Arctic art: Sweden’s world-famous Icehotel
By Emma Rodin
Handcrafted each year from ice and snow, Icehotel has rightly earned its reputation as a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. Museum by day and hotel by night, this national landmark in Sweden’s far north attracts both art enthusiasts and curious travellers from around the world. This year, the 33rd edition of Icehotel will open on 16 December.
The frosty marvel is the brainchild of Yngve Bergqvist, an entrepreneur who founded Icehotel in the 1980s in a bid to showcase the village of Jukkasjärvi during the dark winter months.
Bergqvist invited two Japanese artists to create the first edition of the Artic hall which has today become a recurring feature of the hotel, known as the Ceremony Hall.
33 editions and counting
Wondrous in more ways than one, Icehotel is unlike any other hotel. Each year, the hotel is hand-sculpted out of massive blocks of ice from the Torne River. The hotel, which takes on slightly different shapes each year, is now a top attraction for tourists from around the world and has even been included in TIME’s World’s Greatest Places.
“Creative souls from all over the world can apply to be a part of designing and forming Icehotel. By tradition, the making of the winter hotel is an art forum, where the 40-45 selected suite designers, from all over the world, gather in Jukkasjärvi to use ice and snow as the canvas for their art. Each art suite is an installation – an original piece of art that melts and returns to mother nature in the spring,” says Icehotel CEO Marie Herrey.
Stay cool all year round
There is also Icehotel 365, the first permanent snow and ice hotel to offer ice experiences all year-round, even in summer. This addition features Icebar by Icehotel, Art and Deluxe Suites with heated bathrooms, plus renowned food offerings. At the restaurant, for example, guests can try the Ice Menu, where two of the dishes are served on plates of ice.
During winter, Icehotel Verandan (The Veranda) will also open. Here, guests can sit at the Chef’s Table, a communal U-shaped table where the chefs cook a 12-course menu brought out in eight servings, as inspired by the eight Sámi seasons.
On the banks of Torne River sits a third restaurant, the cosy and traditional Hempy (The Old Homestead), which dates to 1768. It offers a casual menu of local produce and Lappish pizza, to be enjoyed on the veranda or by the open fire. Visitors can also book a Wilderness Dinner with a three-course meal inspired by the current season, cooked in the woodlands.
Get ready to explore
Other than soaking up the wonders of Icehotel, there is plenty of fun to be had around the area. A winter-lover’s dream, Jukkasjärvi itself turns into a frozen paradise for half the year and Icehotel guests can embark on adventures including ice fishing, ice sculpting, ancient sauna rituals, or go on snow mobile tours to spot the northern lights from the vast, dark forests of the region. “We can even arrange to pick up guests from the airport with dog sleds, which is something most people haven’t tried before,” says Herrey.
For those visiting in summer, there are fishing, world-class hiking, white-water rafting and forest dining experiences on offer.
Tie the knot
Icehotel offers numerous diverse package deals, including wedding packages. Indeed, if you are getting married, you can hold the ceremony in the Ceremony Hall. “This is ideal for those who want a fairytale wedding that you’d never imagine was possible,” explains Herrey. There is also the option of tying the knot on a secluded nearby island under the northern lights, or in the local historical church.
A new design aspect of Icehotel this year is a collaboration between father and son artists Robert Harding and Timsam Harding. The duo has created a suite named Enclosed Space. Intrigued? Plan your visit to Icehotel to feed your curiosity and enjoy an Artic adventure out of the ordinary.
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