With the winter season nearing fast, we are going to go beyond skiing and snowboarding and check-in for the night at an ice hotel. While most of us think that Scandinavia has the best ice hotels, there are ice hotels in a variety of other countries which in many ways can be more accessible and maybe more affordable – but it leads to some important trade-offs. Here is our list of the 15 best ice hotels as we see it. Check it out.
Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Finland
Visitors to Igloo Village Kakslauttanen can choose between a glass or a snow igloo. Snow igloos offer a peaceful, silent escape cocooned from the outside world, while the glass igloos, with an amazing frost-resistant thermal glass, provide amazing views of the northern lights and starry sky. Guests can stroll through the impressive ice sculpture gallery and try their hand at this chilly craft, or request a unique, personal sculpture to decorate their igloo. Kids will enjoy a visit to Santa’s Resort where they can visit Santa’s house, sip hot drinks and munch on ginger biscuits by elves, and make friends with the local reindeer. For a truly Nordic experience book your own reindeer-drawn sled ride.
Icehotel, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
Home to the original Ice Bar and onto its 26th year of leaving the world in awe of its jaw-dropping creations, Jukkasjarvi’s notorious ICEHOTEL gathers artists from all over the world to transform 10,000 tons of frozen water into one of the world’s best-known sub-zero palaces. Guests can start their stay by hitching a ride to the hotel via dogsled or snowmobile. Surprisingly warm beds are ice blocks covered in reindeer skins. One popular activity here is to take a horseback tour to view the Northern Lights. To keep you warm, the ice block beds are covered in reindeer hides and thermal sleeping bags. There are warm and cold rooms here, and the hotel recommends that you book one cold night and a couple warm nights. Winter rooms are available between December and April. The Icehotel restaurant serves fine gourmet foods, the Jukkasjarvi Homestead offers traditional foods in a rustic environment, and there is of course the Icebar to lounge and get some icy cocktails.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway
The ancestors of the family that still manages this hotel today first settled in Sorrisniva in 1885 and, after putting together snowmobile safaris in mainland Norway, inaugurated the Igloo Hotel on the banks of the Alta River in 2001. While this hotel is the largest of its kind in Norway (about 2,500-square-meters in size) and it is located about 25 minutes from the Alta airport in Sorrisniva, if you’re looking for a more intimate experience with nature, then this is the place. The surroundings provide many options for snowmobile tours into the mountains and a wonderful sauna to take a dip after cold days outside exploring this region. Spend your day snowmobiling on the pure white open landscape of the Finnmark plateau or set off reindeer-sledding under the Northern Lights. The cozy Laksestuna restaurant, decorated with local slate, rocks from the river and wood, follows the food calendar for superb meals with only the freshest seasonal ingredients. This is the ideal place to stay if you’re seeking peace and serenity and if you are worried about the cold, the sauna here is heated every morning at 7 am to get you feeling nice and toasty before breakfast – and the hotel proudly boasts its ability to dress up to 450 people in warm winter clothes. This classy ice hotel welcomes guests to its ice rooms, but it also offers traditional Sampi tents called ‘Lavvo’.
Kirkenes Snowhotel, Kirkenes, Norway
Kirkenes has an extended winter season that sometimes extends through May as it is the most northerly of them all and located near the Russian border invites incredibly talented sculptors from the famous ice festival in Harbin, China, to come over and build the frosty fortress each year. This is often why Kirkenes stands out, because of the many beautiful ice and snow sculptures including the many outdoor activities it offers. Some of the most popular activities to choose from include cross-country skiing, a dog sled tour, Northern Lights tour, and an Arctic King Crab fishing tour. This is also a great hotel for foodies, because the onsite restaurant serves locally-sourced dishes. After dinner, hop onto the Aurora Express in search of the Northern Lights with an expert guide, or head to the warm lounge for midnight tea and coffee.
Snow Village, Kittila, Finland
Another unique accommodation in Finland is called Snow Village in Kittila. About 20 million kilos of snow and 350,000 kilos of ice are used to create Snow Village each year. There’s a snow hotel with rooms and suites, an ice chapel, log cabins, and even a three-story log castle. It’s in Finnish Lapland and features many colorful and illuminated snow tunnels that lead to the restaurant, bar, rooms, and ice sculptures. A highlight for overnight guests is the underground sauna. In the morning you’ll wake up to hot berry juice and a breakfast buffet in the log cabin restaurant. The Ice Restaurant offers guests a delicious three-course dinner. There’s also an ice chapel and a wooden chapel here that are perfect for weddings. Visitors can make a grand entrance on snowmobile to this winter wonderland, complete with rounded snow tunnels glowing with colorful lights and decorated with intricate ice carvings. For a frost-free night’s sleep, Snow Village has log cabins, including a 3-floor log “castle” less than 2 miles away from the ice village. Exciting activities include embarking on a husky-drawn ride, taking a moonlight reindeer safari (where you harness and steer your own reindeer), partaking in a traditional Lappish ceremony, or firing up your adrenaline with Ice Karting (think go-carts on ice). For the ultimate winter relaxation, we recommend renting the Gondola Sauna where up to four guests can enjoy two hours in the warm sauna lift as it glides over the surrounding mountains.
SnowCastle of Kemi, Kemi, Finland
Even if you’ve visited SnowCastle of Kemi in the past, it’s worth another visit because the architectural style changes every year. The temperature inside the rooms here is always around -5 degrees Celsius, but lambskin covers, fleece sheets, and sleeping bags rated for Arctic conditions make it surprisingly cozy. The SnowHotel, which can hold up to 48 overnight guests, is part of the SnowCastle that’s built each year in Kemi. When you stay in the hotel, you also receive breakfast and a visit to the SnowCastle. There’s a restaurant onsite that serves local specialties, like reindeer. This is a popular place for weddings in the SnowChapel and even honeymoons after a wedding is held elsewhere.
Snow Village, Montreal, Canada
Montreal’s premiere snow retreat has something to entice every adventurer. Guests can stay in a polar igloo or one of the standard ice suites, and enjoy the ice spa under the stars with “welcome” ice-cocktails in hand. Kids will love this snowy escape of endless snowball fights, where they can also slip down the glittering ice slide. Adults will enjoy the plethora of events put on by the village including DJ nights at the Ice Bar and weekly fireworks. Real ice-aficionados should dine at the village’s ice restaurant where they’ll be seated in ice chairs at smooth ice tables. Those who’ve had enough ice can enjoy movies and comedy nights in the heated “Ice-Breaker” dome.
Hotel of Ice, Balea Lac, Romania
Nestled in a mountain valley built on top of a frozen glacial lake, the Hotel of Ice is perhaps the ultimate snow escape. Guests can choose to stay in one of the hotel’s sub-zero rooms or claim their own private igloo near the hotel. After warming your hands by a flickering fire after an icy sleep, visitors can dine at the Chalet Balea Lac’s restaurant, serving traditional Transylvanian and Romanian dishes. The Hotel’s Winter Park offers the usual wintry activities like skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating, but it also arranges snowball fights, snowman-building competitions, and ice bowling. Travel to the Romanian Carpathians to visit this ice hotel, which is incredibly stunning. Winter at Hotel of Ice is a magical time that’s marked by lovely snow-covered peaks along a glacial lake. Each season brings a new story in the ice hotel’s architecture and design. The rooms in the hotel are completely made of ice, and there are also four igloos nearby for extra privacy.
Hotel de Glace, Quebec City, Canada
Although most of the ice hotels are located in Europe, here’s a Canadian one worth visiting in Quebec City. Hotel de Glace has some beautiful snow art and ice couches and tables paired with warm and cozy blankets. Take your pick from regular rooms, themed suites, and premium suites with fireplaces and even a private spa. If you’re interested in how ice hotels are made, take the hotel’s behind the scenes tour to learn about the construction and upkeep. Another fun activity is to learn how to create your own cocktail glass made of ice. The hotel is conveniently located just a few minutes away from downtown, so you can easily combine this stay with city sightseeing. Also nearby, you can check out the snow slides at Winter Playground, the indoor waterpark, arcade games for kids, and go on a dog sledding excursion. A celebrity in its own right, film crews – come to shoot everything from TV shows and ads to documentaries on sight – are regular guests. The hotel was even host to the press junket for Disney’s winter tale Frozen.
Iglu-Dorf Gstaad, Oberland, Switzerland
Whether you’re traveling as a couple or a family of six, Iglu-Dorf Gstaad is a fun and inviting place to stay in Bernese Oberland. You can choose to spend your time here at a multi-bedroom standard igloo, a romantic igloo, or a warm and toasty hot igloo. It’s well-suited for families, couples, and even business travel. Guests here love to take part in the snowshoeing sessions, either during the day or at night. The igloo restaurant specializes in fondue and other fun treats, and you can book fondue and appetizer packages at a per-person rate. Around 10,000 guests stay in the Igloo Village each year, and many more come to visit for the day.
Schneedorf Igloo, Austria
Schneedorf’s classic igloos accommodate four people each with two double beds and are the perfect mix of luxury and adventure. Overnight stays also include a welcome drink of tea or mulled wine, dinner, a continental breakfast buffet, and sleeping bag gear. Learn more about how ice structures are made by attending an igloo construction workshop, or check out the adventurous outdoor course amidst Ötz valley mountain scenery at the High Wire Garden. Mainly people come here for skiing.
Eskimska Vas, Slovenia
This is an Eskimo village in Slovenia that you can reach by cable car or hike to on snowshoes. The igloos in this hotel are cozy and feature ice block beds with plenty of warm blankets. There’s a restaurant that serves traditional Slovenian foods and an igloo bar to relax in. This is a great place to stay for outdoor adventure lovers, because you can play around with snowbikes, tubes, and sleds in the snow while you’re here.
Le Village Igloo, Avoriaz, France
An ice hotel in France may surprise some people, but there’s a lovely one in Avoriaz that features carved ice walls and ultra-warm sleeping bags for guests. Other hotel highlights are the snow and ice sculptures and the bar with its sunny terrace. This hotel has two igloo rooms decorated with cozy furnishings, and it can accommodate up to eight guests per night. Make sure to join the hotel’s “snowshoeing under the stars” experience with a mountain guide. You can choose a course that’s easy, moderate, or difficult. The best local dish to try here is the traditional cheese fondue.