Staying in an Ice Hotel
|About two hours north of Rovaniemi you’ll find one of the most unique and amazing hotels in the world. I’ve seen photos of ice hotels before, but this was my first time ever spending the night in one. Unless I win the lottery it’s likely to be my last! Although neighboring Sweden is able to claim the original ice hotel, there are a few more in Scandinavia and arctic countries and even some in places like Northern Japan or in the mountainous areas of Romania. All together though, there are about two dozen ice hotels and castles around the world.
I’m sure all the ice hotels are constructed in a similar manner, but this one for sure was created by packing snow over giant balloons until it stabilized. The deflated balloons are then removed leaving the snow structures behind. Frozen rivers like the one on the right are cleared of snow and pure blocks of ice cut out for sculpturing and decorations. You can see that the outside of the ice hotel is pretty unimpressive, but going inside is another world.
Of course the hotel has a normal lobby and normal restaurant for for those who don’t want to endure the cold. The real portion of the ice hotel is connected by the lobby and through a few giant external entrances that are probably 10 feet in height. I visited the ice hotel during a freakish warm spell where temperatures at night were in the upper 20s or -2C; almost unheard of being 150km into the Arctic at the end of December! Regardless if it’s 0C or -20C out, the inside of the ice hotel remains just below freezing. On a truly cold night it can provide some relative shelter from unbearable cold. On the right is myself showing my frozen breath.
|Once you’re inside you’re free to explore the ice hotel including any of the guest rooms as long as its before dinner time. Above are two decorations carved out from the walls in one of the common rooms. Below is another area located in one of the hallways that had various sculptures. In general anything carved out is going to last through until mid April. There are of course some people who occasionally touch the artwork and a few small teeth or other details break off and need to be repaired.|
|The hotel is naturally pure white and any ice sculptures are completely see through. The colors you see in the snow is done by lighting. For example on the left is a torch carved out of snow with a red light behind it to give it the same color as a flame. Just in case this turns into a real fire and sets the snow ablaze, the hotel has prepared by having a fire extinguisher nearby.|
|One of the most impressive works I saw where these barrels carved out of ice. The life sized barrels must have weighed a ton. When the ice blocks are removed from the river they are way to heavy to carry, so sculptures like these are either towed by a snowmobile or carried by a small tractor.|
|With such a special hotel, many guests come here to be married. As a matter of fact, I was told they have a wedding everyday in the month of December. In order to accommodate the ceremony the ice hotel has it’s own frozen chapel. Most guests try to keep the ceremony no longer than 15 minutes!|
|Like I mentioned earlier, there is a normal restaurant on site for those who don’t want to deal with the cold, but for everyone else there is the real ice restaurant. These photos above show two dinning rooms before dinner was being served. I’m not sure that they fill completely up, but I had a reservation for 7:30 and the kitchen was supposedly so backed up we didn’t get our food almost almost 9! Of course there is an ice bar which is photographed on the lower left. They serve a few unique things like hot chocolate mixed with various liquor or even shots served in glasses made completely out of ice. On the lower right is my food that I had ordered, elk pasta. Because the hot food coming out of the kitchen is essentially in a freezer when it’s at your table, you better eat it quick.|
|The door you see above is a level below the ice hotel and has a bathrooms, showers, and even a sauna. After dinner most will come here to get ready for bed and then head to bed. The rooms are marked either by numbers carved above the doorways or in the case of this hallway on the ice in front of the door. Your room is just an open doorway with some light curtains. Most guests choose to leave their important belongings in their car or in lockers provided by the hotel. The basic rooms are pretty much just domes without much decorations. For a higher price you’ll get the “ice suites” which each have their own theme. Below were two of my favorites that I saw before the guests had checked in. The ice bed in front of the shark by the way was actually carved out to resemble a wooden boat.|
|And lasty my own room! By the time I got here I was more interested in jumping in bed rather than taking photos so I wish I did a better job. I seriously feel like I got one of the best decorations they had, but I mostly used my flash or bright settings so you couldn’t see the golden colors reflecting off the walls. I slept pretty well and never was cold once I got inside the sleeping bag the hotel provided. Waking up and getting out of the sleeping bag in the morning isn’t so fun, but I’ve done much worse on some of my mountains.|