Though all hotels undergo periodic renovations, very few do it as frequently as Sweden's ICEHOTEL, which is rebuilt every year. That's because as the name indicates, the hotel is carved entirely from ice blocks that melt into a giant puddle of water, when the temperatures warm up. And while each rendition of ICEHOTEL is special, the 2014 version is even more so, given that the unique destination is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The idea of constructing this unusual hotel came about accidentally, when a local company decided to host an art exhibition in the remote village of Jukkasjärvi to try attract tourists during the freezing winter months. Housed inside a 60-square-foot igloo built on the nearby frozen Torne River, it proved to be a big success, drawing in many day visitors. But it was not until a group showed up with reindeer hides and sleeping bags and announced their intention to spend the night inside the exhibition hall, that the idea of building these 'icy' accommodations dawned on the residents.
While the igloo has now transformed into a 5,500 square meter (59,200sq.ft.) structure that is world famous for its artistic excellence, it is still made entirely from frozen water - 1000 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of 'snice' a mixture of ice and snow - to be exact!
In order to ensure there is enough supply, workers harvest 5,000 tons of ice from the Torne River before it begins to melt in March and April, and transfer it to cold storage. Things really start to get busy in November, when 100 workers, half of them artists commissioned to design special areas, descend upon the region to build the beautiful structure. Within six to eight weeks, the hotel is ready to welcome its first guests. Its 65 rooms that are built to accommodate even the most-budget conscious visitor, range from luxurious suites to rooms that contain just an icy bed and a reindeer skin.
This year's top-of-the-line deluxe room called 'Song of Lotus', includes an en-suite sauna and relaxation area and boasts high ceilings and walls that are etched with its namesake flower and beautiful flamingos. Other high-end choices include suites that have been carved by artists of various disciplines, ranging from architects to wood sculptors. There is also one that has been installed with the beautiful aura of the Aurora Borealis, allowing visitors to enjoy the experience of the Northern Lights dancing above their heads, as they relax.
While the ambiance may differ from room to room, the one thing that remains constant is the temperature, which is always set to a bone-chilling -5°C (23°F)! That is why guests are advised to snuggle into thermal sleeping bags and wear gloves and winter hats all night. Not surprisingly, most end up spending just a single night at this unique hotel before moving to more conventional warmer cabins nearby. But freezing as it may be, all guests agree that it is an experience like none other.
In addition to the unique rooms, the hotel also offers fun activities like snowshoeing, moose or snowmobile safaris, dog sledding, and even overnight wilderness camping, for those brave enough to rough it out in the below freezing temperatures. Though dining choices are limited to the hotel restaurants, guests have very little to complain about, given that they all manage to serve gourmet meals. As for drinks? Those are always chilled to perfection in the world-famous ICEBAR!
The best part about this semi-permanent structure is that it is the ultimate green building - one that houses and entertains guests all winter and then as temperatures rise, 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 Canada, Norway, Finland and Romania. However, the original ICEHOTEL is still the biggest and most unique of all.
Resources: icehotel.com, wikipedia.org