Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Jukkasjärvi is a small village – the IceHotel is located in the village, itself. Just a short walk from the hotel you can find a supermarket, school, houses, a church etc.
The name Jukkasjärvi comes from a Sami word that means ‘lake of assembly’ or ‘meeting place by the river/water’. The village got its name from the fact it was a former Sami marketplace.
You have a couple of options to get here. The easiest way is to fly to Kiruna and then get a hotel transfer to the IceHotel, which is what we did. We flew from Stockholm to Kiruna on SAS (another option is Norwegian Airline) and got a transfer from the airport to the hotel. The IceHotel can arrange a transfer for you (standard car transfer or dog sled transfer – yeap that’s right!).
I decided to my own hotel transfer via Explore Kiruna. Alex from Explore Kiruna was great – we booked a hotel transfer with him, from Kiruna airport to IceHotel and then later from IceHotel to Abisko. Highly recommended.
Another option is to travel by train, which was something I initially wanted to do but I couldn’t get the overnight cabin that I wanted. The three-berth private cabins were sold out. I spoke to someone who did the night train – the overnight cabins are quite small. She was lucky to have a private cabin all to herself. If two per cabin would still be ok – but three maybe a bit crowded for the long journey. The train is complete with bathroom/shower facilities.
The transfer from the airport (or the train station) to the IceHotel is about 20 minutes.
The IceHotel started in 1989. Every winter, the IceHotel is rebuilt from the ice from the Torne River. In the summer, the hotel melts back to the river.
In 2016, IceHotel 365 was introduced – a permanent structure that includes luxury ice suites, with private bathrooms (I checked these out – oh my goodness – sooooo nice (but very pricey), and of course you have the art suites where you have the shared bathroom facilities. With the IceHotel 365, you can get access to the IceHotel all year round. If you’re afraid of the cold – you can consider a trip there in the summer.
We were there on 6 November, so they have just started building the 30th rendition of the IceHotel.
You can choose to stay in the cold room or the warm room – most people will do one night in the cold room and remaining night(s) in the warm room.
As mentioned – the thing about the cold rooms – there are two types of rooms – the luxury suites with attached warm relaxation room and private bathrooms with bathtub/shower and sauna (quite expensive but gorgeous I must say, again), or you can go with the standard cold rooms with shared bathroom and showers. Showers are located in the warm building near reception. Unless you have the luxury suite, your storage will need to be kept in the locker areas in the warm building. The hotel will provide you with thermal sleeping bags, and you will need your own thermals of course for sleeping. The bed has a thick mattress covered with reindeer hides.
Another thing to note – check-in for the cold rooms is at 6 pm; you have to also do an early check-out as the coldrooms are opened to the public from 10 am to 6 pm.
As for the warm rooms and cabins, they are quite standard – all come with attached bathrooms with normal check-in and check-out times.
If you are travelling with young children – I am not so sure that sleeping in the cold room is a good idea because I have heard that some people ended up moving to the warm areas of their rooms (if you have the luxury of having booked that kind of room). The room temperature is a constant -5 to -6 degrees.
What is great with the IceHotel is that each room is different – with unique sculptures by different artists, and every year everything is redesigned. Annually, 40 or so selected artists from all over the world, come together at the IceHotel to create original, work of arts with ice which will be featured in the rooms.
If you are staying at the hotel, you will, of course, have access to the IceHotel. You can freely go in and out to check out the different rooms, take photos (between 10 am to 6 pm of course) and hang out at the Icebar until closing time. You also get complimentary guided tours (English tours are at 12 pm and 4 pm daily).
Non-resident/day visitors will need to buy a ticket to visit the hotel during the hours between 10 am to 6 pm. People normally spend maybe an hour or two at the hotel if they join the guided tour (which is free with the ticket).
Food and Drinks
The IceHotel Restaurant is across the road from the hotel reception/lodging side. Breakfast is served here.
In the summer, you also have an option to dine at the Homestead where you can have drinks and meals overlooking the Torne River. The Homestead serves steakhouse food such as burgers, rib-eye steaks and salmon.
Breakfast is included in the room rates. I found the breakfast quite basic if you don’t eat meat – or maybe because I went there in the off-season – not sure.
Dinner starts at 6 – you can check out the menu online. We had a very rushed dinner and had to skip dessert as the Northern Lights photo tour we booked with the IceHotel was to start at 7. Pretty early, I feel – doesn’t give much time for proper sit-down dinner. Anyway – we had Arctic Char (pan-roasted) – it was excellent. Recommended!
Other things on the menu included pan-fried reindeer (sounds yum), lamb roast etc.
The Icebar is a permanent structure of the IceHotel 365 – so you can have a drink here at any day of the year drinking from glasses made out of ice. Every year, just like the rooms, the Icebar takes on a different look.
If you want to buy a bit of snack or instant noodles, you can walk over to the supermarket nearby. Note if it’s winter and -15 degrees or so, for people not used to the weather – the walk can feel a bit long. (talking from experience). Anyway – it’s a good size supermarket if you need to stock up some snacks and drinks for a few days.
It was just the week after Halloween – so they had a lot of Halloween candies still.. love these…
To Sum It Up
I think if you are around the area, a visit to the IceHotel is a must! You don’t necessarily need to stay at the hotel unless you are really keen on the experience, I saw a number of people especially families with small children who just do a short visit to check out the place. But of course – it is an experience of a lifetime.
I discovered that I am not a fan of the cold so much – I was telling my daughter that maybe we can come back early autumn, where we can also do more outdoor activities that time. I wonder how the IceHotel looks like in September…
And check out our video below…