by Ron Bernthal
One of the hottest trends in Norway in recent years, architecturally savvy floating saunas offer an unbeatable combination of a hot sauna experience and a more than refreshing dip in a chilly Norwegian lake or fjord.
In Norway you can find saunas near famous rock formations, like the ones near Preikestolen, or rustic saunas in stunning fjords, or rural saunas under the Northern Lights in the Arctic region, including one located in Svalbard, located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Another interesting fact about the floating Norwegian badstu (sauna) is that some of them are located in the harbors of several of Norway’s bigger cities. See the list below for locations of several floating hotels.
Soria Moria, Dalen, Telemark
Soria Moria looks like a work of art, glittering like a gem in Lake Bandak in the county of Telemark. The sauna is the first installation in a project called “Vannvegens fortellinger” (Tales of the Waterway), which focuses on art work along the Telemark canal. In “Tales of the Waterway,” art, architecture and light are used as instruments in a comprehensive concept to highlight the attraction of the landscape and make the places along the canal more visible. The inspiration for the floating sauna is derived from surrounding landscape and history.
Pust (“breathe”) is one of the newest of Norway’s floating saunas. The sauna is located in the middle of Tromsø harbour, and can accommodate 20 people at one time, with private facilities for women and men. Pust aims at offering sauna and bathing for everybody, year-round, breathing space with a view of mountains, water and Tromsø Pust is shaped like a traditional drying rack for fish, a tradition that goes back to when people settled in this region thousands of years ago.
In the past few years, urban sauna culture has taken Oslo by storm. The harbor promendade of Norway’s capital city now boasts several options for sauna sessions followed by refreshing dips in the fjord. The mix between Oslo’s busy, vibrant city life and quiet, re-energizing experiences in the adjacent fjord is truly unique. It’s a common sight, in winter or summer, to see locals enjoy a sauna and dip in the fjord before heading to their nearby office.
The organization named Oslo Fjord Sauna runs several sauna, and a hot tub called Stampen (“the tub”). The charming sauna Måken (“the seagull”) floats next to the Oslo Opera House, and three others, Skarven (“the cormorant”), Anda (“the duck”) and Havørnen (“the sea eagle”) have a capacity of 12 to 16 persons each.
The Green Boats Sauna are located in Oslo at Aker Brygge, close to restaurants, shops and museums. Green Boats Saunas offers different sauna experiences, from drop-in to private sessions, and offer luxurious treatments with aromatherapy, salt scrubs and aufguss. Aufguss is a German word, pronounced more or less like it’s spelling, meaning “infusion.” If you too feel the need to treat yourself to a unique and healthy break, for relaxation of both mind and body, you can choose which aufguss sauna to visi.
SALT, an acroynom for sauna, culture and entertainment, is a nomadic art project with pyramidal constructions called “hesjer” which are based on traditional coastal construction methods. SALT is currently located in Oslo, along the harbor promenade and close to the Opera house. SALT includes three sauna accommodating over a hundred people in total, ande also serving food and drinks and presenting musicians and lectures in their largest sauna. The program at SALT usually includes concerts, festivals, lectures, exhibitions, debates and family events.
The sauna boat KOK (“boil”) offers a warm, wood-fired sauna, refreshing baths and sightseeing trips in the inner Oslofjord. KOK floating saunas can also be found in the towns of Drammen and Hamar as well as in Holmsbu.
Heit Sørfjorden Sauna, Hardangerfjord
Heit (“red hot”) offers steaming sauna and a fresh swim in the fjord, while offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The sauna is located just south of the village of Lofthus in the Hardangerfjord.
A sauna master receives the guests upon arrival, making sure the guests get a personal and pleasant experience. The stove in the sauna is in the Finnish style and is fired up with wood. The sauna can take six persons at a time.
Gausta floating sauna, Rjukan, Telemark
Located at lake Kvitåvatn, with a beautiful view towards the Gaustatoppen mountain, the highest mountain in Telemark county, and near the town of Rjukan, you will find the two Gausta floating saunas. The saunas are owned and run by the Gaustablikk Mountain Resort, a resort offering excellent skiing in winter and hiking, kayaking, fishing and biking in summer and autumn. The resort also offers a spa and a swimming pool.
SvalBad, Longyearbyen, Svalbard
SvalBad is a floating sauna docked in the cold, Arctic harbor waters of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, a group of islands located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Both the float and the sauna itself are largely built with repurposed materials from old buildings, both from Longyearbyen and the Svea mines. Local history is literally built into the walls. Here you can join the “Polar Bears” experience and take a refreshing, cold swim before going back into the sauna.
The first travellers that visited iconic rock formationj called Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) arrived just after the turn of the 19th century. Since then, the area that is now Preikestolen BaseCamp has served as a starting point for explorers who want to experience the famous landmark. What started as a small, private farm where visitors could overnight has become a basecamp complex of accommodations and all-year outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, climbing, and floating saunas. After a day of activities in the mountains and lakes, the two floating saunas offer a relaxing and unwinding experience on the lake Refsvatnet, surrounded by pristine nature.
Vulkana Spa Boat, Tromsø
Vulkana is a former fishing and whaling vessel redesigned to become an Arctic spa and adventure boat, with sauna, hammam, saltwater tub, cold water pool, zen lounge, bar and a small restaurant. Vulkana offers a wide variety of adventures and fun activities such as midnight bathing under the Northern Lights or midnight sun, drop-in weekend bathing, morning sessions with brunch, bathing lunches, evenings with James Bond inspired cocktails (mock martinis), fjord cruises for small groups and in winter, Ski by Boat cruises.
Vulkana is a place for activity and energy as well as an oasis for tranquility and contemplation in Tromsø, the largest city in Northern Norway. With a location at nearly 70° north, and between fjords, mountain peaks, and islands, the city is a prime starting point to explore Northern Norway chasing the Northern lights or enjoying activities under the midnight sun.