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What Is It Like To Sleep Overnight In An Ice Hotel?

Updated on May 8, 2013

In this article we are going to give you a first hand account of exactly what sleeping in an Ice Hotel is actually like. If you are planning a visit to an Ice Hotel or even considering one, then we will tell you just how it all works and what it's actually like to sleep in a room made from just ice and snow. We will also tell you a little bit more about Ice Hotels to familiarise you with the whole concept and basically explain to you what you should be expecting.

High in the Northern Hemisphere around November time there is a growing trend for building Ice Hotels. Twenty years ago nobody had ever heard of the like but nowadays this is something that is becoming more and more well known and more and more affordable. There are several Ice Hotels dotted around the globe now and each winter these are built up and then come the spring they melt back into nothing. Each building is different from the next but they all have one thing in common, they are very cold! For some people the thought of staying in one of these frozen buildings is terrifying, but we are here to tell you that it's not all that bad. So now let's tell you just what it is actually like in an Ice Hotel.

The Ice Restaurant

Welcome To Winter Indoors

One of the nice things about a cold winters day is being able to come in out of the cold and huddle up round a roaring fire. That is of course unless you are staying at an Ice Hotel. Ice or snow hotels as they are also sometimes known are made purely of snow and ice. That means that the temperature inside has to remain below freezing to keep the walls from melting. Each building is obviously that little bit different but they are all designed in similar ways. You get tunnels made from snow and rooms that are domed shaped usually. The people who build these use special inflatable moulds and covered these with snow, then they remove the mould and your left with a solid structure made from frozen material.

Many of the hotels actually make their own snow and ice whereas others cut it directly out of frozen rivers and lakes. Inside the buildings you can expect to see beautiful sculptures often carved out of the very walls. Many of the hotels have bars and restaurants built all out of ice and snow. You sit down on a seat made from ice and eat from a table made from ice. Don't let this panic you though, they usually put a reindeer skin down for you to sit on or a simple foam mat to keep you warm.

Another feature that you can expect to see is somewhere to warm up. Most have heated restaurants and toilet areas although during the night the heated areas are often closed with the obvious exception of the toilets. Although you may assume that it's awful being in such a cold place, these buildings are often built up near or in the Arctic Circle so the temperature outside could easily drop to -30 degrees, so coming inside to a temperature of around -5 degrees can often feel quite pleasant.

One Of The Bedrooms At Lainio

What About An Overnight Stay

Sometimes you can visit the Ice Hotel for a basic tour during the day, but for a real experience you should think about staying overnight. Each hotel has different routines and methods of keeping guests comfortable but generally they are all similar. The room you sleep in has a constant temperature of around -5 degrees. The rooms are lit with little LEDs which do not heat up and melt anything. This does mean however that you will probably not be sleeping in total darkness, there is always a translucent glow in the room.

The bed that we slept on when we visited an Ice Hotel was made of one giant block of ice but it did have a thick mattress sunk into it. This means you are sleeping on something warm and comfortable rather than just a slab of cold ice. In some of the hotels the beds are covered in reindeer skins but the one we visited was just a simple mattress. You are provided with thermal sleeping bags and a thin sleeping bag liner which goes inside your sleeping bag. These are very warm indeed and although you are in sub zero temperatures you don't really feel the cold inside your sleeping bag.

You might think that wearing all your clothes is a good idea when sleeping, however this is wrong. If you wear all your layers you will start to sweat and then this will make you wet and then cold. You are told to strip down to your thermals and sleep in these. You are also told to place your outer clothes under your sleeping bag and sleep on top of them, this keeps them warm for when you want to put them back on in the morning. Be careful not to leave anything on the ice part of the bed or any clothes on the floor as these will get very cold and can even freeze to surfaces.

Our Bed In The Morning

How Does It Work When You Sleep Over?

Again each hotel is that little bit different. We stayed at the Lainio Snow Village Ice Hotel in northern Finland. This particular setup was quite easy to follow. You were allowed to be in your room any time from 10pm onwards. During the evening you could venture out in search of the Northern Lights or you could visit the Ice Bar. Then when it was bed time you went down to a heated underground bunker where you collected your sleeping bag and liner. Once you return to your room you take of your outer layers and hop into your sleeping bag. Once inside you soon warm up and the only part of you that feels the cold is your head. You may wish to wear your hat for sleeping, this is something I did and it kept my head and ears warm.

Some people sleep very well in these surroundings. Snow and ice are great insulators so sound does not travel far at all. So while you are in your room you really don't hear anything at all. The little glowing lights make it a little hard to sleep and as your breathe cools on the edge of your sleeping bag it does tend to get a little damp which is not overly pleasant.

In the morning you can request a wake up call and one of the staff will come and wake you up with a cup of hot berry juice. The worst part of the entire visit is getting out of your sleeping bag in the morning and getting dressed, but once this is done you can make a dash for the heated restaurant where hot breakfast is served with lots of fresh coffee to warm you up.

On Of The Snow Tunnels

The Overall Ice Hotel Experience

So how could we sum up a visit to an Ice Hotel. Well quite simply it's cold, uncomfortable and expensive but magical, enchanting and memorable. A stay at any Ice Hotel will not be a night spent in luxury, chances are you will not get that much of a good nights sleep. But the reality is that this is one of the most magical places on earth. The structures are so impressive and so unlike anything you will have ever experienced before, because of this it's well worth a cold nights sleep. The price is also a little on the high side, but you can understand why when so much work goes into building these temporary structures that only last for a few short months.

Every year these buildings are made all over again so each year the same hotel can be completely different. Often world class ice sculptors are brought in to create some amazing pieces of art and again each year these are completely different.

If you do fancy visiting one of these places then they come highly recommended. Sleeping in them is far more comfortable an experience that you might expect and if you wrap up warm the temperature does not really bother you all that much. A stay at an Ice Hotel really is well worth considering and is an experience that you will never forget.


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      Jennifer Arnett 4 years ago from California

      That sounds like a fun adventure. I'm so glad that they have a heated restaurant to run to in the morning. Your picture of the ice tunnel is stunning.