A trip to the Winter Wonderland of Northern Norway with a frosty visit to the Snowhotel
Nowadays winter trips to Scandinavia got popular thanks to some hyped pictures of various Influencers, Instagramers, Tiktokers and whatsoever. But I am actually a fan of the North since long. The majestic scenery and the tranquil nature has put a spell on me and I got addicted to the magic of the North. Therefore I hope this jewel on earth will be spared from all mass tourism.
This time my trip brought me real high up north to Kirkenes – from there it is just 10 km until the Russian border. Kirkenes is a typical Norwegian village at the shore of a large Fjord and surrounded by a humble mountain scenery. Few kilometers away from the village you will find yourself already in the wilderness.
At the edge of civilisation lies the Kirkenes Snowhotel – a magic winter wonderland.
The Hotel (www.snowhotelkirkenes.com)
To put it first – of course this place is a pure touristic place. Nevertheless, it kept its authenticity. You can have an unique arctic experience over there. I was really fascinated by this place as the accommodation in the cabins was so cosy, the snowhotel an experience of its kind and the nearby Husky farm my favorite place to be throughout our stay.
The only negative point of this place are the tourist groups. They are mainly coming during the day from the Hurtigruten ships to see the Snowhotel or for various other activities. They really do interrupt the peaceful environment and do disturb the paying guests of the hotel. For sure they make good money with these groups, but thus they take some of the magic away and let the place appear very commercial.
We stayed for three nights in these cosy wooden cabins. The ambiance was fantastic, especially when it was snowing outside. Through the huge glass window you can observe the Northern Lights, if you are lucky, without getting any cold feet. In our case we were extremely lucky, but to this later on.
Bathroom and showers are en suite with a funny covered toilet. In the cabin the floor is heated (for me actually a bit overheated) and you have surprisingly a very good WIFI as well.
Cabins at daytime:
Cabins at night:
Cabin from inside:
The unique selling point of this place is for sure the Snowhotel, which is the only Snowhotel in the world that is also open during the summer! But of course to get the real experience a visit during winter is recommended.
Ok, I already admit it – I skipped the night at the Snowhotel and opted for my warm cabin 😜 However most of the guests will book one night at the Snowhotel and the other night(s) in one of the cabins.
As a guest of the hotel you will anyway have free access to the Snowhotel during the day for a visit, even if you stay all nights in a cabin.
The whole structure of the Snowhotel is stunning and once you put the first step inside you feel like in a frozen fairy tale world. How magic!
The Snowhotel has 13 individual rooms that fit either 2 or 4 guests. All rooms are with a different design of snow and ice sculptures.
Also a honeymoon room is available.
At the end of the snow corridor you can find an ice bar with a stunning snow deer sculpture. Even if you are only staying in a cabin, come here for a shot served in an ice glass after dinner.
Behind the bar comes the connection door to the main hotel building, where overnight guests from the Snowhotel can store their luggage, have a sauna plus shower and can change.
So will you feel cold at night? The answer for sure is NO. On your bed made of ice you will find a mattress plus reindeer hide. Then you will be provided with a polar sleeping bag that is good for up to -30 degree.
The constant temperature within the Snowhotel is just -2 degree. For hygienic purpose they also give you a sheet to cover plus socks to keep you warm. So the only place in your body where you might feel cold is your face, but for this they have baclava covers as well.
Once you get yourself peeled into your sleeping bag, you wiggle a bit and here we go you will feel warm and sound. The only problem can be if you have to go to the toilet at night 😜 – so better not to drink too much before.
An old barn has been transformed into the main hotel building, where you can find mentioned washing facilities in the basement, breakfast room on the ground floor and a real nice lounge area plus dinning hall in the upper floor.
Foodwise we also had a real good experience in the hotel. I would recommend to book on half-board basis, as the next village is far away and no other dining options can be found around. Breakfast was basic, but with healthy options and very fresh. A real thumb up for the dinner - which is a 3-course set meal and which will be served for all guests (cabins and Snowhotel) at the same time. For our two dinners we had were local specialities (one day reindeer and the other day arctic char), nicely presented and very tasty.
Typical Northern lunch items and snacks you can find during the day in the traditional Sami tent. Lunch is prepared on the open fire in the middle of the tent - yummy food and a cosy atmosphere! A little souvenir shop is located here as well.
There are a couple of fun activities on offer, however they all come with a heavy price tag. So most probably you won´t be doing all of them, but have to choose your preference. A real popular one is the King Crab Safari – which is exclusively available in this part of Norway.
Then the hunt for the Northern Lights by bus or snow scooter is also very popular. Here it depends a bit on your luck – it can happen that you are driving for hours and you won´t see them. If it is a snowy day then chances are gone already. Maybe you gamble a bit as we did and trust your luck – and you might see them right above your cabin.
Snowshoe tours are also available and you can try your skills with cross-country skiing.
Our activity choice was the Husky Safari – this is the longer 2 hours tour, which will go for around 10 km. There is also a shorter experience available.
I already have mentioned that the Husky farm is just beside the hotel and you are welcome to visit the dogs throughout the day. This is a real nice feature – as compared to other hotels where I have been, they just bring you to a farm which is far away and rush you through the program. Here you can really spend time with the dogs and for sure you will find your favorite friend over there – mine was the super relaxed Lentus.
All the Huskies are really friendly and although they are big in size and can get really nervous and excited when they see a chance to run, they are the most cute and loveable dogs ever. They are always fond of a cuddle and encouraging it strongly. On the farm you will always find some of their nice guards, who are more than happy to give you some information about their dogs. And the best thing ....the puppy farm!!❤️🐶
For the tour they will first dress you up with polar winter cloth, so no worries even on colder days. Afterwards your guide or musher how they are called will introduce his dog team to you……and then you just sit back in the sledge (2 person per sledge), relax and off they go.
In the beginning the dogs are really excited, but they will come down after some time. On the 2 hours tour you will drive through a beautiful landscape with a fireplace stop for a hot tea serving.
Usually your musher will drive you all way through, but as I have done dog sledging before I have asked our guide Johannes if I can drive a bit myself. At the end of the tour he gave the lead to me. And as always I really loved it!!! We crossed the frozen Fjord with the dogs in my command. Maybe I should become a musher girl 😁
.....and don´t forget to pay a visit to the reeinder family - at the reception you can ask for some food to give them a treat.
As mentioned we were among the lucky ones and saw the Northern Lights right over our cabin on our last night. The forecast of my App (named Aurora) looked promising for that night – but in the end you never know where and if the lights will appear.
After dinner I made a small walk to the shore of the nearby Fjord. In general it is better to be away from any artificial light source. And here they were – however only very light, almost not visible. Only in the camera they appeared stronger. But already with this experience I would have been satisfied.
However it got way better – back in our cabin I decided to stay awake a bit longer this night and try my luck….and some time after midnight the Polar Lights showed themselves strongly right above our cabin. I ran out and here they were, strong and very magic, changing their shape in every second.
An experience for a life time! They were so magic that I didn’t spend much attention to make real clear pictures, therefore they appear a bit blurry and actually don´t pay justice to the beauty we saw 🙈
Most probably on your way to Kirkenes you will have a transit in Oslo – so why not taking the chance of a short visit. On a first glance Oslo might appear very small and maybe not so attractive, however that is not the truth as Olso has its real jewels.
Where to stay?
During my business trips to Oslo I stayed very often at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel (www.radissonhotels.com), which is a convenient city hotel. Nothing special, but with nice rooms especially on the higher floors of this highrise building. Also the rooftop bar and restaurant and the small pool and sauna rooftop facilities are a plus of this hotel.
If you like to have a more stylish accommodation then check out the Clarion Hotel The Hub (www.nordicchoicehotels.com/hotels/norway/oslo/clarion-hotel-the-hub) or the newly opened Amerikalinjen (www.amerikalinjen.com) – if you are not staying here, at least you should come over to try one of their real special and creative cocktails at the hotel bar.
Other centrally located and more budget friendly hotels would be the Comfort Grand Central (www.nordicchoicehotels.com/hotels/norge/oslo/comfort-hotel-grand-central) and the Scandic Byporten Hotel (www.scandichotels.no) – both directly attached to the Oslo main station.
Which are the main areas of interest?
Apart from the buzzling pedestrian area of Karl Johan, which stretches from the main station until the Royal Castle, Oslo has some fancy new areas as well. One of them is Aker Brygge (www.akerbrygge.no) a newly developed Marina area with modern apartments, stylish restaurants, bars and shops. Especially during summer this is a must-go area, but also during the winter month this place has its unique charm. Don´t forget to walk through until the end for a cultural visit at the very special Astrup Fearnley Museet (www.afmuseet.no/en).
From here you can cross over via a footbridge to the other side of the Fjord, where you can find further developments with funky restaurants and during summer swimming facilities. During winter try out the cool seaside sauna cabins (www.oslobadstuforening.no), where you can have a chilled dip in the icy waters afterwards. Nothing for the faint hearted, Viking style!
A less modern, but in many ways more charming area is the alternative neighbourhood of Grünerlokka – which is getting more and more trendy these days. Therefore you can find nowadays beside the long established Vintage Cafes and Indie Shops, hip new restaurants, stylish bars and street art. Check for the very popular street markets that are happening during weekends in this funky place in town. For more information have a read on www.visitoslo.com/grunerlokka or www.visitlokka.no/a-locals-guide-to-grunerlokka
Oslo´s main attraction
Oslo is a small city, so the main sights you can easily finish within a day. Best in a combined bus and boat tour that includes sights like the castle, the museum island, Vigeland Park and the ski jump of Holmenkollen. For various tour options see www.visitoslo.com/en/activities-and-attractions/sightseeing/
The latest attraction of Oslo is the new digital Viking Museum – which is a quite unique approach of an insight into the heritage of the Vikings. Don´t expect too much of it, but if you have some time left or you are travelling with kids for sure this place is nice to visit www.thevikingplanet.com
Where to eat
Oslo has so many super nice restaurants and eateries – of course as everywhere in Norway price level is high and way over the European average. However once already there you need to go with the flow 😉
Here is just a very small selection of my favorite Oslo dinner places:
Fiskeriet www.fiskeriet.net – very small fish shop cum restaurant. Fresh, tasty – small selective menu that never disappoints.
Lofoten Restaurant www.lofoten-fiskerestaurant.no – a quite pricy, but outstanding fish restaurant with huge glass windows towards the Oslo Fjord in Aker Brygge.
Olivia Restaurant Aker Brygge www.oliviarestauranter.no/restauranter/aker-brygge/ - my favourite Italian restaurant in town. Very yummy pizzas and cosy atmosphere.
Hub Bar & Restaurant www.nordicchoicehotels.no/hotell/norge/oslo/clarion-hotel-the-hub/fasiliteter/hub-bar - at the rooftop of the Clarion Hotel you can find this stylish place with an amazing view over Oslo and a modern food and drink menu.
Grilleriet www.grilleriet.no – as the name indicates it is all about meat here, grilled to perfection.
Sudost www.sudost.no – very stylish and super popular Asian Fusion restaurant in Grünerlokka.
Yaya´s www.yayas.no – my all time favourite Thai restaurant – beside the good food you can experience a real Thailand feeling including a Tuktuk, tropical decorations and from time to time a thunderstorm that swipes through the restaurant. A good place for a fun night out!
So what are you waiting for? Book your ticket up North now!!! Experience this amazing country that is “Powered by Nature”.
Velkommen til Norge!