Imagine if this winter you went somewhere cozy and wintry and cold? Like really cold? Maybe even colder than that? We’re not talking your annual ski trip. We’re talking about hotels constructed from snow and ice. These places don’t just embrace their natural (often Arctic) elements—they celebrate them. Imagine 31,000 tons of ice carved into the shape of a resort. Imagine travel by reindeer or a fireplace that doesn’t melt an ice room. They may be cold, but these hotels are also part fairy tale.
ICEHOTEL, JUKKASJÄRVI, SWEDEN
One hundred twenty-five miles north of the Arctic Circle, Sweden’s Icehotel is famous because it’s gone every spring. The rooms are all hand-sculpted, each remade every winter entirely out of ice. The experience begins even before you arrive—a team of huskies waits for guests at Kiruna Airport (where your hour-and-a-half flight from Stockholm lands) and a dogsled takes you to the property, past snow, snow, and reindeer. Once you arrive, the magnitude really sinks in. This is what 31,000 tons of ice looks like when sculpted into a small village (including an ice church—it’s a popular wedding spot). Its fifty-five rooms—the temperature hovers around two degrees—are a sculptural canvas for all manner of intricate carvings and designs etched into the walls. Recently, the owners added the Icehotel 365, a year-round structure for summer visits, when you can hike through the woods at midnight in the soft, silvery midnight sun.
HOTEL DE GLACE, QUEBEC CITY, CANADA
Every winter, this hotel is completely redesigned and rebuilt—which is possible only because it’s made entirely of snow and ice. It’s located about two and a half miles north of Quebec City, but it feels like the dead center of the North Pole. The village-like property includes a wooden sauna and outdoor hot tubs, where guests can warm up before turning in for the night. If you want a drink, bring your mittens: The bar serves its cocktails in glasses made of solid ice. And while you might be hesitant to sleep in a room that doesn’t break the freezing mark, arctic sleeping bags keep you warm no matter how cold it gets. If you’re really hesitant about the chill, spring for one of the suites, each of which comes with its own fireplace that curiously manages to not melt the ice.
IGLOO VILLAGE, GRANDVALIRA, ANDORRA
It’s possibly Europe’s least known country, but Andorra (right between France and Spain in the Pyrenees) is a tiny gem for nature lovers and skiers. Igloo Village, about twenty minutes north of the capital city of Vella, sits at the top of a hill (arrival is by snowcat) in the ski resort of Grandvalira. There are only five igloos, and each one accommodates up to six people in simple but comfortable quarters. The property also has hot tubs, a sauna, and showers, but the draw here is the stunning natural setting and outdoor pursuits—snowshoeing, tubing, skiing, snowboarding, and dog sledding are all on the agenda. It’s not as isolated as other ice hotels, so there’s also a wide range of restaurants and shopping nearby. Vella, the capital city—with the cobblestoned streets of its old quarter, the Barri Antic—has everything you’d want for a pre- or post-trip stopover.
KAKSLAUTTANEN ARCTIC RESORT, SAARISELKÄ, FINLAND
Finland’s Arctic region may be the best place on earth to see the Northern Lights—and Kakslauttanen is the place to stay. That’s because many of the “igloos” here are made entirely of glass, with unobstructed views of the night sky to ensure you won’t miss any of the action. There are plenty of other options, too, including log cabins that are big and comparatively luxurious (they come with fireplaces), while real igloos (the kind made completely of ice) are for those looking to rough it and connect most closely with the location. Aside from checking out the Aurora Borealis, you can go on a reindeer safari, arranged by the resort, where local herders guide you (and your reindeer) on a sled through the surrounding forest—and if you meet a few locals who want to chat about life in the Finnish Arctic, well, all the better.