Learning Finnish Sauna Etiquette: My Story


“Oooh, a Finnish sauna!” I exclaimed as I checked in. “What's one of those?”

The manager of the hotel smiled at me as I sipped my complimentary glass of bubbly, trying to keep my posture upright after carrying my heavy backpack up the hill. I had politely refused the offer of being picked up from the cable car station in the middle of the Austrian Alps.

“It's a steep climb,” they had said.

And they weren't wrong! By the time I had arrived at reception, sweaty with muddy trainers and looking like a backpacker –  I had regretted my decision.

Cable car

“Miss Lisa, we have arranged for you to go hiking tomorrow with Bjorn, and if you'd like to choose a spa treatment, Bjorn will personally do that for you after the walk.”

“Thank you,” I replied gratefully.

I was definitely getting the royal treatment and after spending the night before last in a prison cell in Slovenia (a converted one obviously), I was lapping up the attention.

“Would you like to rest before we show you around at dinner?”

“Can I use the spa?” I asked eagerly, longing for some heat to relax my back muscles.

I was told that I would find my spa basket in my room and complete with bath robe, slippers and two towels, I donned my bright blue bikini and took the lift to the much-awaited spa.

Hotel Goldener Berg in Oberlech

My room!

As the elevator door opened into the Alpin Spa, a slim man with bright red hair in a pony tail greeted me: “You must be Lisa,” he said. “Bjorn,” he continued.

“Hi,” I said, blushing. “Is it okay to come down here like this?” I pointed at the bath robe I was wearing.

He nodded. “The spa's this way.” He led me through the pool area to a wooden door. “See you at 9am for hiking,” he added.

“Thanks.” I replied.

I couldn't wait to just lay in the sauna, close my eyes and feel the heat. I peered through the door but without my glasses on I couldn't tell if it was empty. I took off my robe and pushed open the door. It took my eyes a few seconds to adjust and as I gazed straight ahead, I could just about make out the figure of someone laying on the bench. I adjusted my bikini as I waited for the mist to clear.


“Hello,” came a feminine voice and I looked over to the source. I nearly choked on the heat when the mist cleared and staring back at me was the body of a women on another bench laying there NAKED!

Embarrassed and not knowing where to look, I looked straight ahead at the man laying on the original bench; my eyes resting on his lower area. “Oh my god,” I wanted to scream as I realised that he too was NAKED and I had just been focusing on part of his anatomy that I shouldn't have been.

Panicking, (I am British after all!) I just sat down quickly and avoided their gaze feeling suddenly overdressed in my bright blue bikini. I closed my eyes, my heart eventually slowing down as I breathed in the heat. Finally, I heard the door open and the sound of footsteps leave. It was safe to open my eyes, then, I saw the sign.

‘No swimwear allowed in the sauna.' 

‘So that's what a Finnish sauna is!' I smirked to myself. Having never been to Finland I had only ever experienced saunas of the British kind where people sat there in swim trunks and bikinis, but as the saying goes: when in a Finnish sauna…I took a deep breath. ‘Here goes,' I thought to myself and stripped off.

Do you know it was one of the most liberating experiences I've ever had, except when I heard that door open again…


View from my window

My two night stay at Hotel Goldener Berg in Oberlech was complimentary and as a solo female, I was made to feel so welcome. The hotel is amazing and really focuses on wellness. You can even make your own juices for breakfast and the views of the Alps are stunning.

I definitely recommend the Alpin Spa and the invigorating treatment for after hiking. I visited in the autumn when the area is great for walking. In the winter the whole village is traffic free and everyone skis or uses snow boots to get around. As always, each opinion is my own.

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