Summer vacation is over, time to begin thinking about your next vacation. One of my favorite places is the Ice Hotel, located 200km north of the Arctic Circle in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden – a frozen paradise awaiting exploration. Why I am writing about it already, because it books up quickly every year.
The hotel is reconstructed each year from the ice harvested the previous year from the Torne River, which is stored in large warehouses for the summer. The ice hotel opens approximately from mid-December to the end of the April, of course depending on the weather.
You will fly into Kiruna airport, Sweden and can arrange transportation to the hotel with the hotel personnel before your arrival. As you approach the Ice Hotel, the inspiring view strikes awe in even the most well traveled person. From the Ice Hotel itself, to the ice church, to the ice bar, to the ice theater a person cannot help but feel amazement at the great blocks of ice that are about to become home for the next couple of days.
There are plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. Our favorite was the dog sledding tour. As you approach – you can
hear the dogs barking as they strain and jump against the sled brake with enthusiasm, desiring to start the journey. Once the passengers climb aboard, the sled driver releases the brake and the dogs are off, yelping with excitement. There are different tour lengths depending on what you feel like, we did the 1.5 hours with a relaxing break sipping coffee next to a cozy fire in a traditional tent surrounded by untouched wilderness.
If the skies are clear, the evening snowmobile excursion is fantastic to see the Northern Lights. Even in the skies are not clear, the magnificent views are well worth the layering of clothes. As you race through the crystallized forest and across the frozen river, a warm cabin awaits you in which you will be able to try local delicacies such as moose meat soup and Lingonberry juice. It is important to ensure your skin is covered, with the outside temperature of negative 35C plus the wind speed of the snowmobile, frost bite is a very real possibility, as my husband discovered on a small area of his nose.
The Reindeer sledding tour is the best way to experience the Sami way of life. The Sami live off of the land and travel across the Scandinavian countries herding their reindeer. After lassoing a reindeer, it is hooked to a sled which you then you race around the track – although not too fast. Afterwards, you enter into a traditional tent where a Sami native is preparing a reindeer lunch and as you warm yourself by the fire, you are treated to the history of the Sami culture.
Inspired by the Ice Hotel, we tried our skills at ice sculpting. Although I doubt others could identify our masterpieces, we were thrilled with the results after dedicating ourselves to the task for three hours.
Making our way to the Ice Theatre, we witnessed a bride arriving in a sleigh pulled by reindeer at the Ice church, which is surprisingly a very popular location for a wedding ceremony. The scene reminded me of a fairytale with no need of additional decorations as the moonlight bounced off of the icicles. We then continued to the Ice Theatre to watch a play, which was by far the coldest activity. Bundled in the special clothing provided by the hotel, we sat on the huge blocks of ice marveling at the actors in their costumes and wondered how they were able to think much less act and play musical instruments. Afterwards we rushed into the warmth (at least in comparison to the outside temperature) of the Ice Bar, where we were able to entertain ourselves with brightly colored drinks in ice glasses as we conversed through a camera with others in ice bars around the world. The wedding party later arrived dressed in their finest attire, but soon had to retire to change into warmer clothes.
Don’t forget to also consider snow shoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, moose safari and many other activities.
Upon check in you will be provided with a full body outfit, boots, hat, and gloves – which you will be grateful for throughout your stay. There are two choices of accommodation, in the ice hotel or in the warm hotel.
One night at least should be slept in the actual Ice Hotel. You will go to a warm reception and receive your locker key, where you will keep your belongings for the night. You will also receive a special sleeping bag, double sleeping bags are available on request but are not numerous so it is a good idea to request one early. My husband and I were lucky enough to obtain one, although be warned that if someone has to get up in the middle of the night then the sleeping spouse will be awaken by the cold air rushing into the sleeping bag. Once you change into your sleeping attire, the guests rush from the warmth of the reception out in the cold, which was negative 34 C the night we stayed, and surprisingly find refugee in the warmth of the ice hotel – registering at a mere negative 5 C. Thankfully all the ice beds are covered in reindeer skins to take the chill out.
The Ice Hotel has a mixture of deluxe suites, suites, double rooms and family rooms. Each suite is designed by an artist who realizes their dream through the sculpturing of ice. All of the suites are unique and a must see during the day. The family and double rooms are simple in design and available to obtain the experience of lodging in the ice hotel for the night.
The other nights can be spent in the warm rooms, which are fashioned after the Scandic design – simple yet modern. Between the activities, the warm rooms are a nice retreat from the cold where you are able to relax and warm up.
For more information visit their website: http://icehotel.com/