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Saunas are a way of life for the Finnish people, as evidenced by the fact that there are an estimated 3 million saunas in a country of about 5.4 million — so, about one sauna per household.
“Sauna is the only Finnish word understood globally, but many times our sauna culture and heritage are misinterpreted,” said Heli Mende, head of Visit Finland for North America. “To experience the real and traditional Finnish sauna, one has to come to Finland.”
Here are three Finnish sauna experiences that are far from the typical sauna that you could find elsewhere.
Floating Sauna Rukan Rento in KuusamoOpen since summer 2018, Floating Sauna Rukan Rento offers travelers a four-in-one deal that can’t be beat: a traditional Finnish sauna, a launch spot for a refreshing swim, a sun terrace for drying off and a barbecue for grilling a delicious lunch.
Set in Kuusamo, Finland, the floating lake sauna welcomes visitors during open water season, which is when Rukajarvi Lake is not frozen — typically from the start of June through September. During the bookable experience (for up to 12 guests), a staff captain drives the sauna to buoy about 1,969 feet from shore in roughly 26-foot-deep water. The captain then departs, leaving clients to take full advantage of the facilities, which include a firewood-heated sauna (that accommodates five people at a time), a dressing room, a sound system, a gas barbecue, a refrigerator and a full bathroom.
A rental period of at least three to four hours is recommended.
Loyly in HelsinkiSince its grand opening in 2016, Loyly in Helsinki has earned ample recognition as an esteemed spot on Time Magazine’s “World’s Greatest Places 2018” list as well as the title of the first Forest Stewardship Council-certified building in Finland. The latter accolade recognizes that the public sauna abides by environmentally, economically and socially responsible practices; this includes use of only wind and solar power, as well as sustainably sourced wood such as the structural building’s heat-treated pine.
The architectural marvel sits on the industrial-turned-residential Hernesaari peninsula, so visitors are treated to stunning Baltic Sea or city views when wandering inside the venue or on its three-level outdoor terrace. Loyly contains a traditional smoke sauna and a wood-burning sauna that can accommodate around 20 bathers at a time. Though males and females have their respective changing and shower rooms, all public areas including the saunas are mixed gender (swimwear is required).
Loyly, which is Finnish for “steam,” is open daily, year-round. Recommend that clients recharge post-sauna with a delicious meal at Loyly’s on-site restaurant. The establishment is known for its sustainably caught seafood and organic produce, and diners particularly love the salmon soup and the seared pike perch with potato-spinach puree, poached fennel, leek and crab hollandaise.
Rukan Salonki Ice Sauna in KuusamoKuusamo’s Rukan Salonki Ice Sauna seems paradoxical — the walls of the sauna are made of ice but can withstand intense heat and steam. Over time, however, they do eventually melt. Owner Marjo Määttä says that her team rebuilds the sauna’s approximately 24-inch-thick walls every year (and has done so for more than 19 years).
It’s worth all this extra effort, though: The ice sauna offers a lower temperature than what’s found in Rukan Salonki’s other saunas — a juniper sauna and a smoke sauna — as well as high humidity and ideal ventilation. And to sauna as the Finns do, guests can treat themselves to homemade scrubs and masks consisting of traditional wild-herb ingredients.
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And if the ice sauna isn’t cold enough, the nearby mostly frozen lake invites the brave to try out an Arctic dip. Just don’t forget to put on a pair of thick woolen socks to help protect your feet against the cold.
The ice sauna season begins Dec. 1 and closes after the second week of April; it is open every day during this time. Advance bookings are required.