Glance at the reviews given by guests on travel sites for Ice Hotels, you’ll surely find the words, ‘bucket list’, ‘once-in-a-lifetime’, ‘magical’, and ‘dream trip’. These descriptions are pretty much synonymous with the most favorited BUCKiTDREAM fantasy excursions. At first it seems a little odd; why would anyone want to sleep in a room encased in ice? And why would this become a popular bucket list aspiration? That is until you read the reviews of some of the most awe-inspiring ice hotels out there. These snowy wonderlands are becoming increasingly popular with world travelers seeking something a little out of the ordinary.
Perhaps it has something to do with the popularity of Game of Thrones and the icy escapades of The Wall. Winter is coming and within these ice hotels you can easily imagine yourself as Jon Snow strangely comfortable despite the wildlings outside. I mean, every town has a warm hotel decked in rich mahogany (the Hotel de Ron Burgundy) but who can boast a hand-sculpted ice hotel? A handful at best. Over here at BUCKiTDREAM, we have saved you the hard work by researching the most-loved and popular ice hotels from across the globe.
Before we start, it should be noted that all the hotels in our top three choices recommend that you bring a few items with you for your stay in order to make the most out of your experience. A common tip is to bring warm clothes; a winter coat, good fleece, thermal undergarments, gloves, a warm hat and wool socks. Ensuring you have a few warm layers on means that you can make the most of all the outdoor activities and winter delights that these ice hotels offer as part of their special packages.
Go To Where It All Started – at The ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
We start first with the original and most renowned of the ice hotels – Sweden’s ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi. The world’s first ice hotel and still its most popular, the ICEHOTEL is built from the frozen waters of the majestic Torne River. Despite residing 124 miles within the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, the ICEHOTEL is surprisingly accessible. You can travel by car or taxi from the nearest airport at Kiruna, travel by train from Narvik in Norway or Luleå in Sweden, or, for a more authentic Lapland experience, the hotel can arrange for you to travel via dogsled or snowmobile from Kiruna.
Once you arrive you will immediately see why this is the ice hotel from which all others have gained their inspiration. Each season, thousands of tons of frozen water is taken from the Torne River and sculpted into a completely new structure. Every room is designed and built with a special design and there is an ‘art suite’ decorated by ice sculptures made from local artists. The deluxe suite at the ICEHOTEL comes with a private sauna and other distinctive rooms include the elephant room, the peacock room and the Nordic chalet. There is even a room that projects an Aurora Borealis onto the ceiling for your own bespoke Northern Lights show.
The construction of the hotel is becoming a tourist attraction in itself with 50,000 people from across the world coming to see the architects attempting to beat last year’s design. Roman columns, gothic arches, glassy domes, human hands, ice chandeliers, snow trees have all featured in previous designs and each year provides the artists with a blank canvas to express their artistic flair. Once your eyes have adjusted to the frozen artwork adorning the lobby, the ICEHOTEL’s knowledgeable and friendly staff will welcome you to the hotel with hot lingonberry juice and take your personal belongings to a warm room for safe storage. Now it is time to tour the hotel and be astonished by its aesthetic ingenuity, crystal clear ice statues will transport you to another world. A popular place to unwind and adjust to your new icy surroundings is to visit the IceBar for a snowy cocktail or two, with all drinks served in ice glasses. However, the ICEHOTEL is not an arctic snow station like something out of a Captain Scott expedition; it offers a plethora of wintery activities and excursions to keep you warm and enthused throughout your stay.
Guests can visit the ‘ski in, ski out’ photography and light exhibit about the hotel’s construction, go for solitary walks in the arctic forest and experience absolute stillness and peace or go on horseback expeditions to witness the Northern Lights. You can explore the frozen Torne river on snowmobile or by dogsledding, discover the natural beauty of the wilderness in a guided tour run by one of the hotel’s experts. And if that doesn’t make you exhausted, there’s the option to take an ice-sculpting class or dine under the polar stars at the hotel’s high-quality restaurant.
You need not fear going to bed and waking up as an ice cube as the hotel has this taken care of. The strangely warm beds are ice blocks covered in numerous thick reindeer skins and guests always report on how comfortable and tranquil their sleep was. I think it must be the reindeer hides in the immaculate arctic air. If you have any trepidation you can always choose to stay in the sheep-counting room that is designed and built to ensure the soundest of sleeps. So while the ICEHOTEL may not be the cheapest option on our list, its cost reflects its focus on originality and staff expertise. As they say, you have to experience the best before you experience the rest.
The Heavy-Hitting Newcomer – The Hotel de Glace in Québec, Canada.
The latest avalanche to hit the slopes of the ice hotel world is the Hotel de Glace in Canada. Valcartier Vacation Village CEO Guy Drouin has thrown his weight into making this Québec hotel the best in the world with a $70 million investment in its yearly running. This financial muscle is already reaping dividends, with the ice hotel winning the Québec Tourism Grand Prize and the Fideide ‘Event or Tourist Attraction’ by the Québec Chamber of Commerce. The scale of the hotel really packs a punch and it has heavyweight aspirations. In total it boasts 44 rooms and suites all decorated with bedazzling ice sculptures. It is no mistake that Disney chose to base its press junket for the global hit ‘Frozen’ here. Hollywood celebrities and famed figures from across the entertainment industries have chosen this hotel to ‘Let It Go’ and relax.
A mere ten minute drive from the center of Québec City, the staff at the Hotel de Glace go all out to make an enchanted first impression on their spellbound guests. Iced cider is served to new arrivals on transparent, smooth ice tables adorned with warm blankets. Then guests are treated to a behind-the-scenes tour on what goes into building such a pristine snow palace.
Even in the most basic of rooms, each person can tailor their surroundings to their wishes with the option of having one, two or even three queen-sized beds to each room. For a more personalized experience, guests can choose from a range of delightfully decorated theme suites that alter each year. Of course, arctic sleeping bags and blankets are provided for each room. Due to the brilliance of its design and the regulated temperature of the interiors, guests have the choice to book a premium deluxe theme suite that comes with its own fireplace and spa. We know what your thinking, “fire what”, but to save your question, no, we don’t know how it works either but let’s just call it magic!
Speaking of magic and enchantment, more so than any other hotel in this list, the Hotel de Glace really does cater to families and hopes to delight the little’uns. There is a snow playground with exquisitely sculpted ice slides that will occupy the children, the hotel also leans on its allegiance to the film ‘Frozen’ by playing the smash hit ‘Let It Go’ as children enter the lobby. The passion and enthusiasm children have for the Disney film shows no sign of abating so why not treat them to this experience, as it is guaranteed to stop any incessant nagging (well, for a little while at least).
Further family activities include the snow-shoe trail (all shoes provided by the hotel) and guided walks. When the kids have gone to bed there are ice-sculpting classes in which adults are invited to shape their own cocktail glasses and then use them to knock back a few at the Ice Bar afterwards. Finally, a massive selling point for all overnight guests is that between 9 pm and 9 am, all the overnight guests have access to the Nordic relaxation area with its outdoor spas and sauna. What better way to unwind and truly appreciate the glacial tranquility of this utterly magnificent hotel.
Experience Lapland at The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta, Norway.
If the idea of a memorable vacation is to ‘get away’, you can’t get further away than the top of the world. The Igloo Hotel in Alta resides very close to Nordkapp (the North Cape) which is the most northerly point on the European continent. Lapland is the closest thing our planet has to Narnia and any visit to the picturesque landscape is not complete without a visit to Nordkapp, and in particular, a stay at the Igloo Hotel. The hotel is more of a bespoke affair than the other ice hotels, with only 30 or so rooms that are booked out fairly quickly each year. Despite its small size it is easily accessible from the small town of Alta that has regular flights from Norway’s capital, Oslo.
The reason for the high demand for staying at this ice hotel over the few that Scandinavia offers is its pristine location for witnessing nature’s lightshow, the Northern Lights. Open since the year 2000, the Igloo Hotel differs from its competitors by boasting that it is the place to see the Aurora Borealis. Every year offers a different experience as it evolves design for each winter. The diverse ice sculptures are different from the other ice hotels mentioned as there is more of a design emphasis on accommodating local artists and indigenous culture. The hotel is proud of its Northern Lights tours, reindeer-sleighing and dog-sledding excursions. You’ll even get the chance to listen to local Sami folk tales in the beating heart of this indigenous land.
So there is a heightened focus on the authenticity of the location and the people that run it. Indeed, the ancestors of the family that run the hotel first settled in the area in 1885 and truly know the surrounding nature. As a result, they are experts in running activities that make the most of the stunning landscape. You can spend your day exploring the Finnmark plateau on snowmobile; whether you pretend to be James Bond whilst doing so is another matter. Take a wander by the frozen Alta river and witness moose and reindeer in their natural environment. Why not try reindeer-sledding under a night sky full of Northern Lights? The hotel’s Laksestuna restaurant also offers the freshest and most seasonal of local ingredients including grouse and reindeer. You can wake up from your reindeer hide slumber to a warm freshly brewed coffee and recharge your batteries with the hotel’s renowned all-you-can-eat-breakfast.
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