The history behind the Snow Hotel

The history behind the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes, Norway. Photo credit Kirkenes Snow HotelThe history behind the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes, Norway. Each year in December they build a brand  new hotel made of snow, with 20 rooms
Kaare Tannvik, born in the Arctic town of Kirkenes, has been a passionate traveler throughout his life. He used to think that the Arctic parts of Norway had nothing of interest to show international tourists. However, during one of his travels abroad, he suddenly realised the potential of his far far north home area! In 2004 Kaare was in Finland, where they had already built an ice hotel a couple of winters – and then the idea of a Snow hotel in Kirkenes was born!



The Arctic town of Kirkenes is located about as far northeast you can get in Norwaynot far from the Russian border. It is located by a fjord branch of the Barents sea, thus it has more of a drier inland climate rather than a humid sea climate. This is perfect for the Northern Lights, requiring a more or less clear sky. On top of that, the winters are cold throughout the season, with snow from December to April, or even longer.

Kaare used a couple of years to learn, plan and raise funds, and then in 2006 he was ready to build his first Snow hotel in Kirkenes! Quite a risky business – of course he didn’t have any customers yet… and not so many the first year, some more the second year, and these days the Snow hotel is fully booked throughout the entire winter season! From the start Kaare has been devoted to offer quality to his guests, so he started out gathering  passionate staff members; starting with Ronny Oestrem, who has been the general manager from the start and also a co-owner, then charming Anne from Finland joined the staff, and more passionate members have joined the Snow hotel throughout the years.


In 2013 the Snow Hotel was moved to a new location by the Fjord outside the town of Kirkenes, and importantly, with no light pollution from the lights of the town – which enhances the visibility of the Northern Lights. The new location is a former Arctic farm land, and they decided to keep the large barn, rebuilding it to be their new service building, keeping original building details.

Gamme bathroom with panorama

Gamme bathroom

Gamme chalet rooms: In 2013 they also decided to add rooms outside the Snow hotel, for guests who are not so comfortable with sleeping in the cold environment, or those who want to spend more nights to get a glimpse of the amazing Northern Lights. The traditional Gamme tents of the Sami people in the area are designed to keep out the cold, and they wanted the new rooms to feel and look like a traditional Gamme, but with modern comfort and windows for viewing the Northern Lights. They hired a Swiss Architect company for Swiss quality.., who designed the most charming, wooden Gamme chalets.


Dog sledding in arctic Norway. Photo by Bjorn Klauer

Dog sledding

Kaare knew that he had to offer things to do in addition to the Snow Hotel experience, so Dog sledding was a natural choice. These days the Snow Hotel has some 130 huskies in the dog yard quite close to the Snow hotel, offering exciting Dog sledding trips to the amazing, Arctic wilderness.
The amazing restaurant is located next to the Snow hotel, offering dishes mainly based on Arctic produce.
There is also a tiny reindeer park in the Snow Hotel area, which you can visit during your stay.
They also arrange for exciting Snow mobile safaris to the surrounding Arctic areas.
King Crab fishing in the Barents sea is another very popular activity offered all year round