As someone who absolutely cannot stand the cold, my very first thought when hearing about Ice Hotels was… why? Why would I give up the comfort of a warm room to sleep in an ice suite at sub-zero temperatures on top of a mountain?
Little did I know my perception was soon to change. As soon as I stepped out of the cable car carrying us all the way to the Balea Lake in Romania I understood why. With the soft snow crunching under my feet, crisp air, and icy peaks surrounding us, I had been transported into a breathtaking winter wonderland. And there it was, the once-in-a-lifetime adventure: the Ice Hotel.
Adorned with frozen sculptures and ice-carved furniture, the Ice Hotel is a marvel. The solid ice structure also offers the comfort of a constant temperature against the wind and freezing cold outside. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to spend one night in my own ice room.
If you’re anything like me, intrigued by the idea but a bit scared by the cold, read on. Here are our tried and tested tips to ensure you would be getting a couple of hours of good night’s sleep.
Balea Lake at dusk (left) and an aerial view of the Ice Hotel, igloos and Ice Church (right)
Only take with you what you need
This requires a bit of planning beforehand, but you’ll be thankful for it in the end. Before getting to the Ice Hotel, we recommend packing an overnight bag with just the essentials. This is to avoid carrying the big suitcases (which will remain locked in the car) in the cable car and through the snow. Once you arrive on the mountain, all your belongings will be kept safe in a warm chalet room. In the evening, we recommend getting ready in the chalet and leaving your bags there. Otherwise, they might get cold and damp overnight if you carry them across to the Ice Hotel. For the things you do decide to take with you, such as electronics or bottles of water, keep them inside your sleeping bag for temperature control.
Slow and steady wins the race. The temperature inside the Ice Hotel is at a constant -2 degrees Celsius. Even so, it takes a little bit to get used to it. A great way to get comfortable with it is to opt for the Ice Dining Experience. Not only is it a novelty factor to enjoy a four-course meal on ice plates, sitting on ice stools, but you’ll soon realise the temperature doesn’t hit you as you thought it would! As a bonus, the dinner usually ends with a small party and drinks at the Ice Bar, all to get you hyped and ready for the night ahead.
Bottom line – don’t settle in too early. Take your time to get used to the Ice Hotel climate and being in an ice building. Preferably having one last drink at the Ice Bar…
Don’t drink too much, though
And if you do, make sure you go to the loo before settling in for the night. As the toilets are in the nearby building, you want to avoid getting out of your comfortable sleeping bags and out in the snow. We recommend getting ready for bed in the chalet. When you go over to the Ice Hotel, all you’ll have to do is jump into the sleeping bag and get cozy.
Ice Shots (left) and the Ice Restaurant at Christmas time (right)
Avoid showering beforehand
Showers are a big no-no when it comes to sleeping in an Ice Hotel. You should go to bed as dry as possible to avoid feeling cold during the night. This includes using water-based moisturizers and creams. Do make sure you moisturize, though, to keep your skin from drying out. Showers will be made available for you the next morning in the warm chalet.
While the first impulse would be to put on as many layers as possible. However, that would only make you feel hot and sweaty for a little while and cold for the rest of the night. Opt for synthetic materials and a fleece you can zip on and off for temperature control. Think thermals, warm socks. Try to steer away from wool and cotton. While they will keep you warm, they would gather moisture that will turn cold at some point during the night.
Remember that you will have a heavy-duty sleeping bag and plenty of blankets, so there is no need to overdress.
Don’t forget your hat
As the only body part being “exposed” is your head, the hat is essential. You will want to keep your head warm throughout the night. Do avoid covering your face with a scarf, however, as it would gather moisture. The same goes for tucking your nose inside the sleeping bag as breathing can create steam. Your nose will get used to the chills, don’t worry!
Place your shoes near the bed for easy access
Ideally, your shoes should be easily accessible. The last thing you want is to look for them in the middle of the night if you haven’t followed Rule number 3! To ensure you will find them nice and dry, squeeze in your gloves inside, and cover them with a sheepskin or your jacket. This way, both your shoes and gloves will remain dry throughout the night.
Making the bed
The piece of resistance – the sleeping bag which is kept in the warm chalet in the hours before bedtime. Don’t forget to grab it when you make your way over to the Ice Hotel. The sleeping bag is designed for temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius, so you’ll be more than fine. This, along with the blankets available, will ensure you’ll be warm and toasty. Our winning combination is as follows: a thick blanket and sheepskin on the mattress for insulation, the sleeping bag, and another blanket on top just in case.
The novelty factor of sleeping in an Ice Hotel will also mean that your brain might be a bit hyperactive! Don’t worry if sleep doesn’t come straight ahead. Breath in, enjoy the setting and mentally tick this off your bucket-list!
Ice Rooms – photos taken by Igor Marinovic (left) and Paul Albu (right)
Now that you’re a pro and you have sleeping in an Ice Hotel in a (sleeping) bag, why won’t you head over to our Ice Hotel Experience?