North of the warmer lands, far away from sun-drenched beaches and tropical paradises, one finds an immensely majestic region. The Arctic, with its snow mantle and starry nights, would seem to be on the edges of the world, in the very boundaries dividing real from fantasy. 200km from the arctic circle, on the banks of the Torne, you’ll come upon Jukkasjärvi, a tranquil village whose name means “meeting place by the water”. In the summer it might seem an ordinary place, with life going peacefully by. In the winter, however, it is the setting to a marvellous happening: every year since 1989, the Icehotel is reborn over the river like a frost phoenix in the arctic night, a shapeshifting giant that glisters under the auroras. In its interior it houses many passages that seem like a tale of myth: impossible glass and snow sculptures, translucent staircases and high ice arches that will make you feel like you’re walking through a dream.
Each November, a team of designers, architects, industrial engineers and artists from all around the world meets at Jukkasjärvi to bring to life this alluring apparition. For some it is even their first time seeing snow: part of the Icehotel’s pride is the variety of visions they portray in their halls, and they often seek to include amongst their ranks artists and artisans from the warmer regions, to expose them to a new material. It takes the interdisciplinary team several months of hard work to build the solid ice castle, even with specialized machinery. The result, however, is always unique and wonderful: an ephemeral masterpiece that won’t ever be seen again.
The hotel is commonly made of a lobby followed by a series of exposition halls for the ice sculpture museum, apart from a frozen bar and a ceremony hall to host weddings and religious affairs. It also houses a dozen exclusive suites, each specially designed by a different artist, and 15-20 standard rooms in which one can sleep in an ice bed, covered in reindeer skins to keep oneself warm. If you decide to spend a night here, you’ll be able to explore the hotel at your ease and marvel at the splendour that you can only find inside a palace made of ice.
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Given its nature, the Icehotel cannot house any heat sources, though you must not worry about amenities: at your arrival to your suite you will be provided with everything necessary for you to have a comfortable stay, and a heated building will always be available within a short walk, containing the hotel’s locker rooms, bathrooms, sauna and showers. Your meals here will also be all spectacular: the Icehotel’s restaurant is considered one of the best of the Swedish Lapland, and all the dishes are made with the best ingredients in the region, as well as served in ice dishes, should you wish so. At the Veranda you’ll sit at a gigantic oak table along with the other hotel guests to watch two chefs prepare a 12-course dinner in front of your eyes, or, if what you search for is the cosy atmosphere of a hearth, you cannot miss dinner at The Old Homestead, a museum/restaurant that has been a local favourite since 1768.
While you wait for the night of your frozen adventure in the ice palace, the village of Jukkasjärvi will be happy to host you in one of its many chalets and hotels, as well as providing you with entertainments such as skiing, dog sled rides, and short walks through the forest. Two unmissable activities are the tours to see the Northern Lights and the ice carving classes that some of the ice sculptors who make the Icehotel teach in the village.
In past years, the Icehotel’s charm was limited to the winter months, which prevented its visitors from getting to know the region as other than an icy wasteland. In 2016, the Icehotel 365 opened its doors, ready to provide you year-round with the experience of the winter hotel, including the nights in dazzling ice rooms. Inside a refrigerated building, it houses 20 unique suites and resplendent exhibitions, and its permanence throughout the year will allow you to choose your favourite time of the year to visit the Arctic. Spring is the ideal time for snow sports, while in summer, when the sun never sets, you may be able to take long strolls through the forest and fishing trips in the river. In the Fall the night lights come back along with the red leaves of the forest, while the winter brings a long night and the transfiguration of the frozen river.
Whatever the season that you choose for your visit, you cannot miss this fantastic apparition: the Icehotel is a frozen paradise, an ice menagerie that seems almost as if it had been removed from a place beyond reality. Every time you come back it will have changed, shifted into a new surprise for those coming back through its doors. Dare to venture inside this entrancing realm and experience the sub-zero magnetism of the Icehotel: you never know what you might come upon.