Ice hotels are not just a myth taken from a fairy tale, they are one of the most sought-after winter attractions in Nordic countries and their unique architecture places them as true timeless works of art.
Spending the night in a room fully made of ice is a unique experience, and countries where winter temperatures go two digits under zero have learned to make the most out of it. Destinations like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Canada (Quebec) have created an icy trend that mixes adventure and art. Every year, these hotels are built from the ground up, with a different design, which is formed block after block, turning each ice hotel into a never-seen before work. And not only the façade is new, also the interior design of the rooms, from furniture (also made of ice), to finishes, which usually have engravings and even frozen sculptures. Also, these fantasy-like spaces offer other services in addition to overnight stay, like fully frozen chapels for unique weddings or bars where even glasses are iced.
Ice hotels open their doors in mid December and remain operating until late March, when they close their doors, so the spring sun melts their architectural beauty.
How does the dynamic work for sleeping in these rooms? The hotel lobby, which is not frozen, is the meeting point when the sun sets. Here, guests are given thermal sleeping bags that will be placed over beds with an ice frame, although they do have traditional mattresses and pillows. They can change clothes in a dressing room and put on thermal sleepwear, while they leave their belongings in a locker; there are also bathrooms here, complete with sauna and showers. Once in their cold room, they can spend the night lying down while enjoying the white art around them, until around 7:30 in the morning, when it is time to return to the warm area of the hotel.
The most impressive ice hotels:
Located in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, it is one of the most famous of its kind. The hotel opened in 1989 as a combination between innovative lodging and an ice and snow art exhibition. As of that moment, it has surprised with its original designs and pieces. However, since it is only 200 km. away from the Arctic Circle, in 2016, they decided they could be the only ice hotel to open 365 days a year. In this way, they opened a new section in the hotel with traditional rooms and permanent frozen spaces, like some rooms, the bar, and art gallery. However, whenever winter comes, it is in full bloom, by building - as it is tradition - a whole section of frozen author suites, which year after year, surprise with a new image.
This time, suites were created by 33 artists and feature a candy store, a sculpture of a swimming woman, an aquarium, and a forest - bonfire included - among the designs.
Fun fact: around 30,000 cubic meters of ice and snow and over 1000 tons of ice are employed in its construction.
Snowcastle of Kemi
There is a winter attraction in Kemi, Finland since 1996, which turns the most magical knight and princess tales true; it is a castle fully built out of snow and which is decorated with gigantic frozen sculptures. The castle offers several activities, from walking along its hallways to appreciating its art. Another one is the SnowHotel, where 21 rooms are offered to spend the night. Even though all the rooms are 5ºC, beds are covered in fur, which in addition to the sleeping bag, create a sleeping atmosphere surrounded by impressive reliefs over white surfaces.
Fun fact: the chapel in the castle is one of the favorite venues to celebrate both weddings and christenings.
Hôtel de Glace
El único hotel de hielo que se crea cada invierno en el continente americano se encuentra en la ciudad de Quebec, Canadá. Este espacio no solo se ha distinguido por tener impactantes habitaciones con diseños únicos año con año, sino que también tiene una gran resbaladilla de hielo y una cafetería con temática glaciar. El exterior no deja de sorprender con sus grandes bloques de hielo traslúcido que incluso han llamado la atención de directores de películas. Además, en la zona en la que se establece este hotel hay un parque temático invernal con actividades que van desde tubbing, hasta carreras de trineos y una gran pista de patinaje. Asimismo, se ofrecen servicios de spa nórdico con sauna y hot tubs al aire libre.
Fun fact: Since this frozen architectural work is reinvented every year, its creators build the hotel with a new theme every time. For the upcoming 2019 version, the theme is the hotel’s gardens, reason why the artists have created snowed gardens or representations of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
This hotel, made up by a series of igloos, is found in Norway’s most remote area, in the city of Alta. It is an ice and snow-made hotel located at the far north, just inside the Arctic Circle. The place, which opened its doors in 1999 with only six rooms now offers 26 rooms, four suites decorated with ice art, a chapel, a bar, and an art gallery. The governing concept is local identity, so every year the architecture is based on a topic that reflects their history and culture, like Vikings, Nordic legends, myths, and the region’s wildlife, just to mention a few. Its construction takes five weeks, for which 250 tons of ice and 7000 cubic meters of snow are used.
Fun fact: In order to escape from the cold, the restaurant is an organic option featuring a different menu for each season, based on high quality Norwegian ingredients. The hotel also offers tours, safaris, ice sculpture workshops, and outdoor Jacuzzis.