While the sauna connoisseurs and purists are all the rage over the traditional smoke saunas in the snowy Finnish countryside most of us are quite content with a modern sauna and a cold shower afterwords.  Sauna is a must in any decent hotel or gym.  I especially enjoyed sauna designs by a Helsinki based firm Avanto Architects.

Infrared sauna in hotel and wine-growing estate Stroblhof, Italy.

Sauna designed by Avanto Architects located on an island of a remote lake in Finland. Found via Remodelista.

Changing area at the Ville Hara sauna.

A solid wood sauna by Avanto Architects winner of 2009 Habitare Sauna design competition for young architects and designers. A modern interpretation of a traditional log sauna. Found via Archtronic.


Originally the sauna was a place to bathe, but as it was the only available clean place with abundant water, it has also been a place for giving birth and healing the sick. Today the Finnish sauna is a place to relax in with friends and family, and a place for physical and mental relaxation. In Finnish culture it is considered a necessity not a luxury. Taking a sauna begins by washing up and then going to sit in the hot room, typically warmed to 80-110 degrees Celsius (170-230 degrees Fahrenheit), for some time. Water is thrown on the hot stones to produce steam, known as löyly, which increases the moisture and heat within the sauna. The word löyly is used for this steam only in the context of the sauna. Its original meaning was spirit, breath, soul.

A smoke sauna (savusauna) in Enonkoski. In this type of sauna wood is burned in a particularly large stove and the smoke fills the room, there is no chimney. When the sauna is hot enough, the fire is allowed to die and the smoke is ventilated out. The residual heat of the stove is enough for the duration of the sauna. Smoke saunas are considered superior by the connoisseurs.












It is common to enjoy a beer or other beverage in between and after sauna sessions.


















When the heat of sauna begins to feel uncomfortable a dip in the lake is in order. In the winter rolling in the snow or even swimming in a hole cut in the ice suffices as well.












The vihta is made in the summer, just before the Midsummer's Feast, by cutting bunches of young, tender birch branches, about 40cm long and tying them together. The vihta is used in traditional sauna-bathing for massage and stimulation of the skin.


























This time of the year I often fantasize of (and occasionally get to enjoy) sunny days in snowy mountains followed by nice sauna sessions.
Set in the ultimate spa landscape, this sauna is truly a dream come true. It was designed and built by Sami Rintala and a group of students from Västlands Kunstakademie for the town of Rosendal Village, Hardangerfjord, Norway.

Anchored in the middle of the fjord, the sauna allows a level of privacy for the bathers. Access is by rowing boat only. Little winter daylight comes through transparent walls. At night the sauna shines as a floating lantern.

Heat of around 90 C is enjoyed, especially in wintertime (-20 C outside) by sitting on wooden benches and throwing water on hot stones on the stove.













An opening in the floor of the structure allows the bathers to take a dip in the lake right in the sauna. The water is exceptionally warm due to the Gulf Stream stretching to the fjords of Norway.