Back in January, my boyfriend and I took a very special trip up to Quebec City to visit the Hotel de Glace – the only ice hotel in North America. While I realise it is now Spring (not quite in Montréal, it’s forecast to snow this week!) I couldn’t resist sharing these photos and our experience at this really quite magical place.
While it may seem a bit like a novelty, the Hotel de Glace is a work of art. The artistry in the design of the building, the way that they have made the snow and ice literally glow and just the incredible structures that they have created using only these 2 seemingly fragile substances really takes your breath away.
It is incredibly quiet – one of the attributes of creating a building completely from snow and ice is it’s soundproofing. Even when the bar is playing loud music from only down the corridor, you cannot hear it.
On arrival, after being given our initial little introduction on how a sleepover in the Ice Hotel works, we placed our bags in a locker and rushed off to meet the tour group that was just starting to take a tour around the hotel. The hotel is open to visitors to explore before 8pm and afterwards it is only overnight guests allowed in their rooms.
The rooms are split into two different types – standard and thematic. The standard rooms are the cheapest, with simply a bed made of ice. The thematic bedrooms are much more fun – these are bedrooms each crafted by a different artist and based on an annual theme. This year the theme was “By the River”.
We had originally booked a standard room, but after exploring how incredible the thematic rooms were we upgraded to a rather beautiful and psychedelic one. Not before checking out each and every other bedroom first though.
This is in fact an ice slide – which people of all ages could use! It was guarded by a waddle of penguins (one of my most favourite parts of the whole hotel). We both, of course, had many goes at going down this thing.
This beautiful ice tree had real apples on it’s branches (although trapped under thick ice!) and was the main centrepiece in the Ice Bar. The hotel was sponsored by Neige, a Québecois ice cider and ice gin brand. Yes, ice gin. Ice cider is delicious – it is much like normal cider only they use apples that are not picked until the cold weather and snow season begins. This makes the fruit much sweeter and gives a distinctive taste to the cider.
The drinks were actually very reasonably priced at the bar – between $7-$9 for beer and most cocktails. There were some more special drinks that went up to maybe $15 but even so – for much a huge tourist attraction it is quite reasonable! The best part was that the drinks are served in an ice glass – which if you kept and used for your next drink would get you $2 off!
In the evening, after all the tourists had left, overnight guests are invited to take part in some activities at the bar. We had an ice hotel scavenger hunt and also tried our hand at ice sculpture – something neither of us will forget!
Before bed, it is recommended that guests use the Nordic Spa area in the courtyard of the hotel. It is important to bring up body temperature before going to sleep in somewhere so cold, so a soak in the hot tub or sauna is essential. Although it is quite an experience to run out to a hot tub in a bathing suit at -20 degrees!
The experience sleeping in an ice hotel is a little bizarre, I’ll admit. You are recommended to sleep in only thermal underwear (like ski thermals), socks and a hat. You are given a sac to put your other possessions in while you sleep, but literally only the essentials are required. Which does not include your phone, sadly.
You are given a ‘nordic sleeping bag’ to sleep in, which is designed for artic expeditions and such things, so it is pretty toasty. However, for someone who tosses and turns all night it was a bit constrictive. You are literally bundled up like a caterpillar, with only a little peep-hole for your eyes. Strange, but the experience of sleeping under the snow was incredible all the same.
At 8am the next day, staff come around to call into your bedroom door to wake you up in time for breakfast. Remember, no phones = no alarm to wake you up.
You have to be out of your room by 9am, which isn’t really a problem as you are so desperate to get into normal clothes and heat up a bit! After that, you have the morning and afternoon to explore a bit more or try out some snow-tubing.
If you’re thinking about booking an Ice Hotel experience, whether it be in Quebec or in another country, here are my top tips:
- Pack appropriately. It will be COLD – that is for sure. You’ll need some thermals (long sleeve top & leggings) and a spare set for the next day. I’d also recommend taking snow-pants as I was very cold with just jeans & thermals. Then of course a proper winter coat, hat, gloves and a scarf.
- But pack light. You will be wearing most of the stuff you need and you can’t keep your things in your room so just keep it to the essentials.
- It won’t be the most comfortable nights sleep ever, but it is an incredible experience. Think about this before you decide to go – it won’t be for everyone.
- Make sure you eat well. The body can’t make heat without energy and theres no energy without food!
I’m only just catching up on adding some travel posts on here – various circumstances have stopped me from posting! But you may notice that this is the first of a new format of blog posts – kinda fancy, right?!
I am going to continue with my backlog of winter travel posts because Québec and Canada are just too beautiful to not share with you. There is such a diverse range of things to do and see here in this wonderful country – I will really miss it when I return to the UK in May.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos, leave a comment if you want to try out an Ice Hotel or if you’ve already been to one!