Wednesday, April 4, 2012

An igloo stay in Zermatt, Switzerland

While visiting Venice we met an Australian family who was traveling around Europe for two months. They told us how they had stayed overnight in an igloo in Switzerland. Right away we thought, "We have to do that"!

Zermatt is a ski resort area that we had wanted to visit and ski in. A bonus was that they also have one of these igloo villages, called iglu dorf, 2,700 meters up the mountain. After reading all of the material and knowing what we'd be getting ourselves into, we scheduled our stay in the igloo to be on the first night of our arrival in Zermatt. We arrived at the meeting point at a hotel (also halfway up the mountain) a little early so we could enjoy a nice lunch and the bright sun ahead of us.
Sitting outside eating lunch.
A closeup of the Matterhorn.
Jon's potato, cheese, and sausage soup.
Our guide came around 5pm and gave us and the three other couples instructions. We took the train one stop up and were let out into what seemed like endless snowy possibilities! In the distance we heard reggae music and saw smoke flowing from a makeshift chimney. We trekked our way to the igloo village and were amazed by this little area in front of us. A series of perfectly shaped domes laid before us with two rows of outdoor lounge chairs from which to gaze at the Matterhorn. Our excitement was hard to contain.
I think it's this way.
Hiking towards Igloo Village - in the background.
The entrance into the village.
We were greeted with spiced mulled wine in mugs and spent the next hour lounging in the sun in relatively warm temperatures (about 5 degrees Celsius, 41 F), watching the sun slowly make its way behind the Matterhorn. We talked with the three other couples, two from Switzerland and one couple from Italy (from Naples!). We all got along right away and knew that this was going to be a night to remember.
Enjoying a mug of spiced mulled wine.
Sunbathing in the snow.
One of the entrances into the main igloo.
Around 7 we went inside the igloo, which hovers around 0 degrees Celsius. After our eyes adjusted to the lowered light we looked around the common areas. Beautiful ice sculptures and etched wall art seemed to be around every corner with candles in small nooks illuminating the rooms. There were many areas for people to sit down, with the chairs and stools covered in sheepskins to keep warm. The guide also gave our small group a tour of the rooms that were available in case someone wanted to upgrade. We were very happy with our "romantic plus" room; the "plus" being that we had a private "toilet". There were rooms without this like the standard room (sleeps six and they will fill it with whoever signs up for it) and the romantic room (just like ours without a toilet), and rooms that had much more (romantic plus suite) with a private jacuzzi and sauna.

The bar.

Dinner room!
A sitting area.

The view just before dinner.

After we returned to the main area the bar was officially open, and we drank the hot spiced wine and tea to keep us warm. Dinner was all you can eat cheese fondue and the Swiss showed us how to properly eat the fondue, including getting the "grandma" at the bottom of the bowl (the melted, hard piece of cheese you need to scrape out), and taking the bread from the bowl with your hands to put on your plate rather than just poking a piece from the main bowl with your fondue fork.

Mmmm... fondue!

Snowshoeing was next on the agenda. The snow in front of us was illuminated by the bright moonlight and stars. The tranquility and brightness very much reminded me of my time in the desert in Israel, though about 30 degree Celsius colder! The guide occasionally stopped and pointed out the star constellations. Towards the end she pulled out two bottles of liquor, one being grappa, with plastic shot glasses. High on the mountain, in snowshoes we were taking shots of this liquor that tasted very much like slivovitz (Feinberg Passover anyone?) with a little less burn. As Jon and I took our second shots we looked over and saw the Swiss couple swigging it from the bottle. Yikes!

Later that night we hopped into the outdoor jacuzzi with the Swiss couple and drank a few glasses of champagne while we talked about different travel experiences around the world. In the jacuzzi next to us was the Neapolitan couple. They were drinking their free bottle of champagne because the husband went into the main igloo with only a bathing suit on and no shoes (that was the challenge presented to us at the beginning of the night). At around 12am we decided it was time for us to go to our igloo... a long day of traveling, high altitudes, and a bunch of alcohol made us a little light headed. Plus, we wanted to be ready for a full day of skiing the next day. Back in our room we quickly became aware of how cold the room was, but realized we were actually pretty toasty in the sleeping bags since they are meant to withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius. We zipped them up so just our faces were showing and went right to sleep. Unfortunately, we didn't get the greatest night of sleep on the hard surface, waking up often. Before we knew it, it was 7:45 and the guide came into our room with hot tea to wake us up. We had 20 minutes to meet outside. We fumbled through our layers of clothing, some of which we had put at the bottom of the bag in order to keep it warm, and our shoes, and packed up our backpacks.
Our igloo.
Ready for bed!

Breakfast was to be at the hotel down the mountain a little bit, and to our surprise we were getting there via individual sleds! Sledding down the same mountain that people were going to be skiing on soon after was fantastic and woke us up a bit!

Ready to sled!
Sledding down the mountain.

We arrived at the hotel and stepped into the warm heat that we hadn't felt in quite some time. A large array of breakfast items lay before us and we dove right in. We chatted with our new friends while enjoying some of Switzerland's specialties. It all went by so fast and before we knew it, it was time to go. We headed towards the train to take us down the mountain to the village of Zermatt where we were to start the next part of our vacation.

Overall, we had an amazing, once in a lifetime experience with the igloo village and we're so glad that we were able to partake in such an adventure. Would we do it again? Probably not. Not because we didn't enjoy it, but we feel it's something that's only meant to be done once. The sheer novelty of Iglu-Dorf, friendly couples from around the world, the food, and different activities made this an unforgettable experience for us.


  1. All I can say is WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. One more comment

  3. I got a vicarious thrill reading your wonderful blog. Oh to be young again!! We were in Zermatt many years ago , not too experienced skiers. But it was a marvelous time. It started many fabulous trips to european skiing. I'm so happy that you are taking advantage of these wonderful opportunities. Keep it up!!! .All our love and kissing you both. G & G

  4. I couldn't wait to read this blog! From the minute you and Jon told us that you were going to stay overnight in an Igloo, I was absolutely fascinated and very excited for you guys! Definitely a once in a lifetime experience! What an amazing few days this must have been for the both of you! The pictures are beautiful and it's exactly the way I pictured the Swiss Alps would look like! What a wonderful opportunity to be able to travel all around Europe!!

  5. This is absolutely amazing, what an incredible once in a life time experience! Eric is super jealous you stayed the night in an igloo. I guess I know the latest item added to his bucket list! :)

  6. Thank you for sharing this wonderful adventure! I felt like I joined you minus the cold of course. 20 years younger and I think I'd even try staying in an igloo! I especially enjoyed the snowshoeing/drinking and sledding parts. FAB-U-LOUS!! I love it that you can experience these things in your J&CAdventureTour. :)