The Coolest Places on Earth
The Icehotel in Kiruna, Sweden, is one of the world’s best-known sub-zero palaces, built from the frozen water of the Torne River. Guests can start their stay by hitching a ride to the hotel via dogsled or snowmobile. The beds are ice blocks covered in reindeer skins, and are reportedly softer than you imagine.
No matter where you live—in the sunny desert or at the beach, the frigid tundra or snowy mountains or anywhere in between—the change of seasons is sure to beckon you to think of what will one day be considered one of Disney’s most memorable movies: Frozen. And while we can’t all have a palace like an ice queen, we can at least experience it for a getaway. Peek inside some of the world’s coolest places and dream about what could be (then, let it go).
Located only ten minutes from downtown Québec City, the Hôtel de Glace is one of the world’s most recognizable ice hotels, and the only one in North America. It has seduced more than a million people around the world since opening just shy of fifteen years ago. With its huge snow vaults and crystalline ice sculptures, the Hôtel de Glace’s dazzling decor is a close rival to Elsa’s palace, but not too far from home. Each year, from January 5 to March 22, visitors can enter this magical universe; and those who stay as guests have access to Nordic outdoor spas and a picturesque sauna.
It’s not a palace built by hands, but this natural wonder also graces the States, if you’re willing to take a little hike. The Great Lakes’ ice cover could approach 95 percent cover this year for the first time in 20 years. The deep freeze gives travelers an opportunity to hike on Lake Superior’s frozen surface to reach the Apostle Island ice caves. When the weather cooperates and allows the total freeze, upward of 4,000 people trek to the remote Wisconsin area each weekend.
You don’t have to stay the night to appreciate being frozen. The Saint Paul Winter Carnival in Minnesota has been a tradition since 1886, after a New York journalist described the town as “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.” The carnival features everything from a famous ice palace to bobsledding and ice horse racing. And instead of a grand marshal, this event sports a royal family.
For those who are just looking for someplace cool to go without the fanfare, there’s always the minus5° ice bar in Las Vegas, New York, Orlando or the Grand Cayman Islands, to whet your appetite without making you layer up in polar fleece for too long a stint. Everything inside minus5° is made of ice; the walls, the bar, the seats and even the glasses at the bar are all frozen. An ice carver creates the ice sculptures and continuously reinvents the experience throughout the year. The bar even supplies guests with gloves and a warm parka or faux fur coat to enjoy an LED light show while you sip on your frozen cocktails (just in case you weren’t cold enough).
For those with a little more adventure (and a lot more money), one of the coolest destinations in the world is the Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village in Saariselkfa, Finland. Visitors can choose between a glass igloo or a snow igloo, each offering a different experience. Snow igloos offer a peaceful, silent escape cocooned from the outside world; while the glass igloos, with an amazing frost-resistant thermal glass, provide amazing views of the Northern Lights. Steps away, Santa’s Resort is complete with Santa’s house, hot cocoa and ginger biscuits baked by elves, making Igloo Village the one true Nordic experience. It’s even topped off by a dreamy reindeer-drawn sled ride. This is the stuff movies are made of.
The Icehotel in Kiruna, Sweden, is one of the world’s best-known sub-zero palaces, built from the frozen water of the Torne River. Guests can start their stay by hitching a ride to the hotel via dogsled or snowmobile. The beds are ice blocks covered in reindeer skins, and are reportedly softer than you imagine. Guests trek into the frozen wilderness on horseback to see the Northern Lights. This experience is more drama and romance than the kid-friendly Igloo Village. Think honeymoon destination, then let that body heat keep you warm.
Across the way in Snow Village, Lainiotie, Finland, the resort complex is only visible half of the year—because each year the entire property melts in May and is rebuilt in November (hello, job security). More than one thousand truckloads of snow are brought in each winter to complete the task. Located a short 120 miles from the Arctic Circle, the resort is primarily made of snow, but has plenty of ice, including ice beds.
Whether you venture out onto a frozen lake or try your Nordic hat across the pond, there are many cool places waiting to be discovered, each with its own appeal. So layer up and grab a scraper; you might need one for your face, depending on the place.
Sources: facebook.com/Eben.Ice.Caves, fodors.com, hoteldeglace-canada.com, huffingtonpost.com, lostateminor.com, scribol.com, thedailybeast.com and theguardian.com.