By Danielle Leonard | Photography by Sparkling Hill Resort
Sparkling crystals, opulent spa treatments and a stunning vista of mountains at every view are three good reasons to experience British Columbia’s world-class destination resort, Sparkling Hill. Located just outside Kelowna in the Okanagan region of the southern interior of British Columbia, it’s a bit off the beaten track for Ontarians who tend to beeline to Vancouver or Whistler when appeasing their wanderlust for Canada’s most western province.
Sparkling Hill is a luxury resort perched atop Predator Ridge – a granite bluff surrounded by a stunning mountain ranges overlooking Lake Okanagan. The setting, alone, is enough reason to book a stay here but there’s more. Its architecture and design is the brainchild of Gernot Langes-Swarovski. Yes, that Swarovski. The patriarch of the Swarovski family dreamed of bringing the European concept of whole body wellness to Canada and, no surprise, to adorn the space with his empire’s signature bling. The resort boasts 3.5 million Swarovski crystals placed throughout the space. I was intrigued (I do like my bling) and decided this was the perfect setting for a romantic weekend for two.
I haven’t been to British Columbia since I was seven years old and, like many of us living in Ontario, a trip out west is a big investment in time, planning and money. Rather than traipse across my own country, I’ve opted to head south for warmer climes, or Europe for cultural experiences. Suffice to say, once I arrived at Sparkling Hill on a warm breezy summer day, I was struck by the beauty of this part of the country and swelled with Canadian pride. From the peak of the ridge where the hotel is located, the view of majestic mountains rising above a beautiful lake on one side, and miles of verdant landscape (including a world class golf course) on the other, was awe inspiring.
The spectacular views continued inside the lobby with its enormous floor to ceiling windows. Massive chandeliers hovering above set the stage for the crystal-embedded design prevalent throughout the resort. I was smitten to observe a couple in white robes and slippers at the front reception. The hotel strongly encourages guests to wear the supplied robes throughout the resort, as well as during breakfast and lunch service. I knew, right then, that this was my kind of place.
One might say the panoramic views are as much a part of the hotel’s décor as the crystals. As we walked into our suite, we faced a wall comprised completely of glass, offering a postcard-perfect view of the mountains and lake. The bathtub is situated next to the window (yep, right out in the open); I was happy to soak in it later that evening.
I spa, you spa
No visit to Sparkling Hill is complete without indulging in its luxurious spa treatments. The spa is 40,000 square feet of space offering an extensive list of services ranging from massages to cold chamber treatments, as well as naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture and botanical medicine. For the more adventurous guests, its signature Cryo Cold Chamber is an option. The spa boasts it’s the only place in North America to offer a three chamber approach wherein guests move through three cold chambers that grow progressively colder (the third chamber is -110C) to aid in the relief of various ailments. While I’m certain there are many health benefits to this approach, I opt for the couple’s massage treatment.
There are four couples-based treatments on offer at the spa. Our selection, Empress Sissi, includes a hot luxurious bath followed by side-by-side massages. With a little pleading, I was able to coax my partner into wearing his robe and slippers through the hotel. He didn’t have much choice, anyways. The spa does not allow guests to enter its premises in city clothes (gym clothes are the exception to use the fitness facilities). The bath was bubbly, as was the champagne, when we arrived for our treatment. The half hour luxurious bath in a candle lit room was the perfect preparation for our one-hour side-by-side massages. When it ended (always too quickly) we left the treatment room feeling relaxed and pleased with our experience.
Next stop was the steam and sauna room, complimentary to all resort guests. It’s one of the most unique experiences of the hotel. There are eight themed steam and sauna rooms: aqua meditation, rose, salt, crystal, herbal, panorama, Finnish and igloo. Here, my partner and I hung our robes to join the many other guests (mostly couples, like us) wandering from room to room in bathing suits. My favourite was the rose steam room for its intoxicating floral scent. The rooms range in temperature based on European spa principles that encourage alternating between hot, cold and rest for maximum health benefits.
After experimenting with the rooms, we headed to the outdoor infinity pool. By this time, the temperature outside had cooled. I was relieved to discover the pool’s temperature was comfortably warm, so I could enjoy a relaxing, rather than refreshing (read: cold), dip in the water.
Sparkling Hill Resort offers farm-to-table dishes at both its on-site restaurants. Our experience at its PeakFine Restaurant certainly corroborated that. The nightly soup was fresh and perfectly seasoned. Its Caesar salad was delicious (not too creamy) as was the cauliflower fritto – fried and spiced cauliflower florets with curried cashews and mint yogurt. Both nights, I thoroughly enjoyed my seafood entrees. The service was impeccable in a formal yet welcoming atmosphere. In addition, the complimentary breakfast provided a nice variety of hot and cold options, which we enjoyed each morning along with multiple coffee top-ups.
Sparkling Hill Resort is about a 30-minute drive from Kelowna Airport. Fortunately, there are plenty of flight options from Toronto to Kelowna. Most include a brief stopover in Calgary or Edmonton but non-stop routes are available if you’re flexible with departure times.
A weekend at Sparkling Hill offers just enough time to fully immerse yourself in its uniquely luxurious experience while indulging in grown-up fun. All the ingredients are there to reconnect with your romantic partner: gorgeous natural setting, spa treatments for two, playful experiences, fine dining, nearby trails for hand-in-hand strolls and enough opulence to feel like this is, indeed, a special time together.