I’ve finally managed to plough through the hundreds (yes honestly) of photos we took on our midlife adventure in Transylvania. There’s just so much to show you that even after some serious culling there are a lot of them. So I’m going to try to make sure this Ice Hotel Transylvania review isn’t too wordy. Join us virtually through the pictures… and even the occasional video. Before I start though, I just want to say that I have two pieces of fashion related news that I don’t think you’ll want to miss at the end so if you’re not interested in the trip, scroll to the bottom.
Day 1: the journey and the first night
We’re picking things up at Luton airport. You already know about the drive which was made even longer than it should have been by a satnav aberration that took us on a huge detour. It called for a Friday night glass of wine.
So now you need to insert the long conversation we had on the plane. As you know, thanks to this we arrived in high spirits even though it was late at night. Here are a couple of the quick videos that I filmed but didn’t post on Instagram.
Did he make it to a bar? No, in Pied Piper fashion I lured him back to the hotel for a few hours’ sleep…
Day 2: Sibiu
The next morning we had to be up horrendously early. We dashed out to take a couple of pictures of Sibiu in the daylight before we left for The Ice Hotel. It’s a town I’d love to go back to for a short break.
You see the night before we had been warned that a blizzard was coming and so we had to try to get to the cable car before it stopped running. We were in a party of 16, all of us from the UK and mostly travelling as couples. Everybody was excited to be in Transylvania but of course The Ice Hotel was the apex of everyone’s trip. Most people were there to celebrate something special: there were a few 40th birthdays, an engagement and of course a wedding anniversary.
So, off we went in the minibus for a 40 minute drive up the mountain. It was a dramatic winding road with endless hairpin bends. We reached the cable car station and waited for a while only to be told that nothing was running. Even though it was utterly still where we were standing, there was a blizzard at the top of the mountain with 100mph winds. The people stranded at the peak were having to take cover in the chalet for the day, banned from even stepping outside.
The disappointment in the minibus was palpable. We asked what would happen and our affable guide Marius told us that we would simply move the itinerary round. However he did warn us that the following night The Ice Hotel was fully booked and so unless there were some no shows, we would have to spend the night in the chalet instead. So back down the mountain we went with everyone feeling a bit fed up.
Day 2: Bran
There was then a two hour drive to the town of Bran and the castle that Bram Stoker used as Dracula’s home. This had been very much an ancillary part of the trip for most people but blitz spirit was starting to emerge and we all set off to explore.
It’s a suitably gothic place and it was returned to the deposed Romanian royal family after the fall of communism. They have opened it to the public and there are rudimentary displays and information boards inside telling you all about its history.
There are incredible views across Transylvania from the many turrets and balconies (sorry – Mr MC caught more of me than the view).
This was one of the many outtakes that he caught of me doing Instagram Stories. My face says it all. I don’t enjoy watching them and I don’t enjoy filming them. Instagram always feels completely different to my blog. Here I feel as though I’m chatting with friends over coffee and cake because you know me. Instagram is more like standing on London’s Oxford Street shouting “look at me… over here!”
When we’d seen the castle, there was time for a glass of wine in the snow and the sunshine…
… and some street food too (another video I forgot to upload to stories)…
We piled back onto the minibus for another drive to the pretty town of Brasov where Marius had managed to change our booking for the night. We wanted to explore before it got dark but I was determined to get back on track with my planned outfits and so I did a superfast change (with only a brief eye roll from Mr MC).
Day 2: Brasov
So Brasov is a small town and very pretty with its pastel coloured houses…
We were getting to know our group by now and they were finding the concept of blogging very entertaining…
… every time we stopped to take photos someone seemed to pop up behind Mr MC and make me laugh.
There was a cocktail bar that Marius had told us we shouldn’t miss and somehow the whole group ended up there at the same time. It’s called the Dr.Jekelius Pharmacy Cafe and it has an apothecary theme. Lots of the cocktails are made from natural ingredients so, as they are clearly good for your health, we thought we ought to have two each…
…we headed off to find somewhere for dinner…
… I was starting to flag after my night of only four hours sleep and so when I saw a bar serving espresso martinis, I thought it might perk me up a bit. Mr MC was somewhat confounded by the Guinness he ordered though!
We decided to eat in our hotel (Bella Muzica) because the restaurant had been recommended in the trip information. Romanian food is right up Mr MC’s street – this goulash soup was just a starter and it came in a loaf of bread as you can see.
The following morning we had to be up and out before 8am because we’d been told there would be a brief gap in the weather. The mood on the minibus was anxious. No-one dared ask what would happen if the cable car was off again. However we got to the station and it was full steam ahead.
Day 3: Ice Hotel Transylvania review
As we emerged at the top of the mountain, the sunshine was dazzling. We were scheduled for lunch in the chalet before an afternoon of sport.
Weatherproof monochrome jacket (g SS18 – I saw lots of stock in store at the weekend); Light down jacket (currently on offer); thermal polo neck; skinny jeans; boots currently 20% off; fleece boot liners; crossbody bag
Of course after lunch, the bad weather arrived. The clouds were down over the mountain, the air was thin, it was hard to breathe and it was very eerie but it didn’t deter us. We had an exhilarating afternoon with lots of activities to choose from including snowmobiles…
…snow bananas, ice rafting, tubing… How cold was it? By this point it was about -16°C. You can see from my frozen hair…
…and Mr MC’s frozen eyebrows (no longer will he take the mickey out of my brother for his midlife eyebrows)!
It was great being part of a group. This was Lou trying to help me with a video but my phone kept crashing because of the extreme cold.
This is how deep the snow was after the previous day’s blizzard. We were standing on the first floor of the chalet here.
When everyone had had enough of the sports options, we were taken on a tunnel trek which was unusual. In summer this tunnel is part of the Transfagarasan Highway, a spectacular piece of engineering built by prisoners during the communist era. Jeremy Clarkson calls it the best road in the world. In winter it is impassable and so we walked through the tunnel from one side of the mountain to the other. I was even armed with an icicle lightsaber!
The Ice Restaurant
After a warming vin fiert (mulled wine) and another superfast change, it was time for dinner in the Ice Restaurant. They’d had to add some metal tables because there were more guests than originally planned (as a result of the blizzard the day before). However, as you can see, most of the tables and stools are made from ice. Lights are embedded in the ice everywhere which means that they gleam and glisten.
Faux fur cossack hat; Hush Rock n Roll jumper (gAW17)
The food was absolutely incredible. Goodness knows how they managed to achieve it in an Ice Hotel on the top of a mountain but it would have been excellent even in a fully equipped restaurant on the ground.
We were sitting next to a couple who were celebrating their 30th birthdays. They said it was their last adventure before starting to try for a family which made me feel a bit wistful. I felt as though I was standing at the other side of a bridge waving at them…
The Ice Hotel
To keep warm in between courses, we popped out to take photos – it was the first chance we’d had to explore the hotel. As you can see, the bedrooms lead off the restaurant. They are separated by a curtain and fully prepared by staff at 10.30pm when the restaurant is closed.
And this is what they’re like inside. The bed is made from a platform of ice topped with wood and then a mattress. Each room is themed differently, there were Elvis and Abba rooms as well as rooms dedicated to famous Romanians…
This is about as alluring as I was ever going to look in a bedroom that is -10°C!
There are ice sculptures in the rooms and all over the hotel. A grand piano…
a Romanian musician…
…and this chap who attracted a lot of attention and perhaps doesn’t look as cold as he should!
We popped outside to explore the separate igloos which you can book for a supplement. They’re very similar to the ice rooms but slightly larger.
The Ice Chapel
The most spectacular construction had to be the Ice Chapel. It really did take your breath away.
I had to sit down and have a quiet moment of thanks just for being there.
The party at The Ice Bar
When we got back to the hotel, the Ice Restaurant had been transformed into a party space. It was time for a parting of the ways as people decided whether to scuttle back to the warm chalet or stay and carry on. The temperature was dropping dramatically so if you were staying, you needed to avail yourself of the bar and the dancing.
My face lit up (both literally and figuratively) as huge speakers were brought in and the disco lights started to flash… and yes, even the shot glass is made from ice.
Of course everybody was fully on board with Midlifechic by this stage and I had a lot of ‘direction’ with the photos. I was draped in a Transylvanian sheepskin coat which is available to order (I’ve been instructed to say)…
… it was suggested that you’d like to see me reclining on an ice sofa…
… and there’s only a slight hint of alarm in my eyes as I recall that the gentle giant in the balaclava has served several tours in Afghanistan.
You can even join us for a few seconds (shame I didn’t catch the moment when Ice Ice Baby came on)!
At 10.30pm, the party moved over to the wooden chalet so that the rooms could be prepared with heavy duty sleeping bags and reindeer skins. Were we able to stay in the Ice Hotel? No. Did we mind? Actually in the end, when we lay down in our cosy chalet room, not at all. About half of the people who had ice rooms ended up evacuating in the middle of the night because they found it was just too cold. I can’t deny that it niggles that I travelled so far and wasn’t able to sleep there but in all reality, we had a complete Ice Hotel experience and by 1.30am, a warm bed was where I wanted to be.
Day 4: Sighisoara and home
So (nearly finished now – sorry this has been so long), after another early start, the next morning we went back down the mountain and travelled to the mediaeval town of Sighisoara. We had lunch there but not very much time to explore which was a shame because it looked so pretty. Apparently it is a favourite of Prince Charles who has a house nearby. It is also the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler.
Despite the slight hitch in the middle, my winter wardrobe packing worked out really well. Now that we were in more temperate climes, I changed back into Ugg boots (I’m so glad they’ve been declared back on trend) and added a splash of red.
The only thing that I didn’t switch over were my sunglasses. I took three pairs with me but I liked these so much that I just kept on wearing them. They were a gift from House of Fraser and for me, they meet this year’s trend for smaller frames whilst still having the flattering cat eye shape.
So that takes us to the end of a trip that we would never have had were it not for my moment of madness at a charity auction. Was it worth it? Well obviously I paid twice the listed cost because of the charity element but if you had paid the usual price then I would say it was great value.
We have never booked any kind of pre-organised excursion or holiday before because we like to travel independently. However this isn’t something that would be easy to arrange on your own. In addition, it was fun travelling with a group, especially when it came to the winter sports and the party at the Ice Hotel.
It was exhausting. There is a lot of travelling and moving around with early starts required. It would have been good to have a slightly longer stay in the different towns that we went to. You also need to bear in mind that the weather could hinder your stay at the Ice Hotel and that is not very well explained in the pre-departure information.
How do I feel about it when I look back at it?
Exhilarated. The winter sports and the Ice Hotel party were out of this world and just so much fun. I also like the fact that I learned a lot. Our tour guide Marius gave us lots of information about history, politics, legend and culture as we were travelling on the minibus that we would never have gleaned from a guide book.
Do I think you should go?
I really do. The Ice Hotel in Romania is a much more affordable option than somewhere like Sweden and just as dramatic. Be prepared to be cold and tired. I suspect that sleeping in the Ice Hotel will be a bit like a bad night’s camping – chilly, uncomfortable and a feat of endurance but something that you laugh about the following day and remember forever. There is also the option of staying in the chalet if you prefer to have a warm retreat.
NB The trip that I recommend is the Mini Ice Hotel experience. People we met who were doing the longer one that includes Bucharest felt there was too much travelling involved for the time allotted.
When to go?
Between the end of January and mid-March. The site opens in December but construction isn’t fully completed until the end of Jan so if you went earlier, you might miss the spectacular ice chapel. You wouldn’t want to be there when it starts to melt towards the end of March.
Where to book?
Untravelled Paths arranged our trip. They were excellent, especially when you bear in mind that they had to completely rearrange our stay because of the bad weather. It was done seamlessly and without any fuss. Our Romanian guide Marius was only in his twenties but full of information, extremely attentive and a very good party host, smiling and dancing until the last guest went to bed!
Disclosure: “Ice Hotel Transylvania review” is not a sponsored post. The trip and all associated expenses were paid for me and no blogger discount was received.
I have two important updates today.
Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo
On Thursday I will be posting shortly after 8am. It is the launch of the new Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo collection which will be sold out by lunchtime as always. We have been given an exclusive preview at Midlifechic again and I will be bringing you my edit (and guide to sizing) so don’t forget to check in. Once again they are simple chic core wardrobe pieces at an affordable price. In the meantime you can preview the full collection here. Don’t forget to subscribe below if you would like an email reminding you when the collection goes live. I will never share your email address with any one else.
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