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Year-round Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi, Lapland
Photo: Asaf Kliger/imagebank.sweden.se

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Celebrating 30 years of Icehotel, the coolest hotel in the world

Two hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, you’ll find the world-famous Icehotel. Each icy room is an art installation showcasing the designs of some of the world’s most talented artists. Over the last 30 years, the hotel – located in the village of Jukkasjärvi – has expanded to become a year-round hub for outdoor activities and inspired dining experiences.

With its breathtaking landscapes and proximity to the northern city of Kiruna, Jukkasjärvi has always been a popular summer destination. However, back in 1989, inspired by the Japanese tradition of ice sculpting, villager Yngve Bergqvist set out to create a wintertime attraction. His ice sculpting workshop, on the banks of the Torne River, was an instant success.

The following year saw the construction of Jukkasjärvi’s first ice structure, a 60 square metre igloo that served as an art gallery, cleverly dubbed ARTic Hall. Year after year, ARTic Hall was built anew, growing to an impressive 250 square metres. Then, one fateful night, a party armed with reindeer skins and sleeping bags asked if they might spend the night inside its icy walls. Thus, Icehotel – the first ice hotel in the world – was born.

Now, 30 years later, Icehotel is one of the world’s top attractions, drawing visitors from around the globe who are eager to tick this truly unique experience off their bucket lists.

As Icehotel continues to grow, it keeps sustainability at the forefront of its development. The hotel is working towards a goal of becoming CO2 negative, utilising sustainable building materials, solar panels to regulate temperature and ice sourced directly from the Torne river – returning to its source as it thaws each spring.

Sub-zero craftmanship and arctic artistry

Each year, as the river freezes over, the Icehotel is reborn. Starting in November, around 40 artists from varying countries and creative disciplines gather in Jukkasjärvi to bring their innovative designs to life. From water to ice to art, six weeks later, the transformation is complete. By now, more than 500 artists have contributed to the various incarnations of Icehotel – chiselling, scraping and shaping the ice into works of art reflecting their extraordinary artistic visions.

A frosty night’s sleep

Icehotel has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a 60 square metre igloo. Nowadays, it features around 120 rooms in total, divided into around 50 "cold rooms" and the rest of them "warm rooms".

Icehotel 365 has 20 rooms where guests can sleep in a glacial masterpiece all year round, while the main hotel has 35 cold rooms, which melt back into the Torne River with the arrival spring.

In Icehotel 365 you'll find the world famous Icebar, with every detail down to the glasses carved entirely out of ice. Solar panels are used to keep the building perfectly chilled during the warmer months. Icehotel also features a "warm" section, offering all the amenities you’d expect from a four-star establishment.

To stay in one of the cold rooms is to spend the night inside an art installation. Each detail has been carefully designed and painstakingly crafted, respecting the individual character of the blocks of ice and using the lighting to enhance the overall effect. Nevertheless, design doesn’t trump comfort, and guests sleep on high-quality beds topped with reindeer skins and thermal sleeping bags. The average temperature inside is between -5 and -8 degrees Celsius (17-23 ºF), but you’re greeted each morning with a warm cup of lingonberry juice followed by a complimentary sauna session to steam off the morning chill.

There’s no better place than Icehotel to enjoy a warm meal

The Icehotel restaurant serves traditional dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Ice is, of course, front and centre in the form of table settings and even serving platters. For an experience even more unique, select the ice menu, which features frosty delights such as moose tartar, smoked egg yolk and spruce shoot, served on ice. Another option, if you’re looking to truly indulge, is to book a seat at the Chef’s Table on the Veranda, joining fellow diners at a long wooden table to savour a twelve-course tasting menu – where the chef is present to explain each dish. After dinner, you can choose to have a drink in the lounge or Icebar. They serve an inspired selection of house cocktails, such as the Dog Sled Sour and Sparkling Polar Night.

A short walk from the hotel, you’ll find the timber-clad Jukkasjärvi Homestead. Inside this 1768 schoolhouse-turned-restaurant, which also includes a museum, you’ll find a crackling fire and homemade comfort food that will warm your body and soul. In the summertime, this lakeside log cabin is the perfect place for a fika.

Experience the north by dog-sled or create your own ice sculpture

While a stay at Icehotel is an experience in itself, there is also a wide range of tours and activities on offer all year long. Why not embark on a dogsled, horseback or snowmobile adventure or try your hand at ice sculpting under the guidance of a local expert.You can also experience the magic of the incredible natural phenomena on a Northern Lights Safari or take a fishing trip under the Midnight Sun.

How to get to Icehotel

Travelling to Icehotel is easy, with trains and flights running regularly from Stockholm to Kiruna. From there, it’s a short 30-50 minute bus ride to Jukkasjärvi, depending on conditions; the hotel has its own bus stop. In winter, direct charter flights run from London Heathrow Airport to Icehotel.

Make sure to reserve your stay well in advance. This unique hotel experience attracts many visitors from all over the world.