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Embracing the cold: A guide to ice swimming in Finland

One of the joys of being an expat is the opportunity to discover and participate in unique local activities. Ice swimming, a thrilling winter activity that has gained popularity among both Finns and tourists, is one such experience that expats living in Finland can embrace to fully immerse themselves in the culture and cold temperatures of the country.

For those unfamiliar with ice swimming, it involves taking a dip in a hole cut into a frozen body of water, typically a lake or the sea. On a sunny but chilly winter morning in January, when the temperature was a frigid -10° C, we embarked on our ice swimming adventure. While some of our Finnish friends engage in this activity on a regular basis, it was a brand new experience for us, so our adrenaline was running high.

Since ice swimming is a popular activity in Finland, there are ice swimming locations all over Finland, and we choose a popular ice swimming location called Villa Järvelä a few kilometres outside of the Turku city. The location was peaceful, and had ice swimming, sauna and an outdoor jacuzzi, making it a perfect spot for a relaxing day with friends or family.

Trying ice swimming at Villa Järvelä, just a few kilometres outside of the Turku city.

When and where to try ice swimming

Winter is the best time to try this activity, with temperatures below 0°C being ideal. When the temperature is consistently below 0° and closer to -10°C, the lake freezes over so it feels more like ice swimming rather than just swimming. In Finland, there are many popular ice swimming spots in every city. For those who would prefer a more “traditional” experience, one could try this anywhere, by cutting a hole in the ice of a frozen lake. For those who prefer a more organised and simple option, there are ice swimming clubs that offer well-maintained facilities for a cheap price, usually between 5 and 10€ per visit.

Sunset while enjoying ice swimming. So beautiful nature in Finland.

Ice swimming tips and health benefits

If you are new to ice swimming, it is advisable to go with a friend who has experience. It is also important to properly prepare for the cold by dressing in layers and wearing a hat, gloves, and warm socks. It is important to note that ice swimming is not recommended for those with health conditions such as heart conditions or high blood pressure. To help your body adjust to the temperature change, it is recommended to warm up with some light exercise or stretching before getting into the water. After ice swimming, it is a good idea to take a warm shower or visit a sauna to warm up your body.

When packing for ice swimming, be sure to bring the following items:

  • Swimsuit

  • Towel

  • Slippers

  • Water bottle

  • Beanie

  • Swimming gloves and shoes (optional)

Megha Goswami from Couple of Expats shares her story about ice swimming.

An experience to remember

Neither of us are big fans of winter nor cold temperatures, so you can probably understand that trying ice swimming required some self-motivation. Ice swimming felt like a combination of shock and serenity, but when the initial surprise of the cold water subsided, it felt peaceful and beautiful. The cold water invigorates the senses and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards is unparalleled.

Whether you are purely excited about ice swimming or nervous about it, either way, we are confident that you will remember the experience vividly afterwards. The experience brought us a small step closer to learning to enjoy winter and its pleasures. We also like to believe that checking off this rewarding experience from our Finland bucket list brings us a little bit closer to our second home, Finland.


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