While many people may dream of relaxing vacations in the sun, trying something a little different can be refreshing, novel and unique. These amazing, ephemeral ice hotels make the idea of being “snowed in” a delightfully alluring and luxurious prospect. Mood lighting, delicate ice sculptures, snow-carvings and drinks served in ice goblets are all part of the experience. Besides, there’s nothing quite like waking up somewhere picturesque, with the diffused light of dawn gleaming through the walls. The following 10 ice hotels are as achingly beautiful as they are transitory. And after a closer look, it’s almost impossible not to want to stay in one.
10. Igloo Village – Engelberg, Switzerland
Igloo Village is built every year from 3,000 tons of snow. And with six locations spread across the Pyrenees and the Alps, this hotel has plenty of venues from which to choose. Guests can head out for guided snowshoeing tours and then warm up in the Jacuzzi or sauna. As there’s no running water for showers, people often stay only one night – but taking a wash in the fresh snow is an invigorating activity for the brave! Visitors can learn how to build their own igloo and can hang out at the igloo bar before discovering the unique experience of a barbecue on ice.
9. SnowCastle – Kemi, Finland
SnowCastle in Kemi, Finland is situated close to the Gulf of Bothnia. It opened in late January 2013 for the eighteenth year running and is built around a fantasy theme. Different colored lights and snow and ice sculptures add to the magical effect of the fairytale-like surroundings. The building takes six weeks to make, beginning in early December when temperatures plunge to 17.6 F (-8 C). Snow and ice for the construction is taken from the frozen water of the Gulf of Bothnia. Even the tables in the restaurant are made from slabs of ice – and wooden under-plates stop food from getting cold. With all this going for it, it’s small wonder that the location is a popular holiday destination. In winter 2008, the hotel had 1,400 visitors from almost 40 countries.
8. Snow Village – Ylläsjärvi, Finland
Image: Marius Fiskum
Snow Village in Ylläsjärvi, Finland is located almost 125 miles above the Arctic Circle. The shape of the hotel changes each year as specialist constructors create new tools and push the limits of snow and ice design. Fantastical shapes spring out of the walls, and ambient colored lights add to the tranquil beauty of the hotel. Snow Village guests are greeted in the morning with hot berry juice and a buffet breakfast to set them up for a day of activities. These can include snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice sculpting, sledding with huskies, and visiting a traditional reindeer farm. Meanwhile, less adventurous visitors can throw some cool moves on the dance floor at the igloo disco before enjoying a drink from an ice glass.
7. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel – Alta, Norway
Image: Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, on the banks of the Alta River in Norway, is enchantingly beautiful. Filled with stunning ice sculptures, this frozen hotel is the ultimate winter wonderland experience. Guests sleep in arctic sleeping bags atop reindeer furs, while the sauna and baggage storage rooms are located next door in a heated area. Home to the first-ever Northern Lights observatory, Alta is also a prime location for viewing one of nature’s most incredible phenomena. Activities include snowmobile safaris and dog sledding, whilst Restaurant Laksestua offers exotic food options such as fried reindeer and cloudberry soup.
6. Hotel of Ice – Bâlea Lake, Romania
Image: Hotel of Ice
Romania’s Hotel of Ice sits 6,700 feet above sea level and is nestled among the Făgăraș Mountains of the Southern Carpathians. Each year, local craftsmen cut blocks of ice from Bâlea Lake and construct the ice hotel using traditional methods. Only accessible by cable car, this hotel is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and one that offers stunning views. The 2012/2013 design comprises 12 rooms, a bar, a lounge, a restaurant, and an ice church for christenings, marriages, baptisms or wedding anniversaries. Elsewhere, activities include ice-sculpting lessons, wooden sledge rides, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. One reviewer said the hotel had “the feel of a place that has yet to be discovered.”
5. Hôtel de Glace – Quebec, Canada
Image: Xavier Dachez
Hôtel de Glace is only 10 minutes from central Quebec City, Canada, yet Nordic adventure awaits inside its thick, snowy walls. From 9:00 p.m. each night, guests are given access to outdoor spas and a sauna where they can relax with a view of snowflakes and stars. Room options range from the intimacy of an igloo to the frozen luxury of a deluxe suite complete with a fireplace and personal spa. Two guests from Ontario said the experience was “like a fantasy and a poem come true! Such beauty and elegance. This was an unforgettable experience, no regrets!” We bet. Oh, and what sounds more refreshing than an ice-cider cocktail? Well, in addition to lots of icy places from which to grab refreshments, the hotel also boasts a frozen chapel and an ice slide.
4. Bjorli Ice Lodge – Bjorli, Norway
Image: Kenneth Enstad
The Bjorli Ice Lodge is located in Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park in Oppland, northern Norway. The hotel is surrounded by spectacular mountains and shares the terrain with musk oxen, gyrfalcons, and rare Fennoscandian reindeer. The hotel itself is crafted out of snow and ice every year and is an incredible work of artistry. Each room is uniquely crafted, contributing to the hotel’s otherworldly aura. Although the temperature inside ranges from 30 to 25 F (-1 to -4 C), the air is so still that it feels less cold. Sleeping bags and high-quality mattresses also keep guests cozy at night. During their day, visitors can go cross-country skiing, or simply enjoy the natural splendor while sipping a drink from the ice bar. And in case you get really caught up by the magical environs, the hotel also has a bridal suite and a chapel.
3. Kirkenes Snowhotel – Kirkenes, Norway
Image: Helge Staerk
Kirkenes Snowhotel is situated in the little town of Kirkenes in northern Norway, near the Russian border. The hotel itself has over 40 rooms as well as a bar and a chapel. All rooms have snow ornamentation on the walls, and scattered ice sculptures add to the frosty ambiance. Activities include Northern Lights safaris, Northern Lights alarm calls, snowmobile tours, a king crab excursion, ice fishing, and trips with huskies. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, the restaurant offers everything from award-winning seafood to reindeer. The hotel has been operating every year since 2006, and because snow has such great insulating properties, temperatures inside the hotel usually hover at around 23 F (-5 C), even when the mercury plunges outside.
2. The Ice Cave (Alpha Resort Tomamu) – Hokkaido, Japan
The island of Hokkaido – the northernmost part of Japan – is home to the Alpha Resort Tomamu. And while the hotel only has one room, it’s the experience of a lifetime. Everything, even the plates at dinner, is made of ice. Guests can also sip cocktails at the bar from an ice goblet that they carve themselves with an ice pick. Encircled by ice, the outdoor bathtub offers an elegant way to wash while breathing in the icy air and enjoying the gorgeous winter landscape. What’s more, the hotel is set in a ski resort, so the surrounding area looks like a magical world of glowing ice domes and sparkling trees.
1. ICEHOTEL – Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
The incredible ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is as breathtaking as it is artistic. Each suite features a stunningly executed theme – from submarine to space age. Every year, the hotel’s team handpicks artists from different countries around the world, including Germany, Holland, Italy, Lithuania, Spain, the UK and the US. Each team makes a suite its own art project, designing and carving it using ice from the Torne River. Guests then sleep on mattresses covered in reindeer hides, surrounded by the unique, icy artwork. At ICEHOTEL, the Northern Lights can be seen by horse, dog sled, snowmobile, and even by plane. What more could you ask for?