Five European winter boltholes
Each winter, these igloo communities pop up in six different locations – four in Switzerland, one in Andorra, and one in Germany on the reliably frozen heights of Zugspitze. Using the ancient knowledge of the Inuit, that air pockets trapped in snow make it a surprisingly good material for insulation, these snow chambers are just about warm enough to spend a night in, once you’re ensconced in one of the sleeping bags provided, lying on top of an icy ‘bed’ with a blanket or lambskin spread over it.
The igloos themselves come in various grades, from Standard (a six-bed affair for families and friends) to Romantic Plus – an igloo for two with its own en-suite bathroom and Prosecco thrown in. Snow artists have also been let loose on the designs, and igloos sport fanciful carvings of anything from swans to the stone faces of Angkor. All guests partake in mulled wine, an evening meal of cheese fondue, a hot whirlpool bath in the snow and sometimes a nighttime snowshoe trip. At Zugspitze, guests descend the mountain in the morning for breakfast in a log cabin.
The location is an astonishment in itself. Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain, at 2,962m. The rack railway that winds its way up makes its final climb inside the mountain, leaving passengers to emerge blinking onto the snowfield at the top, where the igloo village takes shape every winter. From here on a clear day, there’s a view of four countries: Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
Iglu-Dorf Zugspitze is open from 31 December to mid-April, weather conditions permitting. Zugspitze is reached on the rack railway from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The closest international airport is Innsbruck, an hour’s drive away. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is 1½ hours by train from Innsbruck.