When it’s catch-your-breath cold, but clichéd take-your-breath-away beautiful outside, do you shelter all snug and cosy or venture out? If those spaces are so special the snow and spruce seem to sing, it's unthinkable to stay in.
In Scandinavia, known for its sophisticated and simultaneously pragmatic style ethos, there is a perfect compromise to be enjoyed – rooms with outrageous views, framed so dramatically that the outside might as well be in, while you curl up in front of a fire or lie back in bed or a hot bath.
These hotels are so enticing you may never want to leave, as they are designed to make the most of those forests bristling with fir, ice-slicked lakes and rushing fjords.
Tree-house holidays, glass-topped igloos set in snow fields, hotels in Lapland wrapped in packages pretty enough to have been delivered by Santa, all share a fantastical wonderland so spectacular you want to watch it as long as you can. And without setting a foot out of these surround-vision hotels, you can.
So many hotels are set along shorelines. Manshausen Island Resort in Norway goes one better, with rooms jutting over the sea. Well not rooms as such, four sleek sea-cabins, awarded four awards at the world’s biggest architectural competition. And no wonder, cunningly cantilevered to overhang the deep sea blue, these glass and timber holiday cabins are as cutting edge as they come. They’re cosy too, the timber on the land end for privacy shielding cosseting bedrooms, the glass room over the sea making the very most of views over the Barents Sea to the dreamy, dramatic Lofoten mountains. It’s not just the scenery that captivates – the weather and light flex and fluctuate constantly. No need to put on multiple layers to experience them all here – simply take a seat by the floor to ceiling glass windows for a cinematic experience.
Mobile Camp on Lake Inari
Imagine a lake in Lapland, vast, wild, ice stretching for miles, its frozen shoreline a midnight moment’s forest, stars above the spruce. Imagine towing your home for the night to your chosen secluded spot on the ice, and settling in for the night. That’s the experience on offer at the mobile camp on Lake Inari in Finnish Lapland, central to Sami culture and in the centre of Northern Lights territory. The home is no ramshackle affair, it’s a mobile cabin you pitch where you please, complete with double bed, heat and light, but most important of all, huge windows and a glass roof from which to watch the aurora come and go, lighting up the sky and reflecting off the lake, saturating the solitude with flashes of colour. If extra magic is required, it’s possible to take a hot tub onto the lake too, and soak in the wilderness. For even more mobile pleasures, hop into one of the camp’s glass-topped Northern Lights viewing vehicles and chase the colours chasing the sky.
Giving a whole new definition to the term ‘tree hugging’ are the seven heavenly rooms perched among the wild pines of Swedish Lapland. The forest runs down to the Luleå river, the rooms of the Treehotel hang high in the treetops. You couldn’t be closer to nature or ask for more exciting architecture. Seven distinctive rooms dreamt up by seven different designers share the same extraordinary views but offer very different experiences. The Mirrorcube dazzles, a 4x4x4-metre room hard to spot on the approach, its exterior walls reflecting the snow below and the trees around. The UFO floats between branches, otherworldly, while the Dragonfly is slightly more down to earth, with metal that seems to merge with the forest. Guests have been known to return to sample each in turn, it’s that difficult to choose between their charms. Each is unique, but all share an attention to detail and interiors designed as much for comfort as style.
Bird's Nest Retreat
On an island in the middle of a river, held up by trees, the Granö Beckasin Bird's Nest Retreat is a hotel in a truly memorable setting. Swedish Lapland is a wilderness worth beholding, and here, it’s up high and personal. An eco-retreat, a perfect starting point from which to begin an exploration into Lapland, Bird’s Nest is so cossetting and so much a part of the wilderness, it’s just as easy to stay put in the cabins held fast by the canopies of the sturdy pines and look out over it all.
Arctic TreeHouse Hotel
There’s something so pure, so childishly fun about staying in a treehouse. But, those at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel are definitely for adults. Dressed in the best Scandi designer chic, you can expect everything from cosy armchairs to log-burning stoves and blonde-wood walls. Oh, and there’s the small matter of the oversized windows that breathe in the views of the surrounding forest in great floor-to-ceiling gulps. However, if you are bringing littler ones, you’ll be pleased to learn of the ‘Arctic Glass Houses’, which come complete with two bedrooms. Whichever you choose, you’ll also be able to explore your Lapland setting with a full range of winter and summer activities, before returning to the restaurant’s gourmet dining.
For a genuine back-to-nature experience, it's hard to beat this private island retreat in the forested wilds of central Sweden. Easily reached from Stockholm (the two combine perfectly for a city and wilderness break), it's a chance to really get away from it all as you're cast out to an uninhabited island where you'll stay in a rustic-luxury cabin, complete with firewood, food supplies and recipes to choose from. And, while you'll enjoy the comforts of hot running water and electricity, your stay will be designed to have the least impact possible on the surrounding environment. Get prepared to relax, decompress and return to nature in truly spectacular style.