Check Out These Top 7 Luxury And Cool Ice Hotels
Lots of people like to go on winter vacations. Active types might follow the winter sun so they can enjoy the water sports while lazier comrades look on from their sun-loungers. Or they could opt for a winter sports holiday and spend time skiing, snowboarding and enjoying the après-ski scene.
Now another, more unusual, option is starting to catch on – the ice hotel experience. There are several in Northern Europe, at least one in Eastern Europe, one in Canada, and in 2003/4 there was one in Alaska. And the latest news of an ice hotel comes from Japan.
Ice hotels were inspired by igloos. After all, Eskimos have been using them to sleep in for centuries. Most of these hotels are rebuilt every year with slabs of ice that become available in the big freeze.
Bathrooms, of course, are a problem so the rooms are not en-suite, but all the ice hotels have made provision for their guest’s needs. Since you wouldn’t really want to unpack in a room where the ceiling, walls, and floor are made of ice, just like all the furniture, they also arrange appropriate storage facilities for your belongings.
The Aurora Ice Hotel, close to the Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska, nearly didn’t get completed in its first year because the local fire service had concerns about public safety. Would you believe the rooms didn’t have fire extinguishers or smoke detectors But solutions were found and the hotel opened for business just before the end of 2003. Because technology was used to refrigerate the building, its owner had hoped to keep it open year round, but the technology wasn’t efficient enough and when the ice chandeliers became unstable, it was abandoned to its watery fate. The following year it was rebuilt with an award-winning chilling system and insulation that has kept it up ever since. But the phoenix that rose from the ice ashes is now a museum, rather than a hotel.
Another Ice Hotel in North America is within the Station Touristique Duchesnay beside Lake St Joseph, close to Quebec in Canada. If you visit between January and April each year, you can enjoy daytime winter activities such as cross country skiing, dog sledding, skating and ice fishing. For the evening, you could choose to relax in a hot tub while enjoying a cocktail from an ice glass, or wrap up to enter the hotel, eat in the ice café and drink in the N’Ice Bar.
From 9 pm you’ll be free to retire to your ice room where your ice bed awaits. But it’s not as crazy as it seems. While its base is made from ice blocks, a wooden frame separates this from the soft mattress and coverings. You’ll receive a fresh, cosy sleeping bag to keep in your body heat and resist the icy room temperature. You might just want to wear your faux fur hat during the night.
Rooms are not available to guests during the day because the hotel is open to the public. So you can still experience the Hôtel de Glace Québec even if you don’t fancy spending the night. You can take a half-hour guided tour, then wander around and marvel at the magnificent architectural design and the decorative ice sculptures.
The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, well into the Arctic Circle, has been built every year since 1990. When the River Torne freezes to form a layer of ice a full meter thick, artists arrive from all over the world. Hard work and determined creativity turns much of the ice into wonderful objects to grace the ice hotel.
This hotel hosted the original ABSOLUT ICEBAR when the hotel formed a partnership with Swedish premium vodka ABSOLUT. The concept of this ice bar has since been rolled out into Stockholm, Milan, London, and Tokyo. All the ice is taken from the Torne River and carved by the artists in Sweden before being transported around the world to turn the bars into ice galleries that are a cultural delight.
Norway has followed the example of this Swedish Ice Hotel with a few of its own. The most well known is The Alta Igloo, which is the world’s most northerly ice hotel and has been built each year since 2000. Another is the Kirkenes Snow Hotel (hotel info), much further east and close to the Russian border. A third sits on the northern edge of Geirangerfjord, which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The Mammut Snow Hotel (hotel info) is inside a complete snow castle in Kemi, on the north coast of Finland. This hotel has rooms with wooden doors and the building was done with snow rather than ice, but the tables and chairs in the Snow Restaurant are made from ice, with comfy reindeer fur on the seating. Finland also has a Snow Hotel in the Lainio Snow Village, where you can also see outside snow sculptures and an ice maze. Children particularly enjoy it here because of the exciting snow slides.
In Romania, if you visit the Balea Lake Ice Hotel (hotel info), you may have to get there by cable car, as the roads are impassable and closed in the winter in this part of the Faragas Mountains. The area is being promoted to attract eco-tourists interested in the wealth of wildlife and unique plants of the area. The addition of the ice hotel helps to provide work and enhance the life of the poverty-stricken locals.
The Ice Hotel in Japan is in the Alpha Resort Tomamu’s Ice Village (hotel info) in Shimukappu on the island of Hokkaido. This island in the far north of Japan has high altitudes with very cold temperatures. Researchers at Hokkaido University selected Tomamu as the best site for the village of ice domes, which has been developed by academics and engineers over the last ten or so years. They built the domes by spraying snow and ice on inflated balloons in the sub-zero temperatures, and a control team maintains them at the right thickness.
The village is now being promoted as a tourist attraction. For an evening visit, you arrive after its illuminations are turned on at about 5 pm, and enter through enormous snow gates. Footlights guide you along the path through the silver birch trees that surround the village. Then the beautiful spectacle of the illuminated ice village opens before you.
All the domes of the village were designed for different experiences. The Information Dome is the first. After this, you can either buy an ice glass or make your own in an ice workshop. Then it’s time to move on to the Ice Café, where your glass will be filled with the colorful cocktail of your choice while you relax on the ice chairs at the ice tables.
If you climb to the top of the observation platform outside, you’ll see the domes glowing with the different lighting effects. If you want, you can return to ground level on the ice slide.
Make your way through the ice tunnel towards a sea of glittering candles forming a fairytale landscape as you emerge. The pathway through the candles in their ice holders leads to the Ice Chapel, where a number of Japanese couples have taken their sacred marriage vows. This Chapel and the miniature Ice Hotel are the newest additions to the Ice Village. The hotel has just one double room open for business.
Ice seems to be the new creative medium. If you want to catch up on all this and have a new icy experience this winter, you’ll have plenty of choices.
Also see: The 4 Ice Hotels You Would Wish To See