Norway, a land of breathtaking fjords, midnight sun, and northern lights, offers another unique experience that has been deeply rooted in its culture for centuries: the sauna. The Norwegian sauna experience is not just about relaxation; it's a lifestyle, a ritual, and a tradition.
What is a Norwegian sauna?
The Norwegian sauna, locally known as 'badstue', is a wooden room heated to high temperatures. It's a place where Norwegians come to cleanse their bodies and minds. The heat, combined with the aromatic scent of wood, creates a serene environment. In Norway, saunas are often located near a cold water source, allowing for the traditional practice of alternating between hot and cold baths.
What is a badstue?
'Badstue' is the Norwegian term for sauna. It translates to 'bath cabin', emphasizing the cleansing aspect of the experience. While the basic principles are similar to saunas worldwide, the Norwegian badstue often incorporates elements unique to Norway's natural and cultural landscape.
Norwegian sauna vs Finnish sauna
While both countries cherish their sauna traditions, there are subtle differences. Norwegian saunas tend to be slightly cooler, with temperatures ranging from 60°C to 80°C. The experience is more about relaxation and enjoying the company of others. In contrast, Finnish saunas often have higher temperatures and emphasize the health benefits of intense sweating.
Norwegian sauna culture
Saunas in Norway are more than just a place to get warm. They are social hubs, places of relaxation, and a bridge to nature. Many Norwegians believe that regular sauna sessions help them connect with their roots, appreciate the simple joys of life, and strengthen communal bonds.
Best Saunas in Norway
Located in a mountain village called Dalen, Soria Moria is a beautifully designed sauna that offers a serene view of the lake Bandak. The architecture of the sauna is inspired by the surrounding mountains and is covered with traditional shingles. Booking is essential, and the price is quite affordable.
The sauna is a part of the Dalen Hotel, which is known as the "fairytale hotel" and is one of Norway's oldest wooden hotels. The hotel itself is a piece of Norwegian cultural history, and the sauna complements its serene surroundings.
Situated not far from the southernmost point of Norway, the Farsund public bathhouse has a rich history dating back to the 1870s. The sauna was built recently and offers a mesmerizing view of the sea. Farsund is known for its beautiful archipelago, white wooden houses, and a rich history of shipping and piracy. The sauna provides a modern touch to this historical town.
Located on the shore of the Sørfjord, an arm of Hardangerfjord, this sauna is a perfect relaxation spot after a demanding hike to Trolltunga. The fjord itself is known for its breathtaking beauty, with steep mountains and picturesque orchards lining its sides. The sauna offers a panoramic view of this natural beauty.
Found in the high mountains of Telemark, Gaustablikk offers two floating saunas on lake Kvitåvatn, making it a perfect spot for both skiers in winter and hikers in summer. The area is known for the Gaustatoppen mountain, which offers one of the best views in Norway. The floating saunas provide a unique experience in this high mountain landscape.
A unique sauna located in Jotunheimen, Eldmølla is a result of a collaboration between a landowner and NTNU. The sauna sits right on a beautiful waterfall called Drøsja. Jotunheimen is Norway's premier national park, and the sauna offers a unique blend of modern design and natural beauty.
Another masterpiece by NTNU students, this sauna is located in the village Vang i Valdres and is maintained by the public. Vang is a picturesque village known for its cultural landscapes, mountain farms, and beautiful lakes.
A nomadic project in Oslo, SALT Árdna is not just a sauna but a cultural hub. The main sauna, Árdna, is one of the biggest in the world and can accommodate up to 80 people. Located on the Oslo fjord, it offers a unique blend of cultural events and sauna sessions.
Located on the Lofoten sandy beach, this sauna offers a unique experience of enjoying a session under the dancing aurora in the sky. Lofoten is known for its dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, and the northern lights. The sauna at Hov Gård complements this natural beauty.
Another Lofoten gem, this sauna is located in Henningsvær and offers a serene view of the sea through a glass wall. Henningsvær is a picturesque fishing village known for its traditional wooden houses and vibrant fishing industry.
Located in the northernmost student city, Tromsø, Pust is a uniquely shaped sauna that offers a refreshing experience of jumping right into the sea after a hot session. Tromsø is known as the "Gateway to the Arctic" and offers a blend of cultural events, midnight sun, and northern lights.
Located in the heart of Møysalen National Park, this sauna is an unattended hut that accommodates hikers all year round. It's a favorite ski destination, and the sauna by the cabin is a perfect relaxation spot after a day of skiing. Møysalen National Park is known for its dramatic landscapes and is a favorite among hikers and skiers
Benefits of a Norwegian sauna
- Health benefits: Regular sauna sessions can improve cardiovascular health, cleanse the skin, and boost the immune system.
- Relaxation and rejuvenation: The warmth of the sauna relaxes muscles, alleviates stress, and promotes a sense of well-being.
- Social benefits: Saunas are often communal spaces where friends and family gather, share stories, and bond.
Where to find a Norwegian sauna in Norway
Norway boasts a plethora of saunas, from public ones in cities to private ones nestled beside fjords. Oslo, the capital, has gained popularity for its floating saunas, offering a unique experience of basking in warmth while floating on the fjord. For those seeking luxury, many hotels offer saunas with panoramic views of Norway's stunning landscapes.
How to use a Norwegian sauna
Before you go: Ensure you're well-hydrated and avoid eating a large meal. Bring a towel, water, and, if preferred, a bathing suit.
During your sauna session: Start with a warm shower, then enter the sauna. Relax, breathe deeply, and let the warmth envelop you. After 15-20 minutes, step out and cool down, either by taking a cold shower or, if you're brave, jumping into a nearby fjord.
After your sauna session: Drink plenty of water to rehydrate and allow your body to cool down naturally.
A journey to Norway is incomplete without immersing oneself in its rich sauna culture. Whether you're in the bustling streets of Oslo or the tranquil shores of a remote fjord, a Norwegian sauna awaits to offer you warmth, relaxation, and a taste of Norway's age-old traditions.
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