Check In: What Is Sweden's ICEHOTEL Really Like?

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Check In: What Is Sweden's ICEHOTEL Really Like?


Every December, the ICEHOTEL appears in the Arctic Circle but what's it really like to sleep at sub-zero temperatures.

Georgina Wilson-Powell

Mon 25 Jan 2021

For the last 27 years the ICEHOTEL in Sweden has been a winter fixture on a quiet bend in the Torne, the country’s last unpolluted river.

Each December, this complex igloo complete with icy chandeliers welcomes guests who want to spend a night on ice.

What’s it like to sleep in the ICEHOTEL?

Thai dancers and goddesses have been carved out of ice at the ICEHOTEL In Sweden

Join these dancers in the dark in one of the ICEHOTEL's art suites

Image Asaf Kilger

The rooms

This is why you come - for the art suites. In the original ICEHOTEL, there are around 20 such suites, each sculpted like a vague lingering dream.

A double bed covered in reindeer hide takes centre stage as you and your thermals climb inside a sleeping bag for two. It’s remarkably cosy considering it’s -5 but perhaps not the most romantic night’s sleep a couple can have.

Over in the new ICEHOTEL 365, things get a little more luxurious with attached (warm) bathrooms and tiny saunas accessible through an airlock, while in the lavishly carved icy rooms you can sip Champagne in ice glasses sitting on ice chairs (think the White Witch’s boudoir…).

The suites in this new permanent building are more intricate, with vast carved busts of fawns and Thai goddesses, huge font letters and even staircases made out of ice. You can investigate other people’s suites (and revel in your nosiness) during the day as both hotels open for tours and talks.

Drink a bottle of chilled Champagne in the ICEHOTEL 365 suites which also have armchairs made out of ice
ICEHOTEL 365's suites include this one which features huge type letters surrounding your bed

Image ICEHOTEL 365 has really stepped the ice carving up a notch

The views

While waking up to icy silence and weird sculptures is definitely cool, the best views are overlooking the frozen river which sits just behind the hotel as you capture the orangey-pink sunrise and sunset, often with an hour of each other.

The service

Everything runs at ICEHOTEL with Swedish efficiency, it’s a lot warmer than the climate but be on time for your booked activities.

The entrance to ICEHOTEL 365 is a curved blue lit affair

ICEHOTEL 365 features its own ice bar and enormous chandeliers, fit for Elsa's Frozen castle

Image Asaf Kilger

The menu

You’re miles away from any shops, so much of the menu has been made or caught locally around Kiruna.

Swedish Lapland is known for its local delicacies such as roe, reindeer, salmon and berries and you’ll find all of those things served up fine dining style at the Icehotel restaurant.

A short walk away is the Homestead, which has a more rustic log cabin vibe and offers up hearty steaks. (Walking about in the cold, wrapped up in warming padded bodysuits makes you surprisingly hungry.)

While you’re out on activities you might come across the traditional Sami ‘kokkoffee’ which boils together coarse coffee grounds, water and salt.

The bar

New this year is an all year round ice bar, where the glasses are made of ice (of course).

Pick a coloured cocktail or plump for bubbly just for the experience. The rest of the time there’s a comfy casual (warm) bar with a range of boardgames. The hotel also has its own lager called Torne, made with river water by a local brewery.

Sunsets over a dogsled on the river near the ICEHOTEL

'Mush!' Take your own team of huskies out on the frozen river

Image Asaf Kilger

Things to do at the ICEHOTEL

Make the most of your time north of the Arctic Circle by booking a few activities, whether it’s heading out on a photography course, spending an evening snowmobiling or packing in a cross-country ski.

The hotel’s guides are often local and know every inch of the frozen river and forests around Kiruna. And of course, don’t forget to look up - you’re in a prime spot to see the Northern Lights.

How to Have an Ethical Wildlife Experience

The sustainable bit

The ice for the ICEHOTEL is harvested naturally from the Torne river, metres away from where it’s stored in the summer (which is cooled by solar panels).

The hotel complex runs on renewable energy and the new ICEHOTEL 365 will be kept cool during summer with more solar panels.

In the spring, the original ICEHOTEL melts back into the Torne river as if it never existed (the 1,000 tonnes of ice is ‘borrowed’ from the river). The hotel also supports local water conservation programmes and works with local Sami communities.

Intricate ice carving from the ICEHOTEL
Another art suite at the ICEHOTEL - this time with a carved ice tree

Image It's amazing how clear the river ice is - like delicate crystal

3 reasons to book

Experience a slower, quieter (and often darker) pace of life.

Discover a rustic side of Sweden. Up in Lapland you can visit the Sami (the traditional Laplanders), drive a husky sled and whizz about on a snowmobile - often without seeing anyone else.

It’s a hotel made out of ice. What more do you need?

Where is the ICEHOTEL?

The ICEHOTEL is located 15 minutes drive from Kiruna airport, 200kms north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden.

A three night break at ICEHOTEL #27 is available from £1,070pp based on two sharing (with 1x night on ice and 2x nights in warm accommodation) on a B&B basis, including return direct flights from London Heathrow to Kiruna, all airport transfers and one morning sauna after a night in a cold room. To book, contact Discover the World.

Those travelling from the UK can travel from London Heathrow to Kiruna on board Discover the World's exclusive direct ICEFLIGHT, which takes only 3.5 hours. The flight operates from December to March.

Free Wi-fi? Yes
Children? Yes
Dogs? No

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