The history behind the Snow Hotel

Entrance to Kirkenes Snowhotel by Toma Babovicfoto@babovic.de, Hurtigruten

The history behind the Snowhotel 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 traveller 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!

Welcome to Kirkenes Snowhotel by Kirkenes Snowhotel

Welcome to Kirkenes Snowhotel

Spend the night at Kirkenes Snowhotel by Kirkenes Snowhotel

Snow room at Kirkenes Snowhotel

The Arctic town of Kirkenes is located about as far northeast as you can get in Norway, not 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 Snowhotel 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 Snowhotel throughout the years.

Gamme Cabin by Kirkenes Snowhotel

Gamme cabins

Gamme cabin by Kirkenes Snowhotel

Gamme cabins at Kirkenes Snowhotel


In 2013 the Snowhotel 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 chalet rooms: In 2013 they also decided to add rooms outside the Snowhotel, 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.

Snowmobile trip by Orjan Bertelsen, Hurtigruten

Snowmobile trip Kirkenes

Northern Lights Arctic Norway by Stian Klo, Hurtigruten

Northern Lights in Norway


Kaare knew that he had to offer things to do in addition to the Snowhotel experience, so dog sledding was a natural choice. These days the Snowhotel has some 180 huskies in the dog yard quite close to the Snowhotel, offering exciting dog sledding trips to the amazing, Arctic wilderness.
The amazing restaurant is located next to the Snowhotel, offering dishes mainly based on Arctic produce.
There is also a tiny reindeer park in the Snowhotel area, which you can visit during your stay.
They also arrange for exciting snowmobile safaris to the surrounding Arctic areas.
King crab fishing in the Barents Sea is another very popular activity offered all year round.

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Contact Fjord Travel Norway:
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What our customers say:

  • Thank you for assisting us with our trip to Norway. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Kirkenes and the Snow Hotel. The arrangements you made for us were perfect. The lodging was comfortable and the excursions were fun. Tom and I rarely use the services of a travel company when we travel; you enriched our trip and made the planning easy.

    Alison, United States

  • On behalf of the group I would like to thank you and your colleagues for organizing our wonderful tour of Norway. Everything went very well including the weather, which was spectacular. We enjoyed all the hotels, the central locations you chose and the amenities, especially the lavish breakfasts. Three extra days in Oslo allowed us to tour the city at our leisure and to enjoy more of the important sights including the newly opened National Museum. The Norway in a Nutshell tour was amazing and made much easier by using your recommended porterage service between hotels in Oslo and Bergen. Both the train journeys and the boat trip were spectacular, and combined with a night in the beautiful Kviknes Hotel made for an unforgettable two days. We were very impressed by the Hurtigruten cruise, particularly the way they combined a working ship with a cruise ship, the comfortable accommodations, the food and service. It was fascinating to visit all the various ports, islands and fjords and the two included tours were excellent and informative. In the end we were glad to have the extra night in Kirkenes, to visit their lovely museum and take a trip to the Russian border. It was a good way to end the tour. Again, thank for staying with us through 2 years of pandemic postponements and changes. We certainly will recommend Fjord Travel in the future.

    Marilyn, United States

  • I wanted to thank everybody. We had a wonderful trip. Everything went well and fortunately we had the chance to see the lights while on the cruise. All my friends in Turkey would like to go on a similar trip. So I will be in touch with you. Thanks again and best wishes to all of you.

    Candan, Turkey