The world’s coolest alpine retreat?

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Luvattumaa, an ice hotel and gallery, opens Dec. 12th

Located near Levi, a venue for the Alpine Skiing World Cup

Expect around 2,000 guests this season

CNN  — 

Snow, skiing, Santa Claus – Lapland is a winter lover’s dream.

Tucked away in a forest seven kilometers outside Levi, Northern Finland, lies one of this snow-capped wonderland’s lesser-known treasures.

Luvattumaa is a hotel carved entirely out of ice that opens during the festive season. Part hotel, part art gallery, what originally started out as 800 truck-loads of ice has now been lovingly transformed into an exquisite guesthouse.

Intricate patterns and designs adorn the walls throughout the building, the product of two months of painstaking labor. And as of December 12, it’s open to visitors.

“The most difficult part is to build the 10-meter-high snow dome because of the shape,” explains Maija Palosaari from Destination Levi.

“The sculptors are lifting the huge ice cubes from the Ounasjoki river 50 or 100 meters away, so they are using that for the ice hotel.

“At the end of the season, the ice just melts and flows back to the river.”

This season, the hotel expects to host between 40-60 weddings and sleep 1,500-2,500 people in the 12 rooms. The standard price is €124 ($135), while a suite is €355 ($376) with breakfast served in the tepee restaurant.

World Cup Venue

Levi is a winter sports hotspot. As well as being the largest ski resort in Finland, it’s also the most northerly venue of the Alpine Skiing World Cup.

When the Tour visited in November, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won the men’s slalom event ahead of compatriot Michael Matt and Italy’s Manfred Moelgg.

In the women’s competition, USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin continued her dominant season to extend her lead in the overall standings. She currently leads Lara Gut and Sofia Goggia with 358 points, while Hirscher heads the men with 280.

As is traditional in Levi, the male and female winners both receive a prize reindeer. It’s just one of many quirks that makes Levi such a unique place.

There’s the daylight hours, for example. Almost constant sunlight in the summer is traded for nearly complete darkness in the winter. This makes for some spectacular views from Levi and Luvattumaa.

“There’s a really nice view through the mountain area,” says Palosaari. “It’s a really nice place to admire the sky and spot the Northern lights. Of course there are millions of stars as well because it’s totally dark at night.

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“In December we have around two and half hours of sunlight. Light comes at around 1:30 or 2. But then in the summer the sun is shining 24/7.”