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The Good Life

Ice Palace
Don't freeze in the cold, just chill out at the world's first ice hotel in Sweden

Clockwise from top: Entrance to the IceHotel; ice sculpture at the bar; medium art suite; 'elephant in the room' in a medium art suite; try your hand at dog-sledding or go fishing in the lake

Each year when the Torne River turns to ice, its ice is used to create a new IceHotel in the small village of Jukkasjarvi, in the north of Sweden. The ice forms its own design and architecture language, making the IceHotel a stunning art project and the world’s first hotel built out of frozen water.

 In the small village of Jukkasjarvi, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, you’ll find 6,000 lakes and six rivers, one of which is the Torne River – the latter supplies the 2016-built IceHotel with enough ice to build an entire hotel (10 seconds of water flow equals 4,000 tonnes of ice, enough to build four ice hotels!).

You can visit the IceHotel round the year, all 365 days of it, in rooms fashioned from ice and snow in the hotel’s permanent IceHotel 365 2,100 sq m wing, with nine Deluxe Suites, and 11 Art Suites made of snow and ice. Combine your stay with outdoor activities such as cycling, river rafting, fishing and ice sculpting, in a summer where the sun shines through the day and night for 50 nights. In the winter, the IceHotel is the venue for skiing, husky sledding, and northern light tours.

The IceHotel’s creative team specializes in short-term art installations, and around 200 artists from around the world apply to join them every year. The ice art hall, part of the permanent IceHotel 365, includes the suites, the IceBar, an ice gallery and event hall (there are around 80 weddings a year in the special IceHotel church), all made possible thanks to solar power from the midnight sun. Indoor temperatures stay at a constant -5oC, with the refrigerating unit ensuring it stays cool during the summer.

Each year, around 50,000 guests descend upon the IceHotel to experience its chilly charm. You can either stay in a room made out of snow and ice, or opt for a warmer cabin. It’s well worth it to experience at least one night in the “cold” accommodation. So how does one comfortably survive a night on ice? When you arrive, you will be checked in at a separate desk in a building next to the IceHotel. Here, you’ll find a sauna with a relaxation area next to a fire, and hot lingonberry juice on tap. You’ll be given warm outer clothing after which you’re taught a “survival course” – on how to dress warmly and how to make the bed with the Arctic sleeping bags (designed for temperatures as low as -25oC), so they will keep you snug at night. There are no doors to the Art Suites and rooms, so in the morning, a staff member draws the curtan and wakes you up with hot ligonberry juice in bed.

 The summer is a good time to visit, with dollops of midnight sun, mild days, wild berries, the sight of newborn reindeer calves, and the scent of newly tarred wooden boats. Come fall, from August to September, enjoy nightfall in front of an open fire, and the first northern lights of the season. Crisp mornings and cool days are ideal for hiking, fishing, and river rafting. And then comes winter: from October to February, temperatures have crept down, and the landscape is enveloped in fluffy snow. You can see the northern lights and the pastel midwinter daylight, Kaamos. You can try your hand at snowmobiling, dog sledding, or reindeer racing

How was the IceHotel conceived? Yngve Bergqvist, the hotel’s founder, inspired by the Japanese ice-sculpting tradition, invited artists to attend a workshop in Jukkasjarvi in 1989, with two professional ice sculptors from Japan as instructors. From here, the 26-year journey grew into the world’s first IceHotel, an igloo-like ice structure using ice from the frozen Torne River. Intended as an art gallery at first, the 60 sq m igloo was named ARTic Hall. What followed then was a bar inside the hall, and the very first request to sleep inside, by a party of guests equipped with reindeer skins and sleeping bags. The igloo’s building technique is now patented in Sweden and Norway, and here you have it, the IceHotel story.

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