They’re two of the oldest spa treatments around. They’re also both steam based, and were each designed to help you cleanse and purify your body. Sounding pretty similar so far, right? Yes, there’s no denying that saunas and Turkish baths have some major common ground; but while you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re essentially the same, they actually have three pretty huge differences. Read on to learn what they are – you’ll be a bathing guru in no time.
Though both are ancient, the roots of these two rituals couldn’t be more different. Turkish baths came, unsurprisingly, from Turkey. Based on ancient Greek and Roman bathing practices, the style was invented as a means of ritual purification. Noticing its cleansing properties, it quickly grew in popularity through the Ottoman Empire. The rest – as they say – is history. Saunas, alternatively hail from Finland – and came about for entirely different reasons. To offset the chilly climate, people threw water on hot stones to produce steam and warm up their houses. It was not so much a ritual, but a method of survival. This practice quickly became a tradition and spread like wildfire through Europe, as others quickly began to see the benefits.
Though similar in their effects, saunas and Turkish baths adopt subtly different methods of detoxification. Where a sauna uses high temperatures, dry heat and low humidity to make your body shed its toxins, Turkish baths offer higher humidity and lower temperatures for a more languid purifying experience. Simply put: saunas focus more on steam, whereas Turkish baths focus more on water.
Both rituals have their own distinguished visual style and offer quite different overall experiences to the keen spa-goer. A sauna is often very private, its small quarters emanating a typically Finnish feel with wooden walls, benches and stone stoves. Its tranquil ambience is only made stronger by low lighting and warm tones – a perfect, speedy escape from a long and hectic day. Turkish baths, conversely, are more on the ornate side. Expect to see lavish marble basins and walls, crafted stone benches and gold taps lining the bath’s edges. These areas often adopt brighter lighting, too, helping you to soak in all the building’s gilded glory. Further, Turkish baths are much bigger than a common sauna – a visit to one can take up the entire afternoon. After getting your steam treatment, you can venture into other rooms to relax, get massaged and cool off: a perfect way to get out with a friend or while away a long, languid Sunday. In a sauna, however, do all the detoxifying in the steam room’s single space, making it arguably more suited to someone seeking a quick, detoxifying fix after a workout or in the middle of a hectic schedule.