Adventure Travel

Live Out Your Winter Wonderland Dreams At Icehotel Sweden

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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

For those who are well travelled – who have been there, done that – there’s one hotel that must be on your bucket list, and that’s Icehotel Sweden. Once reserved only for the intrepid, Icehotel has become ever-more luxurious, and artistic, too.

According to Land of the Traveller, the concept was launched in the 1970’s by Yngve Bergqvist, who offered white-water rafting, saunas and traditional meals to visitors. But once the warmer season was over, no guests would come to witness the beautiful winters in Jukkasjärvi. Inspired by the Japanese ice sculpting tradition, Bergqvist invited artists to attend a workshop in 1989 to create a building made entirely of ice.

The igloo palace — which was initially meant to serve as an art gallery called “the ARTic Hall” — became so popular that it was also used for church services, film showcases and a bar. One evening, a party of guests asked if they could stay the night with reindeer skins and sleeping bags to keep them warm, and woke up refreshed and enthused by the experience. This serendipitous occasion gave birth to a new kind of travel experience and building technique, which was refined and patented in Sweden and Norway.

Creating a new ice hotel is definitely a sustainable process, but it takes over a year to do. The first step is to harvest 2,500 tons of ice from the Torne River in March, and then store it until October, when the building starts. The entire Icehotel is made out of “snice” (a mixture of snow + ice), and with the advent of spring it slowly melts. Each different hotel is a love letter to natural cycles.

2019 marks the 29th annual incarnation of the ephemeral hotel, which will stand for only three months. This year’s snow castle was brought to life by thirty-four artists from thirteen countries who spent a fortnight in Jukkasjärvi. The total amount of ice used by the hotel equals 10 seconds’ water flow along the River Torne, indicating the potency of this body of water.

You may either choose to fly to Sweden and then to the Icehotel, or take an exclusive Iceflight with Discover the World (the UK’s leading independent specialist travel tour operators). This option offers the only direct flight to the Icehotel from the UK, departing from London Heathrow to Kiruna.

If you decide to spend the night here, you’ll be utterly entranced by a variety of phantasmagorical features, including a candy shop filled with giant sweets; a flock of Arctic terns; a bathing ice woman, and an aquarium. You’ll marvel at twinkling chandeliers that hold 1000 ice crystals, sculpted and mounted by hand. And you’ll be surrounded by 30,000 cubic meters of ‘snice’ — the equivalent of 110 million popsicles — used for the floors, ceilings and walls of the hotel.

There’s plenty to keep you busy, too,  with snowmobile excursions, husky sledding, ice plunging, cross country skiing, reindeer sleigh rides, Northern Lights photography classes (and why not use a collage maker for your pictures?), wilderness dinners and of course, ice sculpting classes. 

A stay at the Icehotel offers the chance to combine sleeping ‘on ice’ in unique suites, like the one designed by British father and daughter duo Jonathan Paul Green (TV production designer) and Marnie Green (London-based art student). Their ‘Living Ocean Suite depicts an eerie underwater world inspired by the negative effects of climate change and overfishing, complete with ice-carved corals, shells and fish.

Other designs allows guests to sit around a fire (of ice) in a forest camping site adjacent to a vintage VW camper van; be immersed in a magical portal of ice guarded by a clever fox and fiery phoenix, or enjoy the icy Aurora Borealis surrounded by frozen flower blossoms.

Whether you were fond the Snow Queen or Elsa from Frozen during your childhood,or simply always dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights, a stay at the Icehotel allows you to re-write your own winter wonderland fairytale.

For more information or to book, please click here.

Images: Ice Sculpting © Asaf Kliger Cross Country Skiing © Markus Alatalo Differential Expansion Jose Antonio &Juan Carlos -Camara Zarago The living ocean suite, Jonathan Paul Green; Marnie Green; Photo Spruce woods Christopher Pancoe Jennie O´Keefe Photo: Asaf Kl Cover photo: Icehotel © Ragnar TH Sigurdsson 

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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