Person bathing in a sauna

The Sauna Region of the World is the best place to learn about the Finnish sauna

Finnish sauna is sheer bliss from top till toe. Hissing steam rising from a stack of heated sauna stones holds a promise of relaxation; in sauna the time stands still and the heat calms your body and mind.

Finnish sauna tradition, now added also to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, is a perfect way of getting into the core of being a Finn. Jyväskylä Region is the best location to learn about saunas, as the region declared itself the Sauna Region of the World in 2015.

– Here, in the Sauna Region, you can enjoy a wide range of saunas and sauna adventures in the neighbouring area. To me the Sauna Region represents in essence a community of saunas and sauna providers in Jyväskylä Region that has a lot to offer with a local twist, says Saija Silén, Chairperson of the Association of Finnish Sauna Culture.

One of the many celebrations held annually in Jyväskylä Region is the Sauna Region Week, during which a number of awesome sauna events take place, one of those being the Sauna Heating World Championship competition. The region provides also a diverse range of sauna experiences. The hospitality industry in Jyväskylä Region puts a lot of effort on fine-tuning their sauna products to perfection. Many locations in the region offer world-class sauna experiences. Jyväskylä Region is also the heart of Finnish sauna industry as many of the companies in the field were established in the region and continue to make their mark on their birthplace.

Two persons sitting in sauna
Photo: Julia Kivelä

The Sauna Region hosts numerous interesting sauna experiences

Unique experiences and adventures include, for instance, the largest smoke sauna in the world and different types of sauna rafts. Saija Silén participates actively in Jämsä’s Sauna Village where one can learn about the history of Finnish sauna. The Sauna Village, on the shores of Lake Päijänne, is an interesting journey into the smoke-scented history and genuine sauna experience. The Sauna Village introduces the world’s most extensive collection of smoke saunas to visitors – the village hosts several smoke saunas with the oldest ones dating back to the 18th century. It is the most extensive collection of smoke saunas in the world, representing various building styles of different eras.

– The Sauna Village takes you on time travel to Finnish history and the fountainhead of sauna bathing, in other words, what bathing once was like and how the sauna as we know it today has remained unchanged practically for thousands of years. The purpose is to tell about the history of Finnish sauna, buildings and their use, but most of all, to tell about the history of sauna bathing in different eras and different historical periods, Saija Silén says.

However, the Sauna Village is no museum area: the sauna lifestyle is introduced through living sauna culture. In Sauna Village you can take a sauna bath in old smoke saunas. Of the 23 saunas, eight have already been renovated by volunteers and are open to the public to go and bathe on sauna days. Sauna does have health benefits, but the overall experience attracts also new generations. In sauna, you feel the time stand still as the sauna is an oasis of calm where you go without your digital devices.

– Sauna bathing works so well that it has remained attractive for centuries. We have noticed that traditional saunas, in addition to older bathers and enthusiasts, have been visited by a good number of first-timers and young people as well. The wow factor of sauna culture is passed down from one generation to the other, Saija Silén says.

Two persons sitting on a smoke sauna terrace
Photo: Julia Kivelä

Sauna Rally picks up steam for the World Rally Championship

Finnish sauna is also a social event.  Sauna Rally, organised in the end of September and beginning of October in conjunction with the World Rally Championship, represents a new sense of community. This year’s Sauna Rally is participated by a diverse range of saunas in Jyväskylä Region providing rally folk excellent opportunities to enjoy both the rally atmosphere and sauna – in between stages or in the end of a day. Sauna Rally schedule offers an interesting selection of different kinds of sauna events, sauna providers, a public city sauna, the chimney sauna and a sauna path. Sauna Rally is an opportunity to get to know the Sauna Village, too.

– We have organised Rally Sauna already in five consecutive years. When in Rally Sauna, you don’t talk about sauna but rallies, however, even so, the sense of community spreads though the shared experience of sauna bathing. Best of all, whatever country or driver you support, everyone is welcome around the campfire after their sauna bath to sit and enjoy their snack together, Saija Silén says.

Birch twig on smoke sauna’s seat
Photo: Julia Kivelä