Norway's coolest nights
Ice and snow hotels have become a hot travel trend in northern latitudes. You'll find several to choose from in Norway, some of which are in the best spots to catch the northern lights!
Picture this: you’re lying in a room made of ice and snow. Your breath turns to vapour in the cold dry air, but underneath your pile of reindeer skins, you're nice and cosy.
Outside the blue walls, the northern lights dance across the Arctic sky. It’s exotic elements like these that explain why Norwegian ice hotels are so amazing.
Sleeping on ice
Are you wondering if sleeping in an ice bed is a very cold experience or if you need to bring any special clothes for your stay?
This may vary, so make sure to double-check with your hotel. However, most hotels provide you with everything you need for your stay. This is typically a sleeping bag made for extremely cold temperatures, a sleeping bag liner, and something to cover your head and neck. In addition, it is often recommended to sleep in nothing more than thermal or wool underwear. If you forget to bring your own, you can often buy this at the hotel.
Ice hotels often consist of two parts that are connected, a warm building and a cold section. In the warm building, you will find facilities like restrooms, showers, changing rooms, and lockers for your belongings. The temperature inside the cold part of the hotel is usually around minus 4 or 5 degrees Celsius.
1. Snowhotel Kirkenes
Located in Kirkenes, Finnmark, Northern Norway
Ice hotels offer an incredible winter wonderland and Snowhotel Kirkenes is no exception.
In Kirkenes, a small town that lies in Finnmark county in Northern Norway, you’ll find 180 huskies who take travellers on high-speed dog sledding adventures through the Arctic landscape. In addition, you can experience the incredible northern lights on clear evenings, if you are lucky. Go on a king crab expedition in the Norwegian Sea and savour some tasty crab at your hotel restaurant in the evening.
Experiences like these, in raw, untamed nature, have really caught on with both visitors from all over the world.
Kåre Tandvik, owner and founder of Snowhotel Kirkenes, is busy preparing for this year’s construction. He says that the name was chosen to reflect the actual building materials. A hotel made solely of ice would quickly become uncomfortable, according to him.
"It would be like staying in a glass house. You have to use insulating snow in the structure to seal the warmth in. That way, no matter how cold it gets outside, it will be a comfortable minus four degrees Celsius inside,” he says.
At Snowhotel Kirkenes, you can also choose to have a drink in the ice bar and sleep in the warm part of the hotel. You can also spend just one night in the cold part and stay longer in a warm room. There are so many options to choose from!
Tromsø Ice Domes
2. Tromsø Ice Domes
Located in the Tamokdalen valley in Troms, Northern Norway
An hour and a half from the city of Tromsø in Northern Norway by car, the tall mountains surrounding the Tamokdalen valley help keep the temperatures low during the two-month-long polar night. This is perfect when you’ve built an ice hotel there.
“We want to teach our visitors all about the Arctic. Here at Tromsø Ice Domes, you can learn about local wildlife, Sami culture, and Norwegian polar explorers,” says its general manager Eirik Tannvik.
Throughout the hotel, local Sami culture, northern lights, and more are represented through colourful lighting and beautiful ice sculptures.
You can spend the night wrapped up in warm reindeer skins. Tromsø Ice Domes also offers a broad range of daytime adventures, including dog sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and northern lights experiences.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
3. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
Located in Alta, in Finnmark county, Northern Norway
Every winter, artists sculpt huge blocks of ice and shape the snow. After about a month, the hotel is completed and is open to the public.
"Things were a bit slow during the first eight to ten years, but it’s eventually become a popular experience,” says Sorrisniva’s head of sales and marketing, Jan Roger Eriksen.
Sorrisniva is among the world's most famous ice hotels, right up there with Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel in Sweden, the hotel that started the concept as early as 1990. As its name implies, everything in the hotel is built of ice and snow, from the bed in which you sleep to the glasses from which you drink.
When spring rolls around the entire hotel is reduced to steaming puddles of water. This cycle gives Sorrisniva and its artists a golden opportunity to renew themselves each and every year.
“The special thing about Sorrisniva is that all our artists are locals,” says Eriksen. “When they’re not sculpting and decorating the hotel, they work ordinary, everyday jobs here in Alta. One is a hairdresser, another drives a postal truck, a third works as a chef.”
Although ice hotels vary in size and shape across the world, they all have one thing in common — they are very, very cold. One would therefore think that guests rarely stay for more than one night, but Eriksen says that is not the case.
“We’re seeing more and more people staying for a weekend,” he says. “That way they get to relax at the hotel and experience a wide array of activities in the daytime.”
Hunderfossen Snow Hotel
4. Hunderfossen Snow Hotel
Located near Lillehammer, Eastern Norway
Not all of Norway’s ice hotels are located in the far north. Just over two hours' drive from Oslo, in the direction of Lillehammer, the world’s southernmost ice hotel is built every winter.
The hotel is part of Hunderfossen Winter Park, a popular theme park based on Norwegian fairytales.
“There’s a magical atmosphere in the Winter Park every year, especially in the evenings,” says Hunderfossen's head of marketing Thor Willy Christiansen.
Due to its location in the south – several hundred kilometres from its sister hotels in Finnmark – the construction of Hunderfossen’s ice hotel begins significantly later. In Eastern Norway, ice hotels are sometimes dependant on modern technology to maintain stable low temperatures.
“The hotel is constructed in our annual winter park, and consists of 15 tonnes of ice and 1,500 cubic metres of snow,” says Christiansen. “We have a cooling system that keeps the temperature low when the weather turns warm. The hotel is built by our employees together with ice artist Elisabeth Kristensen and is inspired by traditional Norwegian fairytales.”
In addition to its incredible architecture and decor, the ice hotel at Hunderfossen also offers plenty of live entertainment.
“From fairytale shows in the Troll Forest and castle gardens to snow rafting, snowmobiles, and an amazing firework display that rounds off the winter evenings, every day is a magical and unique experience for the whole family,” says Christiansen.
Open in 2023: February 10-11, 17-18, 21-25, and March 2-4.
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