Best Served Scandinavia specialists Sophie Sadler and Norire Arakelyan have travelled extensively around the world, but staying in an ice hotel still ranks for both of them as a favourite experience. Although a night on ice is an exciting prospect, travellers are often nervous, not knowing what to expect. So, we asked Sophie and Norire to share their tips for making the most of a stay in one of the coldest hotel rooms on Earth.
1. Take an eye mask
Sophie, who spent a night at the ICEHOTEL in Sweden, recommends packing an eye mask to make sure you can sleep comfortably. "Most ice hotel rooms are full of intricate carvings and sculptures, so they're usually well lit to showcase these – and prevent you from bumping into all the furniture. But because the ice and snow reflect light, even dimming the lights can leave a fair glow throughout your room. An eye mask really helps."
Art Suite, ICEHOTEL 365, Sweden
2. Bring plenty of light layers
The hotel will provide you with a thermal sleeping bag and your bed usually will be covered in furs, but it's a given that your room is going to be chilly. Sophie suggests packing multiple thin layers of thermals. "It's the air pockets held close to your body that keep you warm rather than the thickness of the material, so thin layers are best. And, having lots of layers means you can control your body temperature easily by adding or taking away."
3. Don't cover your face
Although it might be tempting, Norire says that covering your face while you sleep in an ice room can actually make you colder. "Wearing a hat is fine, but a scarf across your face will soak up the moisture from your breath, and you'll wake up delightfully cold and soggy!"
Kirkenes Snowhotel, Norway
4. Use the ice hotel toilet before bed
If you are in an ice or snow room, you probably won't have an ensuite bathroom – you will have to go into the main building for toilets and showers. "Once you are all tucked up cosy in bed, you won't want to get up again," says Sophie. "Since it may also mean walking outdoors in the snow, think ahead to avoid a cold dash."
Sophie at the ICHOTEL, Sweden
5. Cover your shoes
Norire spent a night in a snow suite at the Arctic Snow Hotel in Rovaniemi, and one of his takeaways was to cover your shoes with something (like a blanket) overnight. "If you leave them open to the Arctic air, they will be soaking and horrible to walk in come the morning!"
Arctic Snowhotel & Glass Igloos, Finland
6. When the visitors go, the bar is all yours
Most ice and snow hotels also feature an ice bar for enjoying a drink in subzero temperatures, but during the day they are usually busy with tourists. Sophie suggests waiting until the end of the day, when it's just the hotel guests. "Then you can really appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry that have gone into making such a striking space – and of course the artistry going on behind the bar, as well."
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Norway
7. Give the excursions a try
Sophie loved heading out for a dog-sledding tour when she stayed at ICEHOTEL. "Most snow and ice hotels offer a husky or dog-sledding excursion, and I highly recommend it. You get to see spectacular Arctic scenery but it's also really exhilarating – there's nothing like rushing through the snowy plains with a pack of excited dogs in front of you!"
Sophie at ICEHOTEL, Sweden
And, due to their Arctic locations, most snow and ice hotels offer plenty of other excursions, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing over a frozen lake, ice fishing and more. Getting out into the frozen wilderness will undoubtedly be the highlight of your stay.
Thinking of braving a night on ice? Explore more ice hotel holidays with Best Served.