Updated: Jan 29, 2019
If you’re into the Scandinavian lifestyle trend of “hygge” or cosiness, you might be seeking colder climates this winter to don your warmest jumpers. For travellers torn between snuggling indoors and experiencing the great outdoors, ice hotels offer a surefire way to combine luxury and novelty with frolicking in the snow. Here are 8 of our favourites:
The Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi Sweden
As the only Swedish ice hotel on this list, the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi was the first hotel in the world built out of ice.
The hotel, which began operation in 1989, lies about 20 minutes by car outside of Kiruna in Swedish Lapland. Ice blocks made from water from the Torne River make up the building blocks of the structure. Every 6 months, the ice melts. The following winter, artists construction the ice into an entirely new hotel and art experience.
The Icehotel offers a year-round option known as Icehotel 365, which is ideal for summer visitors who still want a taste of the Lapland winter. The new establishment, opened in 2016, offers private suites with ice sculptures and other forms of ice-centric art chosen specifically for Icehotel 365. Downstairs, there is an ice art gallery and bar.
The hotel’s sister establishment Icebar in Stockholm, Sweden, also changes its design every year. You’re provided with warm clothes during the 45-minute timed visit as you enjoy the chilly temperatures, located inside Hotel C.
The Kirkenes Snow Hotel, Norway
The Kirkenes Snow Hotel started in 2006 with 8 rooms made entirely of ice from the nearby fjord and has grown quickly since then. Now with more than 20 rooms, the hotel crafts the design of every room with Nordic and Sami legends in mind. Every year the design is different, but always with a Nordic flair.
The hotel offers an ice bar, which only opens at 1pm and 9pm daily, just in time to top off your dinner at their restaurant Låven with a drink. The Kirkenes also offers Northern lights tours, dog sledding, ice fishing for Arctic Char and King crabs, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and even a home visit with a local family. Their winter park serves as a home to reindeer and about 180 Huskies of all ages.
The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta Norway
This hotel, situated in northern Norway, is much like the other hotels on this list in that it offers themed rooms constructed entirely of ice and incredible outdoor activities like cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. What makes it truly unique is their yearly Christmas feast, which they call the “Christmas Julebord.” A “julebord” is a Norwegian Christmas community feast. At The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, traditional Norwegian foods like pork, boiled potatoes, Christmas sausage, shellfish, and salted lamb are mainstays at the Christmas buffet. You can take in some live music for ambience or get a bit tipsy on their “gløgg” (mulled wine) and mix and mingle with other julebord attendees. Speaking of food, Sorrisniva’s kitchen serves local seasonal cuisine, and every overnight guest gets an automatic reservation at the restaurant. The hotel lays out a continental breakfast spread in the morning, so make sure to stop by the food display after your sauna session and grab some grub.
Bjorli Ice Lodge, Bjorli Norway
The Bjorli Ice Lodge, located in Dovre-Sundalsfjella National Park next to Hotel Bjorligard, offers excellent slopes for the avid skier. Bjorli, which means “beaver hill” in Norwegian, is home to many of the little dam-builders that call the Rauma River home. The Bjorli Ice Lodge takes four weeks to build at the beginning of the winter season. Grab a drink from the ice bar and take a look at the rooms, which boast an art-deco theme. (Even the bed frames are made from ice!) The nearby Ice Chapel seats up to 120 guests for weddings, religious services, and other private events.
The Ice Hotel, Hunderfossen Norway
This Ice Hotel is special in that it’s actually part of a large winter theme park complex called the Hunderfossen Hotel & Resort in Hunderfossen, Norway. The hotel is available for viewing during the park’s opening hours, as well as the Ice Cathedral that’s nearby. Staff provide guests with sheepskins and sleeping bags while they’re staying in their folklore-themed icy hotel rooms. The surrounding park is great for children, providing numerous fantasy attractions based on Norwegian fairy tales and mythological creatures. You have 60 rides to choose from, like the Troll Drop, the Fairy-Tale Castle, and a water-rafting ride.
The Lapland Hotel’s SnowVillage, Finland
The Lapland Hotel’s SnowVillage, in the icy climate of Finnish Lapland, hosts about 30 individually designed rooms, the size and shape of which change yearly. (The theme for the rooms in 2017 was “Game of Thrones,” and the artwork by local ice sculptors was stunning.) The complex, assembled every year in October or November and held together by the freezing temperatures, includes an ice-built chapel, bar, and restaurant. The restaurant serves reindeer meat and Lappish cheese if you’re interested in trying the local fare. The hotel is close to nearby ski resorts Ylläs and Levi, for the enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders, and isn’t too far away from the airport.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Saariselka Finland
The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort igloo village in Saariselka is one of the most-visited locations to see the Northern Lights. The best viewing times are between August 24th and the end of April, but sightings aren’t guaranteed. They offer several kinds of lodging, the most unusual of which are their glass igloos, Kelo igloos, and snow igloos. Their glass igloos, built into the ground and dome-shaped, have glass ceilings so you can see the night sky through your roof. The Kelo igloos combine a lodge with a glass igloo on the end, so you get the best of both worlds. The snow igloo is a regular igloo, but Kakslauttanen provides sleeping bags to prevent you from freezing. If you tire of the cold, try one of their three smoke saunas and dip in the natural ice water outside afterwards to close up your pores. Their largest sauna is the largest smoke sauna in the world. You can make a stop by Santa’s House to see the jolly gift-giver if you’re visiting with young children. Each activity requires advance reservations. Kakslauttanen offers the same range of outdoor activities as many other hotels, one of their more unusual offerings is a day trip on the Sampo icebreaker ship followed by a dive in the Bay of Bothnia in a dry suit. The only other hotel that offers this is the LumiLinna Snow Hotel in Kemi.
LumiLinna Snow Hotel, Kemi Finland
LumiLinna Snow Hotel is the largest ice hotel on Earth, built over 3 weeks each winter. It opens every January with a lot of fanfare – fireworks, live music, and tours of the structure and themed rooms – and is operational until the warm spring weather melts it down. The chapel and restaurant are similarly built from bay ice and beloved by guests. The restaurant sells a reindeer soup that visitors are fond of ordering. Like Kakslauttanen, LumiLinna also offers rides on the decommissioned 1960s icebreaker ship Sampo, followed by a dip in the bay among the broken ice in bright red dry suits.
If you have more time in Finland and manage to make your way to Helsinki, you might also like to visit Unique Lapland Helsinki Winterworld.