A night on the Zugspitze: travelers camp out in an igloo village

The summit of the Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain. © dpa / picture-alliance

As a thick blanket of snow covers the icy mountains of Bavaria, some adventurous travelers choose to spend a night on Germany’s tallest mountain – the Zugspitze. But rather than sit by a fireplace in a cozy hotel, these travelers spend the evening curled up in a sleeping bag, protected only by the icy walls of a man-made igloo.

Situated atop the Zugspitze, the Igloo Village is open from December 28 until about mid-April, depending on the weather. Travelers can rent an igloo to spend a starry night on Germany’s peak, which would otherwise be impossible, since there are no traditional hotels atop the mountain.

© Iglu-Dorf GmbH

Those who rent a room in an igloo are provided with thick sleeping bags, food and drink and the option to participate in activities such as evening hikes and snowshoeing. Depending on the igloo they choose to stay in,
visitors can also enjoy the evening in a private jacuzzi or a sauna, or simply cozy up in candle-lit rooms.

The Iglu-Dorf GmbH is responsible for building seven igloo villages across Europe. The Zugspitze is their only location in Germany, but the company also has snowy igloo hotels in Andorra and the Swiss regions of Davos- Klosters, Engelberg-Titlis, Gstaad and Zermatt.

An igloo village in front of the famous Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Each location is decorated with snowy art in line with a specific theme. This season, the Zugspitze’s igloo village is decorated with sculptures that remind visitors of ancient Rome.

The idea to build the igloo hotels came from Adrian Günter, who always sought to be the first one on the mountains in order to obtain photos of sunrises and take his snowboard down untouched slopes.

“I want to be the first one on the mountain in the morning to enjoy the ambient [setting] and go downhill with my snowboard,” was his guiding principle, according to the Iglu-Dorf website.

To make his dream an achievable reality, Günter and his friends built several igloos at a ski resort in Switzerland and spent the night in their structures, which allowed them to be the first ones on the mountain the next morning.

Other winter sport adventurers soon asked Günter for permission to sleep in his igloos, which sparked the idea to start an igloo hotel company. Now, since building its very first igloos in the winter of 1995/1996, the company has hosted tens of thousands of overnight visitors in igloo villages across Europe.

But building these villages is no easy task: the traditional procedure was long and laborious, so Günter invented a method that would speed up the process. To build the igloos, inflatable balloons are covered with snow, thereby forming their basic shapes. Still, the company claims that it takes an average of 2,700 hours to build all of its structures in a village (there are up to 20 igloos per village).

For those eager to camp atop Germany’s tallest mountain, make sure to dress warm: Temperatures in the igloos are typically freezing, and the gondala that takes visitors down the mountain stops running at night. None of the igloo hotels have showers, so most visitors only stay for one night.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

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