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Looking for something offbeat to do this Christmas vacation? How about the Ice Hotel? Located in the village of Jukkasjarvi, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, it is as the name indicates, built entirely from ice blocks lugged in from the nearby Torne River.
Now in its 22nd year, the idea of the frozen hotel came about quite accidently, when a local tourist company trying attract visitors during the severe winter months, hosted an art exhibition inside a specially built igloo on the frozen Torne River. While the 60sq.ft. structure attracted many day visitors, it was not until a group of them arrived with reindeer hides and sleeping bags and decided to spend the night in the igloo, that the idea of a semi-permanent hotel was born.
The Ice Hotel has come a long way since these humble beginnings. The design is different every year and is getting increasingly sophisticated. Each area is now advertised as a 'work of art' with artists from all over the world competing to design one of the 47 bedroom suites, reception lobby or ice bar. There is even a church, built entirely of ice, where couples come to get married.
The hotel offers something for every budget - Ranging from a luxurious Art Deco Suite, which boasts of beautiful ice sculptures to the bare bones Snow Room, which contains just an icy bed, covered with a reindeer skin. In order to get a good night's rest in the -5° Celsius (23°F) temperature, guests are advised to keep their gloves and winter hats on and snuggle up inside thermal sleeping bags. While most guests end up spending just one night in this freezing environment before moving to more conventional warmer cabins nearby, they all agree that it is truly an amazing adventure.
Activities at the hotel include snowshoeing, Moose safaris, dog sledding, snowmobile safaris and even, overnight wilderness camps. While there are no other restaurants in the vicinity, the Ice Hotel, somehow manages to serve its patrons amazing gourmet meals.
The best part is that it is the ultimate green building - It houses and entertains guests all winter and then, as summer approaches and the temperatures rise, the Ice Hotel simply melts into one giant puddle, leaving behind no trace of its existence.
Over the years, many copycat ice hotels have emerged and similar destinations can now also be found in Quebec City, Canada, Norway, Finland and Romania. However, the original one remains the biggest and the grandest of all. To see additional pictures or even book a room, go to www.icehotel.com.