Estonia’s Sauna Marathon: An Epic Winter Adventure

Europe Sauna Marathon

Welcome to the exciting world of sauna marathons in Estonia! This unique event is not only fun and challenging but also a celebration of the country’s rich sauna culture, which has a long and fascinating history.

Origins and Growth of the Sauna Marathon

The first sauna marathon was held in 2009 as part of the winter festival in Otepää, Estonia. Initially, it was just a fun orienteering game to celebrate the area’s sauna culture and bring the community together. However, the event quickly gained popularity and grew in size, attracting international attention and media coverage.

The sauna marathon was renamed the “European Sauna Marathon” and has since become one of Estonia’s most popular winter events, attracting participants from all over the world.

The 12th Estonian Sauna Marathon, held in 2023 across Otepää and Tõrva areas, drew over 800 participants from 12 countries, who embarked on a challenging yet exciting journey to visit 18 saunas.

The area boasts a diverse range of saunas, with over 70 to choose from, including wood-burning and electric outdoor saunas, barrel saunas, Russian and Turkish (Hammam) saunas, smoke saunas, and even unique floating and mobile saunas, providing participants with rich and varied sauna experience.

The Sauna Marathon Experience


During the sauna marathon, teams of four participants race between a range of saunas in Estonia.

Participants need a car to move between saunas, and they are given a map and a tracking device for checking in and out of each sauna. The start times are staggered to avoid overcrowding, and teams can choose the order in which they visit each sauna.

Participants must spend at least three minutes in each sauna’s hot room (leiliruum) and can also visit hot tubs and ice holes along the way. The saunas compete with each other to offer the best experience, from live music to delicious food. 

When the course is completed, teams vote for their favorite saunas based on a range of categories. 

The main prize is usually a hot tub, and there will be several other special prizes for participating teams and saunas. 

Estonia’s Rich Sauna Culture

Sauna bathing has been an essential part of Estonian life for centuries, with a history dating back to the 13th century. In addition, the sauna tradition has played a vital role in the country’s wellness culture, with medicinal baths and health resorts being used for over 200 years.

In southern Estonia, the tradition of smoke saunas originated from using saunas as smokehouses. Smoke saunas are unique in that they are heated with wood but then allowed to cool down slightly, producing a soft and gentle heat that is perfect for relaxation.

Sauna bathing has numerous health benefits, including improved blood circulation, reduced stress, and increased immune system function. In addition, the Estonian sauna culture values communal sauna experiences, with friends and family often visiting the sauna together to relax and socialize.

Supporting the Local Community and Sauna Industry

The European Sauna Marathon not only celebrates Estonia’s rich sauna culture but also supports the local community and sauna industry. 

The event generates income and creates job opportunities, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, it provides an excellent platform for new sauna manufacturers to introduce their products to a global audience.

Organizing Your Own Sauna Marathon

The sauna marathon is a fun and exciting way to celebrate your local sauna culture and bring your community together. You could create your own rules and categories, such as the best food or the most relaxing sauna experience, and make it a yearly event that brings people together for some winter fun.

Why not organize your own sauna marathon and celebrate your local sauna culture? Let us know about it!


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