Incredible Ice Hotels and Snow Castles of Finland

Requiring over 1000 truckloads of snow and 3 weeks of work for a team of 15 sculptors to create, the largest ice hotel in Lapland reopens today. Enduring temperatures between 32 to 23F (0 to -5C), you sleep on beds made of ice complete with sleeping bags and fleeces — and a survival guide on how to make it through the night.

There’s no natural light — all rooms are lit with multi-colored lights and bedecked with elaborate carvings. An ice bar, restaurant, walkways and lobbies have also been built in the hotel at Snowvillage near Kittila, Finland.

Three additional rooms have been have been carved from the ice this year, so up to 60 guests per night can enjoy a frosty stay in the 30 igloo rooms at Lapland’s largest ever ice hotel.

To warm your bones in the morning, hot berry juice is served to help to thaw you out. There are also 2 “warm” subterranean rooms available for the less hardy or adventurous travelers that can’t cut the sub zero conditions.

An ice bar and restaurant, ice slides and ice sculptures have also been created to keep you entertained on the 3 square mile (7.5 square kilometer) hotel site which has been recreated every winter for the last 8 years.

The entire ephemeral complex disappears come spring, as it melts away when temperatures rise once again.

“It seems that if we have a very cold autumn then the spring will be warm and the Snowvillage will melt earlier.” Snowvillage designer, Heini said

“But, as like this year, our autumn has been warm, our spring should be colder. So hopefully we’ll be taking guests until April next year.”

Kittila is popular holiday resort located in the province of Lapland, Finland, situated 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle and surrounded by seemingly limitless winter wilderness.

All ice hotels are typically reconstructed every year, and are dependent upon constant sub-zero temperatures during construction and operation.

The walls, fixtures, and fittings are usually made entirely of ice, and are held together by snice — a type of frozen water with physical characteristics that make it an intermediate between snow and ice — which takes the place of mortar in a traditional brick-built hotel.

SnowCastle of Kemi
The Mammut Snow Hotel is not an ice hotel per se, but a snow hotel, as it’s made entirely of snow, located within the walls of the SnowCastle of Kemi, which is the largest snow castle in the world. It includes The Mammut Snow Hotel, The Castle Courtyard, The Snow Restaurant and a chapel for weddings.

The SnowCastle is located at the port town of Kemi on the Gulf of Bothnia in northern Finland, 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of the Arctic Circle. Set close to harbor-side houses, the castle becomes visible through dim street lamps.

Built every year with a different architecture, the 24-bedroom castle takes about 2 months to complete. Many of its furnishings and decorations, such as the ice sculptures, are made of ice.

SnowCastle restaurant in Kemi, Finland 2006

The SnowRestaurant has ice tables and seats covered with reindeer fur, as well as ice sculptures. The ecumenical SnowChapel with 50 to 100 snow pews has seen many weddings of couples from as far away as Britain, Japan, and Hong Kong, and features a great ice cross shining translucently at the altar.

The SnowHotel offers a choice of double rooms and a honeymoon suite, all of which are decorated by local artists using local materials.

The SnowCastle of Kemi also hosts such things as an adventure land for children, a theatre and ice art exhibitions with lights and sound effects. Many opera singers and dancers have performed in the SnowCastle of Kemi.

The area covered by the castle has varied from 14,255 yards to over 21,900 square yards (13,000 to 20,000 sq. meters). The highest towers have been over 65 feet (20 meters high), the longest walls over 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) long, and the castle has had up to 3 stories.

Natural snow is said to be too soft for good building results, and due to lack of enough available when winter begins, artificial snow is used to create the castle from the harbor water. Man-made snow is sprayed on to large moulds, which are removed once the structure freezes hard. The easiest and most effective shape to construct for a snow or ice room is an oval arch, which, when joined with other arches, forms a sort of barrel-vault.

Come April the entire hotel, sculptures, turrets, and all dissolves back into the sea. But knowing that another snow castle with more ice art will take shape the following winter adds to the prevailing air of madcap enchantment.

Kemi’s first snow castle was built in 1996 which drew 300,000 visitors, and evolved into a hotel by 1999. It was devised as a performance venue, with stage, restaurant and a playground for children. Despite its varying configurations, the snow castle has a few recurring elements — a chapel, restaurant, and hotel.

For 2009, Snow castle building of Inner Harbor begins in December and the opening is celebrated on Friday January 30 2009 at 18:00. Visit their website to learn more.

Hotel & Igloo Village Kakslauttanen
The other-worldly resort of the Hotel & Igloo Village Kakslauttanen almost literally takes your breath away with their famous unique glass igloos in the midst of the wilderness in Lapland, based on 200,000 cubic meters of snow. Located 6 miles (10 kilometers) south from Saariselka, it has snow igloos, glass igloos, an ice gallery, an ice chapel and a snow restaurant. The ice gallery has decorations made from ice and an ice chapel for wedding ceremonies.

The Snow Restaurant is inside a large Snow Igloo, fully equipped with a kitchen which offers full 3-course dinners or lunches in a very special environment with tables all made of crystal clear ice, and seating capacity of 150. It’s built every year, open from December till May.

For those who literally want the “white wedding,” you can arrive at the chapel in style in a sledge pulled by husky dogs or reindeer. Pyhan Olavin Kappeli (St. Olaf’s Chapel) and a small wooden Tievakappeli (Tieva Chapel) near Hotel & Igloo Village Kakslauttanen in Saariselka have been popular places for white weddings. Other possible venues include reindeer farms.

Despite the warm conditions elsewhere in Lapland, the Snow Village has had lasting cool early in the season — construction frequently starts in November and the hotel is ready for business by early December.

Saariselka is a mountain area partly in Urho Kekkonen National Park, and the village in Finland is located in Northern Lapland. It’s a popular tourist destination, providing activities such as skiing, hiking and a spa. The soil in Saariselka is mostly 2 billion year-old granulite.

Visit the Hotel & Igloo Village Kakslauttanen website to learn more.

Lainio Snow Village
Quite apart from the igloo resorts of Kakslauttanen, a wilderness snow complex has been created for the past 5 winters at the Lainio Snow Village. The retreat is a family business run by the Kurtakko family, whose property neatly becomes a woodland retreat of log cabin accommodation in the summer, located 93 miles (150 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle in Kittila, northern Finland and about 10 miles (17 kilometers) from the ski resort of Yllas.

The winter snow complex is a frozen accommodation ingeniously built over a permanent wooden building with sauna, bathrooms, and warm bedrooms that guests can use should the ice conditions prove too harsh to take for some.

In the Igloo Village there are 20 igloos and a honeymoon suite igloo, and an Ice Gallery where you can see ice sculptures created by artists from Lapland. In the Ice Gallery there is also an Ice Chapel for weddings and christenings, and a magnificent Ice Bar where you can enjoy hot drinks.

The Snow Village offers environmental art of large snow sculptures, snow-walls, snow hotel rooms, a restaurant, and ice art galleries. The frozen Arctic landscape, the winter darkness, the crackling frost and the clear starry skies with the spectacle of the Aurora Borealis offer a unique experience in the midst of untamed nature in the pristine snow-covered wilderness.

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