The Game of Thrones themed Snow Village near Kittilä was a big highlight of my trip to the Finnish Lapland. It’s a quick 1.5 hour flight from Helsinki to Kittilä followed by a 20 minute drive to practically the middle of nowhere where the village is built each year. The design of the whole place is amazing and unique and I particularly loved the spectacular room carvings. While you can tour through the hotel without staying (this costs 15€) we opted to stay the night in one of the ice rooms- an unforgettable experience. Aside from the novelty of sleeping in a -5* room of ice, staying overnight also allowed us to explore the hotel with only a handful of other guests, avoiding the daytime crowds and creating a somewhat eerie, otherworldly feel. I absolutely loved the place and will definitely be back next season to experience an all new hotel (it’s rebuilt every year in a different theme). In case you’re wondering what it was like and whether it’s worth the trip- here are some of my photos and a little information about staying the night in village built of ice.
What are Snow Hotels/Villages/Castles?
These are buildings which are either entirely or partially made of ice and snow. There are several throughout Lapland including the SnowCastle in Kemi, the Arctic SnowHotel in Rovaniemi and of course the SnowVillage at Kittilä. As well as the building being made from ice and snow, there are also many stunning and intricate ice carvings throughout these buildings. We chose the Snow Village for our stay because the online photos looked amazing and of course because we’re big fans of Game of Thrones!
Each year the village has a different theme and is a different size and shape. In this year’s Game of Thrones themed village there was a life-sized iron throne made of ice, a huge ice statue of The Mountain, a Braavosi Hall of faces, sigils of the great Westeros houses, a huge ice dragon and a white walker sculpture with glowing eyes. There were also many other sculptures and structures throughout the village that were not of this theme.
Making the Snow Village
Each year the Snow Village melts in spring and is rebuilt the following winter (October/November) by a team of roughly 30 people (including those who make the sculptures). The Snow Village has been running for 17 years and is the brain child of 3 brothers, who are still heavily involved in the construction and carving of the village.
During our welcome tour the staff explained how the place was built. Around 20 million kilos of snow and 350 000 kilos of crystal clear natural ice are used each year to build the Snow Village, with various techniques employed to make the buildings. For the circular rooms, large balloons are inflated and the ice/snow bricks laid above these, when the ice is stable the balloon is deflated and removed. Different sized balloons are used for the smaller sleeping rooms and for the larger common areas such as the bar and restaurant. To make the corridors, large wooden tubes are used as the base to build on and are then removed once the ice is in place.
To make the large carved sculptures, huge blocks of amazingly clear ice are brought from a nearby river, where the running water underneath the ice helps to clean it and give it the crystal clear appearance. Some small leaves and twigs can sometimes still be seen in the ice sculptures, adding to their beauty. The large blocks are then joined together and are sculpted in their final position.
The entrance hall, theater & chapel
The entrance hall to the hotel inspires awe immediately. Snowy walls are interspersed with large smooth ice bricks which glow purple/blue and are even more amazing in the dark as night falls.
Then there’s the theater which shows footage from the making of the village. There’s also an ice chapel which housed 30 weddings this season, and an outdoor courtyard for watching auroras, complete with a traditional lappish tent with a fire to warm up. Oh and there’s an ice slide!
Drinks & Dinner
The Ice Bar with a huge ice dragon overlooking the drinks was another highlight of the hotel for me. Drinks are served in frozen ice glasses and tables and chairs are made of thick, shiny ice. The drinks are fairly expensive, as per Finland in general (8€ per shot), but the novelty of drinking from glasses made of ice made it worth it. The Bilberry (Finnish blueberry) flavoured vodka was by far my favourite!
For dinner there are two options at the Snow Village- the ice restaurant with a set 3 course menu for around 60€ or the warm restaurant with a la carte dining. As there weren’t many vegetarian options and we were keen on saving some money we headed into Kittilä town for dinner. There was only one place open serving food (pizza and kebab place), but it was delicious and great value.
Staying the night
There are 24 rooms at the Snow Village, with two different room types- plain, cheaper rooms with no carvings inside and then more expensive suites with a different ice carving per suite. Rooms fit between 1 and 5 people, with prices per night around 264€ for a standard double room or 350€ for a double suites with an ice sculpture. There is one Game of Thrones themed suite (the white walker sculpture) with the remainder containing various other images and themes.
All rooms have two separate sheets of ice walls as doors. Proper doors are not possible because the building sinks a little every day (and doors would no longer open properly) and the rooms need ventilation and temperature control which is achieved through airflow through the open style doors.
We became a little worried that we would get too cold at night but the staff were great explaining how to survive the night and we actually felt very warm in our sleeping bags. There was also a warm area to change and shower in (and worst case scenario come to sleep in!). We were woken in the morning with hot berry juice and then had complimentary breakfast in the ‘warm restaurant’. They also give you a diploma to prove you survived the night in an ice room 🙂
The Snow Village was amazing and I can’t wait to go back next year. I cannot recommend this place highly enough!
Oh and for things to do nearby…
There are a few things to do in the immediate surrounds of the Snow Village. The hotel can organise reindeer and husky rides, a snowmobile safari, hiking, snowshoeing or skiing but in busy times you need to book well ahead for the larger activities.
We decided to head a little further away (30min) to Ylläs national park where we visited the Sports Resort and caught the gondola (10€) to the top of the mountain where there are two cafes, one serving delicious pizza and the other more sweet treats, snacks and amazing hot chocolate. People mainly come here to ski but the gondola ride and views from the top are worth it regardless. There’s also another ski resort on the other side of the mountain. In the other direction from Kittilä you’ll find Levi, which also has slopes and activities.
Do yourself a favour- go to LAPLAND!