It may not have occurred to you that a bathhouse for Lithuanians is as sacred as the sauna is for Finns. Lithuanian bathmasters have long-lasting bathhouse traditions and use only natural materials such as plants, honey and amber for health rituals. You can find not only traditional bathhouses here in Lithuania, but also a bathhouse built in a tree, at a mill or a manor – there is even a bathhouse made from amber! For bathhouse-goers we present information about bathhouses in all the regions of Lithuania. These places are where the temperature is the highest in Lithuania all year round!
What is a traditional Lithuanian bathhouse?
Lithuanians traditionally use steam bathhouses. Lithuanian bathhouses are unique for their abundant use of various medicinal herbs.
A special procedure at a Lithuanian bathhouse is the light slapping of the bather with bath whisks or brooms – bundles of birch or oak twigs (called vanta in Lithuanian) or twigs of other trees. In winter, frozen or salted bath whisks are used! Bathers lightly slap themselves or each other, or are slapped by a bathmaster. In addition to this ritual, it is popular to rub the body with salt, ground chestnuts, clay, honey, and other natural products.
The traditional Lithuanian bathhouse is not very hot (about 60° C), but moist, because steam is produced by pouring water on hot stones placed on a wood burner. The bathhouse rituals usually take four hours. Bathers relax in a steam bathhouse, then cool down outside or by swimming in a lake or river. Usually they go to the bathhouse four times - first for the steam ritual, then a body scrub, then the slapping of the body with bath whisks, and finally the closing of the bathhouse.
The most appropriate drink for the bathhouse is tea made from mint, thyme, willow herb and other herbs. Tea is offered during healthy bathhouse rituals.
You can have the following bathhouse experiences in Lithuania:
1. BLACK AND WHITE BATHHOUSE
The smoke bathhouse at the Healthy Lifestyle Rural Tourism Homestead is the largest in Lithuania. They offer educational events (public and private), about Lithuanian bathhouse rituals and treatments, for example: the first steam ritual, a body scrub with salts and ground natural products, slapping of the body with bath whisks, washing the body with bath whisks, foam wash, and natural body masks. No alcohol is used at the homestead and a zero waste lifestyle is encouraged. The black bathhouse (smoke bathhouse) accommodates up to 20 bathers and the white bathhouse (steam bathhouse) accommodates up to 12 bathers. Bathers can then refresh themselves by bathing in the pond or the river.
2. BATH WHISK AND STEAM DANCE
The most important aim of this bathhouse is to make you feel good using a combination of inner calm and a healthy body. Bičiulių (“Friends” in Lithuanian) Bathhouse offers various bathhouse experience sessions, thematic bathhouse evenings, stories about the history and traditions of the bathhouse, aromatic-therapeutic sessions, hot bath whisk and steam “dance” and individual rituals for nourishing your body.
3. A TOUCH OF THE BATH WHISK
This is a bathhouse that nurtures old Lithuanian bathhouse traditions. It offers the first steam ritual, a unique aroma “symphony”, salt inhaling therapy, slapping of the body with various bath whisks, body scrub with salts and ground chestnuts, body wrapping in a cloth soaked with herbal essence, and a massage in the relaxation area of the bathhouse. You can choose between either a steam or a Lithuanian smoke bathhouse at the homestead, and you can also learn how to make bundles from twigs, how to slap with the bundle and also how to use wickers for massage.
4. A SPLASH OF RAIN IN THE BATHHOUSE
This rural tourism homestead offers the traditional Lithuanian bathhouse, which has long been known as the “white” bathhouse. The owners of the homestead, who are professional bathmasters, organise educational body scrub and exfoliation sessions, slapping of the body with bathhouse whisks, and body and facial masks. Choose from courses like: “Refreshment for the body and soul,” “Learn about the Lithuanian bathhouse,” “Bath whisk both slaps and scrubs,” and “Sounds of music in the bathhouse” - where the splashing of rain, a thunder drumstick and a gong provide a relaxing melody.
5. BATHHOUSE WITH A SCHOOL FOR BATHMASTERS
Perkūnijos Bathhouse is a log bathhouse heated with a wood burner that produces a soft steam. The spacious steam bathhouse has been designed to provide sufficient air and comfort when sitting or lying down in the bathhouse. Professional bathmasters offer a relaxing bathhouse ritual: they will introduce you to the Lithuanian trees and herbs, perform a body scrub, foam massage, slap you with bath whisks or apply honey to the body. After the bathhouse ritual, bathers can swim in the open waters close the bathhouse, rest and relax on deck chairs. Courses are organised for those who wish to improve the art of bathhouse rituals.
6. OLD SMOKE BATHHOUSE
A smoke bathhouse is the oldest type of bathhouse. In a well-heated smoke bathhouse you can only get a slight smell of smoke - both the air and the steam are much better than in other types of bathhouse. The Old Smoke Bathhouse is by a lake and bathers can try both the old smoke bathhouse and a hot tub to escape from their routines and fatigue.
7. MILK ICE CUBES AFTER BATHHOUSE
A homestead located in Samogitia National Park offers a bathhouse experience where you will learn the difference between a bath whisk made from the twigs of a linden tree and one made from the twigs of an oak tree. You can also try a dried oregano or mint salt scrub, refresh your body with cucumber juice or milky ice cubes, wash your face with goat’s milk and nourish your body with honey.
“Soft” and “thick” bathhouse steam is produced by heating stones for a long time. The bathhouse can give heat for up to 12 hours, so all body treatment rituals can be performed in no rush. Herbs, tree twigs and even food products are used for the rituals.
This bathhouse “lives” together with nature as natural resources are used on a seasonal basis: in spring –junipers, Bishop’s weeds, dandelions, nettles, philadelphus, and lilacs; in summer – wild berries and bath whisks made from most unusual plants; in autumn – vegetables, honey and oak whisks; and in winter – dried, frozen and preserved products.
8. HONEY AND AMBER FOR THE BATHHOUSE
Aridas, the bathmaster, is convinced that when we spend time in a bathhouse we do not lose a single minute of our lives. He offers foot soaks, slapping with bath whisks, body rubs with salt, body scrubs, foam washing, rituals involving the use of clay and body rubs with honey or amber.
9. FELT BATHHOUSE-YURT
A felt bathhouse at the rural tourism homestead is built based on the example of a tent used as a dwelling by nomadic groups in the steppes of Central Asia. It is certainly original – the bathhouse is in the shape of a circle, with a lamb wool fibre insulation and light pouring from a round window in the roof. This, of course, it is also beneficial for the health because breathing is unobstructed - making it a hypoallergenic and eco-friendly bathhouse. The bathhouse has a wool-clad bench and a room with a stove to retain heat.
10. NATIVE AMERICAN BATHHOUSE
Winnetou Village (Vinetu in Lithuanian) promotes Native American traditions, and invites you to a fur-clad Inipi bathhouse offering bath whisks from wild flowers, a herbal essence and a ritual. This is the body-and-soul purification and healing method used by Native Americans for thousands of years. The spirit of the bathhouse invites everybody to visit the bathhouse of seven senses.
11. AMBER BATHHOUSE
Saulė (“the sun” in Lithuanian) is the first bathhouse in the world made from natural amber. Around 3 tonnes of natural Baltic amber was used for its construction and it is reminiscent of an amber room – its walls, ceiling and even benches are covered with natural amber. The area of the bathhouse is 22 sqm and it can accommodate up to 15 bathers. It is recommended that you stay up to 30 minutes in the bathhouse – this is sufficient time to absorb all the useful properties of amber. It is said that this bathhouse can be used every day and has a positive effect on our nervous system, as it reduces stress and has a calming effect. After a bathhouse ritual it is recommended that you drink amber water, which contains dissolved succinic acid.
Bathhouses in unexpected locations
12. MANOR BATHHOUSE
This bathhouse, which can accommodate up to 25 bathers, is not only the largest, but also the oldest bathhouse operating at a manor in Lithuania. The first bathhouse at Ilzenberg Manor was built in the early 17th century. The bathhouse was built for the master of the house's family, and can be found a short distance away from the manor. It lies in a picturesque location by a lake, overlooking a beautiful island known as 'Love Island.' The current owners of the manor have rebuilt the bathhouse in the same location, using the original foundations. It is interesting that the bathers may not only admire the island, but also greet Latvians on the other side of the lake - the lake is divided in half between Lithuania and Latvia.
13. MILL BATHHOUSE
A beautiful Lithuanian steam bathhouse was founded in the reconstructed water mill at Varniai Regional Park. The owner of the bathhouse offers relaxing sauna rituals. According to old traditions, slapping with bath whisks, massage, peeling, and foam washing using birch bath whisks are performed.
14. CAPSULE BATHHOUSE
The spa that nurtures Lithuanian traditions offers a steam herbal ritual at their bathhouse. This is the perfect procedure for those who are not fond of classical bathhouse rituals. First, the body is exfoliated in the steam, which is saturated with active substances from the herbs. At the same time, a pressure point head massage is performed while the body is enclosed in a capsule bathhouse. After the ritual you can be refreshed with crushed ice, relaxed with a running stream of herbal teas and natural Lithuanian honey, or given an aromatherapy in a “bed” of medicinal herbs.
15. TREE BATHHOUSE
Go from a bathhouse perched 2 m high in a tree directly into a lake, via a rope swing! Or climb down the ladder into either a cold or hot water tub. This rural tourism homestead has plenty of interesting things to offer - for example, a floating bathhouse that operates in the summer season.
This information has been prepared based on material provided by the national tourism promotion agency Lithuania Travel, tourist information centres, the Lithuanian Society of Bathhouse Friends and the Professional Association of Bathmasters.