For an epic winter vacation and thrilling alternative to a traditional ski trip, not to mention bragging rights for your kids when they get back to school, check in for a night or two at one of the world’s coolest ice hotels. Rebuilt every year and rivaling Elsa’s frozen fortress, these magical wonderlands made of snow and ice will delight guests of all ages.
1/8 Icehotel, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
The original ice hotel opened in 1989 and is located on the banks of the Torne River in Jukkasjarvi, 125 miles north of Sweden’s Arctic Circle. This world-famous hotel and art exhibition made of ice and snow stays at a toe-numbing 17 to 23 degrees year round. It is one of the biggest and most impressive ice hotels and like most and is a great option for an unforgettable family vacation.
The wide choice of rooms includes hand carved Art Suites designed by artists from around the world, which are nothing short of spectacular. Thick fur blankets and artic sleeping bags will keep you warm and cozy in the sub-zero temperatures, while the ice bar and winter activities for all the family, ranging from exhilarating dog sledding adventures to creating your own ice sculptures, will keep you busy by day. After a night in one of their frozen suites, you can ditch your thermals and switch to a cozy, chalet-style room.
2/8 Igloo Dorf, Zermatt, Switzerland
Imagine spending the night in your very own igloo made of ice. At Igloo-Dorf in the ski resort of Zermatt in Switzerland, you and your tribe can do just that. This igloo village is one of several Iglu-Dorfs dotted around Switzerland and beyond. Famous for the jaw-dropping views of the Matterhorn, it’s also easily accessible, which makes it ideal for families.
When night falls, head out on a thrilling snowshoeing adventure under the stars. Later, step into a fantasy world made of ice and snow and snuggle up in your artic sleeping bags before drifting off in a family-size igloo. The next morning hit the outdoor hottub to warm up then relax in the sun at the snow-bar (ordering the cheese fondue is a must).
3/8 Hotel de Glace, Quebec, Canada
This spectacular winter retreat is one of the world’s most visually stunning ice hotels. Located 15 minutes from Quebec City, Hotel de Glace is Canada’s only ice hotel and was inspired by the original ice hotel in Sweden. Kids will love the Cocoa Flurry room, which comes with giant marshmallows made of ice.
As well as an ice slide, kids’ disco and outdoor hot tub, there’s plenty of activities to keep all the family entertained, from dog-sledding to snow-shoeing adventures. There’s a family adventure park with an indoor water next door (so pack your bathing suits) and a super-cool ice bar serving hot chocolate for younger guests and traditional Caribou for grown-ups, guaranteed to warm you up!
4/8 Kakslautten Arctic Resort, Saariselka, Lapland, Finland
Spend an unforgettable night at Kakslautten Arctic Resort in the Land of the Midnight Sun. It’s one of the best places in the world to watch the Northern Lights (visible from late August through the end of April) and there’s nothing more magical than staying in a glass-roofed igloo and watching the stunning display from the comfort of your bed.
Of course, no visit to Lapland will be the same without a visit to see Santa in his storybook wooden house, where kids can munch on ginger biscuits served by elves and make friends with Rudolph and his friends. Other must-do winter activities that will appeal to parents and children alike include husky safaris and snowmobiling.
5/8 Alpeniglu, Brixental, Austria
At Alpeniglu, you get the chance to spend the night in a real igloo made of ice. This enchanting igloo village is located in a ski resort the Kitzbuehel Alps. The beauty of Alpeniglu is that it’s easily accessible and is perfect for families wanting to tag a night onto the end of a ski vacation.
As well as an ice bar and open-air snow bar there’s a dedicated exhibition area filled with stunning ice sculptures, plus you have the many activities on offer in the area at your fingertips.
6/8 SnowCastle of Kemi, Sea Lapland, Finland
For a night to remember, stay at SnowHotel, a hand-carved frozen fortress that is part of the SnowCastle on the shores of Kemi, in Finnish Lapland. You’ll feel snug as a bug in special arctic sleeping bags in your room built of snow.
One of the biggest draws for kids is the chance to see Santa and his elves in his offical seaside office. There’s also two snowslides, a lookout on the roof and a choice of unique arctic adventures for all the family to try such as fishing through ice holes, ice-karting, husky rides and reindeer safaris. An olokolo ride over the frozen sea and a cruise on an ice breaker are not to missed.
7/8 Kirkenes Snowhotel, Kirkenes, Norway
For an unforgettable overnight arctic adventure, head to the winter wonderland at the Kirkenes Snowhotel, Norway’s designer ice hotel. Located in the far north, close to the Russian border, it’s remote but still worth the trip. Rooms are individually themed and decorated with snow paintings and ice sculptures, with hi-tech lighting creating a magical atmosphere.
As well as traditional winter activites that you can do as a family, such as dog sledding and chasing the Northern Lights in a snow mobile, younger guests will love meeting the huskies and playing with the puppies, and also feeding the resident reindeer. For something really special, the king crab fishing trip is highly recommended.
8/8 Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway
Families will enjoy the adventure of a lifetime at Norway’s largest ice hotel, set on the banks of the Alta River, only 25 minutes from Alta airport. Reindeer blankets and thermal sleeping bags will keep you toasty in your ice igloo and a visit to the sauna will warm you up in the morning.
There’s a magical ice chapel, exquisite ice sculptures and outdoor hot tubs, the perfect spot to watch the Northern Lights. Arctic activities on offer for the whole family to enjoy include snowshoeing and dog sledding.
Janine Clements is aa New York-based writer and contributor to numerous high-profile travel and lifestyle publications. She has lived in London, Paris and Singapore and travels all over the world with her two daughters, age 9 and 6. She can be found tweeting at @mummytweets.