Before travelling to Finland, I did a research about this country from a bit of their history, popular places, food and of course their culture. If I have to describe it in one word, I'll probably say "FASCINATING". Why? Besides having the best education in the world, Finland also has quirky culture and tradition.

Did you know that there is a special annual day for failure in Finland? 

Yes! It is held on the 13th of October every year.

Did you know that Finland has some of the world's strangest sports? 

Yes, there are such as wife carrying championship, mosquito hunting, mobile phone throwing and rubber boot throwing.

.. and of course more. 

When I'm done reading about this country, my first reaction was "ERK! THIS COUNTRY IS WEIRD" and that made me even more curious to travel there and explore. After I visited there and did a lot of things with the locals, my perception towards Finland automatically changed. In fact, I fell in love with this country especially the things they mostly love doing such as winter swimming and sauna.


Have you ever imagined swimming in a lake or beach during winter when the temperature goes -3 degree celcius or below?

I don't.

Quite unsure about others but as someone who grew up in tropical climate and have a skin that has less tolerence towards cold weather, I doubt on my ability of doing this at first. Surprisingly, I did it not only once but three times at different places and weather conditions. This article is about winter/ice swimming activity and my experience of doing it in Finland. 


Winter/Ice Swimming

Winter or ice swimming is a famous daredevil activity and has been an important element of their tradition in most Northern Europe countries like Finland, Northern Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia. It is typically done in outdoor locations like open water where people usually plunge into the water during the cold season.

Image source: www.avecphoto.com/Seppo Olkinuora
In Finland, it is not only being part of their culture but also has becoming a tourism attraction. People all around the world are expected to try this at least once whenever they are in Finland during the season. Here, you will experience two things which are winter/ice swimming and sauna (best combination ever). 


How it works

There are many ways to enjoy winter/ice swimming. You're highly recommended to wash body with warm water first before going for sauna followed by a dip into the cold water. Usually the sauna is located at some distance from the water. You may dip into the water more than once. For beginners, it is best to do maximum 3 or 4 dips at one time.

Though this is not a healthy thing to do, the other fun way is entering into the cold water first before sauna. No harm trying if you feel a little bit adventures.

Reminder: If you're a first timer or someone who doesn't have a strong physical condition, don't stay too long and go full dip as it will affect your brain. Please consult with your health advisor beforehand.


Health benefits and risks

Although it sounded insane, winter/ice swimming is scientifically proven to have some health benefits - as stress and fatigue relief, helps to enhance memory function and generate better mood. It is also believed can relieves pain of rheumatism, fibromyalgia or asthma.

According to Visit Finland website, most of them in Lapland region typically do this before they go for their daily routine like work. It is said that their energy boost stays for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, winter or ice swimming can be dangerous to people who are not used to swimming in cold water. Those with heart diseases, obesity and high blood pressure should avoid doing this. Just, try not to consume alcohol before swimming as it speeds the flow of hypothermia.


My experience

I said to myself "NO, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DO IT". I was down with a lot of what if.. what if.. what if.. questions. You see, I overthink about it. LOL.

Of course I was pretty nervous at first place.


My first winter swimming experience was in Turku (Saaronniemi Beach, Ruissalo Island) where the temperature was -2°C and mild wind. As this is my first time ever, I don't have any idea how it feels like getting into cold water.


I went into the water slowly and take a deep breath. The water was not as bad as what I have expected. My skin felt numb but as soon as I came out from the water, it felt a warm and better. Pat on the back as I did three dips here.

The second one was at Villa Wallden in the Turku Archipelago (Korpo, Island). I'm not kidding, this was scarier than the previous one. It was total dark and so windy that time. I barely able to see my step when going into the water and I am so glad that I did it here for a slightly different experience.


Finally, I did at Löyly, Helsinki. At that time, myself seem to be more relax and easy as I know what to expect and feel. It was snowing in Helsinki that day and the water was full of ice but that surely doesn't stop us from doing it. The feeling of getting into the icy baltic sea was just unimaginable and glad that I did it... three times. Clap clap.

Tip: You are advised to wear beach flip flop (to move between the sauna and water) and a beanie or cap (it is unhealthy to expose your head with wet hair in cold temperature).


Places to do winter/ice swimming and sauna in Finland

Saaronniemi Beach, Ruissalo Island
1. Allas Sea Pool in Helsinki.
2. Fell Centre Kiilopää in Lapland.
3. Löyly in Helsinki.
4. Herrankukkaro in Turku.
5. Rauhaniemi Ice Swimming in Tampere. 

This article was made possible through a Nordic Blogger's Experience (NBE Finland) program. As always, all opinions are my own.