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Bâlea Lake Ice Hotel


Winter 2014. Just between Christmas and New Years Eve we wanted to go on a winter trip. We kept thinking where we should go. Snow was announced all over Romania so we could have gone skiing of course, but that was too obvious :)) We finally decided to go on a short 3 day trip in the Sibiu area.


The first day was dedicated to Mediaș and Biertan and we already wrote a post about the beautiful fortified church in Biertan. Day two was entirely all about Sibiu because the weathermen annonunced heavy snow falls and we didn't want to get stuck with the car in snow somewhere. Our next post will be about this beautiful second day. On day three we wanted to go on the famous Transfăgărășan highway to the Bâlea Lake Ice Hotel. This post is all about our adventure visiting this unique ice hotel.

Dead end - Transfăgărășan highway is closed starting from this point during winter
view from Bâlea waterfall
Our plan was something like this: go up the Transfăgărășan highway with the car until Bâlea waterfall, have a walk there, visit the ice hotel, admire nature during winter and hop back in the car towards Arad. As you can probably guess our experience was not as smooth as our plan was :))

Everything started well because there were no snow falls in the previous night and neither on that day. Going up the Transfăgărășan highway while snowing is not exactly the brightest idea. Our luck was that the road was recently cleared of snow and we got pretty fast to Bâlea waterfall where, to our surprise, there were quite a lot of cars parked and many tourists there. I forgot to mention that on this short 3 day trip we took our dog, Hany. When we reached the gondola, which would take us up to over 2000 meters at Bâlea Lake, the gondola staff informed us that activity is temporarily suspended due to very low temperatures: -17 degrees Celsius. We were disarmed but decided to wait, maybe the weather would come around. So we went to a nearby restaurant and drank a hot tea while watching outside the window overlooking the gondola. We waited for about 40 minutes and then went again to the departure station to ask if the gondola will work any time soon. The answer was yes! :)

The bad part was that there was a sign at the gondola station that forbid animals to go up. I was a bit worried but no one said anything about our golden Labrador, Hany. Maybe she is to cute :D Finally we got in the gondola and in about 20 minutes we were up at over 2000 meters at Bâlea Lake. It was a very long time because it was very, very cold!

gondola to Bâlea Lake

Very cold and a loooot of snow up at Bâlea Lake

meters of snow
Having reached the top we walked in a true winter scenery, with extreme cold included of course :) We were well dressed and prepared for these conditions but believe us we felt the cold on every bit of exposed skin. The snow was really high and automated equipment is used to make trails for tourists to use. This was December at over 2000 meters!

Bâlea Lake was completely invisible, hidden under layers upon layers of snow. We walked on it on snow :) The only contrasting structures in this almost complete white scenery were the few guest houses that you can find here. The Transfăgărășan highway was almost invisible as well.

Bâlea guest house (left) and The Ice Hotel (right)
Transfăgărășan highway under snow

The Ice Hotel is really made out of ice :)

The Ice Hotel
The Ice Hotel - saloon
We were very curious to see for ourselves this hotel that is built each year by the Bâlea Guest House owners. The hotel is placed in the immediate vicinity of the gondola arrival station. First you see large blocks of ice perfectly sculpted to fit one over the other. The glue between the ice blocks is simply water. Put water between them and it immediately freezes forming an air tight glue. The ice is taken from Bâlea Lake which is less than 50 meters away. Building this unique hotel takes about 20 days and tens of people work to get it finished. It's definitely hard work especially that this takes place at a very high altitude and in extreme cold and snow.

the bar
Scorpion room
Piercing room
The Ice Hotel was first built in the winter between 2005 and 2006 and had a great success from its launch. Each year the hotel takes another shape on the exterior as well as in the interior. It also has a different theme each year. In the 2014/2015 winter the theme is sign. So when we were here the hotel was divided in 12 rooms, each one linked to a sign. Each room has ice sculptures representing the respective sign, a big ice bed and an ice chair.

The 12 rooms are placed like this: 6 on one side and 6 on the other along a saloon which has an ice bar in the end. In this long saloon you can find ice tables with ice chairs where you can sit and order a cocktail served in an ice glass from the bar :)

ice tables in the saloon
ice sculpture
Lion room
The temperature inside is about one degree Celsius, so warmer than outside :D. Any surface you lay on you'll be protected from the ice with fur :) The beds of the guests that sleep here are well isolated from the cold so you can have a good night sleep here. Food is served at the nearby Bâlea Guest House. In fact anything that is supposed to be hot (food, drinks) are served at Bâlea Guest House, so that hotel doesn't melt of course :)

A room here costs 440 RON/night and even though it is pretty expensive for a Romanian a lot of tourists, especially foreign ones, book rooms here. It's truly a unique experience and you should do it at least once in your lifetime. For more details regarding accommodation at the Ice Hotel you can visit their website. You can also make online bookings here. If you only want to visit the hotel, like we did, the ticket costs 10 RON/person and the gondola costs 50 RON/person both ways. Below you can find more pictures from the Bâlea Lake Ice Hotel, which is unique in South-East Europe! :)

why do you need fridges which so much ice laying around? :)
the bar
ice tables in the saloon
ice tables in the saloon
ice guards
relax room just before the saloon
igloo type arches make up the structure of the hotel this winter
our Labrador, Hany :)

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