World’s 10 Coolest Ice Hotels

Photo by Tom Corser

With the first flurries of snow come all manner of winter adventures. This season, we're going beyond skiing and snowshoeing to check-in for the night at an ice hotel. These magnificent structures are created entirely from ice and packed snow, and feature truly outstanding meltable art, in the form of snow sculptures and ice carvings. They may be chilly, but what these hotels lack in warmth, they make up for in creative amenities like a gondola that doubles as a sauna, ice-molded cocktail glasses and dinnerware, and reindeer-fueled sled rides. Here's where to check-in for an unforgettable experience.  

By Amanda Oppold

Courtesy of Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village

Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village

WHERE:  Saariselka, 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 a own reindeer-drawn sled ride.

When to Go: late December until end of April

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Finland Guide

Courtesy of Snow Village Canada

Snow Village

WHERE: Montreal, Canada

Montreal's premiere snow bunny retreat, Snow Village, 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-aficionadoes 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.

When to Go: January to March

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Montreal Guide

Chris Burton

Hotel of Ice

WHERE: 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.

Snow Village Finland

WHERE: Kittilä, Finland

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. 

When to Go: December to April 

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Finland Guide

Photo by Tom Corser

ICEHOTEL

WHERE: near Kiruna, Sweden

One of the world's best-known sub-zero palaces is Sweden's ICEHOTEL, built from the frozen water of the Torne River. 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. During the day, guests can explore the unique “ski in, ski out” photography and light exhibit about the construction of ICEHOTEL, or adventure into the frozen wilderness on horseback to see the Northern Lights. The hotel's restaurants serve food on—wait for it—glistening ice-cube plates.

When to Go: Year-round

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Swedish Lapland Guide

Dmitry Makarov via Wikimedia Commons

The SnowCastle of Kemi

WHERE: Kemi, Finland

This 21-room snow castle, now entering it's 19th season, is a destination for magnificent ice sculptures and frozen beauty. Built anew every season in a different architectural style, the castle takes about six weeks to construct. Guests can enjoy a meal around the glistening ice tables at the SnowRestaurant, enjoying specialties like cream of smoked reindeer soup or a filet of reindeer with game sauce and lingonberries. The castle also hosts the SnowChapel, where marriage ceremonies or christenings can be performed. During the season numerous shows are held at the castle's snow stage.

When to Go: January to  April

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Guide to Finland

Martine Oger/Dreamstime.com

Hotel de Glace

WHERE: Quebec City, Canada

Located only a few minutes from downtown Quebec City, the glittering Hotel de Glace features 44 rooms and incredible snow art. Upon arrival, guests are greeted with iced cider served in diamond-like ice flutes to sip while standing around smooth ice tables. Fortunately, there are plenty of warm blankets covering beautifully sculpted ice couches. The Behind the Scenes tour shows how the immense snow building is constructed, and guests can visit the Ice Workshop to make their own ice cocktail glass. We recommend splurging on the premium deluxe theme suite that comes with its own fireplace and private spa.

When to Go: January to March 

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Quebec City Guide

Kirkenes Snowhotel

WHERE: Kirkenes, Norway

At the Kirkenes Snowhotel, snowsuites feature decorations and sculptures made from ice and snow. SnowHotel's overnight guests are greeted with a drink made from local berries and then enjoy a locally-sourced, three-course dinner. Afterwards, they can wander the snowy lodge and pet the resident reindeers and friendly huskies. Adventures offered through the hotel include an arctic king crab fishing tour, a northern lights tour by husky ride, or a cross-country skiing tour.

When to Go: December to April

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Norway Guide

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel

WHERE: Alta, Norway

This frosty igloo hotel offers icy accommodations for any snow prince or princess. Guests stay in one of the igloo's decorated ice rooms or sleep under the stars in a lavvo—a teepee-like tent of the Sapmi people of Norway. One of Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel's must-do adventures is a snowmobile safari, which takes guests into the mountains and offers impressive panoramic views. Many guests head to the on-site sauna after your night spent in this winter wonderland.

When to Go: January to mid April

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Norway Guide

Courtesy of Eskimska vas Kranjska Gora

Eskimska Vas

WHERE: Slovenia

This Slovenian Eskimo Village is perfect for the wintry adventurer. Reach the village by a cable car ride up the mountain followed by a snowshoe hike. Then reward yourself by sipping on the house drink at the igloo bar or getting a taste of traditional Slovenian sausage at the Igloo restaurant. When you're ready to get out in the snow, there's downhill snowbiking (bikes with skis instead of wheels), snowtubing, and sledding. After a snow-filled day, individual igloos are outfitted with snow-block beds covered in warm sheepskin.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Slovenia Guide

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