Since its humble beginnings in 1989, the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi has become one of the most unusual and iconic places in which to experience the Arctic winter. Each year it takes on a different form, and this year’s ICEHOTEL designs are particularly striking. And yet the hotel began almost by accident.
Japanese artists had come to the Jukkasjärvi region, around 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, to create an ice exhibition – Japan is, after all, famous for its fantastic snow and ice festivals. When a French artist held a similar exhibition in the spring of 1990, the event attracted visitors who had nowhere to stay in the village. They ended up sleeping in an igloo which was part of the exhibition, and the idea of the ICEHOTEL was born.
The hotel’s building materials are taken from the nearby Torne River: in all there are around 1,000 tonnes of ice and 30,000 cubic metres of snow/ice mixture (‘snice’ as they call it locally). Each ice block used in the construction of the hotel weighs almost 2 tonnes, and it typically takes around 8 weeks for the hotel to be built.
With ice-sculpted chandeliers and contemporary ice art in the entrance hall and lobby, the hotel creates a feeling of magic that’s unmistakable from the moment you arrive. Four-course dinners are served in a warm restaurant, but on plates of ice. In the bar the drinks are served in glasses made of ice; presumably asking for a drink on the rocks won’t present too much trouble to the barman.
A night in the cool rooms or the elaborate Art Suites is a night like no other. The temperature in the rooms is -5C – there’s no heating (obviously), and no plumbing, so night-time trips to the bathroom will involve a brisk walk to the shared facilities in the warm building nearby. With no doors, the entrance to rooms is a heavy curtain which is drawn in the morning by staff who wake the guests with a hot drink in bed. Warmth comes in the form of cosy Arctic sleeping bags.
The ICEHOTEL offers both warm and cold accommodation, and many guests opt for a package where they spend one or two nights sleeping in the ice rooms, before moving to the more conventional guest rooms (which have heating and bathrooms).
While the hotel itself may be the main attraction for its guests, there’s plenty to do while staying here. Activities on offer include ice sculpting classes, wildlife tours, husky sled rides and cross-country skiing. And to top it all, the region is recognised as one of the world’s best places from which to see the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis. You might be lucky and see the lights put on a show right outside the hotel; Northern Lights tours are also offered on horseback and by snowmobile.
See the Sunvil Discovery site for more about Winter Activities from the ICEHOTEL.