Kirkenes Snow Hotel (Kirkenes, Norway)

While snowbirds and other vacationers look to escape winter's wrath by heading south, thousands more are flocking to places like the Kirkenes SnowHotel in Norway where they can embrace mother nature's coldest months while wrapped in the warmth of an eye-fetchingly beautiful hotel constructed solely of ice and snow.

Located in the far northeast of Norway in a county called Finmark, there is little doubt the winters are cold, the winds can blow and the nights are long, but guests of the Kirkenes Snowhotel, snuggled in specialized bedding and surrounded by ice and snow, leave with nothing but warmth in their hearts.

The adventures to be had in Kirkenes are seemingly endless and those adventures are only accented by a night in the frozen hotel while the mysterious Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as Northern Lights, dance across the sky. Stargazing is a favorite activity of Kirkenes guests as the Northern Lights are considered to be one of the greatest wonders of the world.

Yes, the weather is a bit unpredictable in the darker, northern regions of Norway, but braving the winter months make for a vacation like no other. It may sound like a frigid way to spend a vacation but, with a wide array of activities ranging from dog sledding to skiing available, tourists quickly fall in love with the winter resort.

Staying in the SnowHotel

First opened in 2006, the SnowHotel, with 20 bedrooms, requires more than 15 tons of snow and ice that workers spend weeks carving, packing and molding into place. The influence of the professional Chinese ice artists can be seen not only in the handiwork of the structure, but also in the lit ice sculptures strategically placed about the hotel. The sculptures and ice bar are different each year and all the ice comes from a nearby frozen lake. Guests are amazed by the details and the beautiful wall carvings found throughout the wintery palace, which stays open from December 20 to April 20.

The hotel's rooms, which measure five meters in diameter, have everything a guest needs to spend the night. The beds are framed with ice blocks that hold a comfortable mattress, thermal insulation and sleeping bags graded for -35 Celsius. The sleeping bags are perfect for the polar region but, really, the internal temperature of the SnowHotel never drops below -6 Celsius. The rooms have curtains instead of doors, which helps the air circulate and spreads the shared warmth of sleeping bodies around. The warmth is, of course, trapped by the insulating effects of the tightly packed ice and snow. The only thing missing from the rooms are bathrooms which are found in an adjacent building along with showers and a sauna.

Some SnowHotel advice

Guests are encouraged to bring plenty of warm clothes and layers. Once checked in at the neighboring Rica Kirkenes hotel, guests are provided thermal overalls, hat, mittens, winter boots and wool socks. But, despite the extra additions, guests should bring their own winter wear just to be sure they get nipped by the polar temperatures.

People with claustrophobia have been known to not enjoy their time in the SnowHotel as much as others and, occasionally, people do need to head over to the Rica Kirkenes hotel for the night instead. Children over seven years old are allowed to stay in the SnowHotel, but only after the hotel's trained staff assess the child's ability to handle the cold. If kids are found to be too sensitive to the cold, the hotel does provide a place for them to spend the night indoors.

Activities

Between feasting on local cuisine in the neighboring Gabba Restaurant to red king crab catching excursions, guests of the Kirkenes Snowhotel never run out of things to do. There are also sled dog day trips, guided snowmobile and cross country ski tours, ice fishing and bus trips to hunt for northern lights. Many guests enjoy visiting the Gabba Reindeer Park where they can meet and learn about local reindeer which are raised as livestock throughout the region. There's also Sami tents set up so people can experience local traditions.

How to get there

There is an airport in Kirkenes, though getting there usually requires a stopover at the Oslo Airport. Many guests take advantage of the stopover to explore the historic city. Getting to and from the Kirkenes Airport and the SnowHotel is up to the guest, but car rentals and other transportation services are available.

 

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