This post was last updated on April 26th, 2014
We pulled up to a discreet looking entrance: a door surrounded by mounds of snow, tucked deep into the forests of Lainio, Finland.
This is the Snow Village?
We might have driven right past it if it hadn’t been for the well-placed signage. But when we walked through the door we were immediately transported to a magical winter wonderland—and a hotel unlike any we had visited before.
Every year in late November, an international set of skilled artists and sculptors arrive to the Arctic Circle to bring new form to crystallized water. It takes 1,000 truckloads of snow and 300,000 kilos of ice blocks (carved from the local river) to create the Snow Village; the resulting ice and snow complex consists of a restaurant, a bar, lobbies, hotel rooms, a church, children’s play area and an abundance of awe-inspiring ice sculptures. The design changes each year, promising visitors a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Building the Snow Village
The Snow Village is built entirely out of snow and ice. To construct the dome shapes, a giant round balloon is first inflated. Snow is then packed on top. Once the snow has compacted and set a strong, insulating and protective layer, the balloon is popped, and the basic structure is formed. This is just the foundation for the village—ice furniture, massive snow murals, and intricate ice sculptures still need to be designed. LED lights then accent the artwork, contributing to the truly magical ambience inside the village. Because the artists must wait until the weather conditions are cold enough to begin, typically around -10 ºC, they only have a few short weeks to create the 3000 square meters of snow magic!
There are 15 double igloo rooms and 8 artistically decorated snow suites. The igloos give you a sense of what it is like to sleep in a room made of snow, but the snow suites are the works of art you’ll want to check out. Each room has it’s own large mural, which again changes every year. During our visit it was the ‘penguin room’ that proved to be our favorite, though the ‘wheel room’ was a close second.
Dining at the Ice Bar
Dining at the Ice Bar is certainly a romantic and intimate experience, especially as you’ll want to cuddle to stay warm. We enjoyed dinner at the restaurant, and the delectable three-course meal quickly made us forget about our chilly bums seated upon blocks of ice.
The menu features primarily Lappish cuisine. For our main courses we chose the Elk Pasta and Elk Meatballs. Both were phenomenal, though we did have to eat a bit quickly to prevent the food from getting cold!
Even if you don’t stay for an entire meal in the restaurant, a shot of local liqueur—served in a glass made of ice—is an absolute must. We recommend the Lingonberry Vodka. Ask to throw your ‘glass’ on the ground once your finished for a bit of flair.
Sleeping in a Snow Suite
Sleeping in the Snow Village is a once in a lifetime experience—and it’s one we highly recommend.
Before our night in the igloo, we were a bit unsure. I love a warm and cozy bed, piled high with blankets and pillows. The thought of choosing to sleep in a room kept at -2ºC to -5ºC seemed a bit counterintuitive. But after completing our stay, we can definitely say that it was a memorable and worthwhile experience. We even slept soundly until the warm lingonberry juice wake-up call in the morning!
What We Learned
Though the rooms are kept chilly, the Snow Village provides you with super-insulated sleeping bags. If you wear some thermals and bundle up inside it, you’ll be warm and comfortable. Don’t wear too much clothing inside your sleeping bag though; then you’ll begin to sweat, and the resulting wetness will be what makes you cold and uncomfortable. Our faces got a bit chilly during the night, but other than that we couldn’t have been snugger!
Keep in mind that the snow rooms aren’t really meant for claustrophobics. You are in a dome of snow, after all. If you have trouble sleeping when there is a bit of light (as I do) bring an eye mask. The LED lights are left on for safety precautions throughout the night, so it doesn’t ever get that dark.
Only bring absolute essentials into your snow room, and keep them warm by placing them in the bottom of your sleeping bag.
The reception area closes at 10pm. After that time, you are left to your snow room or the warm lounge area. There’s not much to do in the warm room, so we recommend bringing your own games and drinks to pass the time until you feel drowsy enough to tackle the chill. There is a 20-person sauna in the warm lounge, but you need to reserve it in advance.
Our Biggest Tip:
Make sure you use the toilet before going to bed. It’s a long walk between the snow rooms to the bathroom, and you really don’t want to deal with that in your thermals at 3am.
Practicalities of Visiting the Snow Village
The Snow Village is located in Lainio, Finland, a 25-minute drive from the Kittila airport and nearby popular ski destinations of Yllas and Levi. Guided tours are available throughout the day. There are warm log cabins available for accommodation if you would like to visit the village for longer than one night. The Snow Village can also arrange a variety of excursions, such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, skiing, and more.
General info: firstname.lastname@example.org Sales and bookings: email@example.com tel. +358 (0)40 416 7227 Reception tel. +358 (0)40 589 0858 Restaurant tel. +358 (0)16 658 626
Would you spend the night in the Snow Village? Have you ever visited a hotel made of snow or ice?
Thank you to Visit Finland for making our trip to the Snow Village possible. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
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