Full article posted on defuzemag website on the 29.01.2022
If you love slow travel as we do, it’s always fun to look for the unique, interesting things and activities to do that are not quite on the usual touristy list-of-things-to-do but totally should be. Steam on Water sauna Montreux turned out to be one of those activities in the romantic picture-perfect town of Montreux, Switzerland, that we happened to come across. We saw it during one of our long walks to the neighboring town of Vevey and were so glad that we did.
Why Go there ?
It lies on the shores of Lake Geneva or as locals prefer to call it, lake Leman at the Maladaire beach. On a cold sunny day, sitting by it’s shore, as the sun’s reflection creates a million little twinkling light bulbs on the surf of water, is quite an experience on its own. Add a nice Sauna and a spacious heated Yurt with beach chairs and you got the perfect way to spend an afternoon. If you feel a little adventurous, how about having a quick dip and swimming in the icy cold water coming fresh from melting snow from the surrounding Alps mountains. But even if it’s not your kind of thing, it’s still fun to watch others do it and see their expressions as they dip their toes in the water and eventually dare to jump in.
We booked our slot at the Steam on Water Montreux as there are limited places available and from what it seemed, it is pretty popular with the locals. We arrived a little early to have a look around and enjoy the place a bit. One of the interesting things here is a little barrel sauna mounted on a trailer. It looks pretty cool and is available to hire for private groups. Just across it, a stone staircase gives way to the lake below. It takes some guts to jump in that water in the winter but apparently there is no shortage of people who are willing to do it. We had seen several people do it even on our previous visit here and we were quite surprised to see people just casually swimming in the icy cold water while chit-chatting and laughing.
Then is the Finnish Sauna at Steam on Water Montreux, which is much bigger and is designed to accommodate up to 20 people. It is heated by wood and you look directly onto the lake and the snow-capped mountains from its windows as the sweat trickles down your body. It’s a nudist-friendly space so you can feel free to take your kit off if it pleases you but also expect to find some nudists. We were lucky as it was a sunny day and the sun added to the heat produced by the burning wood. Our guide Ilja was a lovely and funny guy who showed us around and introduced us to the place.
Cold Water Plunge
After spending enough time at the Sauna, we went out. Jumping in the cold water seemed a bit too crazy idea but we did get on the platform and then down the stairs and in the moment of madness, we decided to jump, partially out of curiosity and partially because by now there were onlookers and we did not want to feel embarrassed. It felt a little too late to turn back now. A few feet out in the water and you feel the urge to just get back to the shore as soon as possible. Once you are out of the water, however, it feels rather pleasant. Your body has been exposed to so low a temperature that now the normal temperature feels quite fine.
The « Ritual »
As we sat outside in the sunshine, Ilja invited us for a “ritual” in the sauna. We went back in to see the sauna jam-packed with people who kindly made some space for us. We were most probably the only tourists here as the guide spoke in French, the predominantly spoken language in Montreux and neighboring areas. Ilja would translate here and there for us. But even the language barrier had its own mystique to it. It felt like being in a sort of shamanic ritual, except that he was successful in making his audience laugh like a comedian. He would put water from a wooden bucket and swing a towel to ensure that the heat spreads all across and then swing a folding fan.
The Yurt Experience
Now it was time to take a shower and relax for a bit in the Yurt. On one side a wood burner ensured that the temperature was pleasant. There was a massage table behind curtains for anyone who was interested. The beach chairs were mostly full. We took the remaining chairs and sat in the afternoon sun. The traditional style yurt looks very authentic and its raw and minimalist interior made it even more special.
Finally, we changed and headed back to the reception to say goodbye to the friendly guide Ilja, whose genuine enthusiasm had made the whole experience even better. The reception has also got a seating area with beautiful views of the lake and hot beverages are served free of charge.
Health benefits of Cold Plunges
Coldwater dips have been known and practiced in cultures around the world for ages. Even Hippocrates was known to be a fan of the practice. Its popularity is increasing in recent times and several health benefits like decrease in tension, improved mood, increased blood flow, boost in the immune system and pain relief are associated with it. While it might be too much of a price to pay for some, it certainly is worth a try. From our personal experience, we can say that we are glad we did it and we certainly will like to do it again.
Bur regardless of whether plunging in cold water is your thing or not, we will totally recommend you to visit Steam on Water Sauna during your trip to Montreux. It’s a great way to relax while experiencing the beauty of the lake and the majestic Alps mountains.