With Finland celebrating its 100 years anniversary, few things are more fitting than ice swimming to celebrate this occasion!
That sounds like a horrible idea!
…is a typical reaction to the idea of combining a warm and comforting sauna with ice-cold water. It also absolutely contradicts any advice given by most moms to their children in winter.
Though counter-intuitive to many, I believe ice swimming is probably one of the most enjoyable experiences during the dark and cold Finnish winter. You will find in the following paragraphs some info about the activity itself, as well as a guide to some of the best public saunas that offer it, in and around Turku.
Material needed for ice swimming
- Bottle of water
- Soap/Shampoo/Shower gel
- A bit of bravery
Some warm glögi can also be a nice addition, and don’t forget to take photos!
Good Spots in and around Turku
After spending a few years in Turku, here are some of my favourite ice swimming spots in and around Turku.
Few places provide a more scenic setting for trying ice swimming.
Ruissalo Camping – Saaroniemi
Probably the location with the best view, this public sauna is located at the complete end of the bus line 8 (starting from Kauppatori). Two saunas are included in the 5 euros price, one for women and one mixed. Showers, hair dryers, and locker rooms are included, don’t forget to bring a 1 euro coin for the locker, however. During the winter season it is open on weekends and on Tuesday and Thursday in the afternoon (I’m not sure of the hours, to be perfectly honest).
One of the main pros of this location is simply the gorgeous view: there is a wide window in the sauna which allows one to admire the nature around while enjoying the warm sauna.
Maybe the biggest disadvantage of the place is simply that is it a bit far from the water, bringing flip-flops is thus essential if you don’t want to freeze your feet.
Uittamo – Turun Avantouimarit ry
The public sauna located in Uittamo is also a great place to go ice swimming. The sauna itself is very close to the water, and the view on the island of Hirvensalo is a reason in itself to visit the place. The sauna is open all week except Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 15.00 and the price per person is 5 euros.
The bus number 13 provides an easy way to reach the place, which has also a very nice beach. It is also possible to go by bike, but depending of the starting point it might take a while.
For me, a big plus of the Uittamo sauna is simply the facilities, which include shower and locker rooms. Nevertheless, the size of the sauna itself (it is the biggest of all the ones included on this list) can be a downside due the noise and movement it implies.
Saaronniemen Saukot – Ruissalo
Also easily accessible with bus number 8, this location is a personal favorite. Saaronniemen Saukot (located here) is also on the island of Ruissalo, but you might need to walk a bit from the bus stop to reach the villa where the entrance fee (5 euros) can be paid.
You will then discover a lovely wood-heated sauna, which has a unique view on the surrounding nature, but also, amongst other things, the shipbuilding site (you can sometimes see part of the ships in the process of being built).
As opposed to the public saunas mentioned so far, this sauna is wood-heated, which adds to the pleasure of ice swimming. The size of the sauna is also just perfect in my opinion.
Maybe one of the downside is the lack of showers, but the other advantages compensate.
Villa Järvelä Oy – Lieto
The last entry on this list, Villa Järvelä is ex-æquo in first place for my favorite ice swimming spot in Turku. Again for 5 euros, it is possible to enjoy two wood-heated saunas, one electric sauna, as well as a hot tub. Sitting just next to Littoistenjärvi, the place is ideal of ice swimming.
Perhaps the biggest downside of this location is that the closest bus stop is almost 30min by foot. It is also possible to reach by bike, but from the student village (TYS office), it will take you around half-an-hour.
The warm hot is also an excellent way to enjoy the Finnish weather during the winter months.
Is it worth it?
Few things are more enjoyable during the Finnish winter. Ice swimming is a unique and very enjoyable way to take advantage of the cold weather during the dark months. It is surprisingly relaxing, and best done with friends. As a bonus, you could get a diploma certifying your courage in at least a few of the locations enumerated above (at least in the two places located in Ruissalo, I am not sure for the others).
In addition to the sauna and swimming parts, it is possible in all those locations to buy tea, coffee, or pullas for those needing extra warmth or courage. Villa Järvelä and the Uittamo sauna also have tables to enjoy your snacks. The sauna in Ruissalo Camping even has grilling-BBQ places available to the public!
And for the ice-swimming lovers, it is possible to become a member and get discounts on the price. I do not know the details so better ask the people in charge at the place if you are interested.
Tips for ice swimming
- Try not to scream too loud when dipping
- Do not forget to stay hydrated
- Do not push yourself too far, it is important to listen to your body
- It is usually recommended not to put your head underwater
- While running out of the water is tempting, it should be avoided as much as possible
- Do not talk too loudly in the sauna
- In all situations, be respectful to the other users of the sauna (especially when in groups)
If you haven’t tried, give it a chance and you won’t regret it!
I will conclude this post by asking you if you have found other ice-swimming place worth visiting in and around Turku that aren’t mentioned here. If you do, please let me know in the comments! You can also mention if you have any feedback or remarks about the other locations.
Living in Finland for more than three years, Michel is a Canadian student who is now completing his master’s degree in ÅAU. His interests are quite diversified and include ice hockey, history, fishing, as well as many other things. He is also a member of the student ambassador network of South-West Finland.