Travelling, unlike taking a mere vacation, is all about discovering new ways of doing things. In effect, when people go on a trip, they generally expect to live unique experiences; the greatest photos, the coolest souvenirs, and the longest-lasting memories come from these very distinctive moments that cannot be reproduced elsewhere. Winter travelling in Quebec is one of those very exceptional trips that promise to be memorable, but sleeping in one of Quebec’s national parks’ igloos can only add to the magic.
The igloo experience
The very word “igloo” literally means “house” in the Inuit language. And just like the kind of house we live in, an igloo can be warm! One’s body heat and the conception of an igloo alone can make the inside of the structure quite comfortable and suited to allow one to sleep through the night without shivering. The sometimes inhospitable outer weather conditions indeed do not penetrate the igloo, whose inner temperature generally is close to 0 degree Celsius.
This can seem hard to believe, but it is no surprise when one knows that snow is endowed with exceptional insulating properties and that the type of snow used to build an igloo is very compact and, therefore, does not allow air from the outside to make its ways through the walls. Moreover, the entrance of the igloo digs just under ground level – thereby stopping the wind from getting in – and the presence of humans inside quickly brings the surface of the inner dome to melt a little and then turn into a layer of ice that further insulates and solidifies the whole structure. The interior of an igloo is not as freezing as one thinks!
National parks offering igloo accommodation
Although most of it was developed fairly recently, Quebec has a very dense network of 25 national parks located all across the province. They are accessible year-round, and the many activities offered inevitably are adapted to the current season. And when wintertime comes… so do igloos! Two national parks currently offer such traditional Inuit housing units to those who are willing to sleep in a cosy snow shelter.
The first park is the Parc national des Monts-Valin, which dominates the landscape of the beautiful Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Winter activities such as snowshoeing, ski shoeing, backcountry and cross country skiing are all available. Renting an igloo only costs about $25 per person, per night, but interesting, affordable packages are also sold for those who do not want to bring all the necessary hardware (sports equipment, winter sleeping bag, insulated ground mattress, candles, etc.).
The other park offering igloo accommodation is the Parc national du Bic. Located in the majestic St. Lawrence Estuary and showcasing capes, bays, coves, islands and mountains, the Parc national du Bic has a wide range of available winter activities such as snowshoeing, snow walking, backcountry skiing, kick sled and even trails adapted to the mobility impaired. Igloo packages start at less than $60 and include, among other things, a sleeping bag, a fleece blanket, a transport sled, a ground mattress and wood.
In both national parks, igloos are generally suited to accommodate between two and four guests, from mid-December to mid-March. This is absolutely something to experience once in your life, even if it is for a single night only. For instance, you could easily be sleeping in a king size bed at your favourite top-quality hotel in downtown Montreal and, after a few days spent in the metropolis, go on a short “sweet escape” at the Parc national des Monts-Valin or at the Parc national du Bic to breathe some fresh air and get to sleep in an igloo. Don’t ask yourself why; ask yourself why not! Quebec’s winter has so much to offer!
About the author: Alexandre Duval is a freelance blogger for Tourisme Montreal and a winter lover writing about various topics including travel. He is also currently completing his master’s degree in political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.