Hotels often undergo makeovers. However, few can compete with the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Carved entirely from "snice" — a mix of snow and ice — the hotel is rebuilt annually, with each iteration more impressive than the previous version. The 32nd Icehotel, open to guests until April 17, 2022, is no exception.
The must-visit Swedish tourist destination came about accidentally. In 1989, Icehotel's founder Yngve Berquist organized an art show to entice tourists to Jukkasjärvi during the chilly winter months. The exhibition, held inside a 5.5-square-meter (60-square-foot) igloo, was a runaway success. Many visitors opted to spend the night, selling out all of Jukkasjärvi's warm cabins. Hence, when a group approached Berquist about a place to spend the night, he offered them the igloo.
"To my surprise, the guests said yes, so we equipped them with warm sleeping bags and instructed them how to sleep in the cold. The morning after, they were blown away by the experience. Icehotel was born," Berquist recalls.
The Icehotel has come a long way since its humble start. Constructed from 1000 tons of ice, and 30,000 tons of "snice," it now covers an area of over 5,500 square meters (59,200 square feet). Preparations for the annual hotel begin in March with the harvesting of 5,000 tons of ice from the nearby Torne River. The ice is kept in cold storage until November when about 100 workers and artists get to work carving out a new structure. Icehotel is typically open for business by mid-December.
This year's hotel comprises 36 rooms, including 12 exquisitely crafted art suites. Among the highlights is the "Different Natures" suite. Decorated with massive ice boulders and carved water shapes, it aspires to provide visitors with an immersive nature experience. The "Great Gatsby" suite gets its inspiration from the Art Deco design that was popular in America during the 1920s. The "Dickensian Street" suite promises to take visitors on a nostalgic tour of 19th century England, complete with cobbled streets, shops, and buildings from the era.
The "To Bed with Chickens" suite lives up to its name, with numerous ice-sculpted chickens scattered around the room. The suite's creators state, "Since a couple of years we have chickens, and it is so much fun to watch them go to bed. They chat to each other about what happened that day, and they all try to get the best spot to sleep. This inspired us to design a room with chickens."
The Icehotel experience does not come cheap. Basic rooms cost about $400, while the luxury suites can set visitors back by as much as $900. Regardless of the price, the temperature is always set to a bone-chilling -5°C (23°F)! Guests are advised to snuggle up inside thermal sleeping bags and wear gloves and winter hats all night. Not surprisingly, most move to the conventional, warmer cabins nearby after a single night.
The hotel's single restaurant serves gourmet food, while the drinks are always chilled to perfection in the world-famous ICEBAR! Icehotel guests can participate in a myriad of fun activities. They include snowshoeing, moose or snowmobile safaris, and dog sledding. There is even the option of overnight wilderness camping for those brave enough to endure the below-freezing temperatures.
While the Icehotel will melt into a giant puddle in April, the equally impressive Icehotel 365. which lies adjacent, is open to visitors year-round. Also built entirely from "snice," the 20-room hotel is kept frozen by solar-powered cooling technology during the summer.