Of all the things I wanted to do in Tromso in winter, visiting the ice and snow hotel in Tromsø — the Tromso Ice Domes — was high up on my list.
I mean, a hotel that’s entirely constructed of ice and snow, rebuilt each year in the middle of a frozen-over valley above the Arctic Circle?
What’s not to love?
No, I’m asking seriously — I never found anything… except for maybe the high price, but hey, this is Norway — what do you expect?
|⌛ Planning your Ice Domes trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.
❄️ Best Tromso Ice Domes Experiences
1. Overnight stay package for two (includes ice hotel stay, transfers, meals, snowshoe hike, aurora camp, and morning dog sled)
2. Day visit to the Ice Domes from Tromso (includes tour, meal, and transfers)
3. Combination Ice Domes tour and dog sledding (best value for a way to spend a day out in Tromso)
🐋 More Unique Tromso Tours
1. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)
2. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
3. Self-Drive Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)
🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)
However, there’s one critical factor to keep in mind that may take some people by surprise when planning their visit to the Ice Domes.
While the ice hotel may be called the Tromso Ice Domes, it is most definitely not in the city of Tromso… but rather a 90-minute drive away.
Yes, it’s nearly a hundred kilometers away from the Tromso city center, which necessitates either renting a car or booking a guided tour in order to visit this epic snow hotel in Norway’s north.
Since I’ve done this day trip myself, I’ve written this guide to visiting the Tromso Ice Domes.
This post will break down how to exactly to visit this popular attraction in Tromso, giving you several options for how to do it.
At first I was a little stressed on how to plan this, because there were several options and I wasn’t sure which was the best to choose… but I ended up being happy with my choice.
Luckily, no matter which way you choose to visit the Ice Domes outside of Tromso, it’s very easy to do so.
Though it being Norway, be prepared to spend a pretty penny no matter what way you pick!
This post was originally written in February 2020 after my Tromso Ice Domes visit. It has been updated multiple times to reflect impacts of the pandemic on tourism in Norway, as well as changing availability and costs of visiting the Ice Domes. As of January 15, 2024, this article was heavily overhauled, with a complete update and fact-checking, so that all information is current.
Table of Contents
What is the Tromso Ice Domes?
Ever heard of the Snowhotel in Sweden, not far from Kiruna and Abisko? This is Norway’s version!
The Tromso Ice Domes is a hotel made entirely of ice (yes, entirely!) outside of the city of Tromso… but like I mentioned above, it’s pretty far out, an hour and half’s drive away from Tromso city center.
It’s a relatively new attraction, as it first opened for the winter 2017-2018 season, but it’s been running like a well-oiled machine since its establishment.
Quickly, it became one of the must-do winter excursions in Tromso, and with good reason — it’s absolutely epic and memorable, even for just a quick day visit.
If you have more than two days allocated for your Tromso winter itinerary, I definitely think the Tromso Ice Domes warrant a visit as part of that plank.
Is the Tromso Ice Hotel Really Made of Ice?
Yes! The Tromso Ice Domes hotel is constructed every year from scratch, and when you visit, you’ll learn how on an information video shown in their ice cinema.
As I learned in the video they showed us, it takes about one month to construct the snow igloo hotel.
Each year, a team of dozens of builders use several thousand tons of ice from a nearby river in order to build the ice hotel…. all in the pitch-black embrace of the polar night.
The actual structure is constructed by blowing up giant balloons to create the ‘dome’ structure.
After that, then the ice blocks are built up around the balloon dome. They are then melted together in order to create the solid ice structure that you see when you visit.
Another cool thing about visiting the Ice Domes, Tromso’s only snow hotel, is their art.
Each year, they invite local artists and ice carvers to create ice sculptures for the interior of the hotel, with a new theme each year.
But how stable is the Ice Domes? Is it safe to stay in a snow hotel? Won’t it melt if the temperature rises too high?
The Ice Domes are built to be sturdy and handle minor, temporary fluctuations in temperature.
Put simply, it’s not going to fall apart after a few days above zero.
Structurally, the ice is 3 meters thick on the outer walls and about a meter thick at the top (you don’t want the ceiling to fall in, after all!).
Despite how it may initially sound, the Tromso Ice Domes are actually an incredibly roomy structure.
It’s not a cramped igloo-like structure at all, but very spacious on the inside, with several rooms to wander around.
On the interior, basically every single thing is made of ice!
Yes, basically everything from the chairs and tables in the restaurant to the ice bar itself to the bed frames.
Of course, no one expects you to sit or sleep on ice: seating surfaces are covered in reindeer pelts, Sámi-style, in order to keep you warm.
But what happens to this Tromso ice hotel at the end of the season?
For safety’s sake, the Ice Domes are purposely demolished at the end of the season.
Though being made entirely of ice, they would just melt away as summer set in on Northern Norway, so it’s quite eco-friendly!
For the current winter season, the Tromso Ice Domes are open from December 20, 2023 to April 9, 2024.
How to Get to the Ice Hotel in Tromso
The most popular way to visit the Ice Domes is via a guided tour, going via a daily shuttle bus which departs from Tromso’s city center.
You can skip the shuttle bus and go independently via rental car and show up at the Ice Domes to take a tour.
However, I don’t recommend planning to rent a car in Norway in winter unless you are a very experienced winter driver, as the road conditions can be quite treacherous for the inexperienced.
Without a car, a guided tour using a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes.
Unfortunately, despite Norway’s robust public transit system, no public buses or trains will take you here.
If you want to make the most of your time, you can also combine a visit to the ice hotel with an activity.
For the best time, I’d suggest this combination Ice Domes tour and dog-sledding tour which is my absolute favorite activity in Tromso.
For vegans, people afraid of dogs, or those who want to skip animal tourism activities, you can try this combo with a snowmobile tour!
If you have a short trip to Tromso and want to fit in as much as possible, doing a combo tour is a great way to combine two bucket list Tromso activities into one day out.
Personally, I think dog sledding is the most fun and most unique activity to do while visiting Tromso in winter.
I’ve dog-sledding three times and this upcoming winter 2024, I actually have two more dog sled tours booked, one in Rovaniemi as part of my winter Finnish Lapland itinerary and another when I return to Tromso in February.
That’s how much I love dog sledding!
In my honest opinion, reindeer sledding is a little boring by comparison (hardly an adrenaline rush, and a reindeer butt does not make the most scenic view).
Plus, you can snowmobile almost anywhere, but very few places have the history of dog sledding that Norway does, in my opinion!
What You’ll See at the Tromso Ice Domes: My Experience
Wondering what a tour of the Ice Domes is like? Here’s my brief rundown of the itinerary based on my visit.
The tour of the Tromso Ice Domes lasts about two hours, and you’ll start off in their Ice Cinema, watching a brief but fascinating mini-documentary about how the Ice Domes are constructed.
It’s quite a way to start the tour: the Ice Cinema is a gorgeous introduction to the Ice Domes, a lovely, beautifully-lit amphitheater-style room made entirely of snow and ice… with the exception of reindeer pelts to sit on.
Learning about the effort involved in constructing the Ice Domes while sitting inside of the fruits of that intensive labor is a really cool (pardon the pun) experience!
Following the video presentation and a quick briefing of what’s to come on the Tromso Ice Domes tour in the Ice Cinema, you’ll visit the rest of the ice hotel, starting in the ice bar-and-restauarant.
Here, you’ll enjoy a welcome shot to bring you into the Ice Domes in style!
When I went, either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic option was provided, but as of my 2024 update, I see now that they only offer non-alcoholic options as per the website.
It was really fun to drink up in a cup made entirely of ice from the ice bar, while sitting at a table made of ice, sitting on ice chairs! (How many times can I fit ice in a sentence? A lot, apparently.)
There are some cool (the puns never stop with me, I’m sorry) decorations in the ice bar.
The year I went, there was a very Instagrammable ice throne which everyone got really excited to take pictures in.
Insider Tip: From my experience visiting, I suggest waiting to sit in the throne and taking shots of the ice bar/restaurant until you have free time to explore the ice hotel after you see the ice rooms!
That way, you’ll have fewer crowds to contend with and it’ll be far easier to get some good photos here.
Next after the ice bar area comes the part you’ve probably been the most curious about — the ice hotel bedrooms themselves!
As with the rest of the property, the rooms are made entirely of ice as well, right down to the bed.
But hey, this is a luxury stay, not a prison: while the bedframe is carved from a block of ice, it has a lovely and plush mattress, covered in reindeer pelts to add warmth.
If you decide to splash out on the bucket list adventure of spending the night in an ice hotel, don’t worry about warmth.
A thermal sleeping bag and plenty of warm accessories will help you get comfortable and sleep through the night.
After getting briefed on the ice restaurant and ice guestrooms and have an idea of what it would be like to spend the night here, you’ll have about 40 minutes at leisure to explore the Ice Domes and enjoy a meal.
I recommend taking photos to your heart’s content before heading over the warm room, where a delicious lunch awaits.
I had a delicious bowl of creamy fish soup, and it came with unlimited coffee or tea.
Fish soup and coffee? Norwegians will pair anything with coffee! With the amount of sunlight you get in winter in Tromso, I honestly get it.
Looking at the most recent tour offering for this 2024 update, it looks like you have your choice between a stew (most likely meat-based) and soup — so be sure to ask based on your dietary preferences what is available.
Note that Norwegian fish soup is often cream-based so it’s not a suitable option for those with lactose intolerance.
Also note that the meat stew offered on these tours is often made of reindeer… so be sure to warn the kiddos if you think that might be upsetting to them.
You’ll also have a chance to briefly visit and feed the reindeer their favorite treat – some sweet, sweet lichen – should you want to while you’re visiting the Ice Domes!
They’re so adorable and friendly, and they’re definitely domesticated and acclimated to interacting with humans so little ones (and animal lovers in general) will be psyched at their interest.
This is a great way to tick meeting reindeer off your bucket list if you don’t have time to go reindeer sledding or visit a Sami reindeer farm.
Though I also do recommend those activities, as it’s a great way to learn about Sami culture.
After your free time, it’s back to the bus, where you’ll head back to Tromso via some of the most beautiful roads you can imagine… truly!
I’ve never minded a 90-minute commute less than on my way to and from the Ice Domes.
Staying Overnight at the Tromso Ice Hotel
It’s not just a fun place to visit on a day trip: the Tromso Ice Domes is a true ice hotel that you can spend the night in, should you have the funds.
And it’s an epic one, set way out in the Tamok Valley where the Northern lights often roar overhead, far from light pollution… which is why it makes our list as one the best Northern lights hotels in Norway!
So, if money isn’t an object, you aren’t limited to just a day visit — you can actually stay the night in this ice hotel.
You can spend the night here — and hopefully catch the Northern lights dancing overhead on their nightly photography tour and snowshoe walk!
At over $1,600 USD a night for an overnight stay for two, it was well out of my price range, even if I had found someone to split the bill with.
While the price is high, note that it does include transportation, meals, and several activities, which are all costs that add up a la carte.
But if you’re visiting Norway for a special occasion, you’re just generally a baller, or you really are living that YOLO mindset, you may want to splurge on staying the night!
If you’d like to stay at the Ice Domes, you can book here which covers the full experience!
If you do opt for the overnight experience, it includes a guided tour of the Ice Domes, welcome drinks, and dinner cooked on a campfire while out in the Norwegian wilderness.
You also get to take an evening snowshoe tour with the possibility of Northern lights photography.
The next day, you’ll have breakfast and a morning self-drive husky sled ride before getting your transfer back to the Tromso city center.
Is it worth it? Let’s break it down.
Independently and per person, a guided tour costs about $150 USD, dinner in Norway costs about $50-100 USD, a snowshoe tour would cost $150 USD, a night in a hotel costs about $200-400 USD, and a dog sled tour costs about $200 USD.
Using the median cost for each of those figures and calculating for two people sharing a room, the cost of all those activities would be $1,400 USD for two people… which makes staying at the Ice Hotel only an additional ~$250 USD or so.
It’s still quite an expensive activity, but if you plan to visit the Ice Domes during the day, take snowshoe and dog sled tours, and can check out of your hotel for the night in order to not pay double accommodation costs… it’s actually not as crazy a cost as it appears on its face.
It’s still out of my price range personally, but it’s not a bad deal.
As with most tours and excursions in Northern Norway, if you need to borrow any warm clothing or equipment, this can also be arranged with the hotel.
The hotel will also provide everything you need to sleep warmly, including expedition-strength sleeping bags.
Theese keep you so toasty warm that you can sleep in only thermal underwear!
Can You Visit the Ice Domes Independently?
Yes and no — you have to book a tour in order to see the Ice Domes, but you don’t necessarily need to take their transfer.
If you are renting a car on your trip to Tromso, you can arrive at the Ice Domes independently.
I would not rent a car specifically to do this with the idea of saving money, but it may be worth it if you are visiting other places in the area or you are visiting the Ice Domes on the way to somewhere else, like Alta.
As per their website for the 2023-2024 season, you can take a guided tour for 1211 NOK ($113) for adults and 606 NOK ($56) for kids aged 4 to 11.
Note that kids 12+ are counted as adults, and kids 3 and under are free.
The guided tour is at noon daily and includes lunch at the restaurant. You can (and should) pre-book here.
Since you’re in charge of your own transfer, you can stay around the area for a while after the tour is over, meeting their reindeer, walking around the premises, etc.
This is one benefit to doing a self-guided visit as opposed to taking the transfer, since you don’t have to rush to catch the shuttle back to Tromso.
I did feel like my Ice Domes visit was a teensy bit rushed, and I would have preferred about an extra half-hour to tour the area, since some of the free time was taken up with lunchtime.
What to Bring to the Tromso Ice Domes
Inside the Ice Domes, the temperature is kept a constant -5° C / 23 °F due to the insulating effects of the ice.
Even if it is much colder outside, it will always be -5° C inside, so you don’t have to worry about a sudden cold snap making it uninhabitable.
As a result, you’ll want to dress fairly warm for the day, though you’ll want to dress in layers as the bus you’ll take to the Ice Domes will be heated quite warmly.
I recommend wearing a thermal top and underwear/leggings, jeans or snow pants and a sweater on top, a warm down jacket as your outer layer, and cold weather accessories (hat, waterproof gloves, and scarf).
I also strongly recommend bringing crampons, which are little spike traction slip-ons for your shoes, as the area around the Ice Domes can ice over and get quite slippery!
If you’re not sure what to bring and you need more guidance, I have all the winter clothing and products I recommend listed on my Norway winter packing list.
Of course, you’ll definitely want to bring your camera as well for all the amazing photos you’ll take during your stay.
A cellphone works, but a proper camera with the ability to use manual settings will definitely come in handy with dealing with the low-light conditions inside the Ice Domes.
If you’re staying overnight, you’ll want to also bring an overnight bag, including whatever toiletries, medicine, a change of clothes, etc. that you would need for an overnight stay.
How to Book Your Tromso Ice Domes Visit
On a budget but don’t have a rental car? The basic guided tour plus transfers is the way to go.
Want to add a little adrenaline to your day and make your trip a bit more memorable?
And for the most memorable experience of all, an overnight stay in the Tromso Ice Domes is one for the bucket list.
If you have a rental car and plan to visit the Ice Domes independently to save a few bucks on the shuttle cost, you can book it via the website here.
Allison Green is a former teacher who has been travel blogging since 2016. She has a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her background as an educator with her experience traveling to 70+ countries to encourage ethical, meaningful travel. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now a full-time traveler, she has lived in Prague, Sofia, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area.