A stay at the Sorrisniva Ice Hotel
Enjoying -20 degrees Celsius naked in the outside
It is dark, it is around -20 degrees outside and it has just started to snow. Luckily, we are not on skies somewhere in the wilderness, but comfortably sitting in a hot bathtub outside the ice hotel near Alta, enjoying the peace and quietness of a late January afternoon.
With a glass of champagne right beside us, we were looking forward to a good dinner and an exciting night in the cold, under thick blankets and on top of dozens of slightly stinky reindeer skins.
A couple of weeks ago we decided to fly to Alta to spend a night in the ice hotel, then drive the 400 km to Tromsø for a day trip with snow-scooters. The ice hotel had just re-opened its doors and the staff was still busy finishing more rooms, but our stay was unaffected by that.
It is a rather short season for the hotel, around 4-5 months (January until April/May), just as long as the weather allows and before everything melts down again. It is an amazing effort the two owners, brothers actually, demonstrate year after year.
The hotel itself consists of two parts: From the back door of the main building - that is heated and made of wood, very cosy and providing all the main facilities - it is just a 10m passage to the entrance of the actual ice hotel.
Quite stunning when you open the entrance door covered with reindeer skin for the first time: The lobby (around 15x6m) consists of lots of skilfully made impressive ice sculptures whose theme changes every winter. When we were there, it was figures from Norwegian fairy tails carved into ice. And would you believe it, the cook was one of the artists that year! A multitalented man as it appears: a great artist and a really good chef.
To the left of the lobby there was a little chapel where you could get married, and - as we got to know - a surprisingly large number of people do so. Consequently, there is also a honeymoon suite, with some more furniture made of ice and snow as well as a nicely illuminated fireplace. Not to be used...
The middle of the entrance hall featured an ice bar with snow chairs, artificial fireplaces and ice glasses. We took a drink and had a nice talk with one of the staff members who turned out to be the owner of the ice hotel, a former truck driver who saw the potential of such a place up here and pulled it up together with his brother.
Quite some courage. Hope they see many good winters.
Well, the night then...
On both sides of the ice lobby you got to long hallways with many rooms to the right and left. To enter a room, just lifted the heavy curtain (no doors) and you stood in a simple 3x3m big snow cube. No decoration, just a bed, lights and a desk made of ice.
Nowadays, also the sleeping rooms feature ice and snow pictures and sculptures that were not there yet when we stayed Sorrisniva in 2015.
The bed was quite big, and, of course, also made out of snow. There was a wooden slatted frame, but instead of mattresses there were many reindeer furs. Quite smelly at once, to be honest, but after some time you got used to it. You slept in a super warm sleeping bag, dressed in long underwear (really warm enough) and, very important!, a comfortable cap, because your nose and ears would quickly freeze as the room temperature is about -2 to -5 degrees Celsius.
Can you actually sleep?
Oh yes, we could, in fact so well that our alarm clock woke us up the next morning.
However, we heard that a fellow traveller moved into the main building after a few hours of not finding sleep, going through the freezing cold to the toilet twice and then not getting warm again (he did not wear a cap, maybe that's why...).
We really enjoyed the stay a lot. We definitely also enjoyed the hot shower the next morning and the breakfast around the big fire place in the main building.
PS: We followed the owner's recommendation to stay only one night in the hotel to try it out and rather come back for a longer stay if we liked it. And that worked fine for us, we plan to come back!
Other ice hotels
Meanwhile there are several other ice hotels in Norway, Finland and Sweden. Of course, Sorrisnova is the best for us still, but we were also impressed by the one near Kirkenes, where each room followed an own theme, some picked up Nordic legends, other features scenes from the Caribbean or even movies.
Looked great, in particular with the installed lighting, but was also a bit out of place somehow...
Distance from Alta
20 km / 30 min by car, or the hotel can pick you up
The night in ice room
A drink in the ice bar
A glass of champagne in a hot bath tube, preferably at night when it snows or you have the luck to see the northern lights
You usually have also the possibilities to just "visit" the hotel
Overnight stay we can recommend
The ice hotel (Sorrisniva) is usually open from January to April, depending on the weather
Click on the map for opening the right clipping in google maps in a new window