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Our little black book of enchanting places

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COLD COMFORT IN EUROPE'S BEST ICE HOTELS by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in DESTINATIONS By Maggie O'Sullivan

I know. Sleeping on a bed of ice, in a room made of snow, doesn't sound that tempting, yet ice hotels have become hugely popular in recent years, and not just with masochists. Though undeniably chilly (temperatures hover around the -5C mark), these beautiful rooms of ice are kitted out with everything you need to keep warm. Most have access to bars and restaurants, as well as 'warm' areas. And, they're always beautifully carved and sculpted. But the biggest bonus of all is that they're invariably set in magnificent, unspoilt landscapes. Here are five of the best this season.

Iglu-Dorf, various locations
Iglu-Dorf is a ‘chain’ of simple but comfortable igloo villages, set in six locations in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Unique to Iglu-Dorf this season is the build-your-own concept: with the help of an expert, guests in the Engelberg, Zermatt and Zugspitze villages can knock up their own snowy ‘love nest’. Sounds too much like hard work? Check into this gorgeous, ready-made Love Nest (above) at the Zermatt Iglu-Dorf. Further information, Iglu-Dorf Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland
This enchanting resort of log cabins, glass igloos and snow igloos is to be found 250 km north of the Arctic Circle. A night in one of these snow igloos is actually rather a cosy affair, but if you prefer things to be a little more hard core, take a dip in the lake (don’t worry if it’s frozen over – they will cut a hole for you). There are several top-flight restaurants and a number of smoke saunas which certainly make this Finland’s most sophisticated ‘ice hotel’. Further information, Kakslauttanen Arctic The Kirkenes SnowHotel, Norway
The Kirkenes SnowHotel is located in a wild stretch of tundra beside Norway’s Langfjorden, 400km north of the Arctic Circle. It's crafted from around 2,000 tons of ice, designed and illuminated by expert ice sculptors from Harbin, in China. There’s a restaurant and bar, plus 20 ice suites filled with beautiful snow art, though you might prefer one of the new ‘warm rooms’ – cosy wood cabins equipped with large windows for watching the Northern Lights. Further information, Kirkenes SnowHotel   Igloo Hotel, Norway
The Igloo Hotel is situated in Sorrisniva, 20km from Alta, in northern Norway. It opened 16 years ago with just six rooms, but has grown every year so that it now offers 30 guest rooms, an art gallery, a bar and restaurant and a consecrated ice chapel. A nice touch is that everyone who works at the Igloo Hotel also helped to build it – the head chef, for example, is also a dab hand at ice-sculpting and the theme of the hotel changes every year. Further information, Igloo Hotel 
Icehotel, Sweden
Set in the village of Jukkasjärvi, 200 km above the Arctic Circle, this is the original ice hotel, first made 25 years ago from 1,600 tons of ice and snow. It’s rebuilt every year to a new design, and when spring comes, it simply melts away. There are 23 ice rooms this year, along with 18 Northern Light rooms, 16 art suites (each one has been designed by a different artist) and two luxury suites. There’s an icebar (of course) and a restaurant featuring such delicacies as reindeer and elk, as well as a Champagne bar. Warm rooms are also available on site. For packages from the UK, try a company called The Aurora Zone
 which specialises in trips to see the Northern Lights. Further information, Icehotel

image Icehotel/Paulina Holmgren

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