Here in Finland, finding inner peace after a long, hectic day is about bathing in a sauna, preferably close to nature where it´s possible to cool down between sauna sessions by swimming in a lake or, in winter, by rolling in the snow and even taking a dip in a hole cut in ice! The secret of perfect sauna experience is to leave all your worries outside the sauna door and just breathe. In sauna, all you need to be is your authentic self.
To make both physically and mentally cleansing sauna experience complete, gently whip your skin with Finnish vihta (also known as vasta), made of fresh birch branches. It spreads a nice scent and promotes better blood circulation. Have a cold beer or simply just fresh Finnish water and a good conversation with your fellow sauna-goers and you´re all set. Really, there´s nothing quite like the blissful feeling after sauna. These Visit Finland´s 10 sauna tips for beginners will help you on your way.
Here are a couple of places I’ve tested personally and you might find interesting, if you´re visiting Espoo during the winter months and would like to try the invigorating combination of sauna and winter swimming:
Here you can find locals spending post-exercise sauna time after kilometers of cross-country skiing on nearby routes. If you´re brave enough to try winter swimming (recommended!), be sure to take, not only a bathing suit, but some kind of slippers with you as the lake lies approximately 100 meters away from the sauna.
There´s a good selection of refreshments, snacks and food at the café. The saunas are heated up for public around five times a week, and you can find the schedule from the website.
Families with children, ahoy! There is a free-admission Angry Birds themed playground nearby.
Sauna admission fee: 7/5 Euros / person
The place is perfect for winter swimming but, like many beautiful places of nature in Finland, it´s also definitely worth visiting during other seasons of the year to see the landscape in different light and colors. For instance, how about getting inspired of Finnish forest lake view on early autumn when the leaves have festive shades of yellow, orange and red (known as ruska)? Not to mention summer time when nights are almost as light as day.
Purchase a sauna ticket from a nearby hotel, where you can also order refreshments to sauna or enjoy dinner. Why not even spending the night comfortably and make the most of your getaway in the Nuuksio wilderness?
Check weekly sauna schedule from Hotelli Nuuksio´s Facebook page.
Sauna admission fee: 6 Euros / person
Now this is a gem for a true adventurer. Here you have a chance to try smoke sauna that takes you to the core of old Finnish sauna culture. Even not every Finn has experienced smoke sauna as they nowadays are quite rare. The place is beautifully located on the shore of Lake Kaitalampi in the Nuuksio National Park. On a wintry evening, both smoke and electric saunas attract people to gather together to share some thoughts and to just take it slow. It’s easy to join in and get that local feeling.
If you’re not into winter swimming, even sitting outside and enjoying the silence for a while is a memorable experience. The more minus degrees, the brighter the stars above. And ohh, that fresh forest air.
Saunas are mostly reserved for groups and they heat up for public only occasionally. Keep an eye on Green Window Finland Nuuksio´s Facebook page.
Sauna admission fee: 20 Euros / person
P.S. Oh, and one more tip: Have you already heard of Helsinki Sauna Day? It opens the doors to the private saunas of local residents and companies to all who are interested, also in Espoo! The next Helsinki Sauna Day will be held on 11 March 2017.
Text: Annika Rantanen
Main photo: Facebook / Oittaan Kartano, Maltte Ahonen