Ice hotels have shot to popularity in recent years because of the unique, cool (forgive the pun), and memorable experience that they offer. Their beauty has developed a large social media presence that has put them on many avid travellers’ bucket lists, including my own. But what lies behind the camera and Instagram fame? What else is on offer? And how does it all work?
The most famous ice hotel is the ICEHOTEL, in Swedish Lapland, the original hotel and pioneer of the idea. Located 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, it is easily accessible from Stockholm with direct flights departing from Heathrow to Kiruna during winter months. Rooms aren’t cheap, but the steep pricing is testament to the amazing experience on offer. Another notable ice hotel is SnowVillage in Finland, which offers a very similar experience. Both hotels are also equipped with Ice Bars, which is a craze that has transcended the Arctic regions, and multiple other extraordinary pastimes and activities are on offer that are all bucket list worthy by themselves.
The establishments are essentially ice sculpture and art museums. Intricate sculptures decorate the rooms and communal areas, and astonishing carvings in the walls, floor and ceilings make the rooms look like Elsa’s castle from Frozen. It really is something from a fairy tale. Upkeep is difficult, with the SnowVillage in Finland being remade every year starting in about October. For the second year in a row, this hotel has been built with inspiration from Game of Thrones for the 2018-19 season; winter isn’t coming, it’s arrived. On top of this, activities such as dog sledding, snowmobile excursions, ice sculpture classes and more are available for residents’ enjoyment. Furthermore, the region itself offers its own natural spectacles to appreciate. The hotels are prime settings to view the Northern Lights in Winter, again, another bucket list experience of mine, or in Summer, instead watch the Midnight Sun, which, having personally experienced it in Northern Iceland, is definitely not something that is to be missed.
But obviously, an ice hotel is a very unique setting, so how does it all work? Bedrooms are kept between minus five and minus seven degrees Celsius, and the main thing about them that lacks mainstream exposure is the warm rooms that make up most of the hotels. There are warm bedrooms that are available, and it is recommended that a balance between the warm and cold rooms is booked. Bathrooms are, obviously, not made out of ice, because I think most people would rather not use an ice toilet or shower, or maybe that’s just me? A purpose-built sleeping bag is supplied, as well as a snowsuit, balaclava and boots, so there is no need to pack every thermal item you own.
The experience is extreme, and this, quite rightly, is made very clear to those who choose to stay there, but the entire package on offer is incredibly unique, and has received the recognition that it definitely deserves. So, who’s coming with me?