What is it? There aren’t many hotels in the world that need to be rebuilt every year, but Icehotel, in Jukkasjärvi, a remote Swedish village 200km inside the Arctic Circle, is one of them. Made with about 1,000 tonnes of crystal-clear ice harvested from the nearby Torne River, together with 30,000 cubic metres of “snice”, snow mixed with ice, the hotel – or at least part of it – is built by ice sculptors from all over the world each October and melts back into the river each May. The property, which is always rebuilt on the same 5,500 square metres, has a main hall, dozens of ice rooms, an ice bar and an ice church, the designs of which change each year. Last winter’s incarnation – the 26th – featured 50 rooms, including 19 deluxe and art suites with original designs, the temperature within which falls to as low as minus-five degrees Celsius at night. Also on site are wooden huts, which can be rented in the summer. Icehotel 365, a year-round complex chilled in the summer by solar energy and near the original site, is due to open on November 10.
Sounds cold. How do you sleep? Surprisingly well. Guests take a brief “survival course” before bunking down on queen-size ice beds covered with reindeer skins. My room was decorated with 13 ice sculptures of sheep – if you can’t sleep, just count them. The expedition sleeping bag provided by the hotel works a treat and guests can expect to be woken at their requested time by a friendly hotel staff member serving a cup of warm lingonberry juice.
What else is there to do? All manner of winter activities, including ice sculpting, dog sledding, skiing and so on. There’s not much that can beat taking a snowmobile tour on a cloudless night and within minutes coming across a great vantage point from which to marvel at a magical display of the aurora borealis, or northern lights.
Nice, and when we get hungry? The hotel’s main restaurant (reservations are required) serves traditional Swedish food (moose, Arctic char and bramble berries) prepared by a Michelin-trained head chef. A piping hot bowl of reindeer stew can be enjoyed there or in a smaller, cheaper restaurant a five-minute drive from the reception building. There’s also a snack bar serving sandwiches, cakes and drinks, and cocktails are served in glasses made entirely of ice in the two-storey Icebar (above), which is, you guessed it, also made of the cold stuff.
What’s the bottom line?Room rates at Icehotel #27, which will open on December 16, start from 4,060 krona per night (HK$3,575). Rooms at Icehotel 365 are available from 5,460 krona a night. For more information, visit www.icehotel.com.