Breaking news – Finnish sauna culture is alive and well! Whodathunkit when there are three million saunas in Finland, for a population of 5.5 million. You know the saying, when in Rome… I guess you roam around the city visiting antiquities. But when in Finland, you sauna. But why sauna ordinary when you can sauna extraordinary? That’s why we’re bringing you the eight most unusual places to sauna in Finland.
Oldest Public Sauna in Finland
According to UNESCO, the Finish sauna culture is an intangible cultural heritage. The first saunas were pits dug into the ground during the Stone Age. The Iron Age saw the rise of above-ground smoke saunas, which, as you would guess, are wood-burning saunas without a chimney. If you’re looking for the oldest public sauna, you must come to Tampere – The Sauna Capital of the World – with over 55 public saunas.
Rajaportti Sauna is the oldest public sauna in Finland, dating back to 1906. Today, the Pispala Sauna Association operates the building and cafe and invites everyone to come and experience traditional Finnish sauna culture for themselves. Likewise, we invite you to keep reading this article, where you just might learn a thing or two 😉. For example, wood-burning saunas, like Rajaportti, are held in high esteem, and everybody in Finland knows how to build a fire to heat saunas.
Helsinki Sky Sauna
Rajaportti Sauna shows how early last century, cities built saunas to welcome guests. Early this century, cities built Ferris wheels, enticing guests with high-flying city views from private gondolas. The Helsinki Sky Sauna does both. Built in 2016, it is the world’s first Ferris wheel sauna.
Guests can take a 5-7 minute ride as their heated gondola takes a lap around the 40m sky wheel Helsinki sauna. On the ground, they can soak in hot tubs or enjoy traditional beverages like Long Drinks, an alcoholic grapefruit spritzer that’s the national drink of Finland.
Ski Gondola Sauna
Finland is known for its Nordic Sports, like the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, home to the world’s cleanest air and 500 km of cross-country ski trails. Ylläs is also home to Finland’s largest ski resort and longest gondola. While cross-country skiers might enjoy warming up in a backcountry cafe with a hot coffee, lift riders can stay toasty in the world’s only ski gondola sauna.
Groups of up to 12 people book an hour of time on the ski gondola. The gondola makes three 20-minute passes allowing all participants a chance to ride in groups of four. All sauna guests have access to the sauna facilities at the summit with a lounge, showers, a second sauna, a heated outdoor jacuzzi, and magnificent views, so the fun doesn’t end when your ride does.
Sauna Boats Under the Midnight Sun
The sun doesn’t set for more than 45 days in Finnish Lapland over the summer, giving you endless opportunities to chase the Midnight sun. However, you’d be remiss if you missed a ride on a Sauna boat.
Finland has more bodies of water than any other country in the world and more than 76,000 islands, so floating saunas make sense. There are boat saunas all around Finland, but we enjoyed our cruise with Kinos Safaris in Levi, where our crew made us a midnight snack of crepes and coffee.
The Finns don’t stop the saunas just because the lake freezes over. At Pyhäpiilo Sauna World, they build ice saunas and keep the good times rolling. You and your nine closest friends can sauna in a block of ice and then jump into a frozen lake. Just make sure they’re your friends, and will give you the benefit of the doubt in the cold water if you’re au natural per traditional Finnish customs. Pyhäpiilo also has traditional Finnish smoke saunas, which are considered one of the most authentic sauna experiences in Finland.
Glass Saunas Under the Northern Lights
Deep winter comes after the lakes freeze, and the sun doesn’t rise for much of December and January. That doesn’t mean that you stay inside. Instead, you head outside to watch one of the greatest light shows on Earth, the Northern Lights. And in Finland, you can do it while you sauna.
Much of Finland is far enough north that you’ll see the Northern Lights on any clear night. Plus, since Finland has the most forests of any European nation, there’s very little light pollution once you get away from the southern cities.
Up in Lapland in places such as the Arctic Skylight Lodge, you can find glass saunas that let you watch the skies while you warm your thighs. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look around when you head outside to jump in the lake or soak in the jacuzzi. It also doesn’t mean the show stops when you towel off because many of these facilities offer cabins with glass ceilings for extended viewing time.
Indoor Waterpark Sauna
If you’re looking for a Finnish family sauna, you could do worse than the Levi Hotel Spa. There are seventeen pools of varying shapes, sizes, and temperatures, water slides, and of course, saunas. It’s one of the largest saunas in Finland and definitely a family affair. If you didn’t bring your pool toys, they’re available in the pool section along with water belts and floats. You can even borrow swimming goggles from the swimming supervisors.
Sauna in Your Suite
The Levi Hotel Spa is in a Burger King, and Burger King saunas might suggest a less-than-intimate experience. Combine that with spa reception having baby diapers available, and you might be onto something. However, if you’re looking for something more intimate, the Junior, Sammal, and Kumpu suites all have in-room saunas. Our suite’s jetted tub (in addition to in-room sauna) made us question why we’d ever leave our room.
Final Thoughts on Unusual Places to Sauna in Finland
I believe that there is magic in Finland that you find in the little moments when time stands still and you come face to face with contradictions, like getting steamy hot before jumping in ice cold water. Every visitor to Finland ought to try at least one Finnish sauna. So why not go big and try to experience a truly unusual sauna in Finland? Remember to do a little research and figure out if the sauna of your dreams is for groups or individuals. Also, if you’re like us and travel as a couple, ensure that mixed groups can sauna together.
Finally, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in Finnish sauna culture. Sauna in the nude if everybody else is. Try jumping in the lake or using soft birch branches to beat your skin. It might seem weird, but you’ll appreciate the experience.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Levi Finland and Levi Ski Resort and Ylläs for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out Levi’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts; Levi Ski Resort’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts; and Ylläs’ Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.