Every once in awhile, you have the desire to lay down with a place that has a reputation. The world famous Icehotel in northern Sweden is just one of those places — a hotel composed almost entirely of ice. It’s worth the jaunt too, to the Lapland Wilderness north of the Arctic Circle. Here, gimmicky travel isn’t depressing at all but a place that actually is “epic.”
From the moment we arrived by snowmobile, the encounters were otherworldly. At the original Ice Bar, the Champagne literally arrived on ice. The suite I stayed in, ‘Beam Me Up!”, was a forest of icy evergreens, flying saucers and light beams (but no cows!!) Perfect for a professional space geek.
Staying at the Icehotel is meant to be a one night adventure for many reasons. The ice suites are a museum during the day, so after checking in, you are given a small closet next to the sauna, showers and dressing room to store your belongings in while you wander the grounds in amazement. If you are looking to lay your head down and take a rest, you can’t. There is virtually nothing in your room: a bed made from a slab of ice covered in a reindeer hide, a light source, and a door made of hanging fabric. There is electricity but there are no outlets. The alarm clock sounding at 7:00 sharp is a handsome young scout serving steaming hot lingonberry juice who softly calls “god morgin” through the curtain. There is no plumbing in this house of ice. Dream walking into the icy night to use the bathroom became a Twin Peaks moment where either a villain might pop out of the vapor or golden lollipops could sprout from the ground. That’s right, a midnight trip to the bathroom became my own private David Lynch movie.
The Icehotel is deconstructed and reconstructed every year with ice harvested from the Torne River that takes a 350-mile journey through the municipality of Kiruna. As a tribute to the beloved Torne River, the hotel is working to make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “She is warmed by the midnight sun during the summer and rests under the spellbinding northern lights during the winter,” they say.
The ice is harvested a year in advance because it takes more than one winter snowfall to construct the hotel. Different artists are commissioned annually to design and build the suites. So every year, you will arrive at a different Icehotel than the year before — the scenery changes and the concept is revived.
Ice rooms without art are available so that you can still get the experience for a little less money. If sleeping on ice is a little too morbid for you, there are warm accommodations as well. But, we come here for the amazing world of ice — we come for the experience of sleeping in an environment that we never will again unless visiting one of the world’s very few ice hotels.
The concept is bananas — a gimmick really, but the experience is totally unique, bizarre and totally rare. No matter how ‘corporate’ the Icehotel becomes, it will always be exciting simply because few places in this world are equipped to facilitate guests in this type of environment.
So, like you, we like logistics. How does this actually work? Here are some realities so that you know what you are in for:
- Staying warm: You are already dressed in your best winter wear because north Sweden is freezing during the months that the Icehotel is open (February through May), so by the time you wrap up your evening at dinner, cocktail hour at the Ice Bar, or return from wandering around, you check in and get a one- or two-person sleeping bag, extra wear as needed and head to the room. It’s counter intuitive, but the more you wear, the colder you get. So one layer of thermal, socks and a hat and you are good to go. When you are not in your room, dress is Artic-chic(?).
- Sleep quality: I can’t speak for others, but I had a most restful sleep. More so than in any warm bed I had encountered in months.
- Food: No need to eat campfire food, there is a beautiful restaurant onsite, the ICEHOTEL Restaurant. Dinner, brunch, whatever, it’s outstanding.
- To pick up souvenirs (we like to call them “souvies” at WOAF) there is a small store just five minutes down the road (crafts, knives, hides, etc.)
- Photographers delight — every turn offers a new and interesting angle to capture and every tick of the clock offers a new light to capture it in. And the color quality is beautiful, your photos will need very little retouching. (See images below or head to World on a Fork’s “Location, Location” gallery on Pinterest.)
- Want to get hitched in a short ceremony in a special place? Go to the Ice Church.
- Want to learn how to wield your own ice sculptures? This is the place. Classes are available onsite.
- Safety: There is a smoke detector in room, yup! 🙂 But not an exit strategy if the igloo sets ablaze. 😦
- Want to go dogsledding? The Fjellborg camp is just a 5-minute snowmobile ride across the lake from Icehotel. (Follow WOAF to get notified of upcoming stories about dogsledding Lapland!)