Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale the clean air, with its faint perfume of sea salt and piney forest. Listen to the music of mountain streams dancing over rocky riverbeds. Open your eyes and gaze upon a peaceful lake, or a soothing alpine meadow, or a gently rippling grassland. Now that’s bliss, isn’t it?
Sometimes we need to stop everything and recharge our batteries, and where better than British Columbia, with its breathtaking natural beauty and a culture that celebrates mind, body, spirit and the connections between them. Here are 10 of the best restorative experiences the province has to offer.
Restore Your Spirit
Legend has it that this stretch of beach on remote Cortes Island was a gathering place for First Nations people who met here to feast, dance, sing and pray. That makes this the ideal setting to gather, connect and restore with nature; programs here are built around wellness, mindfulness, creativity and spiritual transformation. But if all you’re seeking is a relaxing island escape, Hollyhock offers that, too, along with kayaking excursions, invigorating massages and exceptional gourmet food harvested from the beautiful, French-style organic gardens. Whatever you’re seeking, you will not leave Hollyhock unchanged.
Restore Your Serenity
Listen to the wind whisper through the spruce and cedar trees. Aside from the occasional splash and trickle of healing water, it’s all you’ll hear at this 2,243-square-metre (24,144-square-foot) outdoor spa just a few minutes away from busy Whistler Village. Scandinave is a Nordic-inspired spa with a focus on hydrotherapy, the practice of wellness through water, and a blissfully strict no-talking rule. Guests cleanse away their aches and cares in the hot baths, cool waterfalls, wood-burning sauna and eucalyptus steam room. Any remaining tension is pummeled away by expert massage therapists. It’s a perfect way to recuperate after a day of skiing or hiking or to spend a day connecting with your inner self, surrounded by towering mountain peaks and the sounds of silence.
Restore Your Faith
Highway to Heaven
Can’t we all just get along? As it turns out, yes, we can. And the proof for that can be found on the Highway to Heaven or, as it’s officially known, No. 5 Road in Richmond. Along this long, wide country road that cuts through Richmond’s bucolic green fields, more than 20 houses of worship — Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Jewish — co-exist in peace and harmony. Here the synagogue and the mosque, the church and the temple offer safe haven to all seekers and overflow parking to their neighbours. Many are open to visitors, though it’s always wise to call ahead. For instance, the traditional Tibetan Buddhist Thrangu Monastery invites visitors to join in religious services followed by a vegetarian meal, and the Hindu Ram Krishna Mandir in the Vedic Cultural Centre welcomes visitors to join in meditation classes and ceremonies. It’s enough to restore your faith in humanity.
Restore Your Balance
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa
East meets west in a magical place under the wide blue skies of the Cariboo Chilcotin. Part dude ranch, part Thai spa, Echo Valley truly is a resort like no other. It seems, at first, like a classic rustic western experience with horseback riding, fishing, gold-panning and cowboy-style campfire barbecues. And then you notice the Asian influences in the architecture, the Thai body treatments in the Baan Thai spa, the daily yoga classes and the Thai nights in the dining room, when the resort’s staff prepare authentic dishes from their southeast Asian homeland. This is truly a place that maintains a delicate balance between earth and sky, mind and body, east and west. One visit here, and you can achieve that balance, too.
Restore Your Sparkle
Sparkling Hill Resort
Not only is this European-style spa resort in the Okanagan Valley designed to look like a giant crystal, it’s also decorated with them — 3.5 million of them — thanks to the owners’ family connection to Swarovski crystals. Perched on a bluff overlooking the sparkling lakeside lights of Vernon, this is a beautiful place for a revitalizing break. Guests can indulge in the KurSpa, with its seven aromatherapy saunas and steam rooms, an indoor pool under a Swarovski crystal starry sky, an outdoor infinity pool under an actual starry sky and the cold sauna, whose –110°C temperatures are said to have rejuvenating effect. Too chilly for you? The excellent massages and other body treatments will warm you right up, as will the scenic views from each luxurious room.
Restore Your Appetite
God’s Mountain Estate
This quirky B&B looks like a Greek villa whisked from the Aegean to a bluff in South Okanagan wine country. And yet it is perfectly at home here above the vineyards that plunge down to glittering Skaha Lake, where mountain goats gambol along the rocky crags and wild horses nicker in the velvet darkness. Guests who are in the know make sure to book the roofless room, where they sleep soundly under the stars. Other guests simply pull up a seat at the twice-weekly, summer al fresco dinners, where the chefs of Joy Road Catering present feasts that feed body and soul with the best of local food, wine and hospitality. In every way, God’s Mountain is a celebration of the restorative joy of welcoming people into your home and to your table.
Restore Your Fitness
Lace up your boots and hit the trails for a week — or two, or three — of breathtaking mountain adventure in the Kootenay Rockies. Mountain Trek is an all-inclusive program that comprises daily guided fitness hikes (or snowshoeing in winter), yoga and fitness classes, along with organic spa cuisine, therapeutic massages and lifestyle lectures. This is not your lazy, relaxing spa getaway, but a serious week of workouts and wellness. But it’s not all work and no play: This fitness resort is set amid some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, surrounded by towering mountain peaks, lush forests and healing mineral pools. You’ll leave fitter, stronger and at peace with the beautiful world around you.
Restore Your Spirit
Namaste. If you think you need to travel all the way to the Indian subcontinent to get in touch with your spiritual side, think again. In fact, you need go only as far as Kootenay Bay in the beautiful mountains of southeastern British Columbia to find this yoga retreat and study centre founded by Swami Sivananda Radha. This is a sacred place in a magical setting, where the resident yogis, swamis and brahmacharis teach the principles of Karma Yoga, or the yoga of selfless service. Guests can embark upon a variety of programs, from a simple introduction to yoga to private retreats to three-month intensive studies. In all cases, though, a visit here guarantees enlightenment and connection with the beautiful world inside and out.
Restore Your Nature
Liard River Hot Springs
Head north to the lush, warm Tropical Valley for a nature retreat like no other. That’s right. North. Located on the Alaska Highway up near the Yukon border, the Liard River Hot Springs is a steamily serene oasis in the subarctic. As one of the country’s largest natural hot springs, Liard has warmed up the surrounding area to create a boreal spruce forest that’s so vibrant with plant life, including 14 species of orchids, that locals have nicknamed it the Tropical Valley. Just beware that we’re not the only ones attracted to the hot, healing waters, which range from 42°C to 52°C (108°F to 126°F): The local bears and moose like it, too. Now that’s what we call getting back to nature.
Restore Your Passion
Haida Gwaii and Bluewater Adventures
Some call Haida Gwaii the “Galapagos of the North.” This misty, unspoiled archipelago off the Northern BC coast is a unique place of remote First Nations Haida villages, stunning island scenery and an astonishing abundance of wildlife. This is a bucket list destination for many people; few ever make it here, and even fewer discover the magic of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. This protected area is only accessible by boat or floatplane, which is why you want to join a Bluewater Adventure. A well-appointed 21-metre (68-foot) sailboat whisks you to places few people have ever seen, with special experts on board to teach you about local seabirds, First Nations history or the traditions of Haida carving. If you feel you’ve been just about everywhere, and have done just about everything, then this is the journey that will restore the magic of discovery to your life.
For more on British Columbia's destinations and travel information, visit HelloBC.com.