Staying in an ice hotel has been a bucket list item for us for a long time, and if you are reading this, it is probably on your list, too. We were lucky enough to cross it off our list at Snow Village in Kittila, Finland. It is something you do once in your life, thus you want to do it right. So we decided to share our tips for all the dreamers out there.
Ice Hotels Around the World
There are around 10 ice hotels located across various corners of the world; namely Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Alaska, Canada, Andorra, Japan. So choose according to where you plan to discover.
– We wanted to use the opportunity to see the northern lights and I strongly recommend you do the same. That said, Switzerland, Andorra, Japan were immediately eliminated. The next step was to choose between Finland, Sweden, Norway, Alaska, and Canada.
– We then looked into what offered the most experiences at the best price. Lapland (the Arctic parts of Sweden, Finland and Norway) stood out as the most interesting and fun destination thanks to its Sami culture and alternative activities like ice-carting and visiting reindeer farms.
– Norway has no ice-breaker ships to take a ride on – which is an essential Arctic experience. The country is also ruthlessly expensive, so that ruled that out.
– In Sweden, Lapland activities cost around 30-50% more than that of Finland. Finland also seemed a lot livelier.
And so, we said “hello Finland!”
** Budget Tips **
– We looked for an ice hotel located in Finland or Sweden as we could easily integrate any of them onto our itinerary. Snow Village offered a better package.
– Another thing we liked about the Snow Village was that it has rooms with 2, 3, 4 or 5 beds. Some hotels only have rooms with 2 beds. So if you are a family or a group you can make a huge budget cut by sharing 1 room (you can forget about romance when it is so cold anyway).
– If an overnight stay is still over your budget, or you are intimidated about sleeping in the cold, here is some news to cheer you up: It has an ice-restaurant and an ice-bar where you can be a part of the experience and visit the rooms as well.
Snow Village – The World’s Biggest Ice Hotel
200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle lies the Snow Village. What started as a 6 room hotel in 2001, is now the world’s biggest ice hotel. It has a huge ice restaurant, an ice -bar, an ice cinema, and an ice chapel that you can rent out for special occasions like marriages. It also has a 2 what is called warm areas (heated buildings); a warm restaurant and a warm house for overnight guests only.
The Hotel Melts Down Every Year
It is rather poetic that the entire village and all the art contained with it meltdown each April and disappear completely never to come back in the same form ever again. In a way, it reminds me of Burning Man. It is reconstructed with a different concept every November to reopen in December, just in time for Christmas. A team of builders and artists from around the world work together to build the entire hotel in only 6 weeks.
Every year, 15 million kilos of snow and 300.000 kilos of natural ice are used to build the hotel. They wait for the nearby river to freeze to get the ice blocks. Only when running water freezes, the ice is so crystal clear and solid. This ice at the ice hotel mostly used for decorative parts like furniture and sculptures. Sometimes nature likes to add its touch with trapped leaves or even fish inside the ice! For the construction of the hotel, they use natural and artificial snow. Once the walls are up the artists rush to carve and ornate. When it melts, everything goes back to nature.
However global warming has been a real challenge with temperatures not dropping on time to allow enough time for the construction. In 2019, the winter came 3 weeks late leaving them only 3 weeks to finish the hotel!
When to Go
The hotel is open from Dec to April. It is pretty much the same for all ice hotels. We prefer Feb and March because you get longer daylight (remember that in the north daytime can be extremely long in the summer and extremely short in the winter), and it is said that the chance to see the northern lights increases because the skies are clearer and supposedly there is more solar activity around the equinoxes.
It is 2019 at the time of writing, and like all fans of the show, we have been waiting for 2 freakishly long years for the last season. So when we learned that for this year’s theme, the hotel partnered up with HBO Nordic to curate a Game Of Thrones experience, we were thrilled.
Each room at the ice hotel was modeled after a different dynasty from the series. The bar, the common areas all had references to the show. Giant dragon heads, ships from Bravos, the iron throne and so on. It felt like Jon Snow was going to walk in any second. 😀 I will let the photos do the talking. Even better, you can watch our video above.
Can I Stop By Just For a Visit?
Yes! Every hour the hotel organizes guided tours. You can visit all of it, even the rooms, drink at the ice bar, go in the chapel and take photos until 8pm (meaning the last tour departs at 7 pm).
It has a warm cafe with basic foods like sandwiches and muffins and a fine dining ice restaurant where we ate the best meal of our entire Lapland trip.
Tip: Make sure to try the cloudberry shot at the bar. These berries only grow in the Arctic and have a wonderful flavor.
Overnight Experience – How to survive?
Sleeping in an icy room is no piece of cake but don’t let it discourage you from trying this once in a lifetime experience. When will you ever get a second chance?
How cold do you feel?
The beds at the ice hotel are crafted of ice, unsurprisingly, but you are not sleeping on the ice itself. Inside the ice bed frames, there is a mattress similar to the one you have at home. And you are given polar sleeping bags to sleep in. They are said to keep you safe at temperatures as low as -30. Of course, that doesn’t mean a warm, cozy night’s sleep at those temperatures, it just means that you survive. But don’t worry, it never gets so cold inside the hotel anyways. Snow is actually very conductive, so even though the cold reaches as much as -20 or -30 degrees outside, the temperature inside remains a relatively toasty -5 to -1 degrees.
Still, you should not expect the comfort of your typical hotel room. If you decide that you can’t do it halfway through the night, you can always go to the couches in the warm room. That is what they are there for.
A few tricks to keeping warm in the sleeping bag:
– Make sure to bring thermal leggings and a thermal top. That is what you are going to wear to sleep. – It is extremely important that they are synthetic material. Materials like cotton trap humidity so it gets very difficult to stay warm. – It may sound counterintuitive but you stay warmer with fewer layers. – A sleeping bag uses your body heat to warm up the air inside. So if you are a short person make sure to fold the extra length under your feet. Also, use your clothes to fill up the free space inside the sleeping bag. This way there is less air inside the sleeping bag to warm up. – No do shower or go in the sauna the night of your sleep. Humidity is your enemy. – Make sure to pee before you go to bed. There are no toilets in the rooms, they located in a warm area separate. The last thing you will want to do will be leaving your warm sleeping bags to run to the restroom in the cold.
Tip: Make sure to spare time for the sauna the next morning.
What is Included in the Over Night Stay
– They provide all the sleeping material but you need to bring your own thermals. – Breakfast is included in your stay but all other meals are extra. – You can get marshmallows to grill on the stick at night. – All guests have access to the warm guesthouse where there is free tea & coffee and sauna.
The Ice Restaurant Is a Real Feast
Hats off to this chef! We had fantastic Lappish food.
The ice hotel’s ice-restaurant offers no a la carte menu, only a tasting menu of 3 courses. Traditional ingredients such as reindeer and Arctic fish are revisited in modern Lappish style. We were 4 people so we were able to taste everything on the menu. Each dish was better than the previous.
You can come for lunch or dinner but make sure to book in advance. Also, if you have had enough of the cold, you can ask to have it served in the warm restaurant.
Tip: When it comes to picking desert, most people do not go for the ice-cream because it is cold. But it is a big mistake! Spruce is the typical Christmas tree and they make ice-cream with it. It has a unique aroma and it goes very well with the bed of caramel-dough mix they serve it on. I tasted all the deserts and the spruce ice-cream even surpasses chocolate fudge.
Crazy Wedding For Crazy Couples
In case there are any crazy couples out there who want to get married in the Ice Hotel: As we did the tour of the hotel, we were informed that they host weddings in the ice chapel. The groom arrives on a snowmobile and the bride on a sled. 🙂 It costs 1.000 Euros for this package but it doesn’t include catering.