What’s a Banya? Our Experience in Russia

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(Video At The Bottom)

If you’ve ever travelled to Russia, you’ll know exactly what a Banya is. A Banya (баня) is the traditional Russian bathhouse and over the years it has become a significant part of day-to-day life in Russia. Similar to a Hammam in Turkey, a Banya is a nice hot sauna/bathhouse mixed into one.

History Of The Banya:

Banyas go way back to Roman times and have been adapted into the Russian, Turkish, Finnish, Macedonian and Serbian way of life for over a thousand years. Banyas have been mentioned in old Russian folk songs, nursery rhymes and chronicles dating back to the 9th century A.D. It’s safe to say that the Banya is here to stay in Russian culture, and you can’t go to Russia and not soak in one of these ancient bathhouses!

What Do Banyas Look Like?

Usually a banya comprises of 3 rooms, a waiting room, a bathing room and a sauna. Many traditional banyas are a social meeting place for locals and they can be found in every Russian town, village or city. The rooms are often completely made from wood, which keeps in the humidity and gives the room a natural scent. The warmth is created by a traditional wood stove and hot rock mix and there is sometimes a mix of aromatherapy extracts added to the rocks to create a strong and relaxing scent in the rooms.

What is a Russian Banya?
The Steamy Russian Banya

Am I Alone Or With Other People?

Well this depends entirely on which type of banya you are visiting. The tourist banyas which can be found at hotels and guest houses, are typically unisex  and you can usually rent the entire banya for yourself or a small group. If you are going to a public banya, expect to be hanging out with a bunch of naked Russians who will be whipping themselves, and probably you, with a branch of white birch, oak or eucalyptus leaves.

How Do I Use The Banya?

In a typical banya, you enter into a changing/waiting area where you remove all of your clothes and prepare for the bathing room. When you are undressed you can enter the bathing room where there will be hot and cold water. For the cleansing process you can mix the hot and cold to your desired temperature and use the bucket to pour it over yourself while enjoying a warm “bucket shower”. You can then enter the hot sauna where you can sit for as long as you wish (or is allotted to you when you pay for entrance). Here you can whip yourself with the branches which are usually purchased before you enter the sauna. The leaves of the white birch, oak or eucalyptus branches exfoliate while releasing a cleansing chemical into your pores, which not only helps circulation, but makes for supremely smooth and soft skin.

Outside Of A Russian Banya
Outside Of A Russian Banya

 

All Done!

When you are finished bathing, beating yourself and others with a stick and rinsing off, you can then go back into the change room and get dressed. You’ve just enjoyed your Russian Banya! It’s actually a very relaxing and interesting experience. It’s a good chance to mingle and chat with locals (naked locals) and get to know them.

Check Out Our Russian Banya Video For More Info!

How do you feel about beating yourself with naked strangers in a sauna? Leave a comment below!

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What The Hell Is A Banya?

Nick Wharton Author Bio Picture

Written by

Nick Wharton

Nick is the co-founder, editor and author of Goats On The Road. He contributes to numerous other media sites regularly and shares his expert knowledge of travel, online entrepreneurship and blogging with the world whenever he can. He has been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and has more than 10 years of experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship.

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5 thoughts on “What’s a Banya? Our Experience in Russia”

  1. Russians take their banya very seriously! Although I felt sort of funny while my friend whipped me with the birch leaves, I was quite happy to be warm and toasty while in Siberia :). Nice summary!

  2. Not everyone likes to visit the banya. I like more to lie in the bath 🙂 But i like to swim in an ice hole in winter! In vain you have not tried 🙂

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