Sauna, Finland's national pastime – Nothing represents Finland like a Finnish sauna. The nation's favorite pastime is about cleansing the body and mind. Here's a guide to where and how to sauna like a local.
Sit on a towel – A traditional Finnish sauna is made of pinewood and is dimly lit. Sauna-goers should sit on their towels; naked skin shouldn't touch the wood.
Beat yourself – Finns believe that thrashing themselves with a bunch of birch twigs can improve circulation and enhance the overall sauna experience.
Keep hydrated – Finnish saunas are hot -- up to 100 C. Anyone using them should drink lots of water and take breaks to cool down.
Plunge into ice-cold water – Showering in between saunas or taking a dip in ice-cold water is all part of the experience.
Sauna is for everyone – Men, women, children and even babies go to the sauna -- although those with serious health conditions should seek medical advice beforehand.
Take charge of the stove – Like your sauna to be warmer? It's OK to take charge and throw some water on the stove.
Swimsuits are acceptable – While most Finns don't hesitate when it comes to stripping down to sauna, wearing a swimsuit or towel is also acceptable.
It's everywhere – There are more than 3.5 million saunas across Finland -- a country with a population of just under 5.5 million. There's even one in the stands at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.
Social place – Sauna is about bonding and socializing. But it's a space for spiritual cleansing and reflection too.
Where to sauna in Helsinki: Allas Sea Pool – Sitting in the heart of Helsinki, Allas Sea Pool boasts several saunas and three pools on a floating deck facing the sea. It's one of the newest saunas in town.
Where to sauna in Helsinki: Hermanni – Recently renovated, Sauna Hermanni, founded in the 1950s, now has a cool retro feel. The public sauna makes a great traditional herring sandwich.