Ever since the Swedes opened the world’s first ice hotel in 1989, bunking down on a Queen-sized ice cube has been top of the serious winter traveller’s bucket list.

The novelty of trying roast reindeer, drinking vodka IN the rocks and falling asleep in a dreamy Narnia landscape clearly outweighs the downside of kipping in a bedroom kept at a frosty -5C with no electric sockets, windows, wardrobes (your clothes would freeze) nor – unless you pay extra – a bathroom en suite.

Today, over a dozen destinations across the world’s frozen wastes, from Scandinavia to Slovenia and Canada to Japan, offer guests an icy reception at the last word in pop-up accommodation: unworldly crystal palaces chiselled from frozen water which rise up with the first winter snows and melt gracefully away with the coming of spring.

Lapland Hotels Snow Village (Finland)

Winter is coming and the world is waiting to see how this hotel will top last season’s headline-grabbing Game of Thrones theme. Built in collaboration with HBO Nordic to provide fans of the addictive TV series with a Westeros experience, guests were queuing up to ride the ice dragon slide, sit on a frozen Iron Throne and sleep guarded by White Walkers.

Two hours from Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland and the hometown of Santa Claus, some 20 million kilos of snow and ice are used in the annual remodelling of this arty village. The restaurant rises up under a 10-metre ice dome decorated with magnificent snow sculptures. If the climate feels too cold for cold-smoked reindeer with cloudberry jam and spruce sprout ice cream you can always switch to the centrally-heated Log Restaurant. There’s also a warm wooden alternative to the ice chapel for plighting your troth without chattering teeth.

A night in one of the 30 ice rooms and suites comes with a thermal fleece-lined sleeping bag, a wake-up call with hot lingonberry juice and a diploma to say you’ve done it. The Snow Village is a 90-minute flight from Helsinki, within a husky ride of two ski resorts.


Hotel de Glace (Canada)

If the prospect of a night in an icebox is giving you cold feet, you can cheat at the Americas’ only ice hotel, where premium suites come with roaring log fires. If you’re wondering why the rooms don’t melt and the guests don’t drown, the cosy glow is a mind-trick as the fireplaces don’t emit heat. If you’re budget doesn’t run to one, bring a crowd and huddle together for warmth in a triple queen-sized family room.

There’s nothing fake about the bum-numbing ice slide at this luxury 45-room freezer set on the forest fringes of Quebec City. You’ll be as Frozen as guests at the press junket for the animated Disney movie hosted here in 2013. Defrost over a steaming bowl of reindeer soup at Cafe Celsius ice pavilion or stop for a traffic light cocktail in the ice bar. However, you haven’t done the Canadian ice hotel experience until you’ve run through the snow in your swimming cossie from a scalding shower to the outdoor hot tubs. Apparently it’s good for your health.

There are ample opportunities to come in from the cold as the hotel is part of Valcartier Vacation Village, Canada’s largest winter holiday playground where everything is heated, including the massive Polynesian-themed indoor waterpark. The complex is stacked with other circulation-restoring attractions including an outdoor skating rink and 35 snow slides.


Ice Hotel (Swedish Lapland)

Last year 50,000 guests from 80 countries stayed at Sweden’s luxury refrigerator, set 200 miles above the Arctic Circle in a hamlet where huskies outnumber humans.

Reborn in a new guise every winter, from the equivalent of 700 million snowballs harvested from the adjacent Torne River, the venture has worked miracles for the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi (population 900), named one of Time magazine’s World’s Greatest Places 2018. From humble beginnings as an igloo built to house art works by Japanese ice artists, the world’s original ice hotel has grown into a 5,000m² complex with a conference centre, ice art gallery, 120 hot and cold rooms and, since 2016, Ice Hotel 365 where suites stay frozen all year round.

Exotic dishes like casseroled moose and fillet of reindeer in jägermeister sauce are rustled up by a Michelin chef in a heated restaurant on frozen plates. You can even have a set of ice crockery mail ordered home to add frisson to your festivities. Hot tubs, ice massages, sculpture classes, ice fishing in the River Torne and visits to meet the native Sami people and their reindeer herds are other Arctic adventures.


Hoshino Resorts Tomamu Ice Village (Japan)

Jet off to Japan’s most northerly prefecture of Hokkaido for the ultimate winter retreat: a night in an enchanting igloo-style village for you and your significant other alone. This incredible just-for-two experience allows you to wallow in a heated outdoor ice bath on the edge of a white birch forest, chill out on a frozen lounger with a hot honey and whisky toddy and sleep under an ice dome swaddled in Ezo deerskin blankets. For breakfast, a bowl of flaming onion soup will help kickstart your circulation.

Uniquely available to guests staying at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu’s warm hotels next to the Ice Village – The Tower or Risonare Tomamu – you’ll need to get your skates on as this taste of subzero solitude is only on offer during January and February.

Everyone can enjoy the ice village, open to visitors from 5-10pm daily until March and just one of the winter highlights of this year-round resort set on the southern slopes of Mount Tomamu. Kids will love riding the ice slide from the top of the resort down to the skating rink and making freezing soap bubbles and ice sculptures in the activity centre. Meanwhile adults can chill out in a novelty ice library with a fireplace and real books.


Kirkenes Snow Hotel (Norway)

Step out of the plane into a husky taxi as mushers and their furry four-legged teams whisk you through white tundra to the icicle-encrusted door of this designer boutique hotel. Perched on the frozen shores of the Barents Sea between Finnish fjords and Russian forests, there’s no shortage of opportunities to explore this winter wonderland. Kirkenes has its own herd of resident reindeer and kennels for 180 Arctic huskies. Ice fishing and snowmobile safaris are other pastimes that won Kirkenes a place on National Geographic’s World’s Best New Adventure Travel Trips list.

The world’s most northerly ice hotel lasts longer than most. It’s 20 ice bedrooms inspired by Norwegian and Sami folklore don’t go into melt-down until mid-April. For a warmer welcome, spend a night in a gamme. These luxurious wooden forest cabins inspired by traditional Sami hunting and fishing huts are open year-round but especially appreciated in winter for their underfloor heating, hot showers, Villeroy & Boch bathrooms and panoramic windows for aurora borealis viewing.

Don’t leave without trying the Kirkenes pièce de résistance – a crowberry cocktail christened Rudolph’s Revenge. King crab and arctic char are menu highlights in the ice restaurant where every ingredient, including the herbs and berries, is locally sourced.