If you’re the type of traveler to appreciate wintry magic, twinkling fairy lights, snuggling up to your loved one and lots and lots of snow, Lapland’s Ice Hotel will be your cup of co-co.
A short break at this most curious of hotels in Swedish Lapland will pique the interest of winter thrill-seekers as well as those in need of a more chilled-out snowy getaway.
Ice as nice
The Ice Hotel is in the chilly top of Sweden, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle at the village of Jukkasjärvi. Yes, the Ice Hotel really is made of ice (and a bit of snow) and yes, you really do sleep in baltic temperatures on a bed of frozen water. Getting there is surprisingly simple, thanks to a direct flight between Heathrow and Kiruna, the closest major city to the hotel and you can get there in around three and a half hours.
Seeing is believing
Logically, the Ice Hotel can only exist in cold months and is built from scratch each year. Repeat visitors will be disorientated on arrival, as the site transforms its appearance annually. The process of carving the hotel’s impressive rooms is a complex, involving harvesting, cultivating and layering of snow and ice over the course of several months. There are two types of rooms – standard ones which are cute, cave like and look like something from a Harry Potter film, The Art rooms are larger, individually-themed and will make you feel like you’ve woken up in Narnia.
Surely it can’t be much fun sleeping somewhere this cold? A long weekend break typically only includes one night spent in the Ice Hotel itself. After sleeping for two nights in the balmy “Warm” room – a nicer pad to be based at while you enjoy local snow-based activities – it’s time to steel yourself for a bed made of ice.
A shot of hot chocolate is just the thing to help you prepare. For braver souls there’s also the Ice Bar where you can sip frosty vodka-based drinks in glasses carved from, you’ve guessed it – ice. With Dutch Courage mustered, you’re set for the iciest abode you’ll hope to wake up again in.
The usual pre-bedtime routines go out the window when you’re in a room entirely constructed from snow. There’s no television and reading a book or popping to the loo becomes laughably cumbersome. Even the light switch is at the other end of the room, so you have to shuffle into bed in the un-illuminating dark whilst wearing a sleeping bag. It’s different, but all part of the fun.
The Ice Hotel is not just a place to stay, it’s to be experienced that’s why the hotel recommends only a one-night in the ice-constructed rooms and upon the return of your sleeping bag you’re issued with a diploma reading ‘I survived’. But the exhilaration and adventure far outweigh the inconvenience of it all and when your wake-up call arrives with warm lingonberry juice, you’ll feel both relaxed and impressed with yourself for ticking another achievement off that travel list.
Fire in the sky
There’s plenty to do at the Ice Hotel. Snow-based activities include ice sculpting, snow shoe walking and moose safaris. You’re also in prime Northern Lights-viewing territory here so rev-up, join a congregation of snowmobiles and jet off into the night for a pilgrimage to see one of the world’s great natural phenomena.
Sightings of the lights can’t be guaranteed as it all depends on weather conditions, but the tour is still an enthralling one and includes ripping through the snow on a self-driven snowmobile followed by a three-course meal in a fire-lit cabin. Hurtling at 40mph into subzero temperatures is a chilling experience and may well forget what your fingers ever felt like, but you’ll stop off on the way for more of that warm lingonberry juice, which serves as the perfect antifreeze.
Dog (and reindeer) days
If you’re a fan of canines, you’ll love the husky dog adventures in particular the sledging. In this part of the world, dogs actually outnumber humans, although you’ll probably only encounter them within the excursion.
Sit tight as the eager huskies mush across the blankets of thick snow, which cover the land like an un-scooped tub of lemon sorbet. If the timing is right, you’ll be gliding through the powder with a backdrop of baby pink sky as the sun sets. The only thing interrupting the atmosphere of picturesque husky heaven is the occasional dog fart – even in the winter wilderness man’s best friend still needs regular toilet breaks.
The trip includes time spent warming up in a tee pee whilst sipping coffee and learning about the husky dogs as you nibble politely on cinnamon buns and the dogs gnaw anxiously at the snow. Once you’ve all thawed, it’s time to head homeward.
Reindeer and Lapland go together like Rudolf and a red nose. The native Sami people eat, sleep and cultivate the mammals for work and play. All the seating within the hotel is coated in reindeer skin and most tours involve snacking on their meat if you’re curious enough to try a slice of Rudolf’s ancestors. The reindeer tour involves a circuit of sledging, learning to lasso their impressive antlers and then snuggling up in the tent and tucking into a reindeer steak cooked rather haphazzardly in a huge pan of melted butter.
For more information visit www.icehotel.com