Who’d have thought that a pulverisingly hot sauna followed by a dip in the chilly Baltic sea would be the highlight of a weekend at the Kurhotel Skodsbog in Denmark? On paper it sounded very off-putting, but when our tester tried this hearty spa treatment known as a SaunaGus last September, she felt truly invigorated and re-energised. Here’s her report:
The Kurhotel Skodsborg is in an affluent coastal suburb of Copenhagen, just a 15-minute train ride from Copenhagen. Originally built as a sanatorium by Dr Carl Ottosen in 1898, it is now a luxury hotel with a state of the art hydrospa spa and two restaurants serving first class food.
The spa continues the philosophy of its founder by focusing on light, air, water, diet, exercise and rest. And being in Scandinavia, the sauna is central to its wellbeing programme. You can choose between a ‘soft’ sauna or a hot one, wet or dry heat or retreat into the salt ‘cave’ (good for your sinuses). The idea is you heat up your body, then cool it down by taking a cold shower or dip, and repeat several times to cleanse your body and strengthen your immune system.
‘The spa’s signature therapy is the SaunaGus, which at 90 degrees is not for the faint-hearted. Our Gus master Tina Andersen built up the heat by putting ice mixed with essential oils (eucalyptus and bergamot to refresh; later lavender and sage to soothe) on the hot stones of the stove to create a hot mist or ‘gus’. We then sat on a bench as it got hotter and hotter while Tina twirled a towel in the air to disperse the heat so it blasted into my face, which I could feel getting sweatier and redder.
I’m not very good with heat and after a few minutes I was ready to bolt, but Tina suggested I sat on the floor where it was slightly cooler and I managed to stick it out for the allotted ten minutes. Afterwards, we put on towelling robes and went outside, crossing a busy road to reach the Oresund, the strait that separates Denmark and Sweden. There, on a small jetty, we stripped down to our bathing costumes and lowered ourselves into the water, which after the searing heat of the sauna was surprisingly soothing. Tina said she was expecting us to scream because it’s so cold, but I found it refreshing and even had a little swim.
Then it was back to the sauna for rounds two and three, this time cooling off in the outside tub, which at just ten degrees was colder than the sea. Afterwards, my skin looked all red and blotchy for several hours, which Tina said was excellent because it showed my circulation was being woken up. I felt fantastic though, less stressed, more energetic and later that evening my skin was glowing.
Judging by the fit and healthy-looking local people who use the spa, regular saunas definitely work. I’d recommend it for any stressed out woman as long as she likes heat! (Perhaps I should add that there’s also a more tranquil version of the SaunaGus…)
There are plenty of other activities on offer at the spa, too. You can relax in the 21-metre swimming pool or Jacuzzi, have a foot bath or Nordic beauty treatment, consult a nutritionist or stress coach for lifestyle advice, or eat lunch (try the paleo smorebrod – rye bread with picked herrings or smoked salmon) outside on the terrace.
I love the way Danish people make the most of any good weather by spending it outside so I did what all Danes do and hired a bicycle from the hotel and rode along the cycle track that ran behind the hotel and in the local woods. I also loved relaxing in the outdoor Jacuzzi, enjoyed a yin yoga class and after a de-stress massage I slept like a baby.
A B&B double room at the Kurhotel Skodsborg with use of the spa (including SaunaGus sessions) starts from £167 a night (skodsborg.dk/00 454558 5800).