Touring the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

The Ice Hotel in Sweden has been high on my travel bucket list for quite a few years. Imagine a hotel, completely built from snow and ice, all the way down to the bed frames in each room. It sounds flippin’ AWESOME right? You may not have the mental willpower to stay overnight in a frozen hotel, but you can easily spend the day touring one then return to your normal, heated hotel room afterward to warm up. While in Quebec City last year, I attempted to check out the smaller, newer Ice Hotel only to find out we arrived 2 DAYS before it opened for the season. So I saw the outside…and that was it. After that, I vowed to visit the original and largest location in Swedish Lapland, far north by the Arctic Circle.

Take in the Wonders of Ice Architecture

The Ice Hotel has a pretty impressive name and it’s even more impressive in person. Rebuilt from scratch every year, it’s basically an art exhibit that you can live in. The hotel is purposefully built along the Torne River, in the village of Jukkasjärvi. Snow and ice is harvested from the river each year, creating “snice”, which is molded into massive ice blocks taller than an adult and weighing over 2 tons each. These blocks become the structural bricks of the hotel. Each year, the temporary Ice Hotel is given a number to commemorate how many years it’s been rebuilt. Lodging is available throughout the winter when the hotel is the most stable. However, you can also book rooms through the spring as the hotel starts to melt. March-April is referred to as Arctic Spring and as the Ice Hotel slowly starts to break down and flow back into the river, rooms are available to witness the transition. This cyclical nature of the Ice hotel is what makes it so special: what is taken from the earth is returned each year back to the river.

The entrance to the Ice Hotel really builds the suspense and feels straight out of Game of Thrones. Before you even get to the bedrooms, you walk through two large fur-covered front doors. As you make your way down a long, window-less hallway, the magic of the hotel will reveal itself as you near the entrance of the Ice Church. This space operates as an actual Church and is therefore the one consistent part of the Ice Hotel that is always built each year. Weddings and baptisms are common here and up to 150 weddings can occur in one season. The inner hallways of the Ice Hotel are adorned with carved walls, crystal-like pillars and stunning chandeliers made of ice. You’ll laugh when you notice how instead of looking forward to where you’re walking, you and everyone around you will be looking up and literally every which way to catch all the details.

Find Your Favorite Bedroom Design

People from all across the world, from all career disciplines and backgrounds are welcome to apply to construct a bedroom at the Ice Hotel each year. Many artists see it as a life-long dream to be chosen to take on this task. Even if you don’t have any ice carving experience, the hotel provides basic tools and instruction so anyone can come and create; the only requirements are that the design must be original, must consist of only snow and ice, and must contain a bed (it’s a hotel, after all). Therefore, each room design is completely unique, born out of the mind of the designer. Some artists explore incorporating sound or music into the room, making you feel like you’ve walked into an immersive, virtual reality ice experience, while others play with lights and color to give the ice and snow an eerie glowing effect. As you make your way through the Ice Hotel, you’re free to walk through all of the unlocked rooms as these are the one’s that haven’t been booked by guests. Every door you open feels like a peek behind some magic curtain, into a dream-like world. Make sure you take time to walk into every room you possibly can. You’ll no doubt find one that personally resonates with you. My friend, a marine biologist, LOVED the room filled with ice-carved jellyfish, while I was a fan of one with an ice bridge that led to the king-size bed in the center.

Grab a Drink at the IceBar

Now what would an Ice Hotel be without an Ice Bar? Rational question right? Especially since Ice Bars have popped up all over the world, even in hotter climates like Rome and Miami. Once you tour the temporary Ice Hotel, you can make a stop in the building next door: the much newer Ice Hotel 365. This building was created so people could experience living in the cold year-round, even in the summer. It’s also the home of the Ice Bar (sponsored by Absolut Vodka) where drinks are served in glasses and goblets made completely of ice. The top drinks of choice are the local non-alcoholic lingonberry juice, and of course, anything mixed with vodka. You have a rare chance to drink the liquor at its optimal temperature…freezing, guaranteeing a really delicious cocktail.

The Ice Hotel is probably one of the coolest (pun totally intended) things you’ll see while visiting northern Sweden. The inside doesn’t even seem real and looking back at the photos, I feel like I’m looking at a children’s book I just casually walked into while in Sweden. If you’re visiting Abisko and northern Sweden to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, a visit to the Ice Hotel is the perfect day trip to enjoy the short amount of daylight you get so far north.

Happy #wildbumming & read more on Laura’s blog here.

Laura Wilkens

Laura Wilkens