Sauna enthusiasts around the world are invited to the first World Sauna Race in Tallinn next summer.
The World Sauna Race is a steamy orienteering game. Participants are given a map of Tallinn with a list of saunas. You must find each one, experience the leil ("sauna steam") and return to the finish line by the end of the day to vote for your favourite saunas.
The race is seriously good family fun, although shouldn't be taken too seriously. In fact, it's hardly even a race. Your aim is to finish the course while helping celebrate our sauna culture. You'll get to see a huge variety of weird and wonderful saunas - including in some interesting places you wouldn't normally get access to - and hopefully you'll want to visit some of your favourites again at a more leisurely pace!
How to get involved
Bear with us. We're still in an early planning stage so we haven't yet fixed a date - but we're giving ourselves a year to create the world's best sauna celebration.
The best way to indicate your early interest in the World Sauna Race is by clicking 'going' or 'interested' here on Facebook. If you are interested as a sponsor, a journalist, or if you have a sauna that you want to be part of the course then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anni & Adam
Participating saunas (so far)
Liina Maria Lepik, head of Estonian Tourist Board:
“If you were to ask an Estonian what is the one thing you need to do, while visiting Estonia, "sauna" will probably pop up in the first line or two. Estonia has such a rich sauna culture, which was first recorded here in the 13th century and it’s so unique that our Võru smoke sauna tradition has been placed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. We are delighted that the World Sauna Race will be held in Tallinn next year and we welcome all the sauna enthusiasts both from all over the world and from Estonia to discover and experience Estonian sauna varieties”.
Adam Rang, World Sauna Race organiser:
“The idea is silly and so is the name of it but the benefits it can bring to Estonia are significant. We want to help fire up Estonia’s recovery by not just showing visitors some great saunas but also better promote Estonia internationally as both a great sauna destination for visitors and a world class sauna exporter for people who want their own sauna abroad. The Finns got the word ‘sauna’ into English but the world still needs to learn what makes a good sauna so it’s time Estonians got the word leil into English.
Otepää already does an excellent job with this and we will continue to support them too but their tickets sell out instantly and Tallinn has the potential to host a great summer sauna race. Even local sauna enthusiasts in Tallinn will be surprised by some of the great saunas they didn’t know about locally.”
"OK, this all sounds great - but where on Earth is Estonia?"
Estonia is a sauna-loving, choir-singing, reflector-wearing, bear-inhabited, digitally advanced, unicorn startup building, forested, boggy, Nordic, Baltic, straight-talking, and very independent-minded nation on the eastern shore of the Baltic sea. We're Finnic like the Finns with an equally beautiful and slightly tricky language and a shared sauna culture that's older than records recall - although the idea for sauna races started 15 years ago in our winter capital of Otepää as a fun way to celebrate local culture and support local businesses.
Visit Estonia and, while here in Tallinn, you can stroll the medieval streets of our Old Town, hang out with the hipsters among the wooden houses and repurposed factories of Kalamaja, enjoy art and dine in style within the former Tsarist shipyard of Noblessner, and get some fresh air along the trails in our forest village of Nõmme. Beyond Tallinn, you can visit towns such as our summer capital of Pärnu to enjoy sandy beaches and mud bathing or our 'City of Good thoughts', Tartu, where you can check out our incredible national museum or sauna while sailing along the Emajõgi river. Between our towns, we have vast areas of wilderness as well as 2,222 islands. One of them, Saaremaa, has the highest concentration of spas in Estonia. We especially recommend heading down to Võromaa where their smoke sauna tradition is listed by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
And if you're still stuck for ideas when you visit Estonia then visit Visit Estonia.