For a uniquely cozy experience this winter we need to look to countries that experience truly cold and dark winters. From Scandinavia to Antarctica, the following places know how to keep warm with style. Spend the night in a room carved from ice, get cozy with the locals in a Finnish sauna or warm up from the inside with some Scottish whiskey. Here are some places you’ll want to get snowed in this winter.
Ice Hotel, Sweden
Every year talented artists and ice sculptors spend 3,000 hours rebuilding this unique hotel in the winter wilds of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Each room is unique and features ice beds, shelves, lights and even ice books in a frozen library. You’ll be provided with animal furs on the bed and sleeping bags that can withstand up to minus 22 degrees fahrenheit, even providing double sleeping bags for romantic cosying up. When spring comes the hotel is left to melt away, flowing back into the river it was taken from. Top marks for sustainability.
Sleeper Train to the Highlands
There is always something romantic about traveling long distances by train, especially when it’s freezing at night and you’re warm and cozy in a sleeper cabin speeding north through the English countryside. Board the Caledonian Sleeper at Euston in London and enjoy a relaxed dinner and a wee dram of whiskey before retiring to your cabin to be lulled asleep by the clickety-clack of the train tracks. Wake up over the border in the beautiful highlands of Scotland, where rugged snow topped mountains provide plenty of hiking, and hotels in ancient estates have roaring fires and hot porridge for breakfast.
Kotatsu Boat Tours, Japan
Japan in the winter is a magical place and the Japanese have the coziest way to stay warm at home. Kotatsu are small wooden tables with a built-in heat source and a thick blanket to keep the heat in that families have been using to stay cozy for centuries. The sunken hearths of 500 years ago have been replaced with electricity but the concept of family and friends staying warm and spending time together lives on. Today you can find Kotatsu outside the home too in restaurants, trains and some special boat tours. Mogami River in Yamagata prefecture winds its way through gorges and mountains which look beautiful with a dusting of snow. From December to March you can snuggle under a kotatsu table, whilst the glass roof of the boat lets you catch the views and keeps the heat in.
If anyone needs to know how to stay cozy it’s the Finns. Winter temperatures here average around -22F and go down to -65F in northern Lapland with hours of daylight ranging from six hours to zero. To keep their spirits up they invented the sauna, now a sacred part of their culture. There are estimated to be 3 million of them in the country (for a population of 5.5 million) and you can even meet people who were literally born in a sauna! The architect-designed Löyly in Helsinki is one of the best-known public saunas, a beautiful wooden sculpture of a building that looks out to the Baltic Sea and has three wood fired saunas and a restaurant serving classic meatballs and creamy salmon soup to warm you up.
Thermal Baths, Budapest
The Hungarian capital of Budapest sits on a fault line, meaning its impressive array of thermal baths are fed by mineral-rich hot springs. The biggest and best for people-watching is Széchenyi, located in a Palace in the city park. You can spend all day here if you want- there are fifteen indoor pools and three huge outdoor baths, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and jets to keep you busy. For an iconic view of daily life hang out with the locals at the floating chess boards, where they wile away the cold days chatting and playing in the steaming pools.
Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood Oregon
This one's for both horror and winter sports fans as well as those that just like cozy hotels in snowy mountains. Timberline Lodge was used as the exterior of the hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s version of Stephen King’s The Shining but thankfully its interior is warm, cozy and full of lovely staff. Set in the expansive alpine environment of Mt. Hood you can ski and snowboard here for ten months of the year, offering the longest ski season in North America.
White Desert, Antarctica
You might feel like you’re on another planet when you wake up in your ‘polar pod’ here and look out onto the vast open landscapes and glaciers of surrounding Antarctica. You can visit the South Pole during the day and sip cocktails by the fire in the evening here, as gourmet chefs prepare your meal. There is also a sauna and communal library to relax after a day of ice-climbing, hiking or watching the 28,000 emperor penguins that live nearby.