This post about staying in an ice hotel was created in collaboration with Admiral Travel Insurance. Travel insurance is something you should never travel without no matter where you’re going!
Staying in an ice hotel has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. The dream became even stronger when I visited the SnowVillage as a day visitor last year in Finland. To be honest, I thought I’d be frozen like one of the intricately carved ice statues, but when I realised it’s surprisingly warm inside an ice hotel I was gutted I wasn’t spending the night. Well, OK, maybe ‘warm’ is pushing it, but when you’re wearing the right gear you don’t feel particularly cold.
Last month I stayed in the Ice Hotel in Romania as part of a tour with Untravelled Paths. You can read about my full Transylvania itinerary here (it was amazing!)
Before I begin, I should tell you that there are big differences in ice hotels or snow hotels as they’re sometimes called.
The first one I went to as a day visitor was SnowVillage in Finland and it was incredible. In 2018 it was sponsored by HBO’s Game of Thrones and each bedroom was themed with carvings of White Walkers and wolves and epic ice thrones.
The detail that went into every ice sculpture was amazing and the whole hotel took my breath away (not just because I was cold!) The ice was smooth and clear with impossibly intricate carvings and also practical uses for the ice. The restaurant, the bar, all the chairs and tables, the wedding chapel, a cinema room and tall tables displaying yet more sculptures were all made from silky smooth ice. There was even a slide and a mini castle inside!
Vicky Flip Flop on the slide!
But not all ice hotels are created equal.
The ice hotel I visited in Romania was amazing but it wasn’t nearly as big or intricately designed. However, the Romanian ice hotel was a fraction of the price of the Finnish one and I really don’t think it altered my experience and I had just as much fun.
^ The Ice Hotel in Romania wasn’t quite as slick as SnowVillage in Finland but I had just as much fun!
How much does it cost to stay in an ice hotel?
The current price for the Finnish SnowVillage is about £255 for two people. The price for the Romanian Ice Hotel is £86 for two people!
Staying in an Ice Hotel is such a unique, crazy, incredible experience that I don’t think it matters if you do it in a ‘luxury ice hotel’ or in a budget one. If your budget is tight then I highly recommend trying the Romanian one!
^ SnowVillage in Finland
OK, so let me tell you about my Ice Hotel experience in Romania
We left Brasov after breakfast and made our through the windy roads of the Fagaras Mountains. Our small bus wound through the alpine forest where the snow covered trees led to Balea Lake Cascada where we caught the cable car up to the hotel.
We piled into a rickety cable car and it slowly glided up into the clouds leaving the snowy ground a worrying distance below us! It was difficult to tell what was snow, cloud or misty windows as our warm breath and the icy conditions surrounded us in a fog of white.
As we stepped out of the cable car I was suddenly hit with a fit of giggles. This was absolutely absurd.
I could literally see nothing around us but white. Up, down, left, right, backwards, forwards. It was just all white. The wind whipped past my face like a brutal slap and it pushed my body in whichever direction it chose. In front of me there were a few people dragging suitcases through the deep snow and it was this scene that really tickled me. They looked like they should have been strolling through the airport, not lumbering across a snowy mountainside in search of…..well we weren’t even sure what we were in search of because we couldn’t see anything!
Luckily, we had a guide who led the way to a warm chalet which felt like paradise after blundering through a snowy blizzard! I fell through the chalet door like the abominable snowman, puffing and panting with wild eyes and my snowy hair whipped around my face.
Of course, the chalet was calm and peaceful and a world away from the snowy chaos outside!
It turned out we’d arrived at a bad moment and 10 minutes later the wind had subsided and the sun was straining through the clouds. We could finally see a few buildings in the distance, the opening to the snow hotel, some snowmobiles whizzing around and a half constructed ice chapel which was still being built.
It took me a while to pluck up the courage to go back outside so I stayed in the chalet to have a large cuppa and some hot food. There were activities like snowmobiling, tubing, ice rafting and a banana ride, but I chose to enjoy them from the warmth of the chalet while watching people from the window and enjoying a large glass of red!
We made our way over to the ice hotel which was barely visible across the snowy landscape. You could see a large door buried behind a mound of snow, but due to the cloud and snow, it wasn’t possible to see much else. I once again blundered through the snow in the direction of the door into….a party?
The ice hotel was open to day visitors and we entered into a large hall with a bar at one end and music blaring. It was surprisingly bright inside and the air was chilly but didn’t feel cold in comparison to the arctic conditions outside. Ice tables and stools lined the walls and people were laughing, dancing and taking photos like they would be in any other bar, only I suspect a lot of the dancing was to keep warm!
There were six low arches along each wall with curtains draped across them leading to little bedrooms. A large bed made of ice dominated the room and some rooms had carvings and little foot stools made of ice. We explored each room, taking photos and wondering how on earth we’d ever get any sleep that evening!
We warmed up with hot chocolates laced with Baileys before heading back to the chalet.
I had been hoping to go on a tunnel trek that afternoon where you take a guided walk across the mountain, through a tunnel and to a view point. Due to the weather, the tunnel trek was cancelled which was a shame because I did then feel like I was just hanging around waiting for the day visitors to leave so we could have dinner and go to bed!
Yes, I’m not going to lie, I was just really excited about going to bed and sleeping in an ice hotel!
Before bed we had a magical dinner in the ice restaurant where we tucked into four steamy courses while wrapped in blankets and perched on animal furs to stop our bums from freezing! The food was delicious, and I don’t just mean ‘delicious considering we were in a building made from ice’, it really was incredible!
Once the frosty plates were cleared away we had a demo on how to get into bed that evening. And yes, it really was so complicated we needed a demo!
What to wear when sleeping in an ice hotel
Our guide recommended we wear a layer of clothes we feel comfortable in such as warm PJs or thermals. We’d then get into our sleeping bags and place a fur rug over any shoes, hats or coats we weren’t wearing to avoid them being damp in the morning. Once tucked inside our sleeping bags we’d place a blanket on top and you’d be toasty and warm! Realistically, I wore a lot more than this!
We spent the evening drinking and dancing before it felt like an acceptable time to go to bed.
We got ready in the chalet and I had as many last-minute wees as I could as I was terrified of needing to get up and pee in the middle of the night! I changed into a pair of thick fleece leggings with velour PJs on top, thick socks, a t-shirt, a thick jumper and a woolly hat. I also wore a pair of waterproof trousers which I’d meant to remove once I got into my sleeping bag but I didn’t have enough space so I just left them on!
We were told not to wear scarves because the moisture from your breath can make it cold and soggy but I pulled my sleeping bag tightly around my face.
I was giggling like a kid on Christmas Eve as I layered blankets on top of myself and wriggled around to get comfy and warm.
With the help of a few shots and a long and tiring day, I was sound asleep within minutes.
Was it cold sleeping in an ice hotel?
This is the question everyone is asking, ‘Weren’t you cold!?’
I actually wasn’t cold. The air was obviously really cold at about -1 degree C so any skin poking out from under the covers was cold. My face and my nose were cold but it wasn’t enough to stop me sleeping. At one point in the night I lost the hood from my sleeping bag so I woke up because my head and neck were cold but I felt straight back to sleep once I’d readjusted.
I woke up 2-3 times in the night but felt straight back to sleep and I slept from 10pm until 8am and the only thing that finally roused me was needing the loo!
What happens if you need the loo?
I was worried about needing to go to the toilet in the night as that would have been a nightmare. You would have had to get up, get more clothes on, go outside and walk to the toilets. A few people did it and one couple said it was actually lovely because it was so calm and peaceful in the middle of the night! Personally, I’m glad I didn’t need to go and I’d made a conscious effort to avoid drinking too much before bed!
We had breakfast in the chalet and we were able to use the showers in the hotel rooms of the chalet before layering back up and heading back down the mountain via the cable car.
What to wear in an Ice Hotel + you Ice Hotel Packing list
During the day
During the day in an ice hotel I’d recommend wearing something similar to what you’d wear skiing. I didn’t take my ski gear with me because I was trying to pack light but I regret it now and wish I had.
If I were to go again, I’d wear:
- Fleece lined leggings (Primark have good ones)
- Skiing trousers
- Thick socks
- Winter boots – I have the Elsa Boot by Keen and I love them
- A thermal top
- A warm jumper
- Skiing jacket or a similar warm, waterproof jacket
- Woolly hat
- Sun glasses
- Ski goggles – if you plan to do any activities like snowmobiling
- Gloves – make them skiing gloves if you plan to do activities
What to wear at night to sleep in an ice hotel
If you’re like me and feel the cold then this is what I’d recommend to sleep
- Fleece lined leggings
- Warm PJ bottoms
- Warm socks
- A t-shirt
- A jumper
- A woolly hat
You will be given a sleeping bag and 2-3 blankets. If you’re given a blanket while you eat dinner, keep hold of it as you may want it later when you go to sleep.
What else to pack for the ice hotel
Other things you’ll need to pack include
- A small bag – You’ll probably be advised to take a small bag into the ice hotel and leave your main suitcase elsewhere
- Basic toiletries – Toothbrush and toothpaste, face wipes and moisturiser was all I needed
- A water bottle – this is an optional one because we were told not to take one as the water would freeze but I had a cough at the time so I took mine anyway as I’m prone to coughing fits at night and water is the only thing that helps.
Finally, never travel without travel insurance. I’m an Admiral Travel Insurance ambassador because it’s something I feel so strongly about. Travel insurance is so important but it’s something that’s quite easy to forget, so I highly recommend an annual travel insurance policy (and be sure to add the Winter Sports upgrade if you’re going skiing or doing other winter sports!) to cover every trip . I like to print out my travel insurance documents and other important documents so the information is all easy to access, especially in a country where I can’t use my phone data so it’s not always easy to access the information I need.