Say what you will about Groupon, it is good for exposing you to new places and activity ideas. As seeing the Northern Lights is on my wish list for 2012, I was in a bit of disbelief to see an ice hotel “deal” flip into my inbox. While it wasn’t the offer I was hoping for, it was still pretty exciting: it was indeed for the ice hotel…in Romania.
From the Ice Hotel Romania website:
Nestled between the icy peaks of the Fagaras Mountains and veiled by clouds, the remote Ice Hotel stands 2000m above sea level and can only be accessed via cable car. Each winter, once the Balea Lake freezes over, the locals cut and drag blocks of the icy lake to the location of the hotel which is set against a magnificent backdrop. Hand carved by local craftsmen using traditional techniques, the frozen Balea Lake is transformed into the beautifully intricate structures of the Ice Hotel and its magical Ice Church. With individually sculptured rooms of ice, each and every corner of the Ice Hotel is stunningly unique and is re-designed and re-built every winter.
But the hotel is not an isolated treat! Reaching it requires a drive…over “the greatest driving road in the world”, according to the “Top Gear” guys. But that will only take you to the cable car, as the last bit is inaccessible by road in the winter. (You wouldn’t expect anything less from an Ice Hotel, would you? Easy access just wouldn’t seem right.)
Sold! While the “uniqueness” of the ice hotel concept can only go so far, I’m a firm believer that there is room for a third location (as in “region”). I’m particularly thrilled about this one because Romania is not currently a bold headline on the tourist map, and in terms of impressive surprises to tempt me into its borders, this is up there. I always knew the country would make for a fascinating cultural and historical destination, but when I imagined vacationing in Romania “creative luxury” and “alpine” were not the concepts that previously came to mind. That was before (what has amounted to) one cracking moment of education.
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The hotel’s season runs December-April. Booking appears to be via Untravelled Paths, This is somewhat annoying/claustrophobic, as it appears to be the only sales outlet (though it does not claim to be) and I don’t really “get” what it is. (An independent tour company with an exclusive contract? The owning hotel company masked as a tour company? A hotel magazine?) It obsesses over packages, though they are attractive (falling at around 100E/night, include transfers and sightseeing). If you look really really hard you can dig up info giving a straight rate of 120E/night in a deluxe room.
Romania has seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, four of which are within reach of the Ice Hotel (between 90 minutes and 3 hours’ drive away). Click here for more information.