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All hotels renovate periodically. However very few do it as frequently as Sweden's ICEHOTEL. As the name indicates the hotel that is located in the remote village of Jukkasjärvi, is constructed entirely from ice and therefore, has to be rebuilt annually!
The 26th version of ICEHOTEL, which welcomed its first visitors on December 11th, features 69 rooms. To make them affordable for everyone, they range from expensive handcrafted luxury suites to basic accommodations that feature just an icy bed and reindeer skin.
Among this year's unique suite offerings are the 'Elephant in the Room.' Created by Swedish ceramic artist AnnaSofia Mååg, it features a massive a 3-m (9.8-ft) tall sculpted African elephant overlooking an ice-framed bed. Then there is the 'Flying Buttress', an ice cave filled with a forest of Gothic-like pillars sculpted by Germany's AnnaKatrin Kraus and Hans Aescht. For those seeking something a little more cutting-edge, there are ones themed after a Swedish horror film and local fairytales. The 'Counting Sheep,' suite features frozen ewes and rams that may help insomniacs get a good night's rest.
Though the ambiance between the luxury suites and the budget rooms may differ they are all subject to the bone-chilling -5°C (23°F) temperatures. To get a good night's rest guests have to snuggle inside thermal sleeping bags and keep their gloves and hats on. Though that seem a little uncomfortable, visitors say it is an experience like none other.
The hotel also features a beautifully crafted ice church where over 100 couples will get married this year and an Ice Bar that will serve drinks in glasses carved from . . . Ice of course! Though dining options are limited to the hotel's sole restaurant, guests will have little to complain about with Michelin-trained chef Alexander Meier at the helm. To keep patrons entertained, the hotel offers a myriad of fun activities like snowshoeing, moose or snowmobile safaris, dog sledding, and even overnight wilderness camping.
The 26-year-old tradition began accidentally in 1989 when locals organized an art exhibition to entice winter visitors to the remote village that lies 200 km north of the Arctic Circle. Among the many tourists was an adventurous group that arrived with reindeer hides and sleeping bags and announced their intention of spending the night in the igloo where the exhibition was being held. That's when the idea of building the icy accommodations dawned on the locals.
Though the small igloo has since been replaced with a 5,500 square meter (59,200sq.ft.) structure complete with modern amenities, it is still made entirely of ice. Preparations begin in March when workers harvest about 5,000 tons of ice from the nearby Thorne River and transfer it to cold storage. Construction starts in earnest in November when over 100 workers, many of them artists, descend to the Arctic region to build the beautiful structure. Within eight to twelve weeks, ICEHOTEL is ready to welcome its first visitors.
The temporary hotel that expects to attract 50,000 visitors this year will remain open until mid-April. After that, as the temperatures rise, the beautiful structure will slowly melt into one giant puddle, leaving behind little trace of its existence.
For those not able or brave enough to visit the hotel during the winter, there is some good news. By December 2016, the owners plan to construct a new sustainable ICEHOTEL that will be open all year! Chilled to perfection by the 24-hour Arctic sunlight it will feature 20 suites, a bar, and gallery. But before you get worried, the new ice hotel will not replace the original classic. It will merely allow visitors to visit the area year round and enable them to admire the Northern Lights in the winter and hike under the midnight Arctic sun in the summer!