There’s perhaps nothing more Finnish than basking in the heat of a piping hot, wood cabin sauna. A major staple in Finland’s culture, sauna bathing typically involves alternating between extreme hot and cold temperatures. Oftentimes, Finns get respite from the toasty sauna rooms by cooling off in a pool or frigid sea before returning back to their humid huts. While this routine is often used for relaxation, a recent Mayo Clinic study is praising it for its health benefits.
The study says that sauna bathing isn’t just a blissful way to de-stress, but it also improves the cardiovascular and circulatory systems. Head to a Finnish-style sauna on the regular and you may reap the rewards of reduced risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases; relief of headaches, arthritis and flu symptoms; and improved circulatory and immune functions, seeing as the activity improves blood vessel dilation and reduces stiffness. All in all, those are great perks from an activity that doesn’t take much convincing in the first place. Just about ready to head off to the sauna? Below are some of the coolest ones around the world:
Since no other country does sauna bathing quite like FInland, it only makes sense to head to the nation’s capital to enjoy the warmth of a true Finnish sauna. In Finland, one doesn’t have to go far to find a spot to steam: there are about 5.4 million people and around 3.3 million saunas. Löyly is one of them. Situated less than two kilometres from the city centre, right on the waterfront, it’s great for tourists scoping out the city. Travellers looking to get the most authentic experience will be impressed to learn that Löyly has the traditional smoke- and wood-burning saunas. For relief from the heat, take a dip in the sea. The bravest of tourists might even dare to take a dip on the avant, a hole carved into the ice in winter.
The mountain peaks in Canada’s western provinces truly are some of the most gorgeous sights in the country. Scandinave Spa in Whistler gives a traveller the chance to test the benefits of the Finnish sauna while drinking in postcard-pretty views of snow-covered treetops and the massive Rocky Mountains. This resort is going for a Scandinavian feel in a Canadian location so visitors will notice scents of spruce and cedar while bathing in hot baths or inside a Finish or wood-burning sauna. The crisp, cool air in Lost Lake Park is as invigorating as the cold plunge pool. Outdoor fireplaces add just the right finishing touch.
Most people wouldn’t be disappointed with a travel experience that includes relaxing in a spa atop a cliff with views of the Dolomites all around. That’s exactly what one will experience at the Adler Lodge, a mountain lodge in Italy. If looking to get the full wellness benefits from sauna bathing, this spot is ideal as it offers clear blue skies, fresh mountain air, views of one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world, and of course, a wood sauna with pretty scenery and hot pools to swim in. Night owls can also stargaze all they want.
Machu Picchu, Peru
When thinking of sauna destinations, many may think of chilly European countries well before spots in South America. Make no mistake, Peruvians know how to optimize natural resources to create a heavenly sauna environment and thus, the health and wellness benefits will be yours for the taking. At Inkaterra Machu Picchu, for example, the spa’s sauna and pools have many of the characteristics of the classic toasty rooms seen in Finland, however travellers will love the Andean spin. River rocks heat the sauna and bring out the eucalyptus smell, a cold springwater pool awaits and visitors can indulge in a coca leaf treatment after. Of course, the Andean village charm won’t be lost on a traveller either.
The Austrian Alps are a great escape for the traveller on the hunt for a wellness retreat and seriously, both the body and the mind will be grateful. Mama Thresl is a retreat located in Leogang that has a cozy sauna with a wood stove in the middle. Visitors will be wide-eyed as they unwind because the place has jaw-dropping, panoramic views of the town that looks straight out of a storybook. With snowy peaks and cooling showers of Leogang spring water just outside the sauna, this is a great location to put the health rewards of sauna bathing to the test.
San Pedro, Chile
If a busy schedule calls for a vacation away from the nine-to-five stress, the Chilean desert in San Pedro is about as far away as you can get. There, red mountains tower above the Catarpe Valley and the evening temperatures are a cool reprieve from scalding afternoons. Though a world away from Finland, the Finnish style of sauna bathing is alive and well. Alto Atacama Desert Lodge is the place to go to destress from day-to-day life: this location’s architecture is modelled after buildings in the nearby village. As for the wellness activities, they’ve installed a sauna plus indoor and outdoor tubs using glacial water from the Salt Mountain Range. There, a traveller’s only task is to reap the rewards of the hot temperatures and soothing water.