By Electra Gillies
The iconic ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is literally a work of art, carved from the pure frozen waters of Torne River by artists who create a unique masterpiece each year. In the spring the hotel is left to melt back into the river and return to nature. It can only be experienced in winter when the temperatures are cold enough to hold this surreal creative concept eco hotel in place. The property is fairy tale fantasy castle for those searching for the ultimate in eco luxury and a reversed reality.
Situated in the far north of Sweden, two hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, it is on the frontier of wilderness and an amazing place to experience the Aurora Borealis. Each year a hundred people, half of whom are artists, create and sculpt this incredible ice edifice. Made of a thousand tonnes of frozen ice from the Torne River and thirty thousand tonnes of ‘snice’ – a mixture of snow and ice that binds and strengthens the structure. Each year the original and iconic ice paragon for an eco luxury winter property. The hotel is open from late December to mid April and attracts a multitude of visitors each year to the tiny town Jukkasjärvi who want to witness this living sculpture.
Sleeping in the ICEHOTEL is an enchanting and ethereal experience cocooned within these frozen chambers. Sleeping in an Art Suite is literally like being immersed in a living, breathing work of art. Exquisitely crafted by artists each suite is different and you enter into an enchanting ephemeral world of your own. These celestial creations are chosen from artist submissions each year to make them as original and individual as possible. Professional ice sculptors are on hand to translate these majestic masterpieces so there is always a mix of dynamic new talents and veterans of the hotels design.
Dramatically divine deluxe suites are furbished with saunas and bathroom, and intricate ice designs to delight, relax and literally cool down after a day of activities. The Song of Lotus by Kestutis and Vytautas Musteikis is a glistening otherworldly escape into a frozen fantasy of lotus leaves and shimmering birds encased in the artic ice. Furs cover the expansive bed and furniture hewn from blocks of ice are scattered through the iridescent interiors enveloping you in an eerie and soothing space. Sleeping takes place in specially made down duvet sleeping bags and thermals as the temperatures do plummet. Awaken to the light permeating through the walls and a warm lingonberry juice and sauna to revive and relax for the day.
During the days the ICEHOTEL is an art installation for visitors who want to make the trip for the day. For guests exploring the area is two hundred kilometres north of the Artic Circle and an incredible place to witness the ethereal Northern Lights casting their green, pink and purple luminescent lights through the clear cold skies. A day of dog sledding is an adventurous way to explore this beautifully barren Lapland landscape of snow and ice. Drive a sled of huskies through the snow and soak in the beauty of the tip of the earth, or even arrive in style and take a dog sled from the airport straight to the property.
Or if horseback is slightly more your speed then go on a journey with Icelandic horses into moose grazing land around the base of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain. The elusive moose can be hard to spot but slowly and quietly travelling with horses makes it easier to find theses majestic creatures. As the days darken explore the aurora by horseback with the Swedish Eco Tourism Society for an unforgettable ethical exploration experience.
This area is the preserve of the Sami people who have lived nomadically on these lands for centuries. They are a Lappish tribe who have their own unique culture, language and are traditionally reindeer herders. This is a profession restricted to Sami people by law to maintain and preserve their indigenous knowledge. Spend some time learning about their incredible traditions, learn how to handle a reindeer sled and spend some time in a typical tent village and savour suovas, a typical Sami dish made from smoking reindeer meat; it can been eaten raw or stewed with mushrooms and lingonberries. This is a real insight into the past and a culture preserved through time that remains intact today.
After a day of discovering this unique environment, return to the frozen beauty of the ICEBAR and enjoy some cocktails from ice glasses and seating on carved ice sculptured fine furniture. A surreal Snow Queen fantasy to imbibe fine vodka and dance to world class DJ’s on a snow packed floor in this living museum. The restaurants are housed in cosy cabins if a respite from the ice, but meals are still served on delicate ice dishes, clearer than the finest crystal. The ICEHOTEL Restaurant infuses traditional ingredients in a modern alchemic way to create delicious dishes in an organic way. Prepare for delicacies such as Moose Carpaccio with lingonberry and Parmesan or Reindeer Fillet with root vegetables. Dreamy deserts of chocolate and berries blended provide an exquisite end to the day at this enchanted enclave.
The ICEHOTEL has a naturally symbiotic relationship with nature being constructed from the pure clean waters of the Torne River in the winter, and naturally melting back into the river in spring, making it one of the worlds few renewable hotels. It aims to be completely carbon negative in a few years and works carefully to reduce its energy consumption, and sources as much as possible locally, from food to interiors. This eco escape also works closely with the local Sami people in this region of Lapland who are the local landowners in the region to maintain sustainable land use around the property. Sami also help with low impact activities for the guests, such as reindeer sleighing and guided tours.
ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjärvi is an ephemeral enchanting icescape that appears as if by magic every year in Northern Sweden. However it is a team of inspiring and innovative ice sculptors who create this galactic looking gallery that is a must visit once in a lifetime for any art and eco design enthusiast. A magical and mesmerising eco escape.
Photos Courtesy of Paulina Holmgren, Markus Alatalo, Christopher Hauser, Martin Smesden & Leif Milling