In two decades, ice hotels have become a hot travel trend in northern latitudes. In Norway you’ll find several, and not all of them requires a long, costly expedition to reach.
Published: 23 November 2017
Picture it: you’re lying in a room of ice and snow. Your breath turns to columns of vapour in the cold dry air, but underneath a stack of reindeer-skins it’s nice and toasty.
Outside the blue walls, you hear the howling of restless huskies, while northern lights flickers across the arctic sky. It’s elements like these that make up the norwegian ice-hotel experience, and it’s more popular then ever.
The first snow has just fallen on Southern Norway, but in Alta they’ve already started building the worlds most northern lying ice-hotel. It’s 18 years since Sorrisniva was first built in Finnmark's arctic landscape, making it the second of its kind in the world ever made.
Last Monday, seven artists began chiselling away on huge amounts of ice and snow, and in just a month the hotel will once again be open to the public.
"It was a slow haul the first eight or ten years, but eventually it’s become a popular experience, says Sorrisnivas head of sales and marketing," Jan Roger Eriksen.
Sorrisniva is among the worlds most famous ice hotels, right next to Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel in Sweden, who started the concept as early as 1990. Everything here – as the name implies – is built of ice and snow, from the bed you sleep in, to the glasses you drink out of.
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 her in Alta. One is a hairdresser, another drives a postal truck, a third works as a chef."
Ice hotels varies in size and shape across the world, but one thing they all have in common. They are – naturally – very, very cold. One would therefore think that guests rarely stay for more than one night, but Erikson says otherwise.
"We’re seeing more and more people who stay for a weekend," he says.
"That way they get to relax at the hotel and experience a wide array of activities in the daytime."
Adventures in wintery wonderlands are something you’ll experience at many ice hotels, and the Kirkenes Snow Hotel is no exception.
Here you’ll find – among other things – 180 huskies who brings travelers on speedy adventures with a sled through the landscape. In addition, you can see the northern lights on clear evenings and fish for king crab in the Norwegian Sea, where the catch is brought back and cooked in the hotel restaurant.
It’s raw, unspoiled experiences like these that’s really caught on with both local and international travelers.
"Around 50 percent of our guests come from Asia. Many also make the trip from Germany, USA, Australia and Eastern Europe. There’s a good mix of travellers here."
Kåre Tandvik, owner and founder of the Kirkenes Snow Hotel, is busy preparing for this years construction. The name – he explains – was chosen to reflect the actual building materials used. A hotel made solely of ice would quickly become uncomfortable, he he says.
"It would be like staying in a glass house. One is dependant on using isolating snow in the construction to seal the warmth in. No matter how cold it gets outside, it will be a comfortable minus four degrees inside," he says.
Kirkenes Snow Hotel - just like Sorrisniva - has different themes for decorations every year. For the upcoming season, artists have been inspired by their closest neighbours.
"This year the focus is on the kremlin and Russian architecture," says Tandvik.
"With the border just seven kilometers from the hotel, it was a natural choice for us."
Not all of Norway's ice-hotels are located in remote territories. Just over two hours drive from the capital towards Lillehammer, the worlds most southern example is being built for the eleventh time in 2018.
The hotel will be part of Hunderfossens Winter Park: a popular family destination based on Norwegian fairytales.
"There’s a magic atmosphere in the Winter Park every year, and especially in the evenings," says head of marketing, Thor Willy Christiansen.
Because of it’s location – several hundred kilometers from it’s sister-hotels in Finnmark – the construction of Hunderfossen's ice hotel will begin significantly later. In this part of the country one is often dependant on technological aid to maintain the temperature at a low and stable level.
"The hotel will be constructed in our yearly Winter Park, and will subsist of 15 tonns of ice and 1500 cubic-meters of snow," says Christiansen.
"We have a cooling system that holds the temperature down when the weather turns warm. The hotel is built by our employees, cooperating with ice artist Elisabeth Kristensen, and will be inspired by traditional Norwegian fairytales."
In addition to it’s wonderful decorum, the ice hotel at Hunderfossen also stands out with it’s wide offering of live entertainment.
"From fairy tale shows in the Troll Forest and castle gardens to snow-rafting, snow-scooter riding and an amazing firework display that rounds off the winter evenings. Theres always a magic and unique experience for the whole family," says Christiansen.
Norway's oldest and the most northern ice hotel in the world.
Opening date: 15 December
Kirkenes Snow Hotel
Snow-hotel with a wide offering of activities.
Opening date: 1 December
A family-friendly theme park based on Norwegian fairy tales. Builds an ice hotel in it’s Winter Park every year.
Opening date. 9 February