After leaving the Santa Village on Boxing Day we moved to the other side of Rovaniemi, to a slightly more remote location, to stay at the Arctic Snow Hotel.
First built in 2008, the hotel is built every year for the Christmas season, open in December and January only. Construction starts in October/November when they cut the ice from the Lake to build the main structures of the hotel, sauna’s and restaurant including tables and chairs, they then make 30,000m3 of snow by machine to finish the structure before the natural snow caps it, after which they just maintain it through the winter. It’s below zero inside the hotel. It’s quite a process to sleep in the ice rooms, you need to strip down in a common change room to thermals and boots, leave your clothes in a locker, take two sleeping bags to the room and bunker down for the night like a caterpillar in a cocoon. If you need the toilet you need to go back to the change room to get dressed and go outside to the main building in -10C or less, if someone yells out ‘The Aurora’ you also need to rug up and go outside if you want to see it. You get a certificate to state you ‘survived the night’.
In 2014 they built the first glass igloos, by contrast they are super comfortable, they have heated floors, ensuites, different lighting options to reduce reflection in the glass roof, an electric Aurora Alarm, glass roofs to see the Aurora from and fully motorised beds so you can just press a button and tilt yourself to the best viewing angle without even getting up!
We opted for the glass igloo!
I do want to come back and sleep in the ice rooms when the kids are older though.
You do get a tour of the whole hotel on arrival.
There are also ice saunas and outdoor spas but they are split into short 1 hour separate male and female use at 9pm and 10pm only.
The Ice Bar. This bar is only open for two ‘happy hours’ at 5:30 and at I think 9:30.
The Ice Hotel. Some rooms, the suites, are quite elaborate, with coloured lights and ice sculptures, the standard rooms are less elaborate.
The Glass Igloos. Ours was No. 20 in a great position at the back corner so it was not surrounded by other igloos and had no one else in the view.
The Ice Restaurant. There are three restaurants at the hotel. The log restaurant specialising in glow-fired salmon, the restaurant in the main building and the Ice Restaurant in the snow building where everything is made from Ice, including tables and chairs and even the desert plates. You need to pre-book your restaurant choice before you arrive and even pre-book your choice of meal, so they can cater for everyone.
We chose the Ice Restaurant and between us we had all the meal options, Elk, Salmon and Vegetarian. It was an amazing experience and the food was fantastic. It was funny when Ari knocked over his glass of water and within minutes it just became part of the table top, no need to clean up!
The main intention for us coming to the Ice Hotel and staying in the glass igloo was to try and see the Aurora Borealis – Northern Lights. It’s a hit or miss type scenario. The conditions were perfect, it was cold at about -14C and the sky was clear. We were all asleep by about 9pm. At 11:02pm we were woken by the buzzing of the Aurora Alarm and looked up to see faint green light hazes moving across the horizon, it slowly intensified and we saw some swirls of green higher in the sky. By 11:20pm it was fading away again never to return that night. I think we were extremely lucky to see the lights considering we had only one night in the glass igloo. We never would have seen them elsewhere as we couldn’t sit out in the cold for hours with the kids keeping them awake til almost midnight. Unfortunately I didn’t take the time to learn how to use our DSLR on long exposure so the only photos I got were on my IPhone. I am not sure how they look on a computer screen, if you can see the lights at all.
The next day we also spotted some colours in the sky.
The kids made a lovely friend at the Ice Hotel, from Holland, they actually first met her at Snowman World, they went off touring the place together for ages and have vowed to become pen-pals.
Lastly, there was also a resident reindeer at the hotel.