Ice Hotel


By Daniel Cobbs, June 30, 2011
Intricate ice-sculptures turn bleak bedrooms into art galleries.

Intricate ice-sculptures turn bleak bedrooms into art galleries.

They told me it was cold, but how cold could it possible be? Looking out of the aeroplane's window as we approached Kiruna, Sweden's northernmost airport, the frozen wasteland below appeared to be a degree or two cooler than the freezer aisles in Tesco. So this, I thought, couldn't be much worse. Oh, how wrong I was.

The clue was always going to be the name Ice Hotel, yet these two words wouldn't come close to describing the shock of first experiencing temperatures of -38C as I stepped outside the warmth of the airports tiny arrivals hall.

Yet here, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, where harsh winters last from November until April, the local Sami people have successfully lived with here for over 6,000 years.

Despite the threat of losing a digit, or something more valuable, I donned the movement-constricting Arctic outerwear I had been loaned and boarded the waiting dogsled.

The yapping cross-bred Husky's effortlessly pulled their payload through virgin snow over a 12km journey passing breathtaking scenery to the Ice Hotel.

This mammoth dwelling of 60 bedrooms is reconstructed each year from 1,000 tonnes of block ice, harvested from the Torne River.

Inside the temperature rises to a near-tropical -5c, each individually themed bedroom is decorated with intricate ice sculptures, morphing an otherwise bleak interior into an ephemeral art gallery of superlative white textures and life-size figurines.

The sleeping arrangements are a nod to Nordic traditions; the bed is nothing more than a block of ice with a thin foam mattress and reindeer skin on top to act as a barrier from getting frostbite of the tush and then a super thick thermal sleeping bag to sleep in.

It sounds more uncomfortable than it actually is, and once settled-down for the night it is warm and snug.

The Ice Hotel offers a unique place to experience a night in a gigantic igloo. Ablutions are undertaken in the permanent hotel that it stands adjacent to, as does eating in the gastronomic Homestead restaurant. Both are ultra-clean and offer far more than expected in such a desolate place.

There is a whole gamut of activities from a guided skidoo safari to a tour of the space centre.

Rates: from 4300SEK (£421); Tel: +46 (0) 980 800

Last updated: 12:08pm, June 30 2011