The Snow Hotel in the Arctic town of Kirkenes, located at the top of the world close to the Russian border, is one of a very few hotels in the world completely built of snow. Guests who spend a night in one of the frigid, beautifully decorated rooms, are treated to a truly unique experience. Most are amazed to find that, although their beds are made of ice, they are never cold. My nose was a rosy red and the boots beside my bed were a bit frosty but my arctic sleeping bag kept me warm.
A new Ice Hotel is constructed each year in November from blocks of ice from the nearby lake. Each hotel has a different design. No two have ever been the same. Once the external construction is complete, talented craftsmen from around the world vie to add the exotic ice sculptures and the elaborately carved walls of each room. Soft eerie blue, green and red lights highlight the icy art and give the rooms a peaceful, subdued feeling.
The hotel is ready for occupancy by December and continues to entertain guests until mid-April. Then, as the Arctic weather warms and the snow begins to disappear, the hotel is allowed to slowly melt and the water is returned to the lake. The entire process is eco-friendly and does nothing to disturb or harm the natural beauty of the area.
Before retiring, we warmed up in the sauna and afterwards dashed into the snow for a quick and brisk walk. The hotel issued us Arctic sleeping bags, warm socks, gloves and face masks and gave us instructions on how to prepare for the night.
Room number four, where I spent a comfortable night, featured an icy polar bear at the foot of my bed, a fur-skin rug and a life-sized reindeer carved into the wall. Very soon these icy works of art will be gone and I will be one of very few people in the world to have seen them. I consider that a rare and exotic privilege.
There is no restaurant in the hotel but good food and wine are only a few steps away in the warm and cozy Gabba restaurant. There is no indoor plumbing and using the facilities during the night involves jumping into cold boots and winter parka and making a dash to the nearby warm bathroom and recreation room.
A few guests, at this point, elect to spend the remainder of the night on the couches in the warm day room. I am proud to say, I made it through the night and actually slept very well.