Saunas date back 10,000 years in Finland, and today the country has wild versions from Ferris wheel saunas to floating sauna boats.
In Finland, the sauna is a way of life that dates back 10,000 years when the first Finns bathed and steamed in caves. Today, there are 5.5 million Finns and 3.3 million saunas—that’s about one per household. The sauna is considered a sacred space used for relaxation and healing (they’re particularly good for the skin, muscles, and circulation). In fact, the sauna is so important to Finland that the government is even nominating it for the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2019. Due to this important tradition, out-of-the-box saunas have popped up all around the country. From a Ferris wheel sauna to a floating sauna boat, these are the wildest saunas you can find in Finland.
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The Ylläs Resort in Kolari (near the Swedish border) is home to the world’s only sauna gondola. Take apres-ski to new heights by boarding the sauna lift that hovers above the Lapland landscape. Guests are escorted by snowcats to the mountaintop, where they’ll get three 20-minute rides on the sauna gondola. This experience comes as a package with the summit sauna at Café Gondol 718, which has a fireplace and a heated outdoor jacuzzi.
Sauna Ferris Wheel
Finland’s capital has plenty of surprises, including SkySauna. The Ferris wheel is one of the most iconic sights on the Helsinki waterfront, and one of the cabins is a special sauna with city and sea views. The sauna fits up to five passengers and each rotation takes about seven minutes. While you’re waiting for your turn, you can kick back in the hot tub on the ground or head next door to the Allas Sea Pool for a cool dip in the Baltic.
Ice Igloo Sauna
Pyhäpiilo looks like a winter wonderland—the trees are draped in snow, Lake Pyhäjärvi is frozen over, and quaint igloo saunas line the landscape. The blocks of ice used to build the igloo keep the heat in and create a steam effect for those relaxing inside the abode. You can also add a scrub or mask treatment using tar and peat.
Guests visiting Lapland can have a special Finnish welcome. Rukapalvelu Tailored Adventures arranges a sauna bus pick-up from the three airports—Kuusamo, Rovaniemi, or Oulu—to Ruka, one of the top ski resorts in Lapland. The sauna on wheels is a fun way to de-stress from a day of travel, and you can ask the driver to stop when you want to cool off by jumping in a snowbank off the road. Plus, there’s a karaoke machine inside so you can sing and sauna at the same time.
There’s no better way to catch a game or show than in a swanky VIP box. But at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, you can go even further and upgrade to a Skybox sauna so you can watch an ice hockey game or concert from the comfort of your private sauna suite. Note: It’s important to reserve the sauna boxes in advance as it’s very common for large companies to book them for their clients.
Fast Food Sauna
No, this isn’t a prank. In a Helsinki Burger King, you can eat your Whopper while breaking a sweat in the world’s first in-store sauna. The fast-food chain opened the red, white, and blue sauna space to rent among locals and tourists alike. The sauna fits 15 people and has TVs and PlayStation 4 video games for entertainment.
Cruise along the Gulf of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden on a special sauna boat. The Kesän Floating Sauna in Oulu is located on a small wooden raft, so in the summer you can jump into the refreshing seawater to cool down from the sauna. If you’re in Helsinki, you can also check out the Sauna Ship which floats around the islands outside the city and offers specialized tours like wine tasting, fishing, and photography cruises.
The Mobile Sauna Festival may be the country’s wackiest celebration. In the small lakeside town of Teuva, locals compete to create more than 50 mobile saunas made out of trailers, tents, and even telephone booths. To qualify, the sauna must be mobile and has to fit at least one person. The festival in western Finland draws a crowd of about 6,000 people.
In 2016, Finnish film star Jasper Pääkkönen opened Löyly, a sauna named after one of the oldest Finnish words, meaning “steam of life.” Helsinki’s most popular new sauna is easy on the eyes thanks to a sleek Scandinavian design by Avanto Architects. The spa includes three wood-burning and smoke saunas, an upscale restaurant, a three-floor terrace, and steps that plunge into the sea. The twist? It’s powered by solar and wind energy.
Deep in the forest of Lapland, Rukan Salonki Chalets features a high-tech smoke sauna and a traditional smoke sauna that uses wild herbs and plants like birch or nettle for ancient Finnish healing techniques. This secret retreat on the shores of Lake Salonkijärvi allows you to jump into the icy water in the winter or go for a summer swim. The resort even added a new hot spring pool to relax in year-round.