A newly-founded Estonian startup plans to open the first public smoke sauna in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, by the winter of 2018, and intends to introduce the Estonian sauna culture to more people around the world.
The company, Estonian Saunas, was founded by Anni Oviir and Adam Rang from inside a sauna, using their digital ID cards.
“As more people discover Estonia, we’ve found that more people from abroad want to visit Estonian saunas,” Oviir said in a statement. “We conducted market research with tourism agencies and international visitors, which shows there is a lot of interest in the Estonian sauna culture but not enough opportunities to experience and learn about them.”
“Unfortunately, the closest that most visitors to Estonia get to a sauna is the electric one in their hotel,” Oviir stated. “That’s because they find it daunting to visit public saunas, don’t get invited to Estonian homes, and rarely leave Tallinn. We need to make real Estonian saunas more accessible.”
Working together with saunamasters
Smoke saunas are the oldest type of Estonian saunas and still considered by sauna fans to be the best, but most are now located in Võrumaa where they have been granted protected cultural status by UNESCO. There are currently only three public smoke saunas in the entire northern half of Estonia and none in Tallinn. However, according to research by Visit Estonia, 75% of visitors to Estonia never leave Tallinn.
“The market for Estonian saunas is as big as we can make it because we want to reach visitors who would otherwise never get the chance to visit a real Estonian sauna, as well as Estonians who may not have tried a smoke sauna before,” Rang noted. “We are working together with saunamasters and sauna makers across the country who would benefit from this increased interest. When visitors learn about saunas, they are really learning about the people who use them so they provide a fascinating insight to the history of Estonia itself.”
Oviir and Rang run Estonian Saunas in their spare time and have self-financed the company.
Cover: Anni Oviir and Adam Rang at an Estonian smoke sauna. Images by Ekvilibrist.