ULTRA CHILL: "Tron: Legacy" inspired this suite in Swedish Lapland. (Photo: extreme-design)
Yngve Bergqvist’s Icehotel located in Jukkasjärvi, a village about 125 miles above the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, may have the chill-inducing bragging rights of being the oldest (it received its first overnight guests in 1992), most referenced (it’s been featured in countless documentaries) and most high-profile hotel constructed from blocks of snow and ice. It may also be the only ice hotel that has enacted an ambitious goal to become CO2 negative by 2015 and spawned a franchise of vodka-centric Icebars located in cities well below the Arctic Circle like Tokyo, Copenhagen and London. And it’s certainly the only ice hotel out there that has embraced its inner geek and created an eye-popping guest suite inspired by the sci-fi film “Tron: Legacy.”
However, Sweden’s Icehotel isn’t the world’s only lodging where you can find chunks of frozen water being used in a capacity that goes well beyond a rattling machine at the end of the hall. There are several other ice hotels across the world catering to adventurous, layer-wearing travelers looking to hunker down for the night in a frozen fortress. Although they may have been inspired by the subzero Swedish trendsetter, each of these ice hotels is unique in its own right. Grab your mittens … let’s take a look, shall we?
Hôtel de Glace, Quebec, Canada
Located just outside Quebec City, a decidedly more accessible locale than Lapland, the Hôtel de Glace is North America’s only ice hotel (Chena Hot Springs Resort in frigid Fairbanks, Alaska, erected one in 2009 but this year the resort opted for an ice museum). Offering “an unforgettable experience between nature and urbanity,” 2011’s 32,000-square-foot Hôtel de Glace boasts 36 guest rooms and suites with ambient temperature between minus 3 degrees and minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees to 27 degrees Fahrenheit). Brrr. For those who aren’t keen on the idea of spending the evening in a frigid room huddled in an arctic sleeping bag, day and night tours of the Hôtel de Glace are available with access to the hotel’s North Face Grand Ice Slide, Ice Chapel and, of course, the Ice Bar for a post-tour hot toddy — or three.
SnowHotel, Lainio, Finland
Part of a sprawling Snow Village located more than 100 miles above the Arctic Circle, Finland’s SnowHotel attracts visitors from across the globe wanting to spend the night in the Lap(land) of luxury. Entering its 10th year in existence, the Snow Village is constructed from over 3 million pounds of snow and 660,000 pounds of ice. Amenities and attractions include 15 double igloo rooms, eight ice suites, an Icebar (igloo disco, anyone?) and a traditional log cabin restaurant that serves up Lappish fare and temperatures above the freezing mark. And because this is Finland, there is a sauna on the premises.
Kirkenes Snowhotel, Kirkenes, Norway
A new entry in the fabulous and frigid world of ice hotels is the 4-year-old Kirkenes Snowhotel in extreme northeastern Norway near the Russian border. Built by the folks behind Finland’s Snow Village, the Kirkenes Snowhotel offers the typical ice hotel amenities: spacious rooms with a whole lot of warm bedding, an ice bar fully stocked with vodka, opportunities for dog sledding and a nearby eatery where guests can warm up after a long and arduous day of being cold. Added bonuses: The Kirkenes Snowhotel is located within the Gabba Reindeer Park, and the town of Kirkenes itself will be of interest to World War II buffs.
Romanian Ice Hotel, Lake Balea, Romania
Located high in the Fagaras Mountains and accessible only by cable car, Romania’s remote, 14-room Lake Balea Ice Hotel offers subzero lodgings with a Transylvanian twist. Guests can pass the time at the hotel by sleeping in ice beds covered with reindeer fur, eating elaborate meals off ice plates, warming up at an ice bar, partaking in numerous wintertime activities (snowmobiling, ice skating, ice sculpting and the like) and checking out somewhat foreboding religious iconography carved out of ice. Unlike many other ice hotels, this one is open year-round.
Igloo Hotel, Sorrisniva, Norway
Claiming to be the world’s northernmost ice hotel, the Igloo Hotel outside of Alta, Norway, is a mammoth (nearly 22,000 square-feet), tricked-out igloo with 30 guest rooms and suites. Amenities include an ice chapel, ice bar and an adjacent, non-frigid service center with bathroom facilities along with a sauna and hot tubs for thawing out. Guests at the Igloo Hotel can dog sled along the frozen Alta River, take in the majestic Northern Lights, venture out on a guided snowmobile safari or enjoy a meal of fried reindeer with glazed vegetables and lukewarm cloudberry soup at the nearby Restaurant Laksestua. The Igloo Hotel recommends that overnight guests pack woolen underwear.