Finland is known for its saunas. A Finnish sauna is a room or small hut with temperature over 80 degrees C. When water is poured over the hot furnace stones, a steam cloud fills the sauna taking the temperatures to an even higher level. Sauna bathing in Finland typically lasts between half an hour and two hours. The sauna is often followed by a shower or swim in a lake. In winter, many of the Finnish rub snow on their skin after their sauna. Some beat their skin with birch twigs soaked in warm water to exfoliate and clean.
Using saunas is the most popular leisure activity in Finland. A visit to Finland sans sauna would be incomplete. The Finnish admire saunas for their healing properties. Millions of people in Finland use saunas and on average, each household has one sauna.
Saunas can be used to gather socially and relax with family and friends. In private settings, men and women often share saunas, while single sex saunas are norm in the public places.
In the past, saunas used to be wooden compartments near lakes. Wood was burnt under flat stones and arranged in rows, to produce heat. Steam was generated by pouring cold water on these stones. Usually temperatures in these steam huts ranged between 70 degrees C and 90 degrees C. It could go up to 120 degrees C.
In Finland, there is an annual competition to honor people who can spend the most time in a sauna.