Sweden – ‘Ice Ice Baby!’ – Ice Hotel
When it comes to the hippest of hotels, there really cannot be anywhere more ‘cool’ than the original ‘IceHotel’ in Sweden, reconstructed each winter from the Arctic’s ice and snow.
There are igloos and then there is ‘IceHotel’. Located 200 kilometres within Sweden’s Arctic Circle, this is undoubtedly the most luxurious property made of ice. It can be found in the isolated community of Jukkasjärvi. This Swedish village is in Lapland, the archetypical Christmas winter wonderland that not only encompasses northern Sweden but also Norway and Finland.
Here the glistening snow crunches under foot and the air is clear and pure; it is a place of inspirational beauty. Light defines this extraordinary landscape of arctic whites and pure blues. Although the days are endlessly long in summer with midnight sun, it is in the winter when people come from all over the world to experience the natural, unpredictable phenomenon of the ‘Aurora’ or Northern Lights.
When it comes to holidaying in sub zero temperatures of around minus 26 degrees centigrade, comfort becomes a priority; and it is ironic that the best night’s sleep can in fact be in the frozen suites of IceHotel.
The magic of IceHotel starts in December, when the freezing temperatures herald the start of the construction of the season’s new hotel. Each winter, from pure snow and two-tonne blocks of ice are taken from the frozen Torne River to make the hotel. This is remarkable concept; very environmentally conscious; the hotel strives to be carbon neutral and uses electivity from renewable sources.
The unique ‘cold’ rooms and suites of the IceHotel are completely constructed from ice and snow; and even the most simple ‘snow room’ provides natural protection and insulation from the freezing temperatures outside. Inside it is always between minus 5 and minus 8 degrees centigrade, and thanks to warm thermal nightwear, a night cap and thermal sleeping bags, the experience is truly comfortable! But here is a tip; even if you’re feeling romantic it is better and much cosier to have one’s own individual sleeping bag than opting for the double sleeping bag! Be confident that the hotel takes care of every detail; even guests’ travel cases and clothes are securely held in heated storage.
For the most stunning accommodation, choose an ‘Art Suite’, each with a wonderful, individual, cocoon design decorated with original, one-off ice art. Sleep in total peace on a bed of snow and ice, covered in arctic reindeer pelts. Wake after a refreshing sleep to a hot Swedish lingonberry juice; a warming morning sauna and hot shower in the adjacent heated building; followed by a robust buffet breakfast in the heated dining room. This is really an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Most guests at IceHotel combine a memorable night in an ice room together with a longer stay in ‘warm’ accommodation nearby; in smart rooms with typical Scandinavian bright interior design, and views out across the crisp white landscape.
Breaking the ice
Travelling is all about sharing experiences and meeting people, and where better to ‘break the ice’ than over a drink at the internationally renowned ABSOLUT ICEBAR Jukkasjärv in the IceHotel? The Vodka bar is made of blocks of frozen Torne River and drinks are served in hollowed out cubes of ice! Simply wear the warm insulated cape provided, put on gloves and chill out in the coolest, festive hot spot in the Arctic.
Adjacent to the hotel is a cosy bar and lounge with roaring fire, so not every day has to be spent at freezing temperatures. The gastronomic IceHotel Restaurant, with views of the Torne Rover, is a contemporary environment to enjoy sophisticated Scandinavian dishes, prepared with locally sourced ingredients from Lapland’s vast forests, raging rivers and pure lakes.
A traditional log cabin, dating from the 18th Century, on the edge of the river has been converted into the Old Homestead Restaurant, offering an intimately elegant and cosy place to enjoy fine food and great wines.
In fact it is more than just a luxury destination; it is also a focus for creativity and design. Each winter, artists from across the globe come to the IceHotel to create and showcase sculptures and installations made from the ice and snow. Be sure to take away great memories and of course some photographs as this is an ephemeral place – the springtime sun is unforgiving and everything made from the ice and snow melts returning once again to the Torne River as fresh flowing water.
©COPYRIGHT ANDREW FORBES