Certified or Certifiable: Sleeping in Ice Hotels

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Europe is having one of its coldest winters in years, and while that’s bad news for residents trying to go about their daily lives (and the planet – think of those heating bills), it’s good news for the ice hotel business.

The northern hemisphere is home to half a dozen or so hotels made exclusively from snow and ice. It’s a crazy idea and one would assume that they would have trouble filling their rooms, but there is no end to what people will do for the sake of a unique experience and so year after year the hotels have to turn away guests in their hundreds. We look at some of the more famous ice hotels that the north has to offer.

The original Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden was first built in 1992 from blocks of ice from the river Torne, and intends using all its experience to become the world’s first CO2 negative ice hotel by 2015. According to the not immodest owners, the hotel is not merely an exercise in construction but an ephemeral art project.

Immodest or not, the claim is accurate as each hotel is different thanks to a different team of architects, designers and artists from all over the world who apply to be part of the special project.

Guests have the option to stay in the cold accommodation – Icehotel – or in a separate, more traditional hotel or chalet. Many people choose a combination of one or two nights in the Icehotel and a few more nights in a chalet.

The temperature inside Icehotel remains constant between -5 and -8 degrees Celsius, so guests are encouraged to sleep in thermal underwear and a hat. Upon waking there is a warming buffet and sauna.

Hôtel de Glace, Quebec, Canada is the only ice hotel in North America; all the others are in Europe. In 2011 the hotel will be open from 7 January – 27 March and will host guests in its 36 rooms as well as day and night tours for those who don’t want to risk sleeping in -5 degrees. Guests are encouraged to attend a briefing that will let them know exactly what they signed up for.

Accommodation options vary from simple rooms and themed suites to themed suites with a fireplace and private spa.

SnowHotel, Lainio, Finland is one part of an even large snow wonder: Snow Village. Snow Village has been going for ten years and has grown to include 15 double igloo rooms, eight ice suites, an Icebar, and a traditional log cabin restaurant. There is also a sauna. As an added advantage, SnowHotel is situated close to the ski resorts of Ylläs and Levi. Like Icehotel, SnowHotel’s architecture and themes change year by year, providing each season’s guests with a truly unique experience. Furthermore, upon checking out after an overnight stay, guests are awarded a certificate, so they can prove their icy mettle.

This season SnowHotel will be open until 15 April.


Kirkenes Snowhotel, Kirkenes, Norway is situated right on the northeastern edge of Norway near the Russian border. Kirkeness Snowhotel comes to the public courtesy of the same people who created SnowHotel in Finland – clearly they’re onto a good thing. It is distinguished from its competitors by virtue of being located in the Gabba Reindeer Park and providing its guests with the chance to try dog sledding.


Romanian Ice Hotel, Lake Balea, Romania is distinguished from its competitors by being open all year-round. It’s also somewhat remote, being reachable only by cable car. Temperatures here are warmer than the other ice hotels, getting all the way up to 2 degrees above zero. Each room is unique and the hotel is rebuilt every year ensuring that each season is unique.

If you like the cold or just want bragging rights among your friends, now is the time to book your place in an ice hotel. You may not be in time for this year’s round of guests, but you could sneak in for next year.

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