When it comes to weird and wonderful holiday experiences the first thing that comes to mind is the Finnish sauna.
The Finnish sauna is an important part of culture in Finland and it’s said that there are more saunas than cars in Finland.
Almost every Finnish home has a sauna or at least access to a sauna.
They even have a sauna at Helsinki airport that you can use before you fly!
But there are a few things you should know about this weird and wonderful holiday experience before you get started with the Finnish Sauna.
My first Finnish sauna experience
I will never forget my first sauna experience in Finland over 10 years ago when I was invited over to a friend’s family home to enjoy a cultural exchange in Tampere.
Never in a million years would I have expected to be naked with my Finnish hosts within hours of meeting them for the first time.
Hey! This is the Finnish sauna experience and you have to do as the locals do.
I have to admit, it did at first come as a shock.
Then, once I got over the nakedness, it was time to heat up the sauna by slowly adding water to the hot rocks, gradually bringing up the heat.
Typically the sauna is heated up to between 70-90 Celsius.
Then I was being beaten by a Finnish branch of leaves called a vihta. This helps with the aroma of the sauna and helps with circulation around the body.
After all this madness, we decided to leave the sauna house and brave the cold outside and step into the -10 Celsius temperatures of the Finnish outdoors.
Finland in December is covered with snow and after a hot sauna it’s refreshing to roll around in the snow.
Once you’ve had enough of rolling around in the snow, you can return to the hot sauna to heat up again.
You can try two types of sauna, an electric sauna which is easier to maintain and heat up or a wood heated sauna which is my favourite kind of sauna which requires you to start burning the logs 4 hours prior to sauna.
The feeling of a log fire sauna is much more authentic compared to an electric one, it just takes more effort to arrange.
After we had been heated up again, it was time to run out of the sauna house for a dip.
The plan was to go for a dip into the closeby lake that had frozen over night and a sheet of ice had been cut out to make space for a mini plunge pool for us to enjoy.
Of course it’s tradition to go for a dip in the winter time if you happen to be lucky enough to have a sauna close by to a lake.
Try and survive more than 5 seconds in this below zero freezing plunge pool, then run straight back into the sauna!
How weird and wonderful that must sound!
The above process gets repeated a few times until you feel so relaxed that you just want to grab a towel, a nice cold drink and chill by the warm fire for an hour or so chatting with friends.
The Finnish sauna to me is the definition of the words weird and wonderful holiday experiences.
I was very lucky to have wonderful Finnish hosts for my first sauna experience who were happy to show me the ropes and teach me the art of a good sauna.
I hope that one day you get the lucky chance to travel to Finland to try out a Finnish sauna for the first time.
Here I have put together some travel tips to help you navigate around the art that is the Finnish sauna.
Before we get started, of course my main tip is to always travel with travel insurance. Once you’re covered then you can let the travel adventures begin!
You don’t have to go naked to the sauna!
Finns have been going naked to the sauna before they can remember, it’s just a way of life for them.
For international visitors to Finland, don’t worry, you don’t have to go naked.
Of course you can if you want to! But you don’t have to.
In fact Finns only go naked when it’s a same sex sauna so you do wear swimwear for mixed sauna, this is a normal custom.
Drink plenty of water throughout the sauna
Avoid drinking alcohol if possible and be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your sauna experience.
You have to remember that many Finns are born in the sauna and grew up having a sauna every week.
Finnish people are used to sauna and it’s not a competition. Keep yourself hydrated throughout your sauna experience so you don’t become light headed.
Always go with a Finn for your first Finnish sauna
Finns even have business meetings in the sauna, it’s a custom to arrange a gathering in the sauna.
Inviting a Finnish friend to go to sauna is a very normal thing and it’s better to go with good company.
It’s nice to go for the first time with a local so they can help explain the Finnish customs of the sauna rules and etiquette.
Be sure to ask them about the story of the sauna elf Haltija! That makes for an interesting conversation.
Thank you for reading my blog post about the Finnish sauna
This was great fun to tell you all about my first Finnish sauna experience in Finland and I hope you found all the sauna tips helpful.
Have a wonderful time on your next trip to Finland.
Join me for a dip in an ice lake and a Finnish sauna
Before you go.
Here I’ve put together a GoPro video of me trying out a dip in an ice pool and heading into the sauna.
Hope it helps to explain this weird and wonderful holiday experience that you must try on your next trip to Finland.