In the last couple of decades a new type of vacation experience has sprung up; Ice Hotels. Buildings, rooms and facilities artificially created each year out of ice.
As you might expect, these hotels are found in northern climates, in countries where the temperature level in the winter is sufficient to sustain such a building. Countries such as Canada, Finland and Norway are all typical northern countries with the environment to keep a building formed from ice upright for a few months.
Montreal – not just a hotel, an entire village! The Montreal snow village consists of more than just accommodations. Other places built out of ice include two bars (that feature events called an 'ice breaker'), two restaurants, and even a wedding chapel. Yes, you can even book an entire wedding if you want to get married in the real Canadian north.
Quebec City - Just down the road from the snow village in Canada is Quebec City's Hotel de Glace. Because the hotel is recreated each year from scratch, it's not even the same hotel from year to year – layout and features can and do change. And while they also have wedding packages, they have something else you might expect from a visit to a country as cold as Canada – you can include a dogsledding adventure with your stay! One would guess that they haven't included the other traditional activity of making maple syrup in their packages because the hotel's probably melted by then...and watching sap boil down into syrup is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
Visitors to Canada are reminded that while Canada does have free health insurance for Canadians, visitors from outside of Canada should have their own private health insurance. In fact, even visitors from other provinces inside of Canada should have what is known as out of province travel insurance coverage. You can purchase coverage online from a variety of Canadian providers such as Allianz Global Assistance (or many others).
Bjorli - the Bjorligard Hotell isn't just a standard ice hotel. Instead it's a regular upscale destination hotel that adds on ice hotel accommodation each winter.
Kirkness – The Kirkness Ice Hotel has set itself up to be a destination location. Like the Quebec location in Canada they offer dog sled trips. But they also offer snowmobiling, ice fishing, snow shoeing, trips to see the Northern Lights, and fishing for King Crab. Basically if you can freeze your butt off while doing an activity, then they have it.
Sorrisniva - billed not as a hotel but instead as an igloo, it evokes thoughts of cramped living quarters with low ceilings and perhaps even an entrance that requires you to crawl in on your hands and knees. Even if that is the case, they've got one thing going for them – in 2014 they've themed their hotel with Vikings! And who doesn't love a good Viking battle?
Kemi – Billed not as a hotel but as a snow castle, these folks must be the rebels of the ice hotel business. First, it seems like a bit of a stretch to call any single storey building a castle! Like many of the other ice castles they have a chapel to accommodate weddings. However they also have a variety of more active physical activities not commonly found elsewhere. They include things such as snow golf, ice fishing, snow tubing/slides, cross country skiing, curling, and something called kick sledge. Kick sledge appears to be cross country skiing with only one ski. This forces you to kick with one foot, like you're on a scooter. Definitely a fun hotel for anyone who loves the outdoors in the cold.
Lainia - another 'not just a hotel but an entire village' this ice hotel again has a unique twist on destination travel. They offer the standard weddings and dog sledding trips but they've mixed it up with something unique – travel by reindeer. If you've ever wanted to play Santa Claus behind a sled pulled by a bunch of reindeer, this is the hotel for your. This hotel is 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, and justifies the refrain 'cold enough for you?'
This is just a sample of some of the many ice hotels around the world – there are many more. If you're in the northern hemisphere, chances are you could easily make the trek to visit one at the right time of year. And they all have unique and fun cold weather activities.
What about you, have you ever visited an ice hotel? If not, would you consider visiting one? Or do you prefer a warmer vacation destination?