Ice Hotel Romania in the Transylvanian Alps

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In Romania, high in the Carpathian Mountains, is one of the few ice hotels in the world and the first ice hotel in Eastern Europe.

Ice Hotel Romania in the Transylvanian Alps Image courtesy of Gabriel Petrescu

The Carpathian Mountains are the legendary setting of Jules Verne’s novel "Le Château des Carpathes", of Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula", and now of Ice Hotel Romania, which has been built each December since 2005 on Balea Lake. Arnold Klingeis, mayor of Avrig, was  the developer behind the project. It was designed as a giant igloo, with a surface area of several hundred square meters, and became an instant hit, with more than 3,000 tourists seeking accommodations here when it opened.

Hotel of Ice in Transylvanian Alps

Ice Hotel Romania features an Ice Restaurant, an Ice Bar, and an Ice Church. The Ice Church was added in the hotel's second season, while the Ice Bar and the Ice Restaurant were introduced in the hotel's fifth season. This year, in addition to the guest rooms in the main building, Ice Hotel Romania featured a complex of igloos in which guests could stay overnight. (Overnight guests spend the night on large ice beds covered with reindeer furs, in sleeping bags designed for extreme temperatures.)

The annual rebuilding brings a new theme for Ice Hotel Romania: the new structure tells a different story each year. Every season sees new attractions and developments, and a greater influx of tourism. Each season, the project includes a series of events organized to amplify the theme while celebrating holidays, special events, and winter sports and activities.

“Each year we are trying to do something new for the tourists that visit Ice Hotel. This year we made a small complex of igloos that can be rented as rooms in the Ice Hotel. The novelty is that there is more privacy here, near the hotel and is more quiet than the rooms in Ice Hotel where there are parties or other activities,” said Leo Klingeis, the manager of the Ice Hotel Romania tourism complex.

Because it is rebuilt annually when the water of Balea Lake freezes, the architecture varies. However, it seems inspired by the architecture of the fortified church of Avrig, built in the 13th century in the Romanic style, having the shape of a ship. On this guiding principle, the rectangular hotel houses the restaurant, bar, and lobby, with 10–13 guest rooms entering from the right and left. The guest rooms have thick curtains as doors, creating a cozy atmosphere and a strange feeling of common space. The best comparison is with medieval castles where, after you enter, the space becomes fluid, the separation between rooms is more suggested than physically stated.

The ice comes from Balea Lake and is hand-carved by local craftsmen working with chainsaws. After extraction from the lake the ice blocks are transported to the hotel site where they are arranged in wooden and metal frames; basically, the hotel is built by hand of individually sculpted blocks of ice.

Each ice block cut from Balea Lake is approximately 1 meter long and 40 centimeters thick. Ice Hotel Romania consists of more than 2,000 such blocks each year; thus, the building typically is approximately 3 meters tall, 33 meters long, and 18 meters wide.

Hotel of Ice in Transylvanian Alps

“It is very beautiful – for the first time in my life I have seen an igloo,” said Cristi Busoiu.

Hotel of Ice in Transylvanian Alps

Gabriel Petrescu

Gabriel is a freelancer photographer, born in 1976 in Bucharest, capital of Romania. He graduated Geology from Bucharest University. He is a correspondent for Xinhua,, and the main Romanian news agencies: Mediafax, Agerpres and Amos News. His photos are selected in ZUMA Pictures Of The Day, main news agencies of the world and Corbis. His hobbies are photography and architecture, as his main job is in IT field, working for a prestigious American corporation.

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