Finland Travel – Smoke sauna, the original Finnish sauna | Visit Saimaa

Smoke sauna – the original Finnish sauna

Finland has something of a cultural obsession with the sauna. In a country of little more than five million people, there are estimated to be two or three million saunas; that’s around one for every household. The sauna has a history of what is guessed to be at least 10,000 years in Finland, and since then has developed into what so many homes in Finland use today; the modern electric sauna. Long before that though, or even before the popular wood-heated stoves so widely used in rural areas like Saimaa, was the Finnish smoke sauna.

The Finnish smoke sauna is no regular wood-heated stove

The most obvious difference in the Finnish smoke sauna is the chimney, or rather the lack of it. Most modern wood-heated sauna stoves have a chimney to let out the smoke, but not so with the Finnish smoke sauna; instead the smoke of the fire is trapped inside as it would have been millennia ago, along with the heat of the stove that is no longer lost up the chimney. The smoke is allowed out through the door immediately prior to the sauna-goers entering and the sauna then relies on its stored-up heat.

As you can imagine, this gives the Finnish smoke sauna a completely different atmosphere, and makes it a truly unique experience. Newcomers and connoisseurs alike hold the smoke sauna in the highest regard. The moist heat and steam rise from the stove, mingling with the scents of smoke and tar and birch leaves from the traditional sauna whisks. Made from soaked birch twigs, the sauna whisks are used to gently whip yourself or one another, stimulating circulation and filling the air with its aroma.

The Finnish smoke sauna in Lake Saimaa – a truly unique experience

The esteem for the sauna in Finland is so great that the quality of a sauna’s atmosphere and steam has its own name, “löyly.” Each sauna will typically have its own unique characteristics and feel to it. The löyly of the Finnish smoke sauna is usually further enhanced by lack of lighting which is in keeping with its origins in the ancient past, and automatically brings about a calm, hushed mood to any sauna-goers venturing inside.

Paired with the beautiful scenery of the Saimaa landscape and the refreshing cleanse of a swim in its blue lakes, the Finnish smoke sauna is really quite unique. Like the Finnish language, it cannot be easily explained but must instead be experienced for yourself. When you get the chance to visit Saimaa and try the Finnish smoke sauna for yourself; hyvää löylyä! Enjoy!

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