In the north of Norwegian Lapland, a few kilometers off Kautokeinoveien, on the banks of Alta river stands Sorrisniva Igloo hotel. Tucked away in the middle of Norwegian woods, this place is not one of those one discovers by accident. Every December, the chambers of ice and snow are built anew, from ice blocks kept in the freezer over the summer, and resident artists from around the world carve the patterns of their imagination into hotel walls and pillars. The artists’ fantasy is not restricted by anything but a common topic chosen each year to lead the entire design of a new ice hotel. Ancient pagan gods, creatures of the sea, beasts of the forest – you just need to wait to know what the theme will be this upcoming winter. In 2015, the new Igloo hotel will open as early as 15th of December and stay open until spring.
Most of these quiet winter nights, you can see Aurora Borealis up in the sky, above the tall tree giants. In fact, Northern lights can be seen as early as late August, and as late as April, provided that the sky is clear and the solar storms are active. In winter, guests can take a ride on a snowmobile or a husky sled – the two typical activities available in any part of Lapland during this season. In the summer, riverboat excursions is the main entertainment that allows guests to break the lazy and quiet flow of life inside the Norwegian forest. Autumn is high season for berries, and spring – well, in spring you sit impatiently, awaiting summer, and watch the ice hotel disintegrate.
One thing you should not look for here is permanence, as the structure will inevitably melt down every summer, leaving behind memories and thousands of pictures taken by Sorrisniva’s visitors. The water will run down to the river, and instead of ice igloos there will be just the wooden hotel building in the middle of Lapland beyond the Arctic circle. The only constant point of Sorrisniva Igloo hotel is the place for the ice church. Every winter, the church sees several weddings and sometimes baptisms performed under its icy dome.
‘Holy cow, who would ever want to get married in the freezer!’ you might exclaim.
The cool thing about having a wedding reception and wedding ceremony in a hotel made of snow and ice is that you get to drink alcohol out of carved ice glasses. As you might guess, they do not go to the dishwasher afterwards, which means guests get to keep their ice glass as a souvenir (smashing them against the floor is tempting, but no, don’t).
Inside the ice rooms, constant temperature is 3-4 degrees below zero.
‘Who in their right mind would sleep in the freezer?!’ you might wonder. Well, inuits do. This is why the place is called igloo hotel.
With the help of traditional wisdom, visitors are guaranteed to stay warm during the night. Ice beds are covered with mattresses and reindeer skins, and warm sleeping bags for subzero temperatures are provided. Ice hotel is not something you would rent for a month or even a week: normally guests stay for just one night in the ‘freezer’ rooms and then move to one of the warm rooms in the wooden part of the complex. You can see your own breath as you prepare for bed, and your fluffy teddy bear PJs have never seemed so convenient. Oh well, at least there are hot tubs in the hotel for when you start turning into an icicle.