Many faces of the Finnish sauna
If you thought “sauna” is a just small cabin by the lake or a place to relax at the public swimming pool, think again. There are probably as many variations of a sauna as there are words for snow in Finnish (read: quite many!).
Here are our TOP 5:
1. SMOKE SAUNA
According to connoisseurs this is the ancestral sauna. Currently there’s a smoke sauna boom in Finland and an increase in interest in building this more inexpensive sauna. One of the main characteristics of smoke sauna is that it is built without a chimney. The world’s biggest smoke sauna can be found in Rauhalahti in Eastern Finland, near the city of Kuopio. In this originally lumberjack lodge up to 70 sauna bathers can de-stress together and enjoy the very particular smoke sauna aroma.
2. ICE SAUNA
Bringing sauna and ice together might baffle most people. But the fact that it’s built in snowy surroundings, from thick blocks of ice and it looks like a huge glass sculpture reflecting just enough light from the inside makes an ice sauna a magical and warm experience. The steam from the stove is softer and the heat is never excruciating. Ice saunas are usually smaller in size and felt socks are recommended. Several tourism enterprises provide ice saunas but it’s limited to winter months.
3. MOBILE SAUNA
Perhaps the oldest and more traditional portable sauna is the army tent sauna currently still in use. If in need of a mobile sauna there are companies renting them for affordable prices. The best place to catch a glimpse of, the latest and most eccentric, mobile saunas is going to the small municipality of Teuva in the West coast of Finland where pocket- size saunas gather in a frenzy mobile sauna event. A sauna built inside a fire engine and one built inside a telephone booth have been spotted in Teuva in earlier years. A floating boat sauna is also something that can often be seen on the Finnish lakes.
4. Culture sauna
Helsinki for one has many eccentric public saunas to choose from. The most recent addition, Helsinki’s “Culture Sauna” was opened in May 2013. It’s a small public sauna on the Helsinki waterfront, in Hakaniemi. A new urban concept for bathing enthusiasts where different cultural events are organized, from poetry recitals to lectures. The team behind this eco-efficiency sauna, based on renewable energy, is architect Tuomas Toivonen and designer Nene Tsuboi. The culture sauna is open from Wednesday to Sunday and it’s attracting both sauna and design lovers alike.
5. HOT CUBE SAUNA
A Hot Cube sauna is a very simple concept – an “easy to assemble, easy to transport” wooden sauna that can be built above water on pontoons or pilars. It is a very minimalist sauna that appeals especially to people who love beautiful, simple design and do not want to rush their sauna experience. The sauna has a wooden rack floor from which light and air enter – distractions from outside world are minimized. The special experience comes from sensing the live fire, play of light from water below, sound of waves and the smell of tar and wood.
Sauna is a place where one can quiet down and relax. It is a big part of Finnish culture and most Finns go to sauna at least once a week, usually on Saturdays.