17 weird sauna traditions across the world

Sweat ahoy sauna lovers! Today, I’ve done some research and I’ve found some of the weirdest sauna traditions from around the world that’ll make you want to pack your bags and hit the road. From saunas on boats to saunas underground caves, saunas with beer and even saunas with ayurvedic herbs, these traditions are sure to make you say “What the sauna?”. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at this list and see for yourself. So grab a cold one, sit back, relax and let’s dive into the world of weird sauna traditions:

1. Sauna and sausages in Finland

Image credit: Wikimedia

Sauna and sausages are popular in Finland, with Finns often grilling sausages over an open fire or wrapping them in foil, and then roasting them on the sauna stove. Talk about working up an apetite! The Finnish sauna sausages are apparently a fun social food or snack, and a snack often follows the sauna ritual. Who knew? I mean, sure, saunas are great for sweating out toxins and relaxing, but who needs that when you can have a nice juicy sausage instead? I guess the Finns have figured out how to do both at the same time… Genius!

2. Steamy Banyas in Russia

Image credit: Wikicommons

In Russia, banyas are a popular form of sauna that involve pouring water on hot stones to create a steam room. This is done to increase the temperature and humidity in the sauna. Talk about turning up the heat! I mean, regular saunas are hot enough, but these Russians like to take it to the next level. I bet they’re the kind of people who put extra hot sauce on their food too.

3. Estonian sauna whisking

In Estonia, it is traditional to use birch or oak branches to beat oneself while in the sauna. This practice is known as ‘sauna whisking’ and is believed to improve circulation and relieve mosquito bites. Sauna whisking is usually done in private saunas with friends, although other customs such as cleansing the body and soul are also connected to the sauna tradition. Talk about a natural exfoliant! I mean, I guess it’s one way to get rid of dead skin cells, but it sounds a bit painful to me. I think I’ll stick to my loofah, thank you very much.

4. Kese mitt scrubbing in Turkish hammam

Image credit: Wikimedia.

In Turkey, a hammam is a type of sauna where people get scrubbed down with a kese mitt. It is a traditional cleansing ritual that dates back to the Ottoman period, and is often used for relaxation treatments. Most hammams offer 45 minutes of washing, which includes body scrubbing with a handwoven washcloth (kese), a foam wash, and a massage. I’m not sure if I’m in or out on this one. On one hand, it sounds like a great way to get clean, but on the other hand, I’m not sure I want someone else scrubbing me down. I’ll stick to doing it myself, thank you very much.

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5. Japaneese ofuro tubes

Image credit: Wikimedia.

In Japan, they have a sauna called an ofuro, which is a small wooden tub filled with hot water. So, an ofuro is basically a traditional Japanese sauna, typically made of Hinoki or Western Red Cedar wood. It’s shaped as a small wooden tub filled with hot water and used as a soaking tub. I guess it’s like a mini-hot tub, but indoors. It sounds nice, but I don’t know if I’m ready for such a small space. I like my saunas with a little room to move around.

6. Jjimjilbangs in Korea: the ultimate sauna entertainment

Second Prize_Yinxin
Image credit: Second Prize_Yinxin at Flickr.

In Korea, they have something called a jjimjilbang, which is a sauna that also includes a variety of other facilities like a movie theater, restaurant, and even sleeping rooms. Talk about a one-stop relaxation shop! Now this is my kind of place! A sauna, a movie theater, a restaurant, and even a place to sleep. Sign me up!

7. Turf house saunas in Iceland

In Iceland, they have something called a turf house sauna, which is a sauna built into the ground and heated by geothermal energy. This type of sauna is often found in spas and hot springs, where it is part of a bathing ritual that includes soaking in geothermal pools, cold plunges, saunas, steam rooms, and body scrubs. Talk about going green! I like the idea of using natural energy to heat the sauna, but I’m not sure I’m ready for a turf house. I prefer my houses to be made of more traditional materials, like bricks or wood.

8. German Rauchsaunas: a smoky experience!

Image: Inside a smoke sauna. Credit: Wikimedia.

In Germany, they have something called a Rauchsauna (smoke sauna).  This is a sauna that uses smoke instead of heat. This method of sauna takes several hours and dates back hundreds of years. It differs from other types of saunas such as the traditional Finnish sauna or infrared sauna which use heat to warm up the skin of its users. I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not, but it definitely sounds interesting…! I mean, I like the idea of a sauna that uses smoke, but I’m not sure I want to inhale smoke while trying to relax (!). Maybe I’ll stick to the traditional sauna..!

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9. Floating saunas in Norway

Image: Rosendahl’s floating sauna in Norway. Image credit: Wikimedia.

In Norway, they have saunas that float on the water. Talk about a seaside experience! It sounds like a great idea to have floating saunas, as long as you’re not the seasick type…!

10. Swiss Fondue sauna: If you’re feeling hungry…

Image credit: Wikimedia.

In Switzerland, they have something called a Fondue sauna(!), where you can enjoy a traditional Swiss cheese fondue while relaxing in the sauna. Talk about a cheesy experience..! Now this sounds like a great idea! I love cheese and I love saunas, so why not combine the two? Sign me up for a Fondue sauna, please!

11. Wine saunas in Hungary: the complete relaxation?

In Hungary, they have something called a wine sauna, where you can enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing in the sauna. Talk about a relaxing experience! I think this is a great idea! I mean, who doesn’t love a glass of wine while relaxing in a sauna? I know I do! This is definitely one tradition I could get behind.

12. Sauna boats in Netherlands

Image: Sauna boat. Credit: Wikicommons.

In the Netherlands, they have something called a sauna boat which is a boat equipped with sauna facilities. Some of the more famous Dutch sauna boats are van Egmond in Haarlem, the houseboat in Goengahuizen, and a luxury family houseboat near Amsterdam. Talk about taking relaxation to the next level! I mean, sure, a sauna is great, but a sauna on a boat? Now that’s what I call luxury. Can’t wait to try this one out!

13. Pouring beer on the sauna stones in Latvia

Image credit: Wikimedia.

In Latvia, it’s traditional to pour beer on the sauna stones. This is done to soften the slota, a bundle of birch branches and plants used for swatting the body during sauna rituals. Talk about a unique way to enjoy a cold one! I mean, I love beer, and I love saunas, but I never thought to combine the two. I guess the Latvians know something I don’t.

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14. The Swedish Saunakärring (don’t mess with her!)

In Sweden, they have something called a saunakärring which is a female sauna attendant who is responsible for pouring water on the sauna stones, and helping guests with sauna etiquette. Talk about a sauna professional! I mean, I didn’t know there was such a thing as sauna etiquette, but I’m all for learning from the pros.

15. Greek Ioutros: a watery experience

In Greece, they have something called a loutro which is a sauna that is built over a body of water, allowing guests to jump in and cool off between sauna sessions. Talk about a refreshing experience! I mean, I love the idea of a sauna, but sometimes it can get a bit too hot. This sounds like a great solution.

16. Majlis al-hoshs in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, they have something called a majlis al-hosh which is a sauna that is built in a underground cave, and heated by a fire pit. This type of sauna has existed since before recorded history and is the most primitive form of sauna. The fire pit provides heat and light, creating a communal atmosphere for people to gather around. Talk about going back to the basics! I mean, I love the idea of a sauna, but I didn’t know they could be built underground. I guess the Saudis know something I don’t.

17. Chaukhamba Ayurvedic Sauna in India: a herbal affair

In India, they have something called a Chaukhamba Ayurvedic Sauna which is a type of steam bath sauna that uses Ayurvedic herbs and oils to promote relaxation, healing and detoxification…! It is based on the ancient science of Ayurveda, which has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Talk about a holistic experience! I mean, I love the idea of a steam sauna, but I didn’t know they could be used for healing. I guess the Indians know something I don’t.

So there you have it folks, 17 weird sauna traditions from around the world..! Some may sound a bit strange, but you never know, you may find your new favorite way to relax in one of these. But whether you’re enjoying a sausage in Finland or a glass of wine in Hungary, just remember to stay hydrated and enjoy the heat!


Author: Anna Svensson

Anna is a Scandinavian who grew up with saunas. She has had a life-long love for, and interest in, saunas. In this blog, she shares her best hacks and things she has learned about saunas over the years. You can read more about Anna in the “About” page.

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