It may not have occurred to you that a sauna is as sacred for Lithuanians as it is for Finns. Lithuanian sauna masters have long-lasting traditions and use only natural materials such as plants, honey and amber for the health rituals involved. You can find not only traditional saunas here in Lithuania, but also one built in a tree, at a mill or a manor – there is even a sauna made from amber! For sauna lovers here is some information about saunas in all the regions of Lithuania. In them, the temperature stays high in Lithuania all year round!
What is a traditional Lithuanian sauna?
Lithuanians traditionally use steam saunas, unique for their abundant use of various medicinal herbs. A special procedure at a Lithuanian sauna is the light slapping of the bather with bath whisks or brooms – bundles of birch or oak twigs (called vanta in Lithuanian) or even of other trees. In winter, frozen or salted bath whisks are used! Bathers lightly slap themselves or each other, or are slapped by a bathmaster. In addition to this ritual, it is popular to rub the body with salt, ground chestnuts, clay, honey, and other natural products.
The traditional Lithuanian sauna is not very hot (about 60° C), but moist, because steam is produced by pouring water on hot stones placed on a wood burner. The rituals involved usually take four hours. Bathers relax in a steam sauna, then cool down outside or by swimming in a lake or river. Usually they go in four times – first for the steam ritual, then a body scrub, then the slapping of the body with bath whisks, and finally to close it down. The most appropriate drink for the sauna is tea made from mint, thyme, willow and other herbs. Tea is offered during healthy sauna rituals.
You can have the following sauna experiences in Lithuania:
THE BLACK AND WHITE SAUNA
The smoke sauna at the Healthy Lifestyle Rural Tourism Homestead is the largest in Lithuania. They offer educational events (public and private), about Lithuanian sauna rituals and treatments.— for example, the first steam ritual, a body scrub with salts and ground natural products, slapping of the body with bath whisks, washing the body with bath whisks, foam wash, and natural body masks. No alcohol is used at the homestead and a zero waste lifestyle is encouraged. The black sauna (smoke) accommodates up to 20 bathers and the white sauna (steam) accommodates up to 15 bathers. Bathers can then refresh themselves by bathing in the pond or the river.
THE BATH WHISK AND STEAM DANCE
The most important aim of this sauna is to make you feel good using a combination of inner calm and a healthy body. Bičiulių (“Friends” in Lithuanian) Sauna offers various sauna experience sessions, thematic sauna evenings, stories about the history and traditions of the sauna, aromatherapy sessions, hot bath whisk and steam “dance”, and individual rituals for nourishing your body.
A TOUCH OF THE BATH WHISK
This is a sauna that nurtures old Lithuanian sauna traditions. It offers the first steam ritual, a unique aroma “symphony”, salt inhaling therapy, slapping of the body with various bath whisks, body scrub with salts and ground chestnuts, body wrapping in a cloth soaked with herbal essence, and a massage in the relaxation area of the sauna. You can choose between either a steam or a Lithuanian smoke sauna at the homestead, and you can also learn how to make bundles from twigs, how to slap with the bundle, and also how to use wicker for massage.
A SPLASH OF RAIN IN THE SAUNA
This rural tourism homestead offers the traditional Lithuanian sauna, which has long been known as the “white” sauna. The owners of the homestead, who are professional bathmasters, organise educational body scrub and exfoliation sessions, slapping of the body with sauna whisks, and body and facial masks. Choose from courses like “Refreshment for the body and soul,” “Learn about the Lithuanian sauna,” “Bath whisk both slaps and scrubs,” and “Sounds of music in the sauna”, – where the splashing of rain, a thunder drumstick, and a gong provide a relaxing melody.
SAUNA WITH A SCHOOL FOR BATHMASTERS
Perkūnijos sauna is a log sauna heated with a wood burner that produces a soft steam. The spacious steam sauna has been designed to provide sufficient air and comfort when sitting or lying down. Professional sauna masters offer a relaxing ritual: they will introduce you to the Lithuanian trees and herbs, perform a body scrub or foam massage, slap you with bath whisks, or apply honey to your body. After the sauna ritual, bathers can swim in the open waters close by and rest and relax on deck chairs. Courses are organised for those who wish to improve the art of sauna rituals.
THE OLD SMOKE SAUNA
A smoke sauna is the oldest type of sauna. In a well-heated smoke sauna you can only get a slight smell of smoke – both the air and the steam are much better than in other types of saunas. The Old Smoke sauna is by a lake and bathers can try both the old smoke sauna and a hot tub to escape their routine and fatigue.
THE MILK ICE CUBES AFTER SAUNA
A homestead located in Samogitia National Park offers a sauna experience where you learn the difference between a bath whisk made from the twigs of a linden tree and one made from the twigs of an oak tree. You can also try a dried oregano or mint salt scrub, refresh your body with cucumber juice or milky ice cubes, wash your face with goat’s milk, and nourish your body with honey.
“Soft” and “thick” sauna steam is produced by heating stones for a long time. The sauna can give heat for up to 12 hours, so all body treatment rituals can be performed with no rush. Herbs, tree twigs, and even food products are used for the rituals.
This sauna “lives” together with nature as natural resources are used on a seasonal basis: in spring –junipers, Bishop’s weeds, dandelions, nettles, philadelphus, and lilacs; in summer – wild berries and bath whisks made from most unusual plants; in autumn – vegetables, honey and oak whisks; and in winter – dried, frozen and preserved products.
HONEY AND AMBER FOR THE SAUNA
Aridas, the bathmaster, is convinced that when we spend time in a sauna we do not lose a single minute of our lives. He offers foot soaks, slapping with bath whisks, body rubs with salt, body scrubs, foam washing, rituals involving the use of clay, and body rubs with honey or amber.
Sauna masters Dalia and Genadijus Smirnov invite everyone to experience the many ways a true Lithuanian sauna can refresh both the body and the soul. Their sauna, located close to the town of Kupiškis, provides many ancient rituals that involve bath whisks, salt, and various natural scents. The couple also offers sauna lessons and seminars.
THE AFTER-SAUNA IN GRANDMA’S PARLOUR
The log sauna standing on the bank of the Mituva River, part of a homestead located in the shelter of the Karšuva forest, upholds the traditions of Lithuanian sauna lovers. Guests here are introduced to the first steam ritual, a body scrub with salt, and skin pampering with honey and gentle beating with birch bath whisks. The intermittent wood-fired stove rewards everyone with pleasant steam and will please guests with a taste for both extreme and gentle heat. The owners of the sauna, adherents to a slow and healthy lifestyle, offer linden, chamomile, mint and caraway teas between sauna sessions. And, as you might have guessed, they gather the herbs themselves!
THE MANOR SAUNA
This sauna, which can accommodate up to 25 bathers, is not only the largest but also the oldest sauna operating at a manor in Lithuania. The first sauna at Ilzenberg Manor was built in the early 17th century. It was built for the master of the house's family, and can be found a short distance away from the manor. It lies in a picturesque location by a lake, overlooking a beautiful island known as 'Love Island.' The current owners of the manor have rebuilt the sauna in the same location, using the original foundations. It is interesting that the bathers may not only admire the island, but also greet Latvians on the other side of the lake; – the lake is divided in half between Lithuania and Latvia.
AN ANCIENT WATER RITUAL IN A MANOR SAUNA
For real aficionados of steam and bath whisk, there is the manor sauna in the Open-Air Museum of Lithuania in Rumšiškės. The clay stove in a log sauna house restored from 17th century documents emits a gentle, ‘gourmet’ steam enjoyed by the nobles of that time. For an unforgettable experience, book on the following authentic program, which include "An introduction to Lithuanian sauna" (in 4 steps!), "The velvet sauna", “The aristocrat’s sauna“, and "A dance with bath whisks" and others. An authentic ancient water warming ritual is also performed, when a flame heated stone is thrown into a container of water.
A felt sauna at the rural tourism homestead is built based on the example of a tent used as a dwelling by nomadic groups in the steppes of Central Asia. It is certainly original – the sauna is in the shape of a circle, with lamb wool fibre insulation and light pouring through a round window in the roof. This, of course, is also beneficial for your health because breathing is unobstructed, – making it a hypoallergenic and eco-friendly sauna. The sauna has a wool-clad bench and a room with a stove to retain heat.
Erikas Glazauskas, a professional sauna master, promises gentle steam and sauna procedures in a sauna yurt for complete relaxation of body and soul. Not only are fresh-cut bath whisks used here, but also aromatherapy whisks, pine cones and rain sticks. "If you don’t enjoy saunas, you just have never been in a really good one," the owner of the sauna yurt asserts.
NATIVE AMERICAN SAUNA
Winnetou Village (Vinetu in Lithuanian) promotes Native American traditions, and invites you to a fur-clad Inipi sauna offering bath whisks from wild flowers, a herbal essence and a ritual. This is the body-and-soul purification and healing method used by Native Americans for thousands of years. The spirit of the sauna invites everybody to visit the sauna of seven senses.
THE PYRAMID SAUNA
One of the few pyramid-shaped saunas in the world is an unusual idea implemented by sauna master Ramūnas Račkauskas. It offers salt treatments, amber scrubbing, a "Cinderella" cinder ash treatment, a soap foam massage, and rinsing with "raw water" (water with live beneficial bacteria, which heal skin diseases). Relaxing procedures are performed in the recreation area. And where else can you get negative energy sucked out of you with some old-fashioned cupping therapy? A very gentle massage for women can be performed using ostrich feathers during the rest between saunas. Visitors are treated to fermented fireweed tea.
THE AMBER SAUNA
Saulė (“the sun” in Lithuanian) is the first sauna in the world made from natural amber. Around 3 tonnes of natural Baltic amber was used for its construction, and it is reminiscent of an amber room – its walls, ceiling and even benches are covered with natural amber. The area of the sauna is 22 sqm and can accommodate up to 15 bathers. It is recommended that you stay in it for up to 30 minutes – this is sufficient time to absorb all the useful properties of amber. It is said that this sauna can be used every day and has a positive effect on our nervous system, as it reduces stress and has a calming effect. After the sauna ritual it is recommended that you drink amber water, which contains dissolved succinic acid.
BALTIC RITUAL SAUNA
The sauna was built of Siberian cedar according to sacred Baltic geometry in consultation with the best sauna experts out there. Next to the sauna is a pond with spring water, perfect for a refreshing dip both in winter and summer. A slow sauna or ritual sauna evenings without alcohol and heavy food are organized here. This space was created by Ričardas and Alicija Eiliakai, pioneers of sound therapy in the Baltics.
SAUNAS IN UNEXPECTED LOCATIONS
THE MILL SAUNA
A beautiful Lithuanian steam sauna was put in the reconstructed water mill at Varniai Regional Park. The owner of the sauna offers relaxing sauna rituals. Following old traditions, slapping with bath whisks, massage, peeling, and foam washing using birch bath whisks are performed.
THE CAPSULE SAUNA
This spa that upholds Lithuanian traditions offers a steam herbal ritual at their sauna. This is the perfect procedure for those who are not fond of classical sauna rituals. First, the body is exfoliated in the steam, which is saturated with active substances from the herbs. At the same time, a pressure point head massage is performed while the body is enclosed in a capsule sauna. After the ritual you can be refreshed with crushed ice, relaxed with a running stream of herbal teas and natural Lithuanian honey, or given aromatherapy in a “bed” of medicinal herbs.
THE TREE SAUNA
Go from a sauna perched 2 metres high in a tree directly into a lake via a rope swing! Or climb down the ladder into either a cold or hot water tub. This rural tourism homestead has plenty of interesting things to offer – for example, a floating sauna that operates in summer.
A SAUNA IN THE MIDDLE OF A FOREST
In Labanoras forest by Lake Želvos there is a sauna for two. It is said that there are far fewer people around here than there are wild animals. The closest homestead is half a kilometre and the nearest paved road is two kilometres away. The sauna is heated with firewood and the stove is covered with stones. Guests are offered a skin scrub with mittens, a pampering of their body with a natural honey mixture, and a special herbal tea after the sauna. An open-air wooden steam bath has been set up next to the sauna, and the Molėtai Observatory is right on the other side of the lake.
THE TALKING SAUNA AROUND AN APPLE TREE
Have you been in a "talking" sauna with an apple tree growing in the middle? It can be found in one of the most beautiful ethno tourism homesteads in the country. During the construction of this ancient smoke sauna, even the apple tree that grew here was spared — it was left growing in the middle. In addition, the sauna is said to speak. "There is one pipe, one end of which is burning and the other is open. When the water boils, you hear puch puch puch,” says the owner of the homestead Kazimieras Jakutis. "The sauna speaks."
WHERE IVAN BANGS A GONG
Did you know that in Lithuania’s capital, near the bustling Kalvarijų Market, there is a full-steam, wood-fired public sauna? You can come as you are; you will get a towel, slippers, a bath whisk and a herbal mix. Wednesdays here are for women, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are for men. After the sauna, you can freshen up in an ice bath or hot tub. Reserving a place in advance in this popular sauna is a must.
WHERE THE PEOPLE OF KAUNAS CATCH SOME STEAM
There is one public sauna in Kaunas near the Neris River. It has one of the largest sauna stoves in the Baltic States. There is a wooden hot tub outside to refresh you after the sauna. Since 2018 this sauna has been able to accommodate up to 50 visitors at once.
THE SAUNA AT THE LIFEGUARD STATION
People who live in Klaipėda can enjoy two public saunas. One can be found at the Smiltynė Lifeguard Station! It is popular in both winter and summer. You can cool off in the Baltic Sea right after the sauna, and the road through the forest to the sauna itself is breathtaking.
KLAIPEDA’S OLD PUBLIC SAUNA
Klaipėda's old public sauna has been open since 1972. It is exceptional for its traditional atmosphere, unique character and loyal fans.
THE PUBLIC SAUNA AT PALANGA POOL
The Palanga public sauna is a part of the city’s pool and wellness centre. The public sauna can be used individually or in groups of up to 20 people. Thursdays are for women, and Fridays are for men.
MORE HOT IDEAS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO FLOG THEMSELVES
FROM AN AIR BALLOON TO A SAUNA
What if you could enter a sauna from the sky? The hot air balloon pilot Edward offers just such entertainment at his place. You first fly in a hot air balloon, and then you gently beat yourself with bath whisks. Flights are operated all year round, weather permitting. There is a pond and volleyball and badminton courts, and in winter you can have fun on an ice rink or ride snowmobiles.
THE SMETONA SAUNA
The sauna on the shores of Lake Lėnas, built in 1940 on the territory of the manor of President Antanas Smetona, has been given new life. The sauna master Aurelija invites you to get acquainted with the history of this sauna, listen to soothing folk melodies, enjoy the aromatherapy of local herbs, understand what difference a good whisk makes, and enjoy gently flogging each other. You can also taste local meadow herbal teas, try body scrubs, oil neck massages and swim in Lake Lėnas. For sauna lovers, three educational programs are available: "Get to know Lithuanian sauna", "Smetona’s sauna" and "The revelry of the whisk".
PROCEDURES WITH GROUND CHESTNUTS
The Dzūkiška Bičiulių Pirtis sauna spreads the spirit of Lithuanian sauna, teaches people about the benefits of a healthy sauna and good steam. The stove is constantly heated, and the steam is soft and gentle. It spreads out from rocks taken from Lake Dusia. Various treatments are performed with honey, amber, ground chestnuts, chocolate, etc. Those who truly enjoy Lithuanian sauna with all its customs and ceremonies are always welcome here. The sauna procedures are conducted by the owners Rimantas and Irena, who are proud members of Lithuanian Society of Sauna Friends.
A PINE CONE MASSAGE FROM A RECORD HOLDER
Raspberry bush, birch, nettles, red oak, hemp, birch, hazelnut... all this is on the menu of plants tied into bath whisks by Renatas Žvaliauskas. The owner of the Žvali Sauna (High Spirits Sauna) holds the record for the most different types of plants tied into one whisk. In the sauna he can not only help you relax by using dozens of different types of whisks, but also perform the first steam ritual, a foot massage with pine cones, a wrapping in a plant cocoon, or sound therapy.
A LITTLE SMOKE SAUNA IN A VILLAGE IN SUVALKIJA
“Smoke saunas in the Zanavykai region, as well as in the whole of Lithuania, are a real rarity. Some people fear being smeared with soot or the smoke itself. But none of that applies to a real smoke sauna and the experiences that fascinate those who visit one,” says sauna master Ignas. His smoke sauna can easily accommodate 10 guests at a time on comfortable seats, and the Family Sauna can accommodate 2 to 4 lovers of good steam. The saunas are suitable for whisk massages, various body scrubs and all other sauna procedures.
A SAUNA WITH A WALL OF HIMALAYAN SALT
On the shore of the Kupiškis reservoir there is an extremely modern sauna with panoramic windows, LED lighting and a wall of Himalayan salt in the sauna itself. The owners' concept for the sauna was to treat visitors to a "mini spa".
This information has been prepared based on material provided by the national tourism promotion agency Lithuania Travel, tourist information centres, the Lithuanian Society of Sauna Friends and the Professional Association of Sauna Masters.