Heading to a banya is one of those Russian experiences you simply can not miss during your travels. This has been part of Russian life since the 12th century, with its peculiar traditions and all! During our time in Novgorod the cute little cottage we were staying at had its own banya and we just had to experience this for ourselves!
If you have no idea what we are on about, check out the YouTube video below to see what a traditional banya experience is like in Russia, and keep on scrolling for more info.
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What is a Russian Banya?
A banya is a traditional Russian bathhouse with a sauna that is heated with wood. The benches inside are also typically made of wood and are at different levels so you can choose how much heat you are ready to take. Outside the banya you will find a cold tap and/or a cold pool to dip into after you have been inside the sauna.
Many Russians say that the banya experience will leave you feeling rejuvenated and invigorated.
What to Wear
Like saunas and public bathhouses in other parts of the world, you generally are expected to strip off to use them. If you are heading to a public banya they will be separated by sex, and it seems to be more strange to wear a swimsuit than to not wear one. We recommend wrapping yourself in a towel if that makes you feel more comfortable.
One thing however that you will be wearing in the banya is a felt hat. Not only does it protect your hair from drying out, it also helps regulate your head’s temperature. Our head heats up quicker than our bodies, and the felt hat helps reduce the risk of overheating.
What to Expect
Step 1. First thing you will need to do is to get naked. Of course, if it makes you feel more comfortable you can wear a swimsuit or wrap yourself in a towel. Oh, and don’t forget to put on your felt hat!
Step 2. Take a seat inside the sauna and start to get your sweat on. The higher you sit in the room the hotter your experience will be. There will be a small bucket of water that you can pour over the oven to make the room even hotter.
Step 3. Once you’ve spent about 10 minutes inside the sauna room you will exit and head to the buckets you’ll find hanging outside the sauna, filled with ice-cold water… you need to pour this over your head.
Step 4. You now can let your body have time to relax and recover from the shock of the change of temp. There will be a ‘dry’ room where you can relax and have some tea and light snacks. You need to make sure you do hydrate during this time.
Step 5. Repeat all steps above, but this time you will be using the birchwood sticks. Back in the sauna you can take turns hitting each other with hot branches. This is meant to help get the blood circulating more … and is all part of the Russian banya experience!
Step 6. Once you’ve finished it is important to keep hydrated and have a good nights rest. Your muscles should feel relaxed and you will seriously have the best sleep after this experience.
IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE ALL THIS AND MORE, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND CHECKING OUT THE 9 DAY TOUR WE DID IN RUSSIA WITH ON THE GO TOURS.
A big thank you to On The Go Tours for inviting Flying The Nest to visit Russia and sponsoring this incredible trip, as always all opinions are our own.