You've heard of ice hotels, and they sound absolutely magical. You might have seen photos of the interior of an ice hotel, made from gleaming, glittering, glassy ice and sometimes full of fantastical carved ice...
Ice hotels are actually enormous igloos, and as such they work on the same principle. They're large structures made of blocks of ice, inside full of elaborate pure ice furniture, bars, saunas and beds. It's a heat transfer thing – ice has quite a low thermal conductivity, as does the air. The ice structure stops heat being transferred to the surroundings, because the ice and the windless air are both excellent insulators. The buildings depend on sub-freezing temperatures and usually melt in summer, rebuilt again from fresh ice every year. You'll notice the temperature difference as soon as you step inside.
What is the temperature inside the ice hotel?
The temperature inside an ice hotel rarely drops below minus five Centigrade. It sounds horribly cold but when you're wrapped up in suitable night clothing and snug inside a special sleeping bag, which the ice hotels provide for you, you stay warm as long as it's over minus 25 Centigrade outside.
What is it like to sleep in an ice hotel
It's silent inside your room, for a start. Unusually silent. The snow has a strong insulating effect that makes things very quiet and serene, and also really dark. Unless you live in a place with little or no light pollution, which is rare in Europe, you'll probably have never experienced such a dark night.
The best way to stay warm is to maintain a body temperature that's a bit less than normal, actually the best temperature for sleeping no matter where you happen to be. Ice hotels hold nightly survival courses designed to show you how, revealing the best way to use your sleeping bag to keep the maximum amount of heat in.
Because the temperature inside an ice tends to be a fairly constant minus five-ish, you’ll be lovely and comfy wearing thermal undies, a hat, thick socks and a medium-thick jumper.
How do you shower in an ice hotel?
You can't bring water into an ice hotel room because it'll just freeze solid. That's why they have separate areas with warm bathrooms, showers and often saunas, safe in a warmed building close by, often physically connected to the colder areas of the hotel. The rooms don't have en-suite facilities of their own, and that's all part of the big adventure
What do you wear to the ice hotel?
Functional clothing is your best choice. It's so cold above the Arctic Circle that being warm is a matter of safety as well as comfort. Many ice hotels will loan you suitable outer clothing like a snow-suit, boots, gloves and a really warm balaclava. Bring plenty of thermal underwear of your own, ideally wool, plus breathable clothes you can layer up to trap warm air in between and stay extra cosy. Layers are the best way to retain precious body heat, and materials that prevent sweating are the best of all. Sweaty clothes mean you get cold pretty fast.
Where can I stay in an ice hotel?
Canada, Finland, Japan, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and of course Lapland all have ice hotels for you to stay in.
Tips for staying in an ice hotel
• Visiting from December to February is intense and extra-wintery, with extreme cold and very little daylight
• March, April and early May is the spring in the Arctic, featuring long sunny days and temperatures ranging
from minus ten to 10 degrees Centigrade. In fact ice hotels are often the least busy during January, March and April
• The summer in the far north is short and mild, and it's light almost 24/7 because of the midnight sun
• The main Northern Lights season falls from September onwards as the days become shorter again
• Don't sleep in an ice hotel wearing cotton or synthetic clothing – wool is always the best and the warmest
• Make sure you use the loo before you go to sleep, to save you getting up and making your way to the facilities in the
• Book one night in an ice room and another in a warm room for varied experiences
• Bear in mind you might not enjoy the experience if you're claustrophobic
• Sharing a room is a great way to keep the ambience a bit warmer!
If you want to book yourself a magical ice experience above the Arctic Circle, we have a wide range of brilliant packages and choices available. Let's have an adventure!