Saunas: Feeling the heat in Finland

Mark C

A traditional sauna is an integral part of any holiday in Scandinavia, but Finland especially. Our Travel Specialist Mark tells us more...

Sauna: pronounced Sow-na (saʊna:). Meaning 'a small building for bathing' in the Finnish language, is the only Finnish word to have made it into everyday English.

Part of our recent visit to Finland included strict instructions to take a sauna and report back to HQ. Needless to say this was no hardship and we duly stripped down to swimming shorts (we're British you know) and stepped into the arid heat of the saunas on offer at Hotel Korpikartano and Muotka Wilderness Lodge. It is normal practice to take a sauna with friends sans swimwear but my colleague Bruno and I were not ready to be that relaxed!

A sauna at the end of a day's winter activities is the best way to get some heat into cold flesh and bones. It's not unusual for Finns to aid the process of detoxing their skins by gently flailing themselves with bundles of birch twigs and leaves to stimulate lymph glands and pores. Due to the debris that this creates in a communal facility, we didn't get the chance to try this out, but will have to believe those who say that it's a pleasurable experience.

As a result of living at a northerly latitude, the tradition of taking a sauna is ingrained in Finnish culture. Steeped in history, the sauna was not only a place for relaxation, cleansing and reflection, but also the holiest and most spiritual part of the home. Women commonly gave birth in the sauna, the sick came to heal, and the dead were brought here for their final cleanse.

It is estimated that there are up to 3.2 million saunas within Finnish homes, offices, hotels and factories – an average of one per household in a country of around 5.3 million people. There is even a sauna within the parliament in Helsinki. Saunas can be heated by electricity, but are more traditionally powered by wood (logs) or smoke - each time the water is thrown onto the stove, the heat and the steam increase.

All of the accommodation that we use in Finland has sauna facilities, which often have allocated times for male and female users, but can sometimes be booked for private use. Many saunas will have somewhere to cool off afterwards, whether that be a roll in the snow or a plunge into a river through a hole in the ice.

Ready to feel the heat?

Whether you like the idea of escaping to a countryside villa on a self drive itinerary in the south west or, like Mark, visiting a lodge in Finnish Lapland appeals, you'll find a wide choice of holiday options in Finland where saunas feature. To discuss your options further send an enquiry to our team of Travel Specialists.

See all Finland holidays

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