Icehotel is an hotel built out of snow and ice, situated 200km north of the Arctic circle, in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, near the Torne river. Jukkasjärvi is an old Lapp word meaning 'meeting place' and has been exactly that, as well as a market place, for more than half a millennium. If you are planning on visiting it (and it is well worth a visit) make sure you do so in the winter, some time between December-April.
How it all Started
In 1989 an exhibition igloo called Art-ic was built right on top of the frozen river of Torne. Hundreds of visitors were amazed by the 60m2 art gallery, and some of them even spent the night there. Icehotel was born.
Building the Hotel
Since the hotel is made of ice and snow, it melts down every spring. Therefore, every winter it is built up again. Near the end of October a dozen resident artists and construction workers start working.
Snow cannons and front loaders shape the snow onto arched iron forms, some of them as big as 5m high and 6m wide. Pillars of ice are used to support these arches.
In March and April, at the same time that last winter's Icehotel starts melting down into water, tractors and special ice saws are used to saw out huge blocks of ice from the Torne river. This ice is crystal clear because of the clean water, combined with a fast current, of the Torne. The ice blocks are stored in the Icehotel Art Centre until they are used in the construction work in November. The Art Centre itself is a 1500m2 freezer building, with an exhibition made of ice and snow, as well as igloos where you can spend the night - in the middle of summer.
In the constant darkness of December, when the main building is almost finished, the interior construction work begins and continues through to the end of January. The artists saw and carve the ice to create windows, doors, pillars, desks, chairs, lamps and statues.
Every year hand-picked Swedish and international guest artists are invited to create the decoration in certain rooms. The art they create is very special - the ice and the snow catch and reflect the light in a way that is quite unusual for sculptures. Unfortunately, the semi-transparent materials start melting at the end of April.
The only part that is kept, apart from the sculptures that the artists decide to save, is the huge cut-ice chandelier. Everything else melts down, and every year a new, different Icehotel is created.
From only one room 10 years ago, the Icehotel is now 4000m2, built of approximately 3000 tons of ice and 30,000m3 of snow. The building contains 60 hotel rooms, the Absolut Ice bar, a cinema with an ice screen and an ice church where weddings and christenings take place.
The indoor temperature is usually somewhere between -4 to -9°C, depending on the number of guests and the outdoor temperature, which can be as cold as -40°C. The beds are made of snow and ice, covered with wooden boards, a mattress, reindeer pelts and specially-designed thermal sleeping bags.
The Absolut Ice Bar
The bar is, just as the rest of the hotel, different from year to year. In the winter of 2000/2001 the bar had a dome roof and the inside of the dome was covered by thousands of snow balls, mostly made by hand.
The glasses are specially designed - made of ice. This means that you can get any drink served 'on the rocks'. Be careful to keep your mittens on while drinking or you might find the glass melting before you have finished your drink!
The Aurora Houses
If you prefer to sleep somewhere a bit warmer, you can always rent an Aurora House. These houses have a skylight in the bedroom that will allow you to see the Northern Lights from the bed. Be prepared to stay up late though - the best time for watching auroras is around midnight local time.
The Aurora Houses are very popular, especially among Japanese tourists. It is believed that a child conceived under the lights of an aurora will be male.