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!

The first Finnish-inspired spa in Ontario just opened and it has brought something to my part of the world that I’ve been craving: a social spa environment.

I’ve yet to visit Finland, but my first time at Vetta Nordic Spa reminded 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.

Let the sunshine in to the reception area at Vetta Nordic Spa

Around here, 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 chitchat amongst themselves, and the atmosphere or tranquility and silence that is promoted. At Vetta, they’ve found a design solution to this problem.

Vetta Nordic Spa 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 Vetta site 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. What we weren’t quite expecting is that we would also be meeting other women doing the same thing.

Map of Vetta Nordic Spa in Horseshoe Value
Vetta Nordic Spa map shows a Quiet Zone an a Respectful Social Zone

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.

Inside the spa itself, no cameras are allowed. But you can snap away in the main building, which is picture perfect. Floor-to-(hugely high)-ceiling glass windows let in all the light, creating a warm and welcoming space to register and get your electronic wristband. You don’t need cash for any purchases; they even offer grab-and-go snacks here with an honour-system tap.

Vetta Nordic Spa in Winter
Some of many pools and saunas at Vetta Nordic Spa, as seen from the main building.

Looking out over the grounds, I saw steam rising from hot pools and a golden sun about to set, so we quickly made our way downstairs to get into our swimsuits and head outside to start our circuit of hot-cold-relax.

OK, so the first pool was not hot! It was so inviting, with a lovely waterfall, but you put one toe in and realize it’s “only” a warm pool. 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 shared 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.

Waterfall pool at Vetta Nordic Spa
What’s that song about Waterfalls? Photo by Vetta Nordic Spa

We eventually found the actual hot pool, where we warmed up watching the sun set and chatted amongst ourselves without worrying it was disruptive. We dipped in the icy cold pool you’re meant to heroically plunge into after, in order to close your pores, increase your circulation and release endorphins. A challenge at the best of times, never mind at this time of year!

Looking for more spas within driving distance of Toronto? Read my review of the Millcroft Inn & Spa in Caledon.

What makes Vetta stand out is their saunas

Have I mentioned we wanted to stay warm? Hello Finnish saunas. Vetta has several and I wanted 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.

Sauna photo by Andrea Hamlin Photography from Vetta Nordic Spa’s Facebook.

Harmonia is another large wood-burning sauna, this one with an expansive glass wall offering peaceful views of Vetta’s natural setting. We had the place to ourselves so took advantage to ladle some water onto the hot rocks, a Finnish tradition. In the same building, there are showers meant for an exfoliating salt rub. (They hand you a small plastic container of salt with your robe; would be easier if they just had it in the showers so you didn’t have to carry it around.)

Over in the Quiet Zone, Kirkko is a smaller electric sauna which is quite cozy.

(As for that Quiet Zone, we did not find it all that silent. We went to look, and saw the smaller hot pool there was quiet-er, but everyone still chatted. Perhaps it depends on the day, and if the staff come by to remind you.)

Meet me in the steam room

You may be wondering where the social aspect kicks in. For us, it happened in the steam rooms. Vetta has two scented steam rooms (eucalyptus and “winter green”) and we sat in both.

In the eucalyptus room, we had a good laugh with another gentleman about the creaky noises coming from behind the walls. It was just spa plumbing, but when you can’t see through the steam, monsters do seem possible! In the second steam room, 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.

Later, these ladies cheered on my friends in their second attempt at the cold plunge. If you’re going to dip into icy cold waters, it’s fun to have that support.

I’ll be back to Vetta Nordic Spa!

Only one thing disappointed me – the shower situation. As far as I know, true Nordic spa experiences emphasize body cleanliness. I’ve seen very stern women posted in the change rooms in Iceland make sure that every single guest showers and washes all parts of their body before entering the pools.

Vetta Nordic Spa has a “must shower before bathing” rule, too. But their showers are small individual stalls tucked off to the side of the changeroom – you don’t need to walk through or even pass them to get to the facilities. I saw very few people showering before hitting the pools. I want these people to be my new friends! And I want them to shower first!

At the end of our day, we discovered another way that Vetta promotes Finnish traditions – there’s no tipping at their Bistro. This still feels weird to us Canadians, but if it gets us superior sauna experiences and a place to relax and connect with friends and possibly make new friends, I’m all for it.

Know Before You Go

My last visit was February 2022. Always check the spa’s official website for the latest updates including Covid regulations:

Where: Vetta is about an hour’s drive north of Toronto or 15 minutes north of Barrie, in Horseshoe Valley, near the ski slopes.  3210 Line 3 North, Oro-Medonte, ON L0L 2L0.

When:  9am to 9pm daily. They are currently booking in three timeslots, 9am – 11am; 1pm – 3pm; 5pm – 7pm. You can stay as long as you like. Weekends tend to get booked up in advance.

What to bring: Swimsuit, sandals and your 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, just leave your phones, cameras, tablets, etc. in your locker, as they are prohibited.

How Much: Nordic Spa Visit is $89, or massage which includes a Nordic Spa Visit is $249.