This review of Vetta Nordic Spa in Ontario is part of the series 100 Baths, my search for the world’s best spas and public bathing rituals. Read more and see the list here!
Originally published in 2022, updated January 2023. My first visit was shortly after Vetta opened, and on my return trip quite a bit had changed so I felt my review deserved a bigger overhaul!
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The first Finnish-inspired spa in Ontario has brought something to my part of the world that I’ve been craving: a social spa environment.
Vetta Nordic Spa reminds me of my experiences in Iceland and Norway, where local hot pools and saunas are places to interact with your neighbours, or even tourists. It was there I found out how hot soaks and steam can dissolve the awkwardness of talking to strangers, and that locals are often curious and eager to chat with visitors who have found their community spas. I’ve yet to visit Finland, but by the looks of Vetta, it’s similar there.
Around Toronto, spas like this are mostly set up for solo relaxation or romantic getaways. They are also popular with small groups of friends, but there’s often a tension between those who want to chat amongst themselves, and the atmosphere or tranquility and silence that is promoted. At Vetta, they’ve found a design solution to this problem.
Vetta has separate zones marked Social and Quiet
“Here is where we talk, laugh, and spend time in conversation with others.” I was thrilled to see this statement when looking at the spa map. So off we went, three girlfriends on a road trip where we could catch up in the car, at the highway pitstops, and in the pools.
Vetta Nordic Spa is located in a forested area near the popular ski resort Horseshoe Valley. You can’t miss it upon arrival – there’s a large A-frame structure of wood, steel and glass piercing the sky, and a large parking lot.
Inside the spa itself, no cameras are allowed—a respect of privacy I agree with 100% since I’m much more relaxed in a bathing suit with zero cameras around. But I can show you the reception, where floor-to-ceiling glass windows let in all the light, creating a warm and welcoming space to register and get your electronic wristband. They accept cash but you don’t need it; the same wristband used to lock and unlock your locker can charge food and drink.
If you arrive when it’s busy, you may see a group crowded around the lobby area — this is a quick orientation of the facilities and rules. But if you’re been before — or after reading this blog! — you can by-pass this and just tap the circle on the wall to get your locker number and head on downstairs to change.
Day Spa Etiquette: 18 Dos and Don’ts
My first visit to Vetta was on a very cold winter afternoon, with two girlfriends. Upon arrival, I looked out the glass windows over the outdoor facilities and saw steam rising from hot pools and a golden sun about to set, so we quickly made our way to the change rooms to get into our swimsuits and head outside to start our circuit of hot-cold-relax.
OK, so the first pool was not so hot! It was so inviting, with a lovely waterfall, but you put one toe in and realize it’s “only” a warm 26 degrees. Have I mentioned this was a freezing minus-zero day? We slid into it anyway, for about a minute. And then watched a steady parade of others doing the same, with lots of surprised looks and laughs. It was here that I first realized Vetta is a place where you can have a shared moment with people you didn’t come with. It’s nice.
There is a much hotter pool, a very short walk away, where we warmed up watching the sun set and chatted amongst ourselves without worrying it was disruptive. On that and my subsequent visit there was plenty of room in this pool to distance from other groups so you don’t hear their conversations over yours, unless you want to say hello.
The next part of the circuit is the cold plunge. You’re meant to heroically plunge into an icy cold pool after, in order to close your pores, increase your circulation and release endorphins. So in we went!
I have a friend who preferred to do this old school: by laying down in the snow and rubbing it against her skin. Either way, it’s an important part of the experience that truly does make you feel better. (And a bit like a viking warrior, not going to lie.)
There is another hot pool, and a cold plunge, in the Quiet Zone as well.
Meet me in the steam room
You may be wondering where the social aspect kicks in. On my first visit, this happened in the steam rooms.
We struck up conversation with three other women. It was a typical chat between strangers. Where are you from? Been here before? But to me this was so much more pleasant than trying not to disturb anyone else in the room by talking, or staring into the distance not acknowledging the presence of others.
Vetta has two scented steam rooms – one eucalyptus and the other perhaps rotates as it was “winter green” on my first visit and citrus on my second. These are both in the same building so easy to try and see which one you prefer, or has enough room. Spend enough time in there and you’ll leave so warm that the cold plunge seems like no big deal after. (The three ladies cheered on my friends doing the plunge; if you’re going to dip into icy cold waters, it’s fun to have that support.)
What makes Vetta stand out is the saunas
Vetta has several dry Finnish saunas and you may want to try them all.
We started with the large wood-burning sauna they call Sisu. It’s very spacious, with different levels to stretch out on depending on how hot you like it. The top row is very hot! I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful smell of actual wood fire here.
Over in the Quiet Zone, Kirkko is a smaller electric sauna which is quite cozy.
The showstopper at Vetta if you ask me is Harmonia: a large wood-burning sauna with an expansive glass wall offering peaceful views of natural setting. It can fit at least a dozen guests, so there’s an opportunity here for a traditional Finnish sauna communal experience, although both times I visited there wasn’t much group chat. Be warned it gets very hot and they have a sign advising to leave eyewear and other non essentials at the door. You may wish to ladle some water onto the hot rocks, a Finnish tradition. The sound of steam rising into the air while you look out at trees and snow is exactly the bliss I hope to find at spas like these.
The entrance/exit to Harmonia has showers and a big wooden keg of salt meant for an exfoliating rub before you go. You simply rub yourself or your mates with salt then shower off. It’s a good place to end your circuit, at least the wet part, as there are still many places to simply relax after.
My fave place to zone out is the Hot Stone Room.
Vetta has several relaxation zones, from the outdoor firepits with Muskoka chairs (probably best in spring/fall) to solariums with or without fireplaces. These are excellent spots to lounge and read, or just close your eyes for a while.
But if you want to completely zone out seek the Hot Stone Room.
This darkened chamber offers two rows of elevated slabs of marble that are heated. These are sectioned off for individuals to lay down beside each other, with some privacy dividers. I’ve never seen a room like this in Canada before and I loved it.
It took me a second to lift myself up there, and the stone is not immediately overwhelmingly hot. But once I lay down completely and let the warm stones do the work, it was incredibly relaxing. This is in the Quiet Zone, so even when our room was full it was super quiet. So much so that I almost fell asleep! This is a great place to do some stretches while your muscles are warmed or … take a nap!
What about food?
Vetta has two dining areas serving Scandinavian-style cuisine.
Savu Bistro is located downstairs, near to the outdoor facilities. Most people come here in their robes before or after the circuit or treatments and while that might seem weird the first time, it’s quickly becomes normal. We ate there on our first visit and enjoyed the healthy selections with vegetarian options. Savu is open every day, 11am until 7pm. (So if you book a night time slot, don’t plan to eat late.)
Upstairs near the lobby is Koivu, which just opened more recently. We chose to eat here after showering and changing back into our clothes before leaving but many guests wore their robes here too. They had a small brunch menu with a lot of mimosa options. Koivu is only open on Thursday nights (for Taste of Vetta special menu), Friday from 4pm to 8pm and Saturday from 2pm to 8pm.
Both restaurants at Vetta are committed to fresh, seasonal and local food, and the menus reflect quality over quantity. Like many food establishments these days, service is slow. So I recommend you don’t come here hangry – plan to eat before you feel like you have to eat. You may also need to wait for a table.
For something fast, there’s a Grab and Go Coffee bar with some snacks in the lobby. No juice bar though, which would be a nice addition!
Since Vetta is a somewhat isolated location, and they don’t post their menus on-line (as of publication), if you have dietary restrictions or other food needs I recommend calling in advance to confirm.
And if like me you visited when Vetta first opened and noted they don’t accept tips (as per Finnish tradition) you should know that has changed and now gratuities are accepted, and expected.
Vetta Nordic Spa brings Finland to Ontario
Both my visits to Vetta left me with skin so soft, a warm heart, and cleared mind, and I do recommend as a day trip for relaxation and hydrotherapy from the Toronto or Georgian Bay areas. (I did not have a treatment so no comment on that.) I do fantasize about an even more social Finnish sauna experience (will there ever be a clothing optional option?!) but realize Canada might not be ready for that. In the meantime, their Quiet and Social areas seem to be working quite well and I look forward to visiting in the summer next time to take advantage of even more outdoor bliss.
My last visit was January 2023. Always check the spa’s official website for the latest updates: https://vettaspa.com/
Know Before You Go
Where: Vetta is about an hour’s drive north of Toronto or 15 minutes north of Barrie, in Horseshoe Valley, near the ski slopes. Address: 3210 Line 3 North, Oro-Medonte, ON L0L 2L0. Free parking onsite. No public transportation comes here, sadly.
When: 9am to 9pm daily. They are currently booking in three slots: Morning guests can check in 9am to 10:30am; afternoon guests from 1pm to 2:30pm and evening guests anytime after 5pm. You can stay as long as you like. I recommend two hours for the relaxation to truly kick in, plus another hour for a meal. Weekends, holidays and special dates like Valentine’s tend to get booked up in advance.
What to bring: Swimsuit, sandals and your (non-glass) water bottle. Sandals are mandatory so if you forget, you’ll have to rent or purchase on site. Robes are provided but mine had the pockets sewn up, which I find super annoying – nowhere to put my sunglasses, reading material, etc. I understand this is because people keep “sneaking” phones in that way. Please, please just leave your phones, cameras, tablets, etc. in your locker, as they are prohibited. If you have more to carry than a water bottle, I suggest a small tote bag! Lockers, towels, shampoo, body wash and blow dryers are provided.
How Much: Nordic Spa Visit is $89 on weekdays/$99 on weekends for the hydrotherapy circuit or $249/$259 with a massage included. Specials can pop up so check promotions here.
Note that Vetta is 19+ only.
Want more spa inspiration? Lonely Planet’s Wellness Escapes is a lovely hardcover filled with eye candy photos of hot springs, saunas, spas and other wellness resorts from around the world. These are expensive and often remote destinations, but even if you never get there, you can use this as a starting point for researching dream trips.
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One comment on “What to expect at Vetta Nordic Spa”
Excellent review! Makes me want to book a slot right away, especially in this overly lengthy winter this year…. Great details about all of the amenities and choices. I promise I will shower before I go in!