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The Relaxation routine all Finns know – cottage, sauna, lakes
2 minute read
A person is lying down in a boat in front of a Lake landscape in Finland

Credits:: Alexander Mazurov

Have a Holiday like the Finns do in Lakeland

Take the plunge and try the Finnish routine guaranteed to improve your wellbeing; the Holy Trinity – cottage, sauna, lake.

Every summer, Finns descend upon the forests surrounding the 188,000 lakes across the country to their cottages, or mökki, where they’ll spend the months of midnight sun (and even the winter) resting, relaxing and being close to nature. There are over half a million cottages in Finland and 1/5 of Finns own one, with the rest renting or borrowing a friend's.

Cottages come in many shapes and sizes. Many of the mökki are like 2nd apartments with contemporary standards like high-speed internet. On the other hand, many of these wood huts don’t have modern amenities or running water at all. And yes, that means no toilet – time to get acquainted with outhouses. Choose a nature vacation and cottage that fits your preferences.

the interiors of a traditional well equip summer cottage in Finland
Credits: Harri Tarvainen

Cottage and sauna equals slow living

Women and children in a Finnish sauna. A kid throwing water on the sauna stove
Credits: Kari Ylitalo

At its core, cottage life, known as mökkielämä in Finnish, is equated with slow living and treading softly on the land. For many Finns, the quintessential experience of mökkielämä is found in simplicity: exploring the landscape, picking wild berries, and of course, lake swimming after using the sauna. This particular past time is an invigorating experience that can become addictive. Finns love going to sauna, but when coupled with an immersion in nature it becomes almost medicinal.

Saunas have proven health benefits, like improving circulation and firing up the body’s sympathetic nervous system. They promote a feeling of relaxation, as the soothing heat invites you to hang loose and breathe deep. Just at the point when the heat becomes too much is the point when Finns run into the lake, skin still steaming. The cool, still water is the best corrective to the heat, immediately refreshing your senses. The quick contrast between the fuzzy heat and the clarifying water fires off endorphins, leaving you relaxed and happy.

 

a man jumping from a small cliff into the water
Credits: Emilia Hoisko Photography

Swim all year round – also in the frozen lake

In the summer months, the water is warm enough to spend time swimming and observing the natural beauty of deep green forests, rolling hills and glittering water around you. Finnish lakes are home to incredible wildlife, like the Saimaa ringed seal. Sharing these spaces with the local wildlife is a magical experience that soothes one's soul. Many Finns see this close relationship as a requirement for wellbeing.

The lakes are definitely less of a shock in the warmer months, but the Finns sauna and swim throughout the year – and with good reason. In the winter, a hole is cut into the iced over lakes, just big enough to dip into. To many, this sounds like a form of torture, but some suspect this extreme contrast is the secret to the Finns world famous happiness. It’s believed that the shock acts as a mood booster and combats any winter blues.

Pseudo-science or the key to a happy life? There’s only one way to find out…

Cottage sauna hut on top of a frozen lake
Credits: : Istock / Riekkinen
Woman relaxing in a ice hole made to a frozen lake
Credits:: Harri Tarvainen

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