If life gives you lemons – make lemonade. I’m sure you’ve heard this nonsense, but whenever things got tough you bitched and moaned like the rest of us, instead of say, make a giant igloo. Well the Swedes, in their typical Swedish manner did exactly that!
For years Jukkasjärvi has been the hip spot for ice carving artists, and in Spring 1990, French artist Jannot Derid held an exhibition in the area in a cylinder-shaped igloo. This led to the creation of the famous ice hotel as we know it today. In fact, it is so popular now, it is on many a Scandinavian travel itinerary, perhaps just to tick it off the bucketlist!
The turnout was a bit more than expected, and there weren’t enough accommodation available in the town. So instead of making the 17 km trip to Kiruna, Sweden, some of the visitors thought that it would be a good idea to stay within the arctic circle and sleep in a house made entirely out of snow. The locals did what they could – they covered blocks of ice inside the igloo with reindeer skins, and lent their sleeping bags to the deranged visitors.
However, the next morning everyone was in for a surprise! Those that were thought to be unfortunate to sleep in an ice shed, discovered that their negative expectations were unfounded. It was not cold inside the igloo, and the beds out of reindeer skins were quite comfortable. So they proceeded to thank the organizers for the amazing experience they felt privileged to try.
Locals quickly caught on, and with just enough spin the IceHotel was created.
For the past 20 years, the IceHotel kept getting bigger and better. Today the town of Jukkasjärvi, in the heart of the Arctic Circle along with Finland and Noway, proudly invites sculptors from around the world to decorate the world’s largest hotel of ice and snow. The sculptors are carefully chosen by a jury, based on their skill and originality. In total, about 50 artists participate in the creation of the IceHotel’s 80 (or so) rooms. Each room is individually designed and handcrafted, often with LED lights used for illumination and to accent the design. ‘Why LEDs?’ you may ask… because regular light-bulbs give off too much heat, and cannot be used. The rooms are minus 5 to minus 8 degrees Celsius, so unless you take proper precautions, you will experience discomfort. However, all accommodations include a winter overall, boots and mittens, while hats are available for purchase.
This season the IceHotel is to be about 5,500 square meters in size, and as always, will be constructed even as visitors settle into their rooms. By early January construction is done, and visitors are welcomed to enjoy the hotel until it begins to melt in April. The hotel is created anew every year, so you can never stay in the same place twice. Upon completion, the hotel can accommodate 100 people and contains various facilities for their needs, such as a church, an Absolut Ice Bar, a reception hall, and more.
Best Time To Go:
This is quite subjective, but if you want to experience the rooms, AND see how they are shaped, then December to early January is the best time for you. Visitors during this period will get an in-depth look at the building processes. They’ll see the snow cannons on the Torne River shore, machines hauling 2-tonne ice blocks around, and artists carving intricate ice and snow sculptures.
Room Silencer – Venturing into the arctic circle, and spending even one night in a freezing igloo is impressive on its own. But spending a night in an art piece, which will only be around for a few months, and will never again be recreated, is truly unreal! Your high-school sweetheart will date more people than will experience the same suite you did…and you thought your romance was special!
Extra bragging points if you:
- try ice sculpting
- explore the arctic planes on a husky sledge
- check out the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
Warm (Indoor) and Cold (IceHotel) accommodations are available.
Prices per person per night for Indoor range between 1150-2400 SEK (170-355 USD), and vary based on the time of your trip, your selection of room or chalet, and your choice of single or double occupancy.
IceHotel prices range from 1250-4500 SEK (185-667 USD), and depend on the time of year, you selection of Snow Room, Ice Room or Art Suite (individually themed with illuminated sculptures and reliefs on the walls), and single or double occupancy.
- warm rooms (ie indoor rooms) are available
- cancellation can cost you up to 100% of the room rate, so make sure you can really go for the days you book
- it’s cheapest at the end of the season in April, and most expensive around New Year’s and Valentine’s Day