For those who dream of a winter wonderland, Finnish Lapland is as close as it gets to the real thing. Untouched and pristine nature is at the core of Finnish life. It also makes for the ultimate “Do Not Disturb” location.
Hidden away more than 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is an enchanting, otherworldly destination. From hunting for aurora, to exploring the pristine artic wilderness, to dozing off under the Northern Lights in a glass igloo, there are plenty of romantic arctic adventures in store.
For a truly unique date night at Kakslauttanen, nothing beats a private couples’ smoke sauna (Savusauna) experience. This quintessential Finnish endeavor combines the soft warmth of the sauna, cool refreshing beverage and – for the bold – the exhilarating cold plunge. Best described as invigorating and adrenaline inducing with potential health benefits, it’s also downright sexy.
What begins with expert service and instruction, soon feels as though you’re the only two people on earth. Whereas modern wood-heated sauna stoves have a chimney to let out the smoke, but not so with the Finnish smoke sauna; instead, the smoke of the fire is trapped inside as it would have been millennia ago, along with the heat of the stove that is no longer lost up the chimney. The smoke is allowed out through the door immediately prior to the sauna-goers’ entrance, and the sauna then relies on its stored-up heat. Breathing in deeply while watching the fire crackle and glow, the body begins to soften with sweat and the heat releases all tension and boundaries.
Forget colored lights, aromatic fragrances and relaxing music: real Finnish saunas are dimly lit, and there’s no music or smells except for fresh birch and natural tar. Made from soaked birch twigs, the sauna whisks are used to gently whip yourself or one another, stimulating circulation and filling the air with their aroma. Whether or not you’re into this sort of thing at home, “whipping” your partner in the sauna is not only an accepted practice, it’s encouraged. It may sound bizarre but it’s a lot of playful fun and really good for your skin – you’ll feel the smoothness afterwards.
Time is not an issue. Neither is running around naked – indoors and out. At your leisure, time is spent alternating between the smoke sauna itself, the cold outdoors, and the warm cabin complete with a full fridge, shower, warm towels, hot showers and a roaring fire. With virtually no one around and no other building in sight, you can easily move between spaces, bodies steaming, and sans clothing.
The Finns’ laid-back manner and tendency to give you your own space ensures you are guaranteed privacy. Should your private butler catch sight of the “real” you (the national standard is to sauna in the nude), never fear – the Finns have seen their fair share of naked human bodies and it’s not a “thing” to be naked with perfect strangers in sauna. It’s only natural, and every body is welcomed and accepted without judgement.
Of course, you and your partner will be sweating heavily in the sauna, so it’s important to take breaks and drink plenty of fluids. Water is probably best, but fortunately, according to the locals, beer and cider are actually preferred during sauna. Stepping out into the brilliant cold night air, the snow sparkles bright white and the sky is lit up with the brightest stars you’ve ever seen; the truly fortunate may also see Aurora rippling above in dazzling shades of blue and green. This far north, the brilliant Northern Lights can appear on a crystal-clear night sky like magic nearly 200 nights a year.
They don’t call it “liquid courage” for nothing. Kaklauttanen’s private smoke sauna experience for two also involves dropping the towel and either diving into the snow together or plunging your bodies into a natural pool cut through the ice. The secret to dipping into icy water lies in plenty of fearless, alcohol-induced insanity, and you’ll be rewarded by a kind of euphoric feeling that surges through your body once you get out. As soon as you’re back on dry land your circulation kicks in and your body starts to warm up.
According to the experts at Visit Finland, sauna and Finland are inseparable. If you want to understand the country and its people, getting familiar with sauna is a good starting point. Whether an electric sauna in a modern business environment or an old-fashioned wood-burning sauna by a lakeside cottage, sauna is an essential part of daily life. So too is respect for nature and wildlife as well as people and their age-old customs. Just remember that for the Finnish, sauna has nothing to do with sex.
For everybody else? Just take it outside.
Produced By Corry Cook
Sources: Visit Finland; Kakslauttanen Artic Resort
Photos: Photographer Valtteri Hirvonen; Photographer Ruka Kuusamo; Visit Finland; Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort; Harri Tarvainen