The Icehotel is the kind of concept that at first glance seems improbable, nay, impossible to conceive, but in 1989, the world’s first hotel made of ice went from a dream to a reality.
Nestled in northernmost Sweden, the Icehotel can be found in Jukkasjärvi, a one-hour flight from Stockholm. I was fortunate enough to travel to Swedish Lapland this March and enjoy a night in one of the Icehotel’s acclaimed Art Suites and it did not disappoint.
Having been high on my bucket list for so long, I spent 24 pinch-me hours exploring the magical atmosphere of this pioneering property.
Read on to get the low-down on what made my stay so cool – both figuratively and literally.
While many have heard of the Icehotel, few Australians would be able to pinpoint it on a map – perhaps as a concept it seems too far from the tropical climes of our own shores, or maybe its location in Lapland conjures up dreamlike fairy lands that are difficult to reach, but that is far from the truth.
It’s in the Arctic Circle – as you may expect from a hotel that can sustain guests sleeping on beds of ice – so temperatures can be low but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience so chilly conditions should not put you off.
My night in the Icehotel was surreal – where else can you sleep in a temporary art sculpture, with carefully crafted themes by global artists that are created to inspire and thrill? It’s almost absurd!
Check out my guided walk through
The hotel is open for visitors during the day and a secure locker or lockable changing room is given for your belongings, dependent on your booking. Your room is available from 6 pm – though to be honest, you’re not going to be hanging about in an ice chair chilling (literally) until you’re ready to hit the sack. When you are ready to sleep, you’ll collect your -20c sleeping bag and sheet and head to your room.
Lying on the reindeer skins, with the sleeping bag pulled over your head, it’s easy to forget the steady -5c temperature of the room but if the hood of the bedding slipped, you’ll soon got a rude awakening! Overall I slept well, with only a chilly dash to the bathroom stirring me from my slumber.
As an early night is unlikely on the cards there is fortunately plenty on offer to keep you entertained before bedtime. Meals at the Icehotel Restaurant are top-notch, particularly at the signature restaurant where reindeer, moose, and Arctic char can be found on the menu. In what I thought was a great gesture, the chef came out and individually checked in on everyone and was more than happy to cater to allergies or special requests.
Breakfast is a small but delectable spread, including gluten free options.
Forget a post-dinner nightcap, enjoy an icecap instead at the cool vibes of the Icebar.
Also made of ice (of course) it is fully stocked with Absolut cocktails, along with champagne.
While the Icebar can be found in other locations around the world, it is only here that you can find the exclusive, carefully crafted champagne glasses which each take around 30 minutes to create. After all that effort, it would be rude not to indulge, right?
While staying at the Icehotel, there is also a wide range of additional activities on offer. The winter pursuits are extensive with options such as reindeer sledding, dog sledding, ice sculpting, snowmobile tours and so much more.
Aurora borealis is also a draw to the region, with February, March, September, and October providing the highest prospects to catch a glimpse of the blazing green lights across the Arctic sky.
Download the app Aurora Pro to get up-to-the-minute probability timings for this unique natural phenomenon – this means you can be warm indoors until chances are high for a viewing, something I was grateful for on the two nights of northern lights activity during my stay.
The recently launched Icehotel 365 concept will be welcome news to Australians planning a summer Europe trip, as it affords 20 ice rooms that are open year-round.
These new rooms themselves don’t differ much from the traditional winter property – they are still individually sculpted from ice by international artists – but a custom-created solar cooling system allows for the long, sunny days of Arctic Sweden to sustain the solid ice structure without melting.
Whereas before, travel to the Icehotel meant ditching an Australian summer to plunge into the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic, the new 365 wing means a visit can be an add-on to a summer itinerary, even combined with experiencing the midnight sun.
It’s an innovative move that throws open a visit to those that plan to explore Europe in the sunnier months.
Deluxe Art Suites come with bathrooms, and some with personal hot tubs and saunas if you feel like splurging.
The traditional winter wing will still open from mid-December to mid-April, with the property slowly receding back to the Torne River that the ice blocks come from, a process that still seems to amaze the Icehotel staff.
Construction is a vast process with a crew of 100 building, sculpting and manipulating the ice over a period of 6-10 weeks. In April, ice is harvested once again and stored in colossal freezers in readiness for the new season and the cycle of the property begins again.
It’s cliché, but the Icehotel does have to be seen to be believed. While Instagram snaps, Facebook live videos and articles like this one aim to do it justice, there is little that matches up to the fantasy of the actual stay itself.
And if you want to stay longer in Jukkasjärvi, don’t fret about sleeping at below zero temperatures every night – you can move to the property’s warm self-contained chalets for the remainder of your stay.
For one night only, you get to be fully immersed into an artist’s vision, in one of the most unusual accommodation options on the planet. Are you cool enough to give it a go?
Getting there and away: fly into Stockholm and take a connecting flight north with SAS or Norwegian AIr into Kiruna. The Icehotel is approximately 30 minutes from Kiruna Airport and a shuttle can be booked with the hotel.
Would you take a chilly night in this amazing hotel? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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