The 5 coolest igloo and ice hotels
Zac de Silva gives you the lowdown on enjoying your winter holidays, Inuit style.
If you live in Australia, you’ll know all about the hot weather we’ve had for the last couple of months. If you don’t, then rest assured that the Land Down Under is well and truly living up to its reputation as a fiery hellhole.
All of this hot weather got us at Signature – in our questionably air-conditioned office – thinking about ways to cool down. And what better way to escape the heat than by heading to the snow to spend a night or two in an igloo?
Some of the places we found are igloos made from real snow, some of them are entire hotels carved out of ice, and others draw style cues from the classic Inuit design, but are built from fibreglass to keep you nice and toasty (escaping from the heat doesn’t mean we want to freeze!). And while some of them are in classic igloo country – think Alaska and Scandinavia – these kinds of accommodation have popped up all over the world, from Antarctica to right here in Australia. Read on for our favourite igloo hotels around the world.
Hotham Igloo to Skidoo
While Australia’s relative lack of snow, altitude and overly cold weather means that igloo options are limited, Alpine Nature Experience has you covered. Start with the Snowshoe to Fondue adventure, where you’ll spend an evening showshoeing through the snow gums that cover much of Mount Hotham, before enjoying a glass of mulled wine by the fire and learning how to make traditional French fondue, with imported French alpine cheese.
Your accommodation is either a snowdome – with a wood-fired heater and comfy bedding – or an igloo, with a thick mattress, sleeping bag rated to -8 degrees Celsius and extra blankets to keep you toasty warm.
For a truly unique accommodation experience, spend a night in the world’s first and largest hotel built from snow and ice. The main part of Sweden’s Icehotel is only open from December to April, as it melts away into the Torne River as summer comes around. During November and early December, a diverse team of designers, architects, industrial engineers and artists converges on the small village of Jukkasjärvi (home to 900 residents and 1,100 dogs) to build the hotel anew. Suites are filled with spectacular sculptures carved out of the river ice, and guests sleep in expedition style sleeping bags in the sub-zero rooms.
If you do decide to visit in the summer though, a permanent ice hotel now remains on the site, cooled using solar power from the midnight sun. The hotel also offers heated chalets if you’d prefer something warmer.
And although the hotel itself is fascinating, there’s no end of things to do. Weather you learn to create your own ice sculptures, raft on the Torne River see the Northern Lights on a snowmobile tour or transfer to and from the airport by dog sled, you’ll never be bored.
If it’s the aurora you want, Borealis Basecamp is where you’ll find it. Each fibreglass igloo in this Alaskan camp has been built specifically for Northern Lights viewing, with clear, curved windows that stretch nearly five metres across each roof. Meals made from locally sourced ingredients are served in the communal dining yurt, which is open 24/7 for guests to eat, play board games, or cosy up with a good book. And when you’ve had your fill, it’s back to your igloo for nature’s greatest light show.
Although they’re really only igloos in the loosest sense of the word, the pods at Whichaway Camp are just too cool not to include. The camp consists of seven sleeping pods, designed to keep guests toasty warm even in the harsh polar conditions (the continent’s interior has a mean annual temperature of -57 degrees Celsius). But although the conditions are some of the most gruelling you’ll find on earth, you’ll be able to ride them out in comfort, with five-star international cuisine and cocktails served with 1,000-year-old ice. We’ll drink to that.
Schneedorf Igloo Village
So far we’ve looked at igloos built by companies – prefab igloos, if you will. But for our last igloo, we’re getting a bit more hands on. At Schneedorf, Austria’s only igloo village, guests learn to build their own igloo. It’s a whole-day undertaking: work starts at 10am – when you’ll learn the different techniques required to build your shelter – and doesn’t finish until 3.30pm, with an hour’s break for lunch. At the end of the day, if all goes well, you’ll have your very own igloo to spend the night in. And if you do run into some igloo issues, there’s no need to worry – you’ll be set up in an igloo built by the pros.
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Lead image © Madison Reynolds/Borealis Basecamp