The Icehotel is constructed afresh every year on the banks of the Torne River at Jukkasjärvi, near Kiruna in northern Sweden. Tens of thousands of tonnes of ice are cut from the river to construct the hotel, which is completely rebuilt every year to a new design. Artists from around the world are invited to work on the designs. There is always a chapel where couples can marry, a grand hall and an exhibition space. The ice rooms normally open in December and melt away again in April.
There are normally about 50 rooms in the cold part of the Ice Hotel. These are divided into three categories. All rooms are at a fairly constant -5°C. All rooms have subtle low level electric lighting, a bed made of ice, with an insulating mattress on top of a wooden supports, and then covered with reindeer skins. The hotel provides very good sleeping bags to ensure a warm night's sleep.
The first category is called Snow Rooms. These have big beds, but no other furniture or art. Normally there are about a dozen Snow Rooms.
The next category is called Ice Rooms, as shown above. Normally there are over 30 Ice Rooms. These rooms have some furniture made of ice and an ice sculpture.
Finally, there are about a dozen spectacular Art Suites. Each Art Suite has a unique design. All have subtle low lighting. The Flower (top of page) and Virgin in Space (above) are two examples from 2012/13. Given the spectacular nature of the Art Suites, you will need to book early if you want to stay in one.
The Icehotel entrance is through two doors covered in reindeer skins on both sides. Residents get changed in the warm and then run the short distance to their room. Showers, toilet and storage facilities are provided in the warm permanent building.
Questions and answers
How many nights do you spend in a cold room?
Most people stay one night in a cold room and 2 or 3 in a warm room.
Is it easy to sleep in an ice room?
Yes. The sleeping bags are very good, so you can be sure that you will be warm enough. It might take you a while to settle, especially if you are not used to a sleeping bag.
Can you have a double sleeping bag?
Yes, but it is probably easier to get comfortable in two singles.
What do you wear in bed?
One layer: long johns, a top, socks and a hat. Don't wear two layers, as you will get too hot. You don't need gloves.
What about if you need to go to the toilet?
Keep a fleece inside your sleeping bag and then pop it on and run across to the warm block. It isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. It is best to go straight away and not spend an hour lying awake wondering if you can put it off!
Are the Art Suites worth it?
They are spectacular and romantic, but they are a lot more expensive. They also have separate individual changing rooms, which is really useful. Of course, once you turn the lights out it really doesn't matter which category of room you are in. If you want to stay in an Art Suite, book it early and take some candles to ensure a truly romantic night.
Why don't Swedes go to the Icehotel?
Wimps. And they hate the cold. Also, they are bored of snow so half of Sweden disappears to Thailand in the winter.
What other tips have you got?
• Go to the hotel's briefing to hear their tips.
• If you are staying in a cold room on your first night, organise your case carefully as there is not much space to unpack.
• Don't zip yourself up too tightly in your sleeping bag to start with, because then you may end up too warm and feel claustrophobic.
• If you wear glasses, take your glasses case and put it inside your sleeping bag.
• If you are not staying in one of the Art Suites, see if you can hire a separate changing room as the changing area is very cramped.
Is it worth it?
Definitely, despite the expense. It is romantic and a unique experience. Put it on your bucket list.
The warm rooms
The warm rooms are scattered round a large wooded site. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, if a tad overheated as is normal in Swedish hotels. (I even came across one British couple who slept with the window open!) Most rooms have a pleasant view.
The Ice Bar
There are two bars at the hotel, including a cavernous Ice Bar. It is the mother of all ice bars, being the very first, and is much better than the Ice Bar in Stockholm. Although quiet when I took these photos, it is often the focal point for celebrations and can get very busy.
Across the road from the hotel is an excellent candle-lit restaurant. Lunch is the best value at 139 SEK (about £13) for a large buffet including non-alcoholic drinks and coffee. Dinner is more sumptuous, and so expensive. There is a special ice menu as well as an à la carte menu of arctic specialities. There is a good choice of wines, including a number available by the glass. (Because of the cost, most Swedes order wine by the glass.)
Any visit to the Icehotel must include sampling some of the fantastic activities on offer. More…
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