Smoke sauna has always been an important part of everyday life in Võromaa, in South Estonia. Like a traditional sauna, the Estonian smoke sauna usually consists of a small house heated with wood in a brick oven. However, the smoke sauna has no chimney through which the smoke can escape. Instead, it circulates inside the room while the sauna is heating. Before the actual sauna session begins, the fire is allowed to die, and most of the smoke is released from the room.
In 2014, UNESCO included the smoke sauna phenomenon in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Nowhere is it upheld more devoutly than in Old Võromaa, especially at Mooksa Farm. The hosts at Mooksa Farm are Eda and her partner Urmas who have the passed-down knowledge of this timeless practice in their blood.
The smoke sauna ritual consists of many stages that must be followed carefully. But above all, you must be prepared to place life on hold, let go of all worldly worries, and allow yourself the time to be refreshed, invigorated, and healed. Clothed only in a felt hat, you'll enter the sacred hot room, where you are met by the heady aroma of burning wood. The steam created by throwing water on heated stones is said to clear your mind, root you to the earth below, and connect you with your ancestors. Soon, you'll rub yourself with ground plants and salt, followed by the 'whisking', when you'll beat your body with birch boughs to exfoliate skin and stimulate circulation. Then, you'll plunge into the icy waters nearby to cool down and rinse off.