Twice as Nice with Ice?


photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

Ice, so much more than just frozen H20. To some, it’s a beverage chiller and to others it’s a slippery driving hazard. To an artist? Ice is a medium. It’s a creative outlet, which is limited only to imagination and rising air temperatures. In northern European countries, a hole cut into the surface of an ice-capped lake offers the ideal place to cool off after a sweltering sauna session. Nature also provides some absolutely breathtaking glacial formations. If winter is your favorite season, one of the following five frigid adventures in Europe may be for you.

Flamingo Blush.  Photo courtesy of Marjolein Vonk & Marinus Vroom.

Flamingo Blush. Photo courtesy of Marjolein Vonk & Marinus Vroom.

ICEHOTEL in Sweden

This is the original ice hotel, and each November, it is recreated in the village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. The first crystalline accommodation was constructed in 1990. Guests may begin checking in during early December, and rooms are available until April, when the spring thaw melts the ICEHOTEL away. From the chapel to the reindeer skin-topped beds, everything is constructed from ice blocks that have been cut from the Torne River. Colorful LED lighting sets the translucent establishment aglow at night. The hotel is a spectacular work of art in and of itself.

photo courtesy of narnua at flickr creative commons

photo courtesy of narnua at flickr creative commons

Winter Swimming in Finland

Winter swimming is a common activity in many northern European countries. Finland boasts well over 180 thousand lakes; so, there is an abundance of locations where you can partake in one of the country’s favorite pastimes. The icy cold dip is normally coupled with another popular Finnish tradition, saunas. After spending some time building up a sweat in the sauna, a brisk swim in cold, biting water is said to leave the body feeling invigorated. It is believed by many that winter swimming offers health benefits such as reduced arthritis symptoms, and it is widely regarded as an excellent form of stress relief.

Video shows the ICEBAR being rebuilt, which is an annual event.

ICEBAR in London

A product of the ICEHOTEL, the ICEBAR in London is open year-round. It is built with ice blocks from Torne River in Sweden, the same source the hotel uses. The ICEBAR conveniently provides each of their guests with a pair of gloves, so that your fingers stay nice and warm while you sip a cocktail from a glass made of ice. Just be sure to make a reservation, as this chill scene fills up quickly.

Ice Music Festival in Norway

Since 2006, the Norwegian town of Geilo celebrates the first full moon of the New Year with the Ice Music Festival. As if the stage and sculptures that have all been masterfully created out of snow and ice aren’t impressive enough, functional musical instruments are carved out of blocks of ice, too. Bundle up and catch a whimsical concert during the three day event.

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

Blue Ice Caves in Iceland

Situated just inland of Iceland’s southeastern coastline is Vatnajökull National Park. Rivers cut through the rugged mountainous terrain, active volcanoes and glacial ice. Under the glacier, mesmorizing blue ice caves form from streams. During the winter months it is safer to visit these glistening caverns and to possibly experience the rare, deep blue illumination. This only occurs when indirect sunlight filters through the top of a cave that has been washed free of snow and refracts within crystal clear ice that is practically free of trapped air bubbles.

Where will your winter travels take you this year? Whether it’s skiing in the Swiss Alps or taking a reindeer sleigh ride through Finnish Lapland, a stay at a luxury hotel in Switzerland, Finland or any other European destination is sure to enhance your trip.


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Top Five Bird’s Eye NYE Views

Book one of these swank suites this New Year’s Eve and you’ll stay warm and classy whilst still enjoying a sweeping view of the revelry below.

Intercontinental Times Square, New York City

Luxury Hotels in New YorkPhoto courtesy of Creative Commons, by Stuart Moreton

From here you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the mass of debauchery in Times Square. Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve will host live musical performances leading up to the iconic ball drop, but you’ll be popping bubbly on your terrace or cozy in your luxury suite.

Marriott County Hall, London

luxury hotels in londonPhoto courtesy of Creative Commons, by flyingsuitcase

The biggest fireworks display in London is set off from the Thames, right in front of the London Eye. You’ll feel like you are right beneath the sparkles from your suite in this posh luxury hotel in London.

The Four Seasons, Sydney

luxury hotels in sydneyPhoto courtesy of Creative Commons, by Michelle Richmond

The Harbour Bridge hosts the hub of the action on New Year’s Eve, so book your room at the Four Seasons if you want a front row seat. Situated on the harbour in the trendy Rocks district, there will be no shortage of fun to be had.

Fouquet’s Barriere, Paris

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A five star experience is awaiting you this NYE at this plush property on the Champs-Elysees. The avenue is teeming with merrymakers awaiting the countdown to midnight and the Eiffel Tower’s magnificent illumination spectacle.

Hotel de Russie, Rome

luxury hotels in romePhoto Courtesy of Creative Commons, by eddmsa

Overlooking the Piazza del Popolo, this property serves as the best vantage point to watch the centuries-old Italian New Year’s traditions pan out. Music, dancing, fireworks, you name it, the Romans are partaking in it!

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World’s Biggest Malls

Luxury Hotels in DubaiTo celebrate the recent unveiling of plans for the new Mohamed Bin Rashid City in Dubai, we thought we’d talk malls. ‘Tis the season for extra shopping! The rumored Mall of the World will dwarf the current largest mall on earth (the Mall of Dubai), boast a 455 acre park, 100 hotels and a Universal Studios family theme-park. We’ll believe it when we see it. Meanwhile, take a day (or a week) to explore these other retail behemoths around the world.

New South China Mall—Dongguan, China

Luxury Hotels in ChinaPhoto courtesy of Creative Commons, by Swoolverton

The Mall of America could fit inside this shopping Mecca twice over. With over 7 million square feet of retail space, it offers every shop you can think of, and then some, among its 2350 available storefronts. Highlights include an indoor/outdoor roller coaster and life like replicas of both Paris’ Arc de Triomphe and Venice’s St. Mark’s Bell Tower.

Mall of Asia—Pasay City, Philippines

Luxury Hotels in the PhilippinesPhoto courtesy of Creative Commons, by Elmer B. Domingo

Completed in 2006, this complex’s motto is “No other Mall Comes Close,” which is fair enough, considering its impressive 4.4 million square feet of retail space. It houses the first IMAX theater in the country, as well as the first Olympic sized swimming pool! Luckily there is a 20 seat tram to transport shoppers between the four sprawling buildings.

Cevahir Istanbul—Istanbul, Turkey

Luxury Hotels in IstanbulPhoto courtesy of Creative Commons, by ltimur

The largest mall in Europe, Cevahir was built in 2005. It weighs in at 3.8 million square feet of pure shopping bliss, but also offers its visitors a massive wave pool, several IMAX theaters, and of course the obligatory indoor roller coaster. This six floor complex is also home to the world’s second largest clock; each digit is ten feet tall!

West Edmonton Mall—Edmonton, Alberta

Luxury Hotels in CanadaPhoto courtesy of Creative Commons, by Longdistancer

An oldie but a goodie, the largest mall in North America was built in 1981. Obviously ahead of its time, it sprawls over 3.8 million square feet. Among its attractions are a water park, casino, skating rink (it is Canada, after all), and an amusement park called Galaxyland.

Explore these epic shopping opportunities from your luxury hotel in Canada, Turkey, the Philippines, Dubai or China. Excellent Hotels offers the guaranteed lowest rates on three, four and five star hotels near all of these huge malls. Happy retail therapy, and happy gift-giving this holiday season!

Title photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Citizen59

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