BUILT ENTIRELY OF ICE AND SNOW, THESE GLACIAL GETAWAYS ARE AS EPHEMERAL AS THEY ARE MAGICAL
BY AMANDA McCOY
ICEHOTEL / JUKKASJARVI, SWEDEN
Opened in 1989 in the dramatically-sited village of Jukkasjarvi in Northern Sweden (population 548), this is both the largest and longest-running ice hotel in the world. Every year in early November, visionaries from around the globe gather to carve guest suites (including chairs and beds) from of blocks of pure ice from the nearby Torne River. They produce 35 “arctic rooms” in all 15 “art suites” and 20 guest rooms, with each suite assigned a different theme from its designer, one that has never been applied before whether giant lollipops, mythical creatures, or dramatic landscapes.
Rooms are kept at a frosty 19-24° Fahrenheit, and come equipped with expedition-grade sleeping bags and reindeer hides to keep guests cozy, but standard sleepwear includes thermal underwear, warm socks, and a hat. The recommendation is to book one night in an ice room (available through April), then an additional two to three nights in the adjacent Scandinavian chalets (non-ice, and open year-round). The morning after an arctic overnight, guests are treated to a glass of lingonberry juice and invited to visit one of the piping-hot saunas before dining in the (heated, rest assured) restaurant. For dinner, get ready to feast on local Scandinavian delicacies like Swedish Bleak Roe, Arctic Char, and poached cod loin. Suites start at approximately $600 per night. Marknadsvägen 63, 981 91 Jukkasjärvi, icehotel.com
Hotel De Glace / Quebec City, Canada
Each year, once winter has officially settled over the Province of Québec, Village Vacances Valcartier (a multi-acre vacation retreat just outside of Québec City) celebrates the return of this seasonal snow resort. As the only ice hotel in North America, the lodge makes certain not to let European counterparts show it up. In addition to spacious ice-chiseled suites and studios, there’s also an on-site ice bar (serving drinks in cocktail glasses crafted purely from… you guessed it) and an ornate frozen chapel perfect for a bona fide dreamscape wedding.
The overnight experience begins with a frozen welcome drink to get in the spirit. Guests are then invited to check into a room in the nearby Hôtel Valcartier to freshen up, shower, and store luggage, and when ready to get cozy in their arctic abode, are transported to suites via dogsled. While every room is equipped with deer furs and thermal sleeping bags, the hotel’s premier accommodation, the Premium Deluxe Suite, pumps up volume with a fireplace and hot tub. There’s an additional outdoor spa with Jacuzzi tubs, too, designed to pamper under a star-studded Arctic sky. Special packages can include discounts on “thermal experience” beauty treatments and massages at Aroma Spa. Premium Deluxe Suites start at $800 per night. 1860 Boulevard Valcartier, Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, valcartier.com/en/accommodations/ice-hotel potatoes from local farms, and fish from the Lopphavet stretch of open sea and Alta fjord.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel / Alta, Norway
A 30-minute drive outside the resort town of Alta in Norway will transport the curious and intrepid to an entirely new realm of wonder at the outer edge of the Arctic Circle. The northernmost ice hotel in the world, this is poised in a prime aurora borealis viewing location (in fact, Alta is nicknamed “the City of the Northern Lights”), but it doesn’t let these dancing beams nab all the glory. Inside the snowy walls of the resort, scores of complex, hand-carved sculptures and thoughtful details abound, from the 30 guest rooms to the ice bar. A warm living room area and restaurant provides respite from the chill, with the latter serving locally inspired cuisine—its wild game coming from the nearby countryside, potatoes from local farms, and fish from the Lopphavet stretch of open sea and Alta fjord.
Throngs of outdoor activities are available, from the therapeutic and relaxing (think outdoor Jacuzzi under the stars) to the exhilarating and wild (driving full speed into the wilderness on a snowmobile safari). Rates start at $565 for two in a double room. Sorrisniva 20, 9518 Alta, sorrisniva.no
Lapland Hotels SnowVillage / Kittilä, Finland
Nestled high in the Finnish Lapland, 125 miles into the Arctic Circle, sits an expansive ice carnival that changes in size, shape, and fashion each year. This superb resort reinvents itself every winter with a new theme this year’s guise centering on arctic illusions with a mythical edge. Craftspeople from around the world were commissioned to turn 44 million pounds of snow and 700,000 pounds of ice into dazzling works of art. Along with the arctic guest rooms and suites, there are also warm cabins with private hot tubs, a full-service ice restaurant and bar…even an ice chapel. The long corridor that winds through the village is a striking sight, featuring towering walls of pure ice carved into sculptures and scenes from a fairytale world.
For an immersive dining experience, the restaurant serves traditional Finnish cuisine on sparkling ice tables (the hotel will provide warmer clothes to diners if needed). Delicacies include cold-smoked reindeer, marinated forest mushrooms, and Arctic Char. Post dinner, wrap up in a fur blanket and sip on a Nordic-inspired cocktail in the romantic, candlelit atmosphere of the coldest bar in the world. There’s gourmet hot chocolate available, too. Lainiotie 566, 99100 Kittilä, laplandhotels.com