Served on a Bed of Ice

From the very first time I heard about the Hotel of Ice in Romania, I wanted to go.  I figured the hardest part would be to convince my nine year old son, but as soon as he saw their web-site, he was as keen as I was to venture up the snowy mountain-side, and spend a night we would remember forever.

You can’t pick the weather, so on our particular day just after the New Year, it proved to be a snowy one.

We had a good start that morning though. We had stayed the previous night at Palace Brukenthal, and felt revived and refreshed, and ready to go.  Their staff even helped me push the car when we became stuck, and the wheels spun in the soft snow of their car park.  My new snow tyres just wouldn’t grip, and being Australian, my snow driving days are few.

Our contact Alex had even printed out a map for me (when the GPS wouldn’t pick up the little town of Balea Lac) where we had to head to ride the Cable Car / Gondola up.

I drove slowly, and even though the weather was snowing heavily, I was able to drive along the famous Transfăgărăsan Road with a few prayers at the slippery corners, and arrived safely at the base Cable Car station.

As far as I know, the classic 1970’s retro Coca-cola Cable Car / Gondola is independently owned, and doesn’t belong to the Balea Lac Chalet, or the Hotel of Ice – they are three individual companies. The Gondola staff speak Romanian; they don’t speak english, so I was pleased when a helpful tour guide was waiting with her group of travellers, and was able to assist me, as there was two waiting lines – one for visitors, and one for guests, but we never saw either queues, and had waited by the fire.

Exploramum and Explorason – retro cable car

We reach the mountain top, and it is snowing quite heavily, but more so, the wind was really blowing, and the snow stung our faces as we made our way straight to the chalet for lunch.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – our snow storm

It is a lovely stone and wooden chalet, and it was decorated with animal skins, antlers, and of course, Christmas decorations.  It was warm, and the Romanian music was playing in the background as we found where to place our backpack and jackets, and head to the main restaurant area for a delicious hot lunch.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – the adjacent chalet

Explorason, in true form, ordered us a hot chocolate with whipped cream.  It warmed our hands, and our bellies.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – hot chocolate with whipped cream at the chalet

I am wriggling in my seat like a child. I’m super keen to see inside the Hotel of Ice!  Explorason is eating way too slowly for my liking and I wish he would speed up.  Finally, he is finished and it is about 3:00 p.m. by the time I get my first peek inside this incredible winter wonderland.  By now it is really blowing a snowy gale outside (which I am told is unusual), and sadly we make our way past the unused winter activities that are tied down securely.

These winter activities are owned and operated by the Gondola / Cable Car and include:

  • Snowmobile – 27 euro/15 minutes
  • Sledding – 4 euro/hour
  • Tubbing – 8 euro/hour
  • Skiing – 7 euro/hour
  • Snow-boat rubber Rafting – 3,5 euro/round
  • Snow Giant Ball –  Zorbing – 12 euro/round
  • Ice Sculpting –  12 euro/ice block

We are pleased that the lovely Andreea walks us over, and even takes Explorason’s hand to lead us safely over to the Hotel of Ice. She is their head person on the mountain top, and proves to be just a delightful co-ordinator who informs us of all we should be doing at Balea Lac.

The Hotel of Ice is open to the public in the daytime, and so it is pretty full with tourists taking their photos – tickets are available at the door (for Adults Ten Ron, and Children Five Ron). This visiting ticket entitles the holder to also visit the Church of Ice which they were building for this season when we were there, and also the three igloos, which can be booked for a romantic evening’s accommodation.

We reach the ice sculptures that adorn the external entrance at the front wooden doors, which are lined with sheep skin, and we enter into a magical world of ice.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – The hotel entrance

We feel like we are inside a life-size snow globe  / dome.

We sit on ice arm chairs by the faux fire-place.  The calf skins are just gorgeous that we warm our butts on.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – the foyer with the armchairs of ice

The front hotel foyer also has ice sculptures, and I love the buttons on their jackets – CIUC Beer caps.  I think it wins the most unique hotel foyer in the world!

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – ice sculptures

This hotel is for the level headed adventurer; the ones who love to try something out of the ordinary, but who have some common sense.  It might not be the right place for partying teenagers who want to sit using their phones all day. It is the place to turn off the phone (devices don’t like the extreme cold anyway), and to live in the moment.

There is also no en-suite – how can you get hot water and a flushing toilet when you are in a building of ice?  I read people expected this, and I just laughed.  Some things you can live without.  My butt doesn’t want to hit any cold toilet seat out in these elements, thanks.

So much detail has gone into this Hotel of Ice.  Even some of the door arches are individually designed. We sit and enjoy a hot chocolate. We meet a lovely Romanian family that have come for a day visit.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – daytime visitors we meet

What is unique about this Hotel of Ice, is that it is built each year.  That is correct – and each year it is a new style, and new theme; so you could visit every year and get a pleasant surprise.

This year it has a zodiac theme and here are the 12 zodiac signs you will see the rooms themed in:

  Fire Earth Air Water
  Aries Capricorn Libra Cancer
  Leo Taurus Aquarius Scorpio
  Sagittarius Virgo Gemini Pisces

As we walk into the dining and bar area, we decide to head behind the curtains and explore the twelve bedrooms made of ice.

The first room is Sagittarius, where Explorason pretends to be an ice sculpture.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – imitating ice sculptures

Different rooms have a table and 2 stools, or an arm chair – made of ice of course. All are individual.

Some rooms are large, but we were glad of a smaller room – my theory is it won’t be so cold – maybe that thought alone shows brain freeze?

There are too many to show, but here is the Taurus room.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – The Taurus room is spacious

Below is the Aquarius room, if I remember rightly.  The ice beds are actually topped with wood, and then the bedding, and topped off with a cover, sheepskins and a lined blanket.  Then you get a sub-zero sleeping bag.  There is also two sets of pillows.  They tidy the rooms after the visitors come through for the day in preparation for their guests night stay.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – Aquarius Room

We head out, and Explorason is still busy zipping in and out of the ice bedrooms, as I enjoy a drink at the bar. I can’t wait for later tonight when we get to socialise here at this very bar.  The ceiling lights are pretty rows of colours, and brighter main lights can be turned on if needed too.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – The Ice Bar

We meet a happy bunch of guests. Their tour group has just arrived with their suitcases, so we introduce ourselves, and learn we are all here together for the night.  It looks like we are in for a great time.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – Meeting new friends

We head back to the chalet, where we end up playing Dominoes with the table of guests we met in the photograph above.  They are staying at the chalet for dinner, and Explorason and I have booked the Iced Dinner, where dinner will be Served on a Bed of Ice.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – Our dinner is served on a Bd of Ice

This is just the coolest experience ever, and for me the dinner was definitely the highlight.  As it is an optional dinner, it needs to be booked in advance. They do not have kitchen here at the hotel of Ice, so I think they do an amazing job with preparing and presenting the four course dinner.  I order the Vegetarian Banquet, and Explorason chooses the Banquet with Meat dishes.

So now it is “CHEERS” everyone, or as they say in Romanian, “Noroc”.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – The Dining Room

Explorason is mercerised by the ice platters.  He cannot stop trying to hold it as a plate and to play with it. This is the most unique plate he has ever had.  He really is having fun and I like that.  I’m so pleased, as I was concerned the cold would have a negative effect on him, but he has handled it really well. He has mixed with the other guests, and is so excited for his unique bedtime experience later that night.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – Explorason loves the ice platters

We can stay in the Hotel of Ice after dinner, but I think it might be best for Explorason to stay warm in the chalet. In fact on this particular night they have a staff party with a band, so we have been invited to participate. I realise it is what I also love about the Romanians, and that is their hospitality.

We end up back at the table with one of the tour groups. I happen to have a mini pack of cards, so we invite another guest who is also staying at the Hotel of Ice to join us.

There is internet here, but I never brought my laptop, and am so pleased I didn’t. This is how travel should be. Ditch the technology for a few hours, and enjoy the moment.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – The ‘fun table’

By the end of the night socialising, part of our group is up dancing. I was sitting there and was so very hot with my 3 layers of trousers, I feel like I am going to melt, but to take off my boots was crazy, so I give the dancing a miss. I am not used to this dressing in layers.  But I know I must keep all those clothes on for walking over to the Hotel of Ice.  We decide we will head over there around 11:00 p.m. that way if we are cold, it is not too long a night.

I have brought hot water bottles, so we fill and stash them under Explorason’s jacket. Little do we realise the snow is storming outside.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – Night time is easier to find our way

The entrance was lit well, and we learn it is easier to find our way in the night with the lights than the daytime.  I protect the camera, and capture a great shot of the front of the Hotel of Ice at night.

When we get to the Hotel of Ice we are all pretty revved up. We could party. The bar is closed as the staff are at the staff party in the Chalet.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – Night time glow at the entrance is stunning

I join the others at the bar.  I have a small bottle of wine.  Others have a packet of cookies, and also peanuts, and we have crisps.  So we make our own little bar fun.

I decide around midnight we had better head to our ‘Bed of Ice’, but by now our hot water bottles were cold !  We have the Capricorn room, and it is just the right size for us.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – our Bed of Ice

We go in and peel off our outer layer of clothing.  I wrap the camera in layers, and make sure the phone is deep in my backpack, and that it is sitting on a lambswool and is nice and dry.

We have a ‘ bag of sleeping bags ‘ and it turns out that instead of two we have three.  This works out perfectly for us, as I used the third one open across the top of us.  If I slept there again I would zip two together, and snuggle up with my son for body warmth.

Explorason decides we turn off the main light (yes there is electricity and optional lights) and we settle down for a night’s sleep in our ‘ice cave’ as he calls it with a dim row of red lights which laminate our room softly.

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Exploramum and Explorason – Hotel of Ice, Romania – we settle down to sleep

In the morning we are one of the last two bedrooms left sleeping.  We are pretty pleased we slept here all night – there was an option that night for those who don’t make it to go and sleep in the chalet, but we didn’t need to take them up on this.

We head back to the chalet for breakfast.

Turns out there is ice on the cable for the gondola, and we must wait quite a while, as they safely clear this.  They are experts and it has been a stormy night, so people realise they need to allow extra time to get back down if they are heading onward with a deadline.

As we leave, we decide that staying at the Hotel of Ice is one of the most amazing experiences we have had on our world travels.

If you are planning to come to Romania, this is ‘a must ‘ to add to your itinerary.  It is a once in a lifetime experience.

You only live once and this experience is just incredible!  What are you waiting for?

For those of you who want a short break holiday – there are also two fabulous discounted packages available below

with 35% t0 55% discount depending on if there are two or four persons.

1/  For a 3 nights via SIBIU at 45% off – for 2 person package

– click on the banner below

and quote Coupon code 45s3rj

45 % discount hotel of ice

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2/  For a 3 nights via SIBIU at 55% off – for a 4 person package

– click on the banner below

and quote Coupon Code 55s3rj

55 % discount hotel of ice

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3/  For a 5 nights via BUCHAREST at 35% off – for a 2 person package

– click on the banner below

and quote Coupon Code 34b5rj

35 % discount hotel of ice

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4/  For a 5 nights via BUCHAREST at 50% off – for a 4 person package 

– click on the banner below

and quote Coupon Code 50b5rj

50 % discount hotel of ice

Accommodation Name: Hotel of Ice

Location:  Balec Lac, Romania

Package bookings: huge discounts of up to 60% off if you email exploramum@gmail.com ad I can organise with the owners!!!!!

Web-site: http://hotelofice.ro

Date stayed: January, 2015

Meals: I recommend booking the Ice Dinner – but this must be booked in advance.  Other meals and snacks can be purchased at the Chalet Balea Lac

Bar: Yes

Wi-fi: In the adjacent Chalet main dining area

Child friendly: Yes, but check suitability for young children

 

 

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15 comments

  1. Ice hotels are sooo cool. We have one in Quebec City, Hotel de Glace (only one in North America). I’m about 9 hours away but I hope to visit maybe next year!

    1. Hannah – thanks for reading our blog. Yes – a once in a lifetime experience. Most are built in the towns – is that one in the mountains as it is really unique if it is and you get the chance to go. As far as I know the Romanian one is unique in the world in the aspect it need a cable car to get to it. I hope you get to go to one!

  2. Always thought it would be really cool to stay in a hotel made of ice! Almost had the opportunity to do so in Iceland but unfortunately when we visited recently it was already fully booked so maybe heading to Romania is an option and staying in this establishment. Looks ‘cool’ (pardon the pun) and a really interesting experience.

  3. What a neat experience! I’ve always wondered if you can actually sleep in “ice hotels” or if it’s just for show. I’m impressed you made it through the whole night! What was the average temperature?

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