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Bucket List Adventure: Sleep in an Igloo!

 At a Glance:

“I think I’ve figured out where we can sleep in an igloo,” my husband told me one afternoon while he was looking at his computer.

Now, this didn’t come completely out of left field. I have a few igloo hotels pinned to my Pinterest adventure board. However, they are all either in Finland or very expensive and I never thought I’d actually be able to do it.  My husband, internet sleuth extraordinaire, managed to find one near Garmisch that was reasonably priced.

Three months ago, we were sitting in the sun in South Florida after living there for almost eight years. Now, here we were in Germany planning to spend the night on the highest peak, in January, in an igloo.  Go big or go home!

pic 1

Garmish, as most of you know, is a beautiful little town in the Bavarian Alps. Near Garmisch is the tallest peak in Germany, called the Zugspitze.  It is 2962 meters above sea level and not only is it gorgeous, but there is also an igloo up there.

If you take the train up the mountain, it lets you off at the restaurant and ski lifts near the summit. Behind the restaurant, just past the little church, you can see the igloo hotel.

pic 2 igloo

When we first saw it, I think we just stood there and laughed for a good 5 minutes. The reality that we were sleeping there finally set in.

We had a few hours before we needed to meet the group so we decided to take the other cable car up to the summit.  We were rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views of our lives.  If you have not seen it yet, please try to go before the winter ends. It is amazing!

pic 3 summit

From the summit, you can see mountains in 4 different countries!

We met the rest of the igloo guests and the guides at the restaurant and heard the schedule for the night.  Since my husband and I indicated that we spoke English, they had someone on the team who translated for us.  Although we were the only two Americans staying the night we felt comfortable.  The staff was helpful and courteous and the other guests were just as excited as we were to experience this unique evening.

There are two types of igloos. The first kind is a romantic igloo and that’s for 2 people.  It is a bit more expensive and has amazing art work carved into the walls. If you stay in a romantic igloo, you get a double sleeping bag to share with your partner and you get your own room.  The other type of igloo is a standard igloo.  That’s where you and 2 other couples share a room. Time to get cozy!

pic 4 ice bed

We met our roommates and as we were all laughing at the giant slab of ice we were going to share.  We were also laughing because we were trying to communicate and it was not working very well.  Needless to say, if you are planning to stay here, and sharing a room, bring your sense of humor!

All of the igloo hotels have a theme for the season. That theme is used as the inspiration for all of the snow carvings in the igloo.  This year the theme is Around the Equator (perfect for us former South Floridians). The carvings were amazing. The team gave us all time to explore the igloo and take pictures.

pic 5 gator face       pic 6 gator body       pic 7 hibiscus

After the team allows you explore the igloo, they invite you to the ice bar for appetizers (cheeses, pretzels, and meats) and gluhwein.  The cost of this and your meal is included in your reservation.

pic 8 ice bar

The staff has a great schedule arranged for the guests.  While the team makes dinner, another staff member will take you on a sunset walk around the top of the mountain.  They will explain (in German) how they make the igloo, the art, and other facts about the mountain.    If you do not understand German, I recommended reading the FAQ’s on the website so you know all about it ahead of time, and then take the evening walk to enjoy the sunset and the stars.

Here are three of the most important FAQ’s from their website.  Go to the site if you want to read the other 60!

1. How is the Igloo Village built?

All igloo villages are completely rebuilt every year. Inflatable balloons are covered with snow which give the basic shape of the igloo. We then add on igloos one at a time until we reach the desired size for the village. The average construction time for an Igloo Village is approximately 2700 hours. The traditional method of using snow bricks is no longer used, except in the case of individual igloos.

6. Who is responsible for the art?

The long friendship between Adrian Günter and several Inuit from Canada has provided the foundation for the art work in the Igloo Villages. We also maintain close contact with the Cerny Inuit Collection. Besides our cooperation with Inuit artists, many artists from Switzerland and abroad add their artistic touch to our walls.

Since we had already had our gluhwein, it was time for the next major question on everyone’s mind…

24. Is there a toilet?

Yes, there are toilets which are harmoniously built into the Igloo Village with snow. The Igloo Romantic Suite and the Igloo Romantic Plus have their own “throne”. Of course there are also toilets in the nearby mountain restaurant before you head up to the Igloo Village and the next morning after your return.

I normally would not post a picture of a toilet, but I bet you’re curious!

pic 9 toilet

 

Yes, it was very cold!

After the walk, we were directed back to the igloo for a fondue dinner.  We enjoyed a garlic and white cheese blend as well as a tomato basil blend.  It was delicious, cozy, and fun.  As soon as dinner started winding down, they put on music and some people started dancing. They played Michael Jackson, Madonna, James Taylor, and other hip-hop and classic favorites.  I must say, hearing which American songs they chose for the group was entertaining.

At around 9:00, the real fun started.  They ushered us all outside and gave us these teeny little plastic sleds.  I have never sled down the side of an Alp on something like that so I waited to see what everyone else did. They all sat down on the slope, put the handle between their legs, and went for it! After seeing enough people fly down the slope, we had to take our turn.  It was AMAZING.  We were flying down the hill, laughing, and screaming like children the whole way.  After a few runs, the guides started shouting directions.  We were pretty clueless but saw all of the guests lining up in a row.  Our new friend who spoke English said, “we are making a worm!” I think we had up to fifteen people in our sledding chain.  The guide started pushing the last person and we all sped down the slope. I remember thinking, “I am going to die in a chain sledding accident on a ski slope in the Alps and it is going to be worth it.”

After an hour or so, they tell you to go back inside where  you can enjoy the bar, get in the hot tub, or go to bed. Be careful if the bartender pulls out Jenga.  Our bartender had a rule that the person who knocks it over has to buy a round of shots for the players!  As far as the hot tub goes, they encourage you to get in. Not only is it amazing  to sit outside in the warm bubbly water in the middle of the night, but it also helps raise your body temperature and get you ready for a good night’s sleep in the expedition weight sleeping bags they provide. Since we heard that the hot tub was clothing optional, we waited to get in (bring your swimsuit if you aren’t comfortable with nudity) after everyone else went to bed.  Call me a prude but I was already sharing an ice bed with four random people. I did not need to see them naked, too.

Despite sleeping on a bed of ice covered with sheepskins, I wasn’t cold at all.  The sleeping bags are surprisingly comfortable and warm. The worst part was getting up to go the bathroom.  We were warned to keep our shoes open and untied because they would freeze at night.  I left mine untied but forgot to open them far enough. I could not get my shoes on and had to trek to the bathroom in my socks on the ice!

In the morning, just before sunrise, the guides come to wake you up with hot minty tea and they take you out to see the sunrise.  Your stay in the igloo includes a hearty breakfast at the lodge. You can warm up, eat, and settle your bar tab (especially if you lose a lot of Jenga games). Make sure to bring cash!

All in all, this was probably one of the highlights of our travel life. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! And I hope you add it to your bucket list.  If you ever have the chance to do something like this, DO IT! It’s just one night, on an Alp, in an igloo, with strangers… and it’s amazing.

If you’d like more information or have questions, please post in the comments section and I’ll come back and reply!

2 Comments on Bucket List Adventure: Sleep in an Igloo!

  1. Having been stationed in Italy when I was in the Navy, we traveled to and stayed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen as much as we possibly could. We traveled to the top of the Zugspitz multiple times as well and never knew you could do this! (Probably wasn’t there then). I am always trying to find a job that brings me back to Europe and if/when I get back, this is definitely on my list of things to do!!

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