Throughout history, hotels have continually pushed the bounds of what constitutes an exceptional night’s stay. Modern travelers’ desires for unique, authentic, and Instagram-worthy adventures have driven hotels to market themselves as destinations for unusual trips and immersive experiences. Perhaps no trend better encapsulates this movement than the rise of the ice hotel.
The original ice hotel—appropriately named ICEHOTEL and included on this list—was created in Sweden in 1989. Simultaneously an art exhibition and a guesthouse, the hotel is built out of natural ice and snow harvested from a nearby river. Newer iterations on the concept include igloo villages, art museums made entirely of ice, and a wide range of amenities. Here are four variations you won’t want to miss (just remember to pack the parka).
The only hotel in North America made completely of ice, Hotel de Glace is open in the winter of each year—and then it melts away. As with the other entries on this list, each room in the hotel is carved from ice, meaning temperatures need to remain below freezing lest the rooms melt while guests are sleeping. But don’t worry about staying warm: The hotel provides beds and thermal sleeping bags rated for freezing conditions, as well as several outdoor hot tubs. Guests enjoy lounging on chairs made from ice, sipping on winter-themed cocktails from the hotel bar, and scoping out the ice carvings and mountain views.
Located just over a hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle and near Sweden’s Torne River, the original ICEHOTEL welcomes adventurous guests from all over the world. Hotel guides lead guests across icy terrain atop horses, dog sleds, skimobiles, and even MINI Coopers. Food and drink is often served from plates and cups made of ice, and the hotel bar is to die for. The guestrooms are as varied as the hotel’s visitors—some are custom-designed while others include both ice and snow. In the winter, guests can enjoy an unobstructed view of the northern lights.
While Slovenia makes for an amazing summer getaway, it’s worth coming back for the opening of the country’s Eskimo Village in December. Guests access the village by riding cable cars up the mountain, then hiking in on snowshoes (so it’s probably best to pack light). Anyone who isn’t exhausted from the trek can enjoy daily outdoor activities like snowbiking, snowtubing, and sledding. Tired visitors unwind at the village’s bar or Igloo restaurant, then hit the (snowy) sack in an individual igloo equipped with sheepskin to keep folks warm.
Easily accessible from the buzzing hub of Helsinki airport, the Snowhotel promises a quiet respite from Finland’s larger cities and the hum of modern life. Boasting “tranquil silence” and “beautifully illuminated ice art,” the hotel is designed to simultaneously delight and soothe the senses. At night, guests bundle up in thermal sleeping bags atop beds carved entirely from ice. Overnight stays include room wake-up with hot berry juice, buffet breakfast in a the warm “log restaurant,” and guided tours of the surrounding Snow Village, which features an Ice Restaurant, Ice Cocktail Bar, chapel, slide, and a network of corridors decked out in snow and ice art.
Tips for Staying in An Ice Hotel
- Learn how to properly use a sleeping bag. If you’ve never slept in a thermal bag before, consult hotel staff to learn how a few small tweaks can keep you warm for the night.
- Participate in physical activities during the day. This will keep your circulation pumping (and physical tiredness will make it easier to sleep at night). It’s also a great opportunity to try something new. Snowbiking, anyone?
- Hit the restroom before going to bed. Most rooms in ice hotels do not come equipped with private bathrooms; instead, communal restroom facilities are located around the hotel. No one wants to crawl out of their warm sleeping bag to walk the freezing halls at 3 in the morning!
- Have a backup plan. Some folks can’t get enough of ice hotels; others decide they’re fans of slightly less adventurous overnights. If it’s your first time, consider booking one night at a time to gauge your affinity for wintry nights. Many ice hotels also offer more traditional (i.e. warm) lodgings nearby, so inquire about your options while booking.
- Expect a normal hotel stay. Ice hotels are different (that’s the whole point). You’re unlikely to find standard hotel-room amenities such as TV, minibars, or any furniture beyond the bed. You will be in a room made of ice, and that’s pretty much it. Try to embrace the tranquility this affords.
- Wear cotton clothing. Because cotton traps moisture, breaking a sweat will result in serious chills not long after. Stick to breathable fabrics like wool. Also be sure to follow any other hotel guidelines for apparel.
- Drink a lot of alcohol. While ice bars may be tempting, consuming too much alcohol before bed promotes heat loss and can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
This post was first posted on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on August 12, 2015 by The Hipmunk.