Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ice Hotels - Believing in Ice Castles and Palaces.

I’ve always been fascinated by ice. It may sound weird being thrilled by such an ordinary thing, but it’s true. Maybe it is because of the way it reflects light or because of its ephemeral existence, I don’t know. But maybe because of that fascination I’ve always been attracted by all kinds of tales and stories about ice castles and ice palaces. Imagine all the frozen ice-crystal chandeliers, ice thrones, ice spikes, ice dungeons… have I said ice a lot? Anyway, I was really excited a few years ago when I found out that those places really existed. Of course, all the fantasy and magic reduced to the real world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not… cool. I’m talking about the ice hotels being built every winter these days. The most famous are the ones at Sweden and Quebec, Canada, although there are some at Norway, Finland and Romania as well, plus some that I am forgetting.

First of all, you should know that if you want to spend a night in one of these hotels you should go having in mind that it’s going to be expensive. If you find a really good deal (a really good one) you might be paying about US$300 per room per night on a double basis, but expect to pay US$400 to US$600, and that’s just for the cheapest room available. You also have to pay for the food, the activities, the drinks at the ice-bar and all those kinds of things. But well, I guess that’s not really expensive if you have in mind that you’re going to experience something really magical and special.
Ice hotels work like this. On early winter, the hotel is built using ice blocks “harvested” from different frozen rivers or lakes around the place where the hotel is going to be built. They use steel frames to keep everything together, as well as snice, a kind of hybrid between snow and ice that makes the part of the mortar, gluing together the ice blocks, just like bricks. Bookings have to be made well before in advance, as there are usually not that many rooms. These -5°C rooms are usually categorized, just as regular hotels, following how many “services” they have, ranging from basic rooms with just a bed, to themed rooms with ice sculptures, and even fireplaces and spas. The lobby is usually filled with ice sculptures and columns. And you’ll be wondering about the loo!! Well, ice hotels are usually built next to a regular warm and cosy hotel or sometimes they have special buildings that have toilets, showers and locker rooms to leave all your luggage (that you’re not allowed to take with you to the room).

About not freezing yourself to the point of becoming a popsicle, they recommend that you take three layers of clothing with you: underwear that lets moisture escape; a thin, warm middle layer, and an outer layer that cuts wind and let you move freely. When you go to sleep, they give you a special artic sleeping bag that you put on top of the deerskin covered ice bed, and with that and some smart thermal underwear they say you won’t be cold at night. Now, according to some comments I’ve read, it is a matter of personal predisposition to cold. Some say they slept perfectly well, and some say they couldn’t sleep all night because they were freezing, but even so they said the experience was totally worth it. They let you sleep until about 8 am, when they come with a hot beverage to wake you up so they can get the room ready for the next guest arriving on that day at 6 pm.

All ice hotels usually have a spirit-sponsored bar, maybe Absolut or Finlandia. They are usually expensive, charging about US$15 to US$20 per drink. There may be some food presented on ice sculptures as well. You can also book several activities to enjoy in the rest of the day, like dog sledding, reindeer sledding and snowmobiling. At night you can usually see the northern lights. You can have a business function in the hotel or even a wedding as well. Non-guests are allowed visiting the hotel until 6 pm, but they can stay in the bar if they want.

Well, knowing all this, I really want to satisfy the child that believed in ice castles that lives in me, so I may be booking a night in one of the ice hotels in the world some of these days. What about you? Would you like to live that experience or is it just not worth the money and the cold? I’ll leave a couple of links if you want to know more. Don’t miss the Trip Advisor reviews! They say all you need to know from a guest point of view.

1 comment:

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