Sleeping on Ice at the Snowhotel, Kirkenes
With a stomach still full of freshly cooked Arctic King Crab, our next stop was the Snowhotel, Kirkenes.
Here the promise was to spend a luxurious night on an “ice bed!”
DID YOU KNOW – a new Snowhotel is built in November each year at Kirkenes for visitors arriving for the ice-bed experience in December to April? Then…it’s just rolled into the river to melt until the construction starts all over again the following November.
Meeting the Locals
We arrived just after sunset (1.30pm!) to a warm welcome by the resident 130 husky dogs. All had their own individually named kennels and were anxious to be part of a sled team. The dogs just love being in the harness.
After getting up close and personal with as many dogs as possible, plus three reindeer that were looking for their share of loving, we walked with trepid anticipation through the front door of the Snowhotel.
WOWSERS – what an eye opener. Nothing but ice, sculptures and carvings as far as the eye could see – all in a constant balmy -4 degrees. (brrrrr!)
This means when it’s minus thirty degrees outside, the interior of the Snow Hotel remains stable at -4 degrees.
Everyone is given:
- A down sleeping bag (to cope with -40 degrees)
- Very thick wool socks
We were assured these lifesavers would make for a “cosy” night when finally sleeping on the rock hard ice bed.
A tour of the accommodation showed intricate and very different snow sculptures above each double bed in each igloo type room that has curtains for doors.
Every room was like a treasure cave – each decorated with a different, and huge, ice sculpture above the double ice bed.
All the ice comes from a frozen lake close to the Snowhotel. Artists then cut the ice with chainsaws and pull their creations into the hotel with snowmobiles.
More than 15 tons of ice (up to 70 cams thick) is used in constructing the Ice Bar, beds, furniture and sculptures.
Each year the Ice Bar and sculptures have a different design with themes varying from Arctic culture, nature or famous celebrities.
2016 was the year of celebrities and one firm favourite was Marilyn Monroe in that historically famous pose where her dress is flapping above her waistline!
Many passionate photographers lay on their backs on the ice bed underneath this particular sculpture to get the perfect shot!
Next stop was the Ice Bar (the largest in Norway) where the carpet was ice and ice armchairs were covered in sheepskins.
A slight sigh of relief could be heard when told that dinner would be in the warm restaurant next to the Snowhotel.
But before this promised feast, we walked back down the long ice driveway to The Gabba restaurant. Here we enjoyed pre dinner snacks of sausages with potato pancakes and mustard – one of the traditional meals in Finland. Very tasty.
We had the choice of walking down the driveway or plonking down on little sleds that got you to the restaurant much quicker. Laughter was loud while trying to keep our bodies on the small plastic seat and trying to steer the contraption. Many people tipped over into the snow on the bends, but to my surprise I managed to stay upright! (One to chalk up on the board).
Then it was a hike back up the driveway to the warm restaurant where dinner was followed by a fantastic two-hour dancing light show by the illusive Northern Lights. So exciting and difficult to conjure up words to do justice for the appearance of this irregular natural phenomenon.
Finally, there were no more excuses to put off making friends with our ice beds for the night. So, on with all the clobber and a strong mindset to pretend we were spending the night on a warm feather bed and not a 75cm thick slab of ice. (There was a thin mattress on top to take the edge of the freezing cold.)
Many guests didn’t make it past midnight and staggered to the adjacent warm restaurant with their sleeping bags to claim armchairs and floor space in front of the fire. Others refused to give in and stayed in their ice beds until 6 am. (These were the adventurous Boomers).
Then there were a few sleepy heads that had to be prized out of their Snowhotel ice beds so the “cleaners” could move in!
Morning brought sanity around the breakfast table accompanied by many detailed stories on how to survive an ice bed sleepover.
The Snowhotel, Kirkenes – calling all Boomers to visit for an exciting once in a lifetime experience!
The Arctic town of Kirkenes is located about as far northeast you can get in Norway, not far from the Russian border. The town is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights between November and February (which is when we were there).
The overnight Snowhotel stay was part of a Scandinavian Tour organised through Fifty Degrees North, an excellent Finnish tourist company who have a Melbourne base.
- Ask for a room at the Snowhotel close to the exit which is close to the showers and toilets. This makes for a much shorter journey on an ice hallway floor if the bathroom is needed through the night.
- The sleeping bags issued to guests are “mummy bags” – narrower at the feet than at the shoulders. If being constricted worries you, go for the older olive green bags instead of the new orange ones.
- Travel to the Snowhotel between November and February if seeing The Northern Lights is high on your bucket list.
What to Take:
- Your sense of humour
- Camera and tripod.