Interesting facts about Igloos

Discover how Igloos are made

We have all heard of an igloo, but what do we really know about them? Santa’s Elves have put together their top seven igloo facts, from the history of an igloo to how an igloo is made and how it keeps you warm.

elves outside igloo

What is an igloo?

An igloo, also known as an iglu, comes from the Inuit word for 'house' or ‘shelter’. It was traditionally associated with Inuit’s when they went on their hunting trips and they built a temporary house to protect them from the cold.

On a trip to Lapland to see Santa, you’ll be able to see some of our igloos hidden in the magical forest and learn about igloo history.

What is an igloos made of?

The majority of igloos are still made out of snow, however, it’s not the snow that’s just settled on the ground as this isn’t strong enough. You would need to use snow that has been on the ground longer which is below the soft, powdery new snow. This is much firmer, like the snow you’d use to shape into a snowman or snowball, and you can cut it into large snow blocks to build your igloo.

Did you know that within one of our snow igloos there’s a bar made entirely of ice? If you book a Lapland stay with us, you can enjoy a drink and a snack whilst in there.

How do you make an igloo?

An igloo is a simple structure and uses basic materials, however, it can be quite a challenge to make. If made properly, it should be strong enough for a grown adult to stand on it without collapsing!

To make your igloo, you will need a snow spade and a saw, plus at least another person to help.

Find your spot in the snow and draw out a circle with your spade. You can then dig down and create snow blocks for your igloo.

Now that your hole is dug and your snow blocks are made, you can start building the walls of your igloo. You will need to make sure you cut a gentle slope all-around your first layer of snow blocks, this is important as it will allow you to build the walls in a vertical spiral to make your dome.

You will need to create a door to the igloo, you can either carve a hole through the wall you’ve just built or if you want to keep it extra warm inside, dig down and create a tunnel into your igloo.

Lastly, it’s always good to create some ventilation holes in your igloo ceiling and to not block the door to allow better circulation.

open fire in the snow

How long does it take to build an igloo? 

An expert igloo builder, for example a Sami, can build an igloo in about one hour; this is especially helpful when it’s starting to get dark and cold outside, and you need somewhere warm to retreat too. Someone new to building an igloo would take between three to six hours depending on the size of the igloo.

Did you know Zermatt in Switzerland made the world’s biggest igloo? It took over 2,000 hours to build and was made out of 1,387 blocks of snow. It was 10.5m tall and had a width of 12.9m – impressive!

How does an igloo keep you warm?

Firstly, the walls of the igloo will protect you from the wind outside, which can make the temperature feel even colder than it is.

Secondly, the igloo isn’t the source of the heat as this comes from everyone’s body heat. The snow then works as an insulator and keeps everyone who’s inside warm. 

How warm can an igloo get?

Temperatures outside can sometimes reach up to minus 45 degrees (chilly!), however, inside an igloo, the temperature can be anywhere between minus 7 and 16 degrees because of your body heat. It’s not going to be warm enough for a t-shirt, however, it’s much warmer than being outside the igloo.

Did you know you can stay extra warm in an igloo with a fire, without it melting? The fire needs to be in the centre of the igloo so it’s furthest away from the walls and a hole is needed in the top of the igloo to allow the smoke to escape.


Will an igloo eventually melt?

If an igloo is occupied for a few days, the internal temperature can rise as a result of everyone’s body heat, which will cause the snow to melt a little bit.

Once everyone has left though, the melted snow will freeze and turn to ice. This gradual thawing and freezing process is a good thing though, as it makes the structure both stronger and warmer!

Visiting Santa's Lapland? You’ll get to see some magical igloos on our Santa's Magic experience.

More Lapland inspiration

Discover our Santa's Lapland experiences

  • family in thermal suits
Santas Magic
Experience the magic of Lapland, choose between five great hotels to sleep in before heading off to meet Santa and his elves. Revel in a Sleigh Barn show, a Festive Dinner, and see the elves perform in a magical igloo. Follow Santa's glow trail he's left behind by a snowmobile sleigh for your private meeting with Santa.
from £1399 per adult
  • sunset over the Star Arctic Hotel
Santas Aurora
With a bit of luxury sprinkled on top, sleep under the Northern Lights and enjoy a Wilderness Dinner experience. Whoosh around on a snowmobile safari, step into Santa's Elves Workshop and enjoy an extended husky sled ride at our exclusive activity centre. Travel by reindeer sleigh, following Santa's glow trail for your private meeting with Santa and his Aurora Elf.
from £1869 per adult

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The Complete Lapland Package

Flights, transfers, half-board accommodation, a fun-filled activity trip and snowsuits are all included.

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Seeing Lapland in the snow is all part of the experience, so if we decide that there’s not enough snow, you can change your travel dates, within the same season, or get a full refund.

The Perfect Location

A remote spot in the far north of Finland, 200km above the Arctic Circle among the snowy trees of Saariselkä.

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