With sauna culture remaining a significant part of Estonian life for hundreds of years, it is unsurprising that the country is ideal for a wellness holiday. So ingrained in the Estonian psyche are saunas, that the Ambassador to the UK, Viljar Lubi, has acquired an Iglucraft sauna especially for his London residence.
His Excellency Viljar Lubi says: "Having taken up the post in London in August 2021, I soon longed for a sauna. Since my childhood, when I regularly went to the sauna with my family, it has been an essential part of my daily life, and also wellbeing. Estonians socialise in the sauna and also have business meetings there. We generally enjoy spending time in the sauna as an ideal way to relax. The best sleep you get is after a nice sauna session. I am happy – and proud – to bring another Estonian Iglucraft sauna to London."
Combining ancient traditions with innovative modern treatments, Estonian spas celebrate the best of old and new in wellness with each aiming to offer something different to entice their guests. Where one resort offers a salt room, another will offer a saltwater pool. Some are well suited for a family to visit, with children commonly using saunas and steam rooms, and others will be adult-only.
Whether visitors are looking for a trip to a traditional spa and sauna, or to go on a tranquil retreat to one of the many islands, Estonia is a great environment to rest, rejuvenate and recharge.
These are the top five destinations in Estonia for health and wellness travellers.
Included on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritages, Estonia’s smoke saunas are a long-standing and unique tradition. Originated in the community of Vōromaa in southern Estonian, the saunas have been part of local culture since the 13th century. Since then, the processes of the sauna have been mastered to create the experience that is still enjoyed today. The sessions can last between three and five hours, during which, the saunas are fumed by the scent of burning wood, as well as birch and honey. Bathers beat their bodies with a tree branch whisk, which exfoliates the skin and stimulates circulation. Throughout the ritual, users cool off outside and rinse their bodies with cold water, typically in a freshwater pool. Today, the traditional smoke saunas remain largely in the very south of Estonia
The peace of Võru County’s pine forest can be enjoyed at Kubija Nature Spa. Prices start at £41 per night.
For visitors looking for a more sociable spa experience, Tallinn’s Iglupark is highly recommended. Built by Estonian company Iglucraft, the igloo-style saunas and pods can also be found in the gardens of the Beckhams, Guy Ritchie and Gordon Ramsey as well as at the residence of the UK's Estonian Ambassador Viljar Lubi. Opened in summer 2021 on the edge of a former dock, the Iglus – mostly individual sauna pods – can be rented by a group of friends to enjoy an afternoon or evening overlooking the Baltic Sea. There is one Iglu open as a bar and others have been made into sleeping pods, or spaces to work.
For visitors looking for a spa experience in the centre of Tallinn, the Hotel Telegraaf Spa is highly recommended. Housing a 10-metre swimming pool under a skylight roof, the spa is a place of tranquility in the heart of the capital. A particularly decadent treatment is Telegraaf’s Chocolate Retreat, a full body massage that removes impurities and promotes a healthy glow. The treatment begins with an energizing brown sugar scrub to exfoliate and is then covered in a hot chocolate wrap, used to tone, moisturize and firm the skin.
Cox & Kings (020 3797 8866) has a three-night break in Tallinn from £1,195pp based on two people sharing. Includes flights, transfers and accommodation at Hotel Telegraaf on a B&B basis and guiding.
One of the favourite destinations for health and wellness tourists, Pärnu is known for its longstanding spa culture. Opening its first mud baths in 1838, Pärnu has continued its culture of spa visits for centuries. The city is known for its romantic wooden villas and beautiful beaches, as well as an array of spa and wellness centres. A popular hotel is the Hedon Spa Hotel, located on the city’s beach. Described as where old meets new, Hedon’s modern spa complex is housed in a historical mud bath building, combining the traditional and contemporary in Estonian wellness. A standout treatment is the Journey to the Land of the Morning Sun. The 100-minute treatment features an 80-minute age-defying beauty facial, using a combination of 50 lifting massage movements carried out with the aid of a jade ridoki roller. To round-up off a day of relaxing, Restaurant Raimond, serves traditional and modern Nordic flavours, with the three-course à la carte menu offering innovative creative dishes using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Prices for Hedon Spa start from £75 per night per double room.
For those looking to explore away from the mainland, a trip to Estonia’s Muhu island is highly recommended. Located in the West Estonian archipelago in the Baltic Sea, with a local population of under 2,000 people, this peaceful island is perfect for those looking for a tranquil retreat. For the ultimate relaxation experience, visitors can stay at Pädaste Manor, which offers spa treatments centred around the harmony and revitalization of the senses. The spa culture here is based on centuries-old Estonian herbal traditions, complemented by the unspoiled natural beauty of Muhu island. Pädaste offers an extensive spa menu for guests to select their treatments from, ranging from a single treatment to a three-day wellness break. Pädaste’s warm stone massage is a particularly relaxing therapy. Using natural stones collected from the shoreline, the stones have been eroded over thousands of year, resulting in a silky-smooth finish. The warmed stones create a revitalising treatment, connecting to the geography of the island.
The warm stone massage starts at £130 for a 75 minute treatment. Prices for Pädaste Manor Hotel start from £165 per night per double room.
Nicknamed ‘Spa-remaa’ due to its density of spas per capita, Estonia’s largest island is a hub of wellness and spa experiences. Treatments on Saaremaa amalgamate the old and new in Estonian wellness traditions, offering a wide variety of health procedures and medical services to mud baths and luxury treatments. A popular ingredient is the red algae found on Saaremaa’s beaches. This is widely used by the French cosmetic industry, but in Estonia it is used to give a red algae wrap treatment. Saaremaa’s curative mud is combined with peat and used to help alleviate muscle tension and joint aches. In addition to its spa culture, Saaremaa is part of UNESCO’s biosphere reserve, which values sustainable lifestyle. One of the most relaxing experiences on offer on the island is a walk-through nature to smell the scent of the junipers, or a walk along the pebbly beach at sunset.
Located right by the ocean, Saaremaa’s GOSPA offers spa treatments, a water park, and a sea-view restaurant. Prices start at £52 per night.