Balea Ice Hotel – the most popular destination in Romania during wintertime.
Somewhere, “nested” up in the Carpathian Mountains, there is a unique place, literally “frozen” over Balea glacial lake, quiet and mysterious. This place has a name. It’s Balea Ice Hotel, a unique and popular concept in the world, which attracts thousands of curious tourists every year not only from Romania, but from abroad, as well. This year the hotel is going to celebrate 10 years of existence, even though each year it is rebuilt using big blocks of ice brought from Balea glacial lake and everything melts when the warm season comes.
Because a visit at the Ice Hotel is a must do experience if you travel to Romania during winter time, let’s find out more about this special place.
1. Balea Ice Hotel – Then and Now
So, how did everything start? The first Hotel of Ice was built in 2005, being the first of its kind not only in Romania, but in South Eastern Europe, as well. Even though a challenging idea at the beginning, the original concept won the hearts and curiosity of all those who were seeking adventure or relaxation. The success even from the first year was quite important. Little by little, the small frosty land was animated, besides the hotel, with other “cool” constructions and facilities:
– The Ice Church – built in 2006 and open to any confessions, it is considered to be very special for those coming to Balea. As of now, several religious ceremonies have already taken place, such as weddings and even baptisms. On the official webpage of the hotel, we found out that this season 2 young couples will unite their destinies in this unique worship place. Las Vegas is definitely old fashioned now.
– The Ice Bar is considered to be probably the most important part of the ice complex, designed to heat any tourist that tastes the famous Romanian mulled wine or a simple hot tea.
– The Ice Restaurant – you cannot say you enjoyed the Ice experience without having lunch at the Ice Restaurant, sitting on chairs made of ice and eating your dishes partially served on ice plates. Here you can browse the pages of the local menu.
– And of course, Balea Ice Hotel itself, which last year was ranked 3rd by Fodor’s Travel Top 10 World’s Coollest Ice Hotels, being behind only Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village from Finland and the Snow Village from Montreal, Canada.
Balea Ice Hotel is as natural as possible, being built from materials that come from nature and return to nature: for the blocks, ice from the frozen Balea Lake over which the hotel is constructed, and for the mortar, snow brought from the peaks of the surrounding mountains. Ecological LED illuminating systems which emit no heat are used for the lighting.
Having to rebuild the hotel every single year can be quite challenging, but it also represents a good reason for the staff to surprise their visitors. Each year, the hotel’s architecture is different according to each winter season’s theme. For instance, this year, the Zodiac is the main theme for all the ice complex. It will be reflected not only in the hotel’s architecture and interior design, but also in the events that are going to take place here. So, this year, guests can stay under the sign of Aries or Capricorn or under other zodiac signs in the 12 rooms or the 3 igloos available at the Hotel of Ice. All the rooms are entirely made of ice, along with the furnishings. The temperature in each room is between -2 and +2 Celsius degrees. Do not worry, you will find inside plenty of warm blankets, furs and sleeping bags so that you will survive to tell others about your experience in the frosty land.
2. When is the best time to visit the Hotel of Ice?
The Hotel of Ice is open during the winter season, starting in December (when the water from Balea lake completely freezes over, allowing builders to commence carving in ice and build the hotel) until early spring (late April, when the ice is slowly melting because of the warm season). Usually the hotel receives the first guests on Christmas Day, the 25th of December, but if winter comes earlier, the hotel might be opened earlier as well. The 2015 season at the Hotel of Ice officially starts on the 25th of December.
The dates cannot be rigorously set as the construction and the life of the hotel depend completely on the weather conditions.
Which should be the best time to visit the Hotel of Ice?
December is a good time as you get the chance to celebrate the Christmas Holiday or to party on New Year’s Eve in a unique location. The staff is preparing many great surprises for these celebrations such as nice parties, festive dinners and special fireworks.
In January it will be probably even nicer, as all the ice sculptures will have been finalized and you will get the chance to enjoy the complete Ice Experience, along with having fun in the Winter Park.
In February, the Hotel is “heated up” by the lovers who want to celebrate here Valentine’s Day or the Romanian version of this love celebration, Dragobete on the 24th of February. Really hope their love won’t melt down the hotel… Also the weather is very nice, just perfect for the winter sports or to simply enjoy the mountain sun tanning.
In March and sometimes April, it is even better as the good and sunny weather is almost guaranteed here.
3. Where is it located and how do I get to Balea Ice Hotel?
Depending on where are you coming from, it is important first to get to Romania by airplane and land either at Bucharest Airport or Sibiu Airport. Then, you will travel by car to Balea Cascada, from where you will have to take the cable car to reach Balea Lake where the Hotel is to be found. Below you can find the schedule and the prices for the cable car:
Daily program working hours: 09.00-17.00 (Monday-Sunday)
Cable car ticket rates:
Climb from Balea Cascada to Balea Lac: 25 Lei/person (children up to 12 years: 15 Lei/person);
Return from Balea Lac – Balea Cascada: 25 Lei/person (children up to 12 years: 15 Lei/person);
One large hand luggage: 10 Lei;
One small hand luggage: 5 Lei;
Freight 1 kg: 2 Lei (no cargo is carried during the weekend: Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
The total length of the path traveled by cable car is 3,700 m (minimum altitude: 1,200 m, maximum altitude: 2,040 m).
In case of unfavorable weather conditions (strong winds), the cable car will not be working.
A standard double room for one night costs about 99 Euros and additional 7 Euros per person for breakfast. An igloo for one night costs about 149 Euros and additional 7 Euros per person for breakfast.
4. Genuine winter fun around the Hotel of Ice
The location of the Ice Hotel is just perfect for a several-day vacation. The [EG1] hotel is close to the sights of the legendary land of Transylvania, with cultural objectives like the medieval German cities of Sibiu (former European Capital of Culture in 2007), Brasov (considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Transylvania), and Sighisoara medieval citadel (UNESCO Heritage).The Medieval fortified churches from the traditional German villages (some of them UNESCO Heritage, as well) are also close by.If you prefer to practice the typical winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and ice skating), at Balea Ice Hotel you can find them all. Here you will discover all the winter sport possibilities nearby the hotel and here is a complete and practical guide about Fagaras Mountains where the hotel is located.
Overall, the Hotel of Ice is a once in a lifetime experience not only in Romania, but all around the world. So, we should all have at least one of them in our bucket list for travel destinations.