Ice Ice Baby
As winter is approaching and it already got quite frosty in some European countries and the first snow flakes are in sight, let's have a look around for some extraordinary winter experiences. Living in Dubai I am rather a sunshine and beach girl, however sometimes my German roots (especially the Bavarian ones) are shining through and I am missing these real winter feelings when mountains and forests are covered in deep layers of snow and the world around seems so tranquil and peaceful. Nowadays a lot of regions are not getting that much snow anymore as they used to have and winter in cities can be a messy and unpleasant affair. Whenever I came home for Christmas to Munich in the past years I could rather do a BBQ in the green garden than take out my snowboard for some winter fun. So this season I am looking a bit further in regions where snow is still guaranteed and that can offer some special places.
Of course the Nordic countries pop up first in mind for some real winter fun. So let me share below with you my best findings - winter jackets and gloves out and I'll meet you in the snow!
1. Finland, Kakslauttanen Artic Resort
Of course the home country of Santa Claus seems to be an adequate place for some real winter fun. Here at the Artic Resort you are accommodated in comfortable glass igloos that allow you fantastic views out of your bed onto the Northern Lights - romance poor. During the day the resort offers a wide variety of activities from husky, reindeer and snowmobile safaris over ice fishing to some excursions further afield like a trip with the famous ice breaker Sampo. Snow adventure as its best!
2. Finland, Snow Village
Also in Finland lies another magical place of ice and snow - the Snow Village Kittila. 20 million kilos of snow and 350000 kilos of ice are build up every year to form this spectacular place. As the design is changing every year you can make it as a yearly event to come here and enjoy the snow hotel, ice restaurant and ice bar. Or why not getting married in the ice chapel - then your vows will be frozen forever. Also here you have a wide range of daily activities as snow safaris or snow hikes.
3. Finland, Snow Castle Kemi
Staying in Finland: the city of Kemi is putting up every year from January until mid April a giant snow castle. This is for sure a more touristic experience and you do not have the great outdoor feeling than with the two previous options, but if you are in the region and just would like to have a day excursion that would be something for you. Take a tour through the castle and have a meal at the worlds biggest snow restaurant. You can also stay overnight at the adjustant snow hotel.
4. Sweden, Ice Hotel Kiruna
Also Finland's neighbor country Sweden is offering these kind of extraordinary winter accommodations. Actually the Ice Hotel in Kiruna was one of its first kind and is still among the most popular in the region - so you need to book your room well ahead of time. Of course also here the ice rooms are the most requested ones and a night on ice covered with thick reindeer fur is an unforgettable experience. However if you stay longer and one iced night is enough for you, you can move over in their comfortable wooden chalets. Apart from the common snow activities you can enjoy prize awarded meals in this place.
5. China, Harbin Ice Snow Festival / Russia, Irkutsk Ice Sculpture Park
Moving further afield now a spectacular winter festival is the Harbin Ice Festival - here they are building every year impressive statues and whole landscapes made out of ice and snow - something for the photographers among you. When travelling already so far for sure it is worth to explore also the region around with sights like the Siberian Tiger park or go for some skiing.
Coming now to a winter experience for advanced levels - Russia is the place to be. Temperatures can easily fall down to -30 degree so nothing for the faint hearted. But do it as the Russians do - Vodka for breakfast will fix your temperature. At the city of Irkutsk, every year an ice sculpture competition is held at its main city park. English websites are not so easy to find so you need to google your way a bit round in portals as www.tripadvisor.com
6. Japan, Sapporo Snow Festival
What the Russians and Chinese can do, the Japanese can do as well with their own stunning winter festival in Sapporo. The Festival is one of its largest kind in Japan and attracts every year around 2 million local and foreign visitors. You can see around 250 stunning ice and snow sculptures placed around various points in the city.
When you are in Japan in winter don't miss to take a tour to one of the famous hot springs also popular with the local monkeys. For a traditional way of sleeping stay at one of the many Ryokans - which are a kind of B&B mainly in rural areas. Here you can experience the Japanese way of sleeping on tattami mats and have a public bath as well as some other public areas where you will be asked to wear the traditional yukata robe.
7. France, Kube Hotel Paris
Not really made of ice - but a nice Boutique Hotel around the Nordic theme. Rooms are in cool white with some icy looking features and the hotel is home to Paris one and only Ice Bar - so definitely worth a visit even if you are not staying at the hotel.
8. Spain, Beach Ice Bar Barcelona
Well, that is a place that you would not really connect with the typical winter experience, however if you need some chill from the sun you can cool down in the worlds first Ice Beach bar. It has become a kind of tourist attraction since its opening, but yes it is indeed an attraction to have an al fresco drink at the ice lounge with a view to the Mediterranean sea. The bar has been built by international artists and its design and sculptures are changing frequently. They will give you a coat and gloves - so you do not have to bring your winter cloth all the way down to Barcelona :-) Enjoy your well chilled drink in cups made out of pure ice - so a Whiskey on the rocks gets a full new meaning.
And for all of you who are living in Dubai like me and can't make it at the moment up North or all visitors coming here and need a chill we still have Ski Dubai - our famous indoor skiing hall which also offers a cosy chalet in the middle of the slope where you can enjoy a nice hot chocolate and some penguins to visit www.theplaymania.com/skidubai
Last but not least Dubai has its own Ice Lounge, Chillout - however as it is located in a Shopping Mall you can't get alcohol in there. But if you want to escape the summer heat of Dubai and like to admire some ice structures, that place is the perfect chillout zone for you www.chilloutindubai.com