Norway’s famed ice and snow hotels offer some of Europe’s most unique accommodation; they’ve become almost emblematic of Scandinavia’s commitment to stylised yet hardy living. Borrowing from the age-old design and insulating principles of the region’s forefathers, structures – in all their architectural splendour – are rebuilt year on year.
Delicately carved artwork adorns walls while carefully positioned lights bring out the best in the ice’s ethereal blues and glowing whites. And, for those worried about the temperatures that dip just below freezing, thermal sleeping bags keep you warm while reindeer furs provide the atmosphere.
Something of a gateway to Arctic Finnmark, Alta’s Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is the world’s northernmost ice hotel. It’s also distinguished by its excellent location for watching the Northern Lights. Set between pine forests and river-formed canyons, it makes for an impressive backdrop to what is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena. Indeed, there’s a whole host of activities that make full use of the hotel’s undisturbed natural surrounds. Join a Sami family on a reindeer sledding experience, swapping stories around the fire in a traditional tent, or go a little faster on a snowmobile excursion. There’s even ice fishing and dog sledding for that true Scandinavian experience.
Back at the hotel, accommodation is in a series of igloos whose interiors feature intricately carved statuettes, designed to sparkle in the ice’s iridescence. To warm up in the morning, there’s a traditional Sauna, first stoked at 7:00am each day while the hotel’s restaurant serves gourmet takes on Norwegian dishes. Think fresh vegetables and fresher fish. Come the evening, perhaps enjoy an aquavit in the ice bar.
For something even more remote, head to the Kirkenes Snowhotel, situated just off Norway’s eastern border with Russia. Expert ice craftsmen are flown in each year from China to create themed rooms and ice statues. They also turn their expertise to its famous Icebar where even the glasses are formed from ice. For warmer accommodation, look to the new Gamme cabins, styled on traditional Sami huts. Thanks to its location, locavores will be treated to steaming bowls of fish soup by the fire and dishes seasoned with wild herbs and cheese from nearby farms. Of course, there’s also a full complement of wintery activities including king crab fishing, husky sledding, midnight sun rafting rowing boats and fishing equipment available to borrow.