Imagine yourself huddled around an ice-sculpted table in a lively igloo-bar, perched comfortably on a fur-covered ice stool as you sip an ice cold (literally) hand-crafted beverage from frosty glass carved from ice while you trade stories with your friends or fellow travelers about the day’s adventures.
If this sounds like your kind of holiday, a stay in an ice hotel can make all these dreams a reality. From epic ice sculptures to Northern Lights excursions, to outlandish winter activities (downhill bike racing, anyone?) and remote snow villages, these are the world’s most noteworthy ice hotels:
Hotel de Glace & Snow Village, Québec City, Canada
This French-Canadian city held nothing back when they debuted North America’s first ice hotel in 2011. The concept of Hotel de Glace is a totally encompassing experience with absolutely everything sculpted from ice and snow. Only open for Québec City’s coldest winter months (January – March), this hotel offers 30 different ice-rooms, famed for elaborate ice sculptures, in which the temperature never exceeds 5 C (41 F); polar sleeping bags and thermal mattresses are provided. The Snow Village grounds ensure you never have to leave, enticing guests with a 250-person capacity ice bar as well as an ice restaurant - complete with ice tables and ice chairs - serving gourmet Nordic dishes. Adults can cut loose during D.J. hosted parties at the ice bar and the whole family can enjoy the weekly firework display. If you need a night off from the cold, head to the “Ice-Breaker” room where you can watch a film or comedy show – sans ice.
Hotel of Ice, Balea Lac, Romania
The aptly-named hotel has an even more appropriate location; it’s nestled in the Carpathian Mountains (the second largest mountain range in Europe) atop a glacier at 6,700 feet above sea level. This is Romania’s “newest” hotel as it’s rebuilt every winter with ice from the nearby Balea Lake. Each design follows an ever-changing theme, giving this hotel an intriguing appeal year after year. Each of the 12 rooms are decked out with ice-sculpted beds, tables, shelves, couches and chairs, all of which are draped in fur. The temperature in the rooms fluctuate between -2 C to +2 C (28 F - 35 F). Enjoy creative cocktails at the bar and feast on holiday favorites in the intimate restaurant boasting a seasonal-inspired menu (Autumn, Christmas, New Year, and Easter). Guests can partake in cold-weather activities such as snow-shoeing, skiing, sledding, and ice skating in the quiet, snow-carpeted setting. Bonus: the neighboring ice church, complete with frosty pews, is open to everyone and also performs baptisms.
ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
Masterfully crafted and open year-round, ICEHOTEL is a wonder to behold. Settled in a quiet, snow-clad forest 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, the hotel is rebuilt each year with a new theme and design. As one of the few ice hotels that's opened year-round, the ICEHOTEL 365 serves as a permanent structure that is cooled by solar panels during the summer months. Watch the Northern Lights over the glittering Torne River, from which the ice is harvested to construct the hotel every year. Take an ice-sculpting class, meet sled dogs or take a snowmobile tour.
Snow Castle, Kemi, Finland
Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock
For the more refined snow bunnies looking for a sophisticated experience, Snow Castle may be just the ticket. It doesn’t take long to feel like royalty as you’re whisked along the turret-lined entranceway into a fairy-tale palace made solely from the frozen sea water from Bothnian Bay. The castle, perched on a hill overlooking the water, boasts 12-foot high walls and massive ice sculptures (contributions by local artists) scattered throughout the grounds. The hotel also features an art gallery and a matrimonial-equipped ice chapel. The rooms are really where this hotel’s attention to details shines; the walls are made to look like large granite bricks reminiscent of an ancient fortress and sculptures carved right into the wall dominate the superior rooms. Breakfast is served in the heated castle lounge and the on-site restaurant and ice bar boast extravagant menus. Bonus: The city center of Kemi is just 500 meters away and Kalli Ski Center is a quick jaunt up the road.
Iglu-Dorf, Zugspitz, Germany
This hotel is an awesome choice for families or a group of friends who love to ski and are up for an adventurous journey to reach the destination. Set against the Zugspitze Glacier, this igloo village offers both family and romantic rooms, plus a bar and restaurant made entirely of ice. Located in close proximity to one of the most popular ski destinations in Germany, the village is great for skiers looking for more adventure. The fun doesn’t stop there; Eskimska Vas offers all sorts of entertaining winter activities like snow sculpture construction, classic igloo construction, snowshoeing, Arctic Winter Games and much more. The hotel also features an open-air jacuzzi buried in the snow to warm you up after a long day of adventuring in the ice.