As I stepped off a plane and onto the icy ground of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland last week, the freezing air tickled my lungs, and immediately set to work at nipping the ends of my fingers. Despite this, I was thrilled to be in one of the snowiest destinations on the planet. Rovaniemi is the official home of Santa Claus, and being within the Arctic Circle, offers the opportunity to witness the Northern Lights.
I am lucky enough to say that I spent my first night in this wintry location in the Arctic Snowhotel, which sits not far out of the city, in the middle of a large forest.
Having arrived at the resort (I say resort, as the hotel is accompanied by glass igloos – also available for guests – as well as a range of activities and facilities) it wasn’t long before I found myself walking through the frosted arched doorway of the ‘hotel’ and into one of its crystallised corridors. With the temperature at a steady -4c and my breath forming delicate puffs next to my face, I stood in the antechamber of the building and stared at the walls and ceiling in wonder. Ice, I thought to myself, I am standing in a room made entirely of ice. The moment was a surreal one, magical almost.
Our guide proceeded to inform us of the logistics of the hotel. It is rebuilt every year (duh! – I obviously knew this to begin with…) around November time, using the ice from the nearby lake. But here’s where it gets really interesting, every year it is built according to a different design. This means that in its seven year existence, there have been seven different Snowhotels, each with a unique blueprint.
This I was impressed at, as the creative inside me relished the idea that the hotel’s purpose is not merely to exist as an ice structure, but to look visually appealing, and to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with this material. Upon wandering through the maze of corridors, the artistry of the place was simply beautiful.
Local university students are brought in to work on the sculptures that adorn the walls of the many rooms and suites. And rooms, there are many. Aside from the standard double bedrooms, there are suites – each one decadent and unique – three seating areas for the Ice Restaurant, an Ice Bar, and a Chapel. And yes, you guessed it, weddings are hosted on a regular basis.
I spent much time just wandering, enjoying the mesmerising sculptures carved into the walls, and forgetting about the outside world. Until my toes got so cold, they almost became separated from my body that is. The suites were particularly marvellous and included opulent designs such as a bed in the shape of a boat, an icy fireplace, complete with grand chairs, a magnificent swan’s head sculpture, and more.
Artistry aside, the workings of the hotel are fairly simple. There is a ‘warm room’ just off the building, containing lockers and bunk beds, in case of a ‘freak out’ during the night. The sleeping bags can be used in temperatures down to -30c, and a lovely man wakes up guests every morning with a cup of warm juice.
Staying in such a unique place really was a wonderful experience. It felt christmassy, magical and cold, all at the same time. Particularly when I found myself trudging through the snow at two in the morning towards the toilet block.