Although not a designated activity as such, saunas are such a vital part of Scandinavian life and national identity that they are worthy of a mention. Indeed, Finland is a nation of 5 million inhabitants with over 2 million saunas – an average of one per household. In this part of the world, the sauna is not a luxury but an absolute necessity and in Finland it is said that you build the sauna and then the house!
Their long history is one that most likely began in north Finland over a thousand years ago; their great popularity no doubt due to the long, dark winters that the indigenous people endure every year. At the most basic level, saunas provide warmth for a short period of time, yet they are more highly regarded as the ideal place for total physical and mental relaxation and to socialise with friends and family.
These hot, wooden rooms are usually warmed via an electric or wood burning stove which heats stones. Water is also thrown onto the stones, producing steam, ensuring temperatures of 80 to 110°c. When the heat begins to feel uncomfortable, it is customary to jump into a lake, sea, swimming pool or (most likely in Scandinavia) a snow bank or hole cut in the ice to cool down.
At first the plunge will leave you gasping for breath but the tingling feeling afterwards is incredibly therapeutic and strangely relaxing.
What we say about it…
It may seem like we are exaggerating slightly, but it would genuinely be a real shame to come to Scandinavia and not use a sauna. They are such a huge part of national identity here and are seen as essential in improving overall health and mood. They are ideal places to warm up after a long day in the snow and will ease any tired and chilled muscles after your arctic adventures.
With some of our trips in Luosto and Inari your rooms have their own private saunas for you to enjoy whenever you choose and these are always popular accommodation choices. With other trips there are convenient saunas within the hotel.
Scandinavians will typically enjoy their sauna clothing free, so if you really want the full experience then feel free to embrace this. Should English modesty prevail though, you can wear swimming gear or a towel!
The ice dip or roll in a snow bank afterwards should only be recommended for those in excellent health and with no heart conditions. It is incredibly bracing, but is invigorating in the extreme and may offer an overwhelming sense of peace with the world.
What you say about it…
“I also enjoyed the "full Finnish sauna" experience at Kuusiranta including the dip in the frozen lake - I do have photographs to prove it but having done it in the true Finnish style - I'm not prepared to share them and you certainly don't want to see them!” S Castleman, Luosto, March 2013
“Despite not having much prior experience of saunas, we embraced Finnish ways and had a sauna daily - it was fantastic” E Martin, Nellim, Feb 2013
“…and the sauna was lovely after the activities of the day.” L Simmons, Luosto, March 2013
“The outdoor hot tub and sauna were absolute winners as well” A Helliwell, Tarendo, March 2013