The Igloo Hotel: What’s ‘Sleeping on Ice’ Really Like?

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta, Norway

In my last blog post I wrote about how youth hostels have been a vital part of my travels, but lately, and on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been travelling a lot for work which enables me to stay in some rather cool hotels of the Scandinavian variety. Of these hotels, none have been cooler than Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel: in every facet of the word.

After receiving the news that I was going to Finnmark, the area known as Norwegian Lapland, and as part of this trip I‘d be spending a night in one of the world’s most unique accommodations, I could hardly contain my excitement. I felt like I was heading off on an Arctic exploration where I had to brave the harsh conditions of ‘sleeping on ice’; or at least I pretended that was the case. I thought of Roald Amundsen, and after him, Louise Boyd, and for a few wistful minutes I regarded myself in the same adventurous esteem. But in reality I was sleeping inside a glamorous ice hotel metres away from a sauna, hot tub and a cosy wood-cladded bar and restaurant.

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta, Finnmark

The showers and toilets are also located in the ‘warm area’ so I recommend you go before sleeping – you don’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night to go!

Restaurant Laksestua in Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta

The head chef at the Igloo Hotel is Johnny Trasti, who won Norway’s chef of the year in 2009!

High above the Arctic Circle, in a town in Northern Norway, you will find the Igloo Hotel in a small town called Alta. In this part of the world all cities, towns and villages are comparatively very small but they have so much to offer, especially for explorer types in pursuit of their next challenge. However, more recently people are coming to Finnmark for another reason, no longer is it to say “I’ve crossed the Arctic Circle”, but to say “I’ve seen the Northern Lights”. As a result of this popular demand there has been a large increase in visitors, which in turn has helped boost the profile of other activities such as husky-sledding, snowmobiling and – to the main topic – a night in the Igloo Hotel.

The hotel is made completely of snow and ice, even the rooms, beds, and bar – right down to the glasses!

Inside the Igloo Hotel in Finnmark, Norwegian Lapland

Interestingly, this ice hotel is re-built every year, ice is resourcefully collected from the nearby Alta River and a team of 10-15 people participate in the construction which takes approximately six weeks to build.

The biggest obstacle the crew have to face is the weather; it’s one of the few times people pray for freezing cold weather! Warm days delay the building process, but luckily the temperature this far north is usually always below freezing point during the winter. With this in mind the Igloo Hotel opens at the beginning of January to mid-April, it then melts away until it’s time to begin building again for the following season. This means each year the hotel is completely new, and to emphasise this, the designers choose a new theme each year to decorate the hotel in, last year the theme was Norwegian fairy tales, and this year is Vikings.

Ice sculptures at the Igloo Hotel in Alta

Ice sculptures inside the Igloo Hotel

Viking Ice Sculptures at Igloo Hotel 2014

The Igloo Hotel is the 1st and biggest ice hotel in Norway, this means that each year the ‘ice architects’ have more experience and familiarity with how this kind of unique engineering works, and it shows! The moment I opened the reindeer covered door and stepped inside was like nothing I had witness before, I stood in a state of wild bewilderment. If a mirror had been held up to my face, you would have been able to see all the unsightly silver fillings in my mouth! In fact, my reaction was very similar to Joanna Lumley’s, England’s national treasure, who stayed in the Igloo Hotel a few years ago. Her trip to the Igloo Hotel and Arctic Norway was part of a BBC documentary called ‘Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights’. This clip is soooo funny you have to watch it:

As I began walking further into the ice hotel, more and more sculptures began to appear, and all the details they carried. I thought I had seen the best of it all until I turned left and noticed a cross carved from ice. I was looking at the Ice Chapel.  Sculptures of the bride and groom had been carefully carved, not forgetting the roses – which were real! I’d love to see the wedding photos of the people who have been married here; I’m dying to know what the bride wore on her feet too, because heels are not a wise choice!

The Ice Chapel inside the Igloo Hotel in Alta

The Honeymoon suite in the ice hotel

Honeymoon suite in the ice hotel, Norway, Lapland

This honeymoon suite also has mood lighting to set the tone ;-)

I half expected Elvis to make an appearance because that’s how over-the-top everything feels, but at the same time, this place feels surprisingly uncommercialised too. I guess a place in the Arctic isn’t for the average holiday-goer. The climate is cold, and often inhospitable and dark. For a long time such regions were tackled by few: explorers, polar scientists, and sporty types looking to test their endurance levels. But the Arctic is having a renaissance; as I mentioned earlier, the Northern Lights are attracting people from all over the world to visit in hope of seeing this celestial phenomenon, and to meet this demand new hotels are cropping up and airlines are adding new flight routes.

Northern Lights in Alta, Northern Norway

Photo of me in front of the Northern Lights in Alta, taken by Trygve Nygård

So was I cold, and how well did I sleep?

The temperature is between -4 and -7 degrees in the igloo hotel and surprisingly, I wasn’t cold and slept very well. Obviously, if I had turned up wearing a T-shirt and shorts then I wouldn’t have fared so well. The hotel equips everyone with two sleeping bags that have the capacity to keep someone insulated right down to -25 degrees, and also a reindeer skin to lie on, so combining my own thermals, two pairs of wool socks, and winter clothes, I was extremely well provided for to ensure I would be as warm as possible considering the subzero temperatures. The only area of me that was exposed to the cold was my face, this sensation can be compared most closely to the feeling of sleeping with a window open – quite refreshing I must say!

The corridor inside the Igloo Hotel which leads to the rooms

Inside the Igloo Hotel in Alta, Norway

Inside the Igloo Hotel, Alta

This is probably as cosy as an ice hotel can possibly look!

Inside the Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy the idea of sleeping on ice then the Igloo Hotel offers day visits, this is something I would definitely recommend because the best bit for me was seeing it for the first time. The startlingly blue light, intricate ice sculptures, and cool atmosphere goes down as one of life’s adventures.

I hope there are plenty more to come….


For more information visit the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel wesbite: www.sorrisniva.no To find holidays to Alta and the Igloo Hotel visit: www.taberhols.co.uk 

Would you like to sleep in the Igloo Hotel in Northern Norway?

Comments

  1. Vangelis says

    Wow! Amazing photos and article. I’ve always wanted to visit here but money and time constraints have always prevented me from doing so, but reading this has rekindled my love and passion to want to visit here again. Thank you so much and keep up the good work!

    Van

    • says

      I know Jenny, it’s hard to believe that this ice hotel is built each year! I love that a different theme gets chosen every year too, it adds to the uniqueness of the place. Although a hectic process, I can imagine all those involved must feel immensely satisfied afterwards!

  2. says

    Ice hotel’s have fascinated me for a long time. I recently visited one as we were going on a husky sledge ride there but I’d love to stay overnight in one – maybe just the one night!

    • says

      I’d like to visit the one in Kirkenes too Kathryn! And the one in Sweden – the world’s first ice hotel! Husky sledding is sooooo much fun isn’t it? Always the highlight of any trip to the Arctic!

      Oh yes… one night is enough ;-)

  3. says

    Words can’t express how cool and fancy this hotel is. Worth paying any price! I would love to stay there at least one night! :D Maybe for my honeymoon :D!

  4. says

    Wow sleeping in an ice hotel has always been on top of my bucket list! And I thought you’d be freezing in there -though it wouldn’t make any sense, cos who would want to sleep in an ice hotel while they could freeze for free in the woods?? ;)

    • says

      The Norwegians have a saying: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”, if you don’t have the appropriate clothing then potentially you would freeze! Layers, layers, and more layers :)

    • says

      Hi Shikha! Oh you wouldn’t want more than one night sleeping in an ice hotel (consecutively at least!), so that helps keep the splurging down to some extent! Yes, I was surprised by how well I slept, I think it’s a combination of absolute silence and a lack of distraction that helps too! Plus usually in the Arctic you’ve probably had quite an activity packed day which means you’re ready for sleep! I hope you make it there!

  5. says

    Well, it sure must feel cold, it looks gold too!
    I would prolly try for a short visit and they I’d get out of there.

    Hmm… one thing I never see about these hotels: the bathroom, the shower…? I bet you won’t bathe in ice cube-filled cold waters with penguins!

    • says

      Hi! I mentioned in the article that the bathroom and shower is located in a warm section outside of the igloo, so it’s a very good idea to make sure you go to the toilet before sleeping because it won’t be a fun experience haha!

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