There are practically as many types of sauna as there are people in Estonia — well, we may be exaggerating, but there is a type of sauna for every type of person. Like super hot? Try the Finnish sauna. Looking for traditional? Head to the smoke sauna. Can't stand the heat? Take a seat in an infrared sauna. Read on to find out more and take your pick of Estonian saunas.
Many people consider the smoke sauna the most proper version of sauna, and for good reason. Besides being the oldest type of sauna, the smoke sauna feels the best and provides the most pleasant steam. The smoke sauna is the ancestor of all other saunas, familiar as grandmother's pancakes or grandfather's music. The smoke sauna is different from other wood-heated saunas because there is no chimney in the sauna, so the sauna room and the space around it are filled with thick smoke as the sauna is heated. After heating, an hour or two will be spent waiting for the smoke to disappear until only heat and a pleasant light smell of smoke remain. Then it's time to go to the sauna and enjoy its long, mild steam, which leaves a lingering aroma of smoke on the skin and hair. For those who have never been to a smoke sauna before, then this should be one of your goals for Estonia's Year of the Sauna 2023.
Saturday night sauna has been an important tradition for many Estonians since childhood, and every proper household had a sauna until the last century. The classic sauna, like the smoke sauna, is a very old version of sauna. Known as the Finnish sauna, it could just as well be the traditional Estonian sauna. The sauna is characterized by dry, almost breathtaking heat, as the sauna is usually heated to 90-100 degrees Celsius. The steam is sudden, biting, even overwhelming. Fortunately, those who prefer a milder steam can just move one step lower in the sauna, as usually benches are set in two or three steps. For true sauna enthusiast, this is the real traditional sauna, in addition to the smoke sauna — the steam must be at least 100 degrees and the whole experience will take at least a couple of hours. Whisking is an important part of the sauna experience. After whisking, it is a good idea to cool off in a nearby pond or some other body of water.
This is a quick and easy solution for today's fast-paced world, especially since electric heaters are getting better and more stylish. Imagine you start driving from Tallinn, do some skiing in Otepää, and the sauna is ready to go by the time you arrive at your house in the countryside! With the help of smart solutions, such luxury is quite possible. There is no need to haul wood, and the sauna can be set to your desired temperature range. Sometimes an electric sauna is also the only possible solution for apartment buildings, hotels, and spas. True sauna enthusiasts, of course, turn up their noses when it comes to electric saunas, but as they say, any port will do in a storm!
In an igloo sauna, the steam is provided by a conventional or modern wood-burning heater. In a rectangular sauna, the heat bounces unevenly along the wall and eventually accumulates under the ceiling. The igloo sauna is completely rounded with rounded walls, and the steam is more evenly distributed and spreads faster. Igloo saunas warm up very quickly: in the summer, it is possible to get the steam up in as little as half an hour (70-80 °C), and in winter, it takes a little longer. Igloo sauna can be found from the islands to southeast Estonia, from Lapland to the tropics, not to mention Tallinn's famous Igloo Park. Igloo saunas covered in wood shavings are pleasing to the eye, blend well with nature, and look very modern.
As the name suggests, a raft sauna is a sauna placed on top of a raft (or boat or some other watercraft). Therefore, you can be sure that the water is very accessible, and you can jump into water directly from the sauna. Some raft saunas also have a small terrace or barbecue area. Some of the raft saunas are connected to the shore, while others can be used to navigate the water during sauna bathing. Perhaps not so easy when your raft is on the sea or a river, but you can do it on a bigger pond or a smaller lake. The range of raft saunas on Estonian water bodies is surprisingly wide, but unlike most other saunas, this is a seasonal activity.
The infrared sauna works on a completely different principle than other saunas because it does not heat the air but heats the human body. The heating process is carried out by infrared lamps powered by electromagnetic radiation. The air only heats up to 45-55 °C, which is why the infrared sauna is also suitable for those who cannot tolerate strong heat. For heat to pass through the skin and benefit the body, you should sit in an infrared sauna for at least 20 minutes or longer. Infrared saunas are popular in water parks and sports clubs, but they are also found in homes because this type of sauna requires less space than others. Many also like the fact that regular use of infrared sauna is said to help with weight loss.
The hot tub has a social and relaxing function, and these tubs have become very popular in Estonia. Hot tubs are often combined with another type of sauna, such as a smoke sauna or a Finnish sauna. What makes the hot tub experience great is that the tub is located outside. It is lovely to be in the tub on a sultry summer evening, during a harsh winter freeze, or on a dark autumn night. It is even great in rain or snow! The hot tub is heated with wood or electricity, but of course, it can also be used as a cold water pool if you want to jump from a hot sauna to cool down in the water.
The traditional sauna has a roof, four walls, and a floor. Depending on the type of sauna, the sauna has a steam room, a front room, and sometimes a separate washroom. However, creative people have built very different saunas. For example, a honeycomb sauna, is a building in the shape of a honeycomb, where the steam circulates particularly well due to its round shape. Some saunas are shaped like an overturned boat, and the sauna is then covered with wood shavings inside and out. Barrel saunas with an oval shape are manufactured in a variety of sizes. By their very nature, such saunas are still classic Finnish saunas, simply in a peculiar shape, and they often warm up faster, and the steam spreads more evenly.
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