If the Finland saunas are anything, they are numerous.
There are some 1.7 million saunas in Finland, so you certainly
won’t have any trouble finding one. Finns love their
saunas, and chances are good that you too will love them
when enjoying a Finland
vacation. This is especially true in the winter, when
the warmth of a Finnish sauna is the perfect answer to
the cold outside. Considered by many to be a Finnish institution,
saunas were not actually invented here, though it might
seem that way. One might say that the Finns have merely
perfected the sauna experience, taking inspiration from
the sauna-bathing practices that were already being employed
by various cultures in the nineteenth century.
Other past cultures around the world have enjoyed sauna-like treatments throughout the ages, including the Romans and the Mexican Temascal, though no culture has so integrated the sauna into the fabric of their lives as the Finns. The sauna experience is still a part of modern day life in Finland, so much so that most of the reputable hotels in Finland have their own saunas for guests to use. You can even book a hotel room that has its own sauna at a number of Finnish hotels. These saunas are much like the saunas that you have likely seen back home, and are basically closed wooden rooms that feature a hot stove either in the middle of the room or off to one side. Water is poured over the hot stove unit, creating steam that warms the sauna, promoting a cleansing sweat.
The word sauna is a Finnish word that has its roots in the Sami culture. The Sami are the native people of the Lapland region, and they have lived in the northern reaches of Scandinavia for thousands of years. Centuries ago, the Sami people helped to create what is known as the traditional Finnish sauna. Basically, a traditional Finnish sauna was nothing more than an impromptu mix of fire-heated rocks that were made into a pile and temporarily covered with what could best be described as a teepee. Much like the Native American sweat lodges, the traditional Finnish sauna promoted a cleansing sweat that was believed to be beneficial to one’s health. Very little has changed since the traditional Finnish sauna was first introduced, only now the saunas are often fashioned from wood, feature modern stoves that are easy to heat, and are made to be more permanent fixtures. According to popular belief, Finns were the first to introduce more permanent wooden saunas between the fifth and eighth centuries. So if there is one thing that Finland has mastered, it’s the sauna.
The idea of the Finnish sauna was not just to promote a healthy sweat, but to also help alleviate aches and pains after a hard day’s work. Interestingly enough, the practice of using saunas began to decline in Finland in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as many folks began moving to the cities, thus leaving the bulk of their agrarian traditions behind. In the 1930s, however, the invention of new stove models started a new sauna craze. This is when the urban Finland saunas began to come into existence, providing city residents with establishments that they could visit outside of the home. While visiting urban saunas in Finland was popular in the 1930s, it began to decline by the 1940s, as another new sauna stove was introduced.
The electric stove sauna—which is easy to heat and can be installed where wood-burning saunas can not—changed the way Finns looked at saunas. Eventually, apartments and hotels began building their own separate sauna buildings that offered a more personal and private experience. Not long after that, Finnish citizens started to build sauna rooms off of bathrooms in their own houses, enjoying an even more elevated level of privacy. The hotels and apartment buildings quickly followed suit, and by the 1950s, scores of small saunas were being added to hotel rooms and apartment units across the country. Not only is it still common for Finnish hotels to offer rooms with private saunas, but it’s also customary for new Finnish apartment units to include their own mini-saunas as well.
Regardless of where you look for hotels in Finland, you are bound to find establishments that offer saunas, and plenty of spas and health clubs around the country have them as well. After a full day of sightseeing in Helsinki or Turku, a Finnish sauna treatment is surely a welcome thing. It’s equally rejuvenating to treat yourself to a Finnish sauna experience after doing some hiking or skiing in Finland. Of course, enjoying one of the saunas in Finland isn’t just ideal when you’re tired and worn out after a long day. Many Finns start their days with a sauna treatment, effectively relaxing themselves for a busy, or even slow day ahead. In other words, you don’t need an excuse to head to one of the Finland saunas. They are there for your delight whenever you see fit to use them.