The Northern Lights provide a spectacular backdrop to the ICEHOTEL (Credit: Asaf Kliger)

While visiting the North Pole in winter may not be at the top of your bucket list, the ever-changing ICEHOTEL, which opened its doors to visitors on December 14 this year, may change your mind. Located 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi, the hotel, which is carved entirely from ice, is rebuilt annually, with each iteration getting increasingly beautiful and impressive.

The 29-year-old tradition began accidentally in 1989, after Jukkasjärvi residents organized an art show in a 5.5-square-meter (60 square foot) igloo to try to entice tourists to the remote village during the freezing winter months. The exhibition was a huge success, attracting many day visitors. However, it was not until a group of adventurous souls arrived with reindeer hides and sleeping bags, announcing their intention to spend the night inside the igloo, that the idea of the frozen hotel was born.

ICEHOTEL’s main lobby (Credit: Asaf Kliger)

The ICEHOTEL has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Constructed from 1000 tons of ice, and 30,000 tons of “snice,” – a mixture of ice and snow – it covers an area of over 5,500 square meters (59,200 square feet). The planning begins months earlier in March when about 5,000 tons of ice are harvested from the river and transferred to cold storage, where they sit till the beginning of winter. Construction begins in earnest in November, when about 100 workers, half of them artists invited to carve the hotel’s themed suites and common areas, descend upon the region. By December, the unique frozen accommodation is ready to open for business.

Experience camping at the “Spruce Woods” (Credit: Asaf Kliger)

The 35 rooms, built to accommodate visitors on all kinds of budgets, vary from luxurious suites to basic rooms that are furnished with just an icy bed and a reindeer skin. Among the highlights this year is the “Spruce Woods” suite. Sculpted by Christopher Pascoe and Jennie O’Keefe of Canada, it depicts a camping scene complete with a classic VW microbus, a forest, and even a faux campfire.

The “Living Ocean” suite highlights our beautiful marine life (Credit: Asaf Kliger)

There is also the artfully-carved “Living Ocean” suite, to remind visitors of the importance of saving our oceans. The frosty room is teeming with carved marine life that includes coral and an ominous-looking shark “swimming” right over the ice bed. “The suite is inspired by the climate changes and the overfishing that affects our oceans,” says artist Jonathan Paul Green. “I also thought the idea of using frozen water from a river in northern Sweden to create an ocean with shells, fish, and corals is exciting.”

The nearby “Haven” suite is a “magical portal of ice” guarded by two large animals. “We are inspired by the meeting between people and want to create an experience that invites curiosity, creativity, and collaboration,” says artist Jonas Johansson. “It feels like a dream to get to work with ice that allows our love for light, shine, and reflection to wander free from thought to creation.”

The Haven, a magical portal of ice (Credit: Asaf Kliger)

The “Icewoman” suite designed by Sweden’s Linda Vagnelind, features a massive sculpture of a swimmer, complete with a swim cap. Those with a sweet tooth will be thrilled with the “Candy” suite which allows visitors to experience a night surrounded by a variety of delectable confectionary. Unfortunately, none of the treats are edible. Cat lovers will enjoy the “Tao of Cat” suite, which has a beautifully ice-chiseled face of a feline, right above the frozen bed.

Regardless of whether visitors select the luxury carved suites or the basic ice rooms, the temperature is always set to a bone-chilling -5°C (23°F)! That is why guests are advised to snuggle up inside 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 on to the conventional, and warmer, cabins nearby.

A massive sculpture of a swimmer adorns the “Icewoman” suite (Credit: Asaf Kliger)

In addition to the unique rooms, the hotel also offers guests fun activities like snowshoeing, moose or snowmobile safaris, dog sledding, and, for those brave enough to suffer through the below freezing temperatures – overnight wilderness camping! The hotel’s single restaurant serves gourmet food, while the drinks are always chilled to perfection in the world-famous ICEBAR!

Those unable to make it to the spectacular hotel before it melts into a giant puddle in April can visit the equally impressive ICEHOTEL 365 that lies adjacent. Though also built entirely from “snice,” the 20-room hotel remains frozen, and open, year-round thanks to a solar panel array, which helps keep the heat out during the summer months when the sun never fully sets.