What Is A Finnish Sauna?

Have you ever wondered what exactly a Finnish sauna is? Well, wonder no more! A Finnish sauna is a traditional Finnish way of bathing that has been practiced for centuries. It involves sitting in a hot and steamy room, usually made of wood, where water is poured on heated stones to create a soothing heat and steam. It’s a unique experience that offers numerous health benefits and is deeply ingrained in Finnish culture. So, if you’re curious to know more about this fascinating tradition, keep reading to uncover the secrets of the Finnish sauna!

What Is A Finnish Sauna?

What Is a Finnish Sauna?

A Finnish sauna is a traditional form of sauna that originates from Finland, a country famous for its sauna culture. Saunas have been a part of Finnish life for centuries, and they are an integral part of their cultural heritage. A Finnish sauna is more than just a place to relax and unwind; it is a communal gathering space where people come together to cleanse their bodies and minds. In this article, we will explore the definition, origin, features, construction, heating methods, types, etiquette, traditions, and rituals associated with the Finnish sauna. So grab a towel, sit back, and let’s explore the world of the Finnish sauna!


A Finnish sauna is a small, enclosed room or building that is specially designed for bathing in dry heat. The temperature inside a Finnish sauna typically ranges from 70 to 100 degrees Celsius (158 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit), creating a hot and steamy environment. The sauna is typically made of wood, providing a natural and cozy atmosphere. It serves as a place for people to gather, socialize, and experience the therapeutic benefits of heat and steam.


The Finnish sauna tradition dates back thousands of years. It is believed to have originated from the ancient Finnish tribes, who used saunas as a way to cleanse their bodies and spirits. Saunas were initially used for giving birth, healing illnesses, and performing various rituals. As time went on, saunas became an integral part of Finnish culture and were incorporated into everyday life. Today, saunas are found in almost every Finnish home, as well as public places such as gyms, resorts, and recreational facilities.

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A Finnish sauna typically consists of three main features: a hot room, a changing room, and a shower area. The hot room, also known as the “löyly room,” is where the actual sauna experience takes place. It is heated using various methods, such as wood-burning stoves, electric heaters, or infrared panels. The hot room is usually made of wood to create a warm and inviting ambiance.

The changing room, called “pukuhuone,” is the area where users undress and prepare themselves before entering the sauna. It is usually equipped with benches, hooks for hanging clothes, and lockers for personal belongings. The shower area, known as “suihkutila,” is where users can rinse off before entering the hot room and cool down after the sauna session.

What Is A Finnish Sauna?


The construction of a Finnish sauna is an art in itself. Traditional saunas are often built using Nordic spruce, pine, or cedar wood, which are known for their durability and ability to withstand high temperatures. The walls are typically insulated with rock wool or fiberglass to retain heat. The sauna benches are made of wood and can be built on multiple levels to accommodate different heat preferences. The door is usually made of glass or wood, allowing users to see inside the sauna and control the temperature.


Heating is a crucial aspect of the Finnish sauna experience. Traditionally, saunas were heated using wood-burning stoves, which added a natural and comforting scent to the sauna. Today, electric heaters and infrared panels are also commonly used for heating saunas. The heater is typically located in the corner of the hot room, allowing heat to circulate evenly. Water, often sprinkled with essential oils or fragrant herbs, can be poured over the heated rocks to generate steam and enhance the humidity level inside the sauna.


There are several types of Finnish saunas, each offering a unique experience. The most common type is the smoke sauna, also known as “savusauna.” As the name suggests, this type of sauna was historically heated by burning wood until the room filled with smoke. The smoke would then be let out, leaving a hot and pleasant atmosphere. Smoke saunas are seen as the most traditional and authentic type of Finnish sauna.

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Other types of Finnish saunas include the electric sauna, which uses an electric heater to generate heat, and the infrared sauna, which uses infrared panels to heat the body directly. Some modern saunas combine multiple heating methods to offer a customizable sauna experience. Ultimately, the choice of sauna type depends on personal preference and the desired level of heat and humidity.

Sauna Etiquette

When using a Finnish sauna, it is essential to follow certain etiquette to ensure a positive and respectful experience for everyone. One of the most important rules is to maintain personal hygiene by showering before entering the sauna. This helps keep the sauna clean and free from dirt or sweat.

Another aspect of sauna etiquette is respecting others’ personal space. If using a public sauna, it is customary to leave space between yourself and other sauna-goers, especially if the sauna is crowded. It is also considered impolite to engage in loud conversations or use mobile phones inside the sauna, as it disrupts the tranquil atmosphere.

Traditions and Rituals

The Finnish sauna experience is rich in traditions and rituals that have been passed down through generations. One common ritual is called “löyly,” which refers to the act of throwing water on the heated rocks to generate steam. This ritual creates a burst of intense heat and releases fragrant scents, enhancing the sauna experience.

Another tradition is “vihta” or “vasta,” which involves gently whipping oneself with birch branches. The fresh leaves release a pleasant aroma and provide a gentle exfoliation for the skin. This ritual is believed to improve circulation, relax muscles, and promote overall well-being.

The Finnish Sauna Experience

Experiencing a Finnish sauna is not just about the heat and steam; it is a holistic experience that encompasses relaxation, invigoration, and socialization. The Finnish sauna culture places great importance on communal bathing, allowing individuals to connect and bond with friends, family, and even strangers.

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A typical sauna session starts with a warm-up in the changing room, followed by a shower to cleanse the body. Upon entering the sauna, the heat envelops you, inducing a deep sense of relaxation and tranquility. You may choose to sit or lie down on the benches, allowing the heat to penetrate your body and release tension.

As the heat intensifies, you can create steam by pouring water on the rocks, enveloping yourself in a cloud of warmth. This can be accompanied by the scent of essential oils or the fragrance of birch leaves. The ritual of “löyly” creates a rejuvenating sensation and helps cleanse the mind and body.

After spending time in the hot room, cooling down is crucial. This can be achieved by stepping outside, taking a dip in a cold lake or pool, or simply taking a refreshing shower. This contrast between hot and cold stimulates the senses and invigorates the body.

The Finnish sauna experience is not only about the physical sensations but also about the mental and emotional benefits. Saunas provide a space for relaxation, introspection, and socialization. It is common for Finnish people to engage in deep conversations, share stories, or simply enjoy the silence within the sauna.

In conclusion, a Finnish sauna is much more than just a steamy room; it is a deeply rooted cultural tradition that promotes well-being, social connection, and relaxation. Whether you enjoy the tranquility of a private sauna or the company of fellow sauna-goers, the Finnish sauna experience is an integral part of Finnish culture and an unforgettable experience for visitors. So, dive into the world of Finnish saunas, embrace the heat, and let the sauna cleanse your body and mind.