It is late March in Rovaniemi, Lapland and there’s still snow up to your waist. There is not much sign of the approaching summer – lakes and other waterways are still covered in a thick layer of ice. Nevertheless, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the dripping sounds made by the thawing ice. But, it’s not the sunshine that’s thawing the ice, rather a hot sauna stove – welcome to the Ice Sauna.
People living in today’s urban surroundings are increasingly seeking counterbalance for their hectic lives. The new tourism trend “meet the locals” is becoming extremely popular and this has been noticed by Seppo Jänkälä from the Rovaniemi village of Narkaus. Nowadays, he has increasing numbers of tourists visiting his cottage on the shores of Lake Narkausjärvi. “We have had folk here this winter from Austria and Germany and other nations”, tells Seppo.
The interest in Seppo’s cottage milieu is because of his favourite pastime that made him create the Ice Sauna. Now there is no need to be simply interested, as the Ice Sauna can now be tried and tested for real.
“This is the second time I have built this Ice Sauna. Experience from last winter made me install roof insulation and I reduced the size of the sauna from fourteen cubic metres down to ten. This ensures enough stove heating power for even the hottest of sauna bathing”, Seppo tells.
In the beginning, the concept of an Ice Sauna seemed a little extraordinary, but also fascinating. The first thing that comes to mind is how extreme heat and extreme cold come together. Why does the sauna not melt when the stove is on?
“I have built this sauna from ice elements that I have myself cut out of the frozen Lake Narkausjärvi. Ice used in construction needs to be durable. As bathing in the sauna doesn’t take that long, the ice only thaws a little before quickly freezing once again as the sauna cools down”, reveals Seppo.
If you watch the video below, you can see just how humid the Ice Sauna steam is, making it feel a bit more like a steamy Turkish bath. The immediate proximity of both hot and cold makes the sauna experience unique.
Where did you get the idea for building an Ice Sauna?
Seppo Jänkälä is a very traditional Laplander. Already upon arriving at his Lake Narkausjärvi cottage milieu, you can sense some madcap inventor lives there. You get the feeling that Seppo is full of wild and wonderful ideas.
“I am currently retired, so I have plenty of time for other pastimes. I recently attended an ice and snow construction course, and since we live in these conditions, why wouldn’t I build an Ice Sauna? I have the know-how. This much I can tell, I will be building yet another Ice Sauna next year, as my wife has given me permission to do so”, Seppo giggles.
Seppo’s Ice Sauna on the shores of Lake Narkausjärvi in Rovaniemi is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed. At the moment, the sauna and the Lappish kota shelter are not in commercial use, but it can be experienced using the “meet the locals” concept by contacting the Narkaus Village Activists or us at LaplandNews.
Check the video below to see what bathing in the Ice Sauna on the shores of Lake Narkausjärvi looks like.
Translation: Peter Culley