Rebuilt from scratch each winter, these hand-carved ice hotels offer some of the season’s coolest (think minus 5°C) accommodation.
1. Sweden: Icehotel
The world’s original ice hotel —it first opened in 1989—is refashioned each winter using some 5,000 tons of ice cut from the nearby Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, a small village in Swedish Lapland. From its famous Icebar to its wedding chapel, every part of this subzero sanctuary is a sculptural masterpiece, particularly its 19 Art Suites, each individually carved by a different international artist. This season’s designs will include a three-meter-tall ice sculpture of an African elephant and a disco-themed suite called the Love Capsule (doubles from US$300; open Dec. 11−Mar. 31).
2. Canada: Hôtel de Glace
Set at the base of the Laurentian Mountains just outside Quebec City, Hôtel de Glace lays claim to being the only ice hotel in North America. It’s made over the course of six weeks from more than 30,000 tons of snow, with a different theme each year that local sculptors incorporate into its 44 ice rooms and suites, some of which come with fireplaces. An outdoor hot tub and sauna help ward off any lingering chills (doubles from US$310; open Jan.4−Mar. 28).
3. Norway: Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
You know you’re above the Arctic Circle when home is a village of 30 igloos. But basic accommodations these are not, decorated with stately bedframes and sitting areas carved from ice and topped with reindeer furs. There’s an ice sculpture gallery to peruse too, though the main reason to come to this northernmost part of Norway is to see the UNESCO-listed petroglyphs of the Alta Fjord, some of which date back to 5000 B.C. That, and the chance to witness the aurora borealis, best appreciated with a shot of blue vodka from the hotel’s ice bar (doubles from US$315; open Dec. 15–Apr. 3).
4. France: Village Igloo Blacksheep
Among the growing number of igloo villages popping up on ski mountains in the French and Austrian Alps, Blacksheep in the La Plagne area stands out for its charm. At 2,118 meters above sea level, the small cluster of two- to five-person traditional igloos forego dazzling design in favor of exactly what guests want after a day on the slopes: heavy sleeping bags and fur blankets, aperitifs and fondue, campfires and champagne, and views of Mont Blanc (doubles from US$170; open Dec. 19–Apr. 6).
This article originally appeared in the December/January print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Cold Comforts”)