Sports & Banya

apriori_swimming_pool_2011The Kazakh Banya

You have probably heard of a Russian sauna, but Kazakhs are really big on them, too, and they are often called the Russian way, banyas (although the Kazakh word is monsha). Both Russian and Kazakh saunas are a mix between the Scandinavian sauna and a steam room. The most popular banya in Astana is called the Keremet Complex, which also has a large fitness center.

If you want privacy, private Banyas are available for rent, but locals often treat going to a sauna as a social experience. They typically include a shower, a swimming pool, a changing room, and another spot for relaxing and socializing. They sometimes have exercise equipment as well, and might have a mild steam room in addition to the full sauna, which is often turned up really hot. They usually have a food and drink service, although some people like to have food delivered for certain occasions.

Both the Duman Hotel and the Khan Shatyry complex have a Turkish hammam (bath). A Turkish bath uses water instead of steam and is used to relax and cleanse the body of toxins. In a hammam, you first sit in a room heated with dry air, which will make you start to sweat. If you wish, you can then go into the “hot room,” for some more intensive sweating, after which, you douse yourself with cold water. After that, you can lay down on a heated slab of marble for an invigorating full-body scrub and massage.

Most saunas of any type do not require membership. You can expect to pay around $20 to $30 per visit for a decent quality banya. You can rent private rooms for about $50 per hour.

In Kazakhstan, business is done, and deals are often closed during a sauna session, since it tends to relax people and make them fee like they can be themselves. Often during such get togethers, the vodka flows freely. Many upscale banyas have conference rooms available as well.

Before you decide on a banya, make sure you check out the facilities for their quality and cleanliness.