With close to 150 luxury guest rooms (featuring either mountain or lake views - both are equally gorgeous), a spa area covering a vast 40,000 sq. ft., and an extensive list of relaxing wellness treatments, it's easy to see why. Not to mention, the resort prides itself on providing European hospitality but kicks up the rustic charm a notch with the added opulence of Swarovski crystals throughout the entire building (truly, you'll find them everywhere - in the restaurant, saunas, guest rooms, and even in the pool washrooms) .
It's this unique mix of down-to-earth charm with grandeur that makes Sparkling Hill a total knockout.
The guest rooms
Perhaps the most important thing in a wellness resort is not the spa or facilities themselves, but something much, much simpler: the bed. If you're not able to get a deep and restful sleep, then you won't unwind no matter how hard you try. Luckily, Sparkling Hill has this point absolutely covered with their queen and king sized memory foam mattresses topped with heavenly soft pillows and warm duvets. They are so cozy in fact, that I found it extremely difficult to motivate myself to get out of bed each morning, despite the only thing on my agenda being "sauna time".
Situated atop a mountain overlooking the northern Okanagan, the resort has relatively few neighbors, except for the occasional deer or squirrel. It's beautifully quiet and this makes it that much easier to sink into a deep sleep each and every night. Yeah, life is pretty rough at Sparkling Hill.
With an open concept layout, all of the guest rooms feature spacious bathrooms (with heated flooring), large walk-through showers, lavish yet eco-friendly toiletries from British company Gilchrist & Soames, floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Okanagan, a two-person soaking tub underneath a starry crystal sky, and super soft white bathrobes with slippers for the spa.
You'll find warm wooden accents throughout the rooms, and with minimal artwork on the walls the real focus is on the Swarovski elements, such as a glowing crystal fireplace and a colorful light projection that can be displayed on the ceiling of your room. It's just the right balance of subtle luxury.
The dining options
Sparkling Hill has one main fine dining restaurant, PeakFine, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While lunch and dinner here is à la carte, for breakfast you'll find a huge buffet containing hot and cold, as well as savory and sweet items. The daily breakfast buffet is included in the price of your stay. Don't forget to grab a to go coffee on the way out at the little coffee table set up by the exit of the restaurant!
If you're looking for an alternative to the more formal dinner environment of the PeakFine Restaurant, you can also enjoy lighter fare such as soups and sandwiches at Barrique & Java, a cafe and wine bar located one level downstairs from the lobby.
The luxurious and vast KurSpa at Sparkling Hill is comprised of treatment rooms, relaxation rooms, fitness studios, saunas, steam rooms, pools, and they are all fully embellished by breathtaking Swarovski crystal architecture and design.Filling over 40,000 sq. ft. of space, the size, treatments (the spa offers guests over 100 health and beauty treatments), and amenities make the KurSpa a rare gem among spas worldwide. Here are some of the things you can expect to find and enjoy:
Cryotherapy Cold Chamber The first of its kind in North America, Sparkling Hill's Cryotherapy Cold Chamber offers a incredibly unique experience for guests. Although it may be the shortest treatment at the resort, spending only three minutes inside the -110 °C (!) chamber is said to give a tremendous boost to your nervous and circulatory system (some pro athletes swear by it). I haven't tried this one myself, but maybe next time I'll brave the cold. Introductory treatments cost $45 and a set of 10 treatments costs $300.
Tea Room Before or after spa treatments, or really anytime throughout the day, the Tea Room is a lovely place to sit and relax while enjoying a cup of hot tea or refreshing ice water. Located between the pools and the saunas and steam rooms, the amount of foot traffic outside this room means its usually a little noisy during peak times, but still an ideal spot to curl up with a good book. Tea is available from 9 am - 6 pm.
Serenity Room Located at the furthest end of the KurSpa, the Serenity Room is a place of tranquility and beauty. With views overlooking Okanagan Lake and the Monashee Mountains it's easy to forget about time and completely unwind here. Due to its location, it seems many guests never even discover the Serenity Room, as it was always empty when I visited. This room is easily one of my favorite public space in the whole resort!
Fitness & Movement Studios The Fitment and Movement Studios can also be found near the far end of the KurSpa, directly before the Serenity Room. The Fitness Studio contains all kinds of equipment for the exercise-conscious while the Movement Studio is the perfect place for stretching and yoga. Both rooms feature marvelous views of the surrounding mountains.
The Saunas, Steam rooms & Pools
Imagine floating on your back in a lovely warm pool, gazing up at a twinkling crystal sky while dipping your head underwater to listen to classical music softly meeting your ears. If you're into luxurious relaxation, then this is the place for you.
Sparkling Hill has an indoor salt water pool where you can indeed listen to music underwater, a heated outdoor infinity pool with stunning views of the valley below, and a large hot tub to relax in after your swim. You can also walk through the Kneipp Waterway, a European water-stepping technique that leads from you from warm water into cold water and back again, in an effort to stimulate circulation.
Steam rooms that smell like a bouquet of roses, that make you breathe deeply inhaling the sweet aroma, all the while relaxing the muscles in your body until you feel the last ounce of stress melting away. Who doesn't want to go spend some time at a spa?!
The completely relaxing and totally unique saunas and steam rooms at Sparkling Hill will have all your spa needs covered. From the lovely herbal scented Salt Steam to the gorgeous scenic views from the Panorama Sauna to the snapping sound of ice in the chilling Igloo Room, there is something for everyone. In addition to the seven saunas and steam rooms you'll also find the Experience Showers - push the 'Thunder' button, I dare you.
And when you need a break from the saunas, just grab your fluffy bathrobe and head across the hallway to nab a window spot in one of the relaxation rooms to admire the striking Okanagan landscape.
What you need to know
Sparkling Hill Resort is fabulous, but unfortunately that means everyone wants to come and enjoy it. It's been listed in plenty 'best of' British Columbia articles and many locals from the Okanagan Valley return regularly each year for a quick relaxing getaway. This means that it can get exceedingly busy, especially on weekends. In order to avoid the worst of the crowds try to book a stay during weekdays and take advantage of the slightly cheaper rates.
When to go Sparkling Hill is a year-round destination. While it can be enjoyed during all seasons, I find it extra special in the fall and winter when outdoor temperatures drop. It feels especially nice to be in one of the hot saunas or the heated outdoor pool when it's freezing outside and you can comfortably watch the snow fall while in your bathing suit.
Transportation Located in Lake Country, about halfway between Kelowna and Vernon, Sparkling Hill is approximately a half hour drive from the nearest airport, Kelowna International. You will need a vehicle to get there, as there is no public transportation that heads up to the resort. You can either drive yourself, book a rental car, or hire a taxi. A stay at Sparkling Hill includes free valet parking.
KurSpa It's highly recommended that you book your spa treatments in advance as time slots fill up quickly. You can contact the KurSpa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-541-2155.
Saunas & Steam Rooms Opening hours for the saunas and steam rooms are daily from 9-11 am and 4-10 pm (note that each day from 9-10 pm the saunas and steam rooms are clothing optional). A couple other important things to remember: when entering a dry sauna be sure to bring your towel with you (you can find towels next to the bathrobes in your room when you arrive); also, ensure that you close the door of saunas/steam rooms entirely when you enter/exit to avoid letting the heat out and disrupting your fellow guests. The saunas, steam rooms, and pools are available for guests 16 years of age and older.
Dining A full buffet breakfast, including delicious hot and cold items, is included in the price of your stay. If you plan to dine in the PeakFine Restaurant for dinner, it's recommended that make you a reservation in advance. There's no need to book this weeks ahead of time (unless you're going to be a large group) - a couple days before or sometimes the day of should ensure you enjoy dinner at your preferred time. The PeakFine Restaurant is open for breakfast daily from 7 am - 10 am, lunch from 12 pm - 2 pm, and dinner from 5:30 pm - 9 pm. Reservations can be made at 250-275-1556.
For a casual alternative to the PeakFine Restaurant, you can enjoy specialty coffees, light soups, sandwiches, salads, and fresh pastries in Barrique & Java. This coffee shop/wine bar/cafe is open daily from 9:30 am - midnight, with food being served from 11 am - 11:30 pm.
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Please note, I was not compensated to write this article, but simply wanted to share my fantastic experience of staying at Sparkling Hill. All opinions expressed herein are my own.