Swedish Wellness

From mountains and wilderness to coastal towns and spa resorts, Sweden has unequivocally cracked the code to a healthy and happy life
By Apeksha Bhateja
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A drama staged by mother nature unravels wherever you go in Sweden. Up north, Alpine peaks romance meandering rivers. A blanket of Northern Lights turns the sky into an artist’s masterpiece in winter, and the sun stands on ceremony all through summer. Further down, the vistas change: picture-perfect islands and charming fishing villages dot the coast; pine trees and great lakes sing in harmony in the countryside; and cities are enamoured with the wild. Unspoilt and surreal, the landscape of this Scandinavian nation brings travellers from afar to experience wellness in the cradle of nature.

Historic Spas
On the west coast of Sweden, Halland has been garnering attention since the 1800s. The reason –its water, which people believed was therapeutic.The seaside resort of Varberg in Halland was frequented by those who wanted to get rid of melancholy. Spa in those days was much more than just a massage. A complete ‘healing’ treatment would include taking dips in the bathhouse, walking on the beach, drinking fresh spring water, mud/seaweed treatments, and lots of entertainment and activities. The communal baths at Varberg attracted elite travellers, mostly rich guests, celebrities, artists and writers. Even today, the town remains a popular spa destination with its historic bathhouses as well as new age spa hotels and resorts. Loka Brunn in central Sweden is a 300-yearold spa, and its water too is known for its healing properties. This 154-room preserved spa hotel, located close to the springs, is another place for a traditional spa treatment – try the one with the pine-needle oil and mud pack.

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Saunas & Swedish Massage
Swedes are sauna junkies. They plan weekend getaways to friends’ houses and leisure centres to sweat their stress away. So a sauna session features on the itinerary of tourists visiting Sweden at least once, if not more. Other than recreation, sauna has quite a few health benefits: it burns calories, boosts the immune system and helps the body get rid of toxins. Before getting into the sauna, it’s better to take a shower to open up your pores; swimming in the lake or rolling in the snow after a hot session is common practice. It helps to be aware of sauna etiquette (nude or not; towel or bathing suit) to avoid any faux pas – spas and resorts will clearly mention the rules, but in other situations, the best advice is to go with the flow. A wellness escape to Sweden is incomplete without what is known as the ‘classic massage’. Developed by Per Henrik Ling, who was born in Sweden in 1776, the Swedish massage is one of the most popular massages in the world. Its five styles of strokes help loosen up pulled muscles and relieve physical and emotional stress, and thus, it’s a wonderful way to relax, especially in surroundings so gorgeous.

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Nature
Imagine being surrounded by your own thoughts, with no sound except the hush-hush of the wind...Taking a dip in the lake after a session in the sauna... Going on a hiking expedition or walking in the woods, picking berries and mushrooms and filling your tumbler with fresh water from the stream... All this (and more) is a way of life for Swedes. Sweden’s expansive landscape – with 29 National Parks, 95,700 lakes, 95 per cent uninhabited area – is unmarred by the vicissitude of mankind. And it’s all for everyone’s taking. The Right of Public Access in Sweden allows locals as well as visitors to explore any land as long as they don’t disturb it. So visit the Swedish Lapland to see the Northern Lights; camp in the remote Sarek National Park; fish in the Arctic Circle; swim in Lake Mälaren in the heart of Stockholm; and sunbathe in the nude on a beach in Malmö.

 

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Cusine
Swedish food is just as natural as the Swedes’ lifestyle. The berry-eating, fish-loving country has a rich diet, comprising ingredients that come straight out of the ocean or from the forest. A nationwide favourite is pickled herring, which is the star of every buffet, but a can of surströmming (a foulsmelling fermented herring) is something only an adventurous traveller should try – that too, outdoors! An important part of Swedish culture is fika – the custom of sharing coffee and pastries with friends every day. That’s right. Swedes have a tradition of taking a break at least once a day and talking it out with their friends or colleagues. Believe it or not, in some companies, it is compulsory for employees to take some time out to indulge in fika!

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