Prior to the trip, Anne at the Snow Hotel was very responsive and helpful with my multiple emails. After disembarking from a Hurtigruten cruise, I joined 8 other people on a bus to the Snow Hotel. The permanent buildings are all dark wood, rustic; the dog area is lots of wooden dog houses on legs. Probably 2 feet of snow on the ground, the tree branches are all covered with about 2” of snow. Looked like a winter wonderland – pine trees w/snow coating, twiggy trees w/snowy branches, snowy hills, dropping down to an ice covered lake, surrounded by snowy hills.
The actual hotel portion is made of snow and is shaped like a tunnel with round rooms extending off the sides. At the back of the snow hotel is a permanent 3-story building in dark wood that housed the bathrooms, showers, etc on the ground floor for the snow hotel; middle floor was a lounge area & bar; top floor was a relaxing area (big chairs & sofas covered with furry reindeer skins) and the dining room with huge floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake and hills. Snow Hotel is entered through an arched doorway and the main hallway curves to the back, with the individual rooms off both sides of the hall & ice sculptures along the hall. I think there were 20 rooms, plus a large round ice bar at the back of the main hall. Each room was about the same size and contained a carved ice bed frame, with a regular mattress inside the bed frame and fleece covered pillows. The walls of each room were snow and were carved with décor fitting a theme; some of the themes were Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe, snowmen, Charlie Chaplin, swans, Snow White, Mona Lisa, some cartoon characters (not sure who), Santa, penguins, sailors, and more. Each room had a lighting system (from below) focused on the carved walls. There were a couple of family-sized rooms with 4 twin beds. The snow hotel is kept at -4 degrees inside. The bath/shower room is just outside the snow hotel in the permanent building.
Dinner was served in the Gabba restaurant - what a sensation entering this round wooden building – coming from the crisp, cold (-12), starry night – into a warm, candle-lit room with a crackling fire in the middle of the room! The room is rustic – birch wood planking walls & ceiling (vaulted, so fire smoke goes up & out), trestle tables & benches covered in red cloths and stuffed animals on a shelf along the ceiling edge. Dinner was such fun, mostly because of the ambience and the great staff – the first course was reindeer sausage that we grilled ourselves over the fire. They gave us pointy sticks to put the sausages on and we stood around the fire grilling them – brought me back to my Girl Scout days! After they were done, we wrapped them in a traditional pita-type bread, smeared on some mustard, and ate – tasty, tasty. Second course was a local Norwegian cheese plate w/grapes, various dipping sauces and crackers. Third course was Arctic char which they cooked by nailing the filets to alder boards and propping them next to the fire, so that they smoked. I asked if they had any meat, didn’t matter what, and they cooked me reindeer steaks - 3 large pieces. Fourth course was ice cream w/berry coulis. Then, an after-dinner drink - the Arctic Night – hot chocolate and a shot of Minttu, a peppermint liqueur; so good. During dinner, they told us twice that the Northern Lights were visible which was an unexpected bonus!
Around midnight, made a final bathroom stop where I also picked up my sleeping bag, wool socks & balaclava and went to my room. These alpine style sleeping bags are very warm, so you’re supposed to wear your long-underwear, wool socks and the balaclava (which you can pull up over your nose, over your eyes, etc.) I stuffed my coat into the bottom of the bag so that it would be warm-ish for any bathroom trips and got into the bag. They’re relatively narrow so there wasn’t a lot of room inside to twist & turn; I got it zipped up and sort of cinched the top around my head. I made it through the whole night, but will say that it wasn’t particularly restful or comfortable. The temperature in the room was -6 but I wasn’t cold, it was more that I felt constricted – lying there on my back with my arms at my side or crossed in front – kind of like being in an MRI. Finally, I flipped onto my side and slept soundly the rest of the night. So, that’s my tip – don’t feel you have to lie flat on your back!
In addition to the amazing landscape, the activities and the actual hotel itself, their staff were a huge part of the experience. Unfailingly, they were all friendly, helpful and interested in the guests; it was clear that they enjoyed their job and wanted us to enjoy our experience there. All of them were very matter of fact, intelligent and savvy.
I would go back again for the landscape, serenity & Gabba experience but would probably sleep in one of their permanent wooden cabins.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to an incredible overnight stay in Kirkenes Snow Hotel. In Decemeber 2011 we open for the sixth season. The hotel has 20 rooms beautiful decorated with snow and ice. It may sound cold, but warm and thick sleeping bags will keep you well and make the overnight stay to an incredible experience. Our pleasant crew will take good care of you and the silence during the night will help you to sleep really good. Before you go to bed, you will be served a tree course arctic dinner, made of local raw materials, at our restaurant Gabba. After the dinner you my go watching out for Northern Lights. At this snow and ice hotel you may order several types of activities trip with a husky dog team, snowmobile trip, walk by snowshoes, go crosscountry skiing, ice-fishing and also the King Crab Safari. At Kirkenes Snow hotel you can get all winter activities. Welcome to a world of arctic experiencies. ... more less
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