Icehotel is a place of magic
It exists, in the material sense, for only 5 months out of the year, while existing, in the conceptual sense, year-round.
Located about 27 poronkusema North of the Arctic Circle in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, Icehotel represents a true extreme in Scandinavian resorts. Built anew every autumn from ice and snow, Icehotel sports an indoor temperature range of -4 to -9 degrees centigrade. Come spring, the entire place is allowed to melt back into the Torne River, evanescing in the returning sunlight.
Most of the rooms are unique, decorated with glistering impermanent ice sculpture. Each bed is a single ice platform, covered in reindeer pelts. In the interest of making sure paying customers don't die of hypothermia, the hotel supplies Arctic-level sleeping bags made by Fjällräven, and wakes each guest in the morning with a cup of hot lingonberry juice. Newlyweds tend to stay in the room where the bed has been carved in the shape of a Viking longboat. In the flush of newly consecrated love, people find it easy to forget such boats were also used for funerals.
Food and drink:
In the Absolut-sponsored bar your beverage choices are, unsurprisingly, vodka, vodka, and...er...vodka. Drinks are served "in the rocks" (namely, ice blocks carved into glasses) while mixers are carefully stored in the refrigerator to keep them warm enough to pour.
The restaurant serves traditional Lappish fare as well as fine cuisine. Thus you have every opportunity to eat authentic North Pole reindeer1 on Christmas Eve.
Things to do:
Sauna. This is the activity also known as "Sitting naked in a really hot place while beating oneself with birch branches until one can't stand it another second and runs out to jump into water that's glacially cold Oh God that feels amazing Oh that feels so good Wow look at the steam oh no now it's getting cold better run into a warm place where there's some salty food."
Play with your food. Icehotel offers "safaris" to a nearby Sami reindeer camp.
Go dogsledding. Take a flashlight with you. The sun sets around 1 PM.
Go to church. The on-site Lutheran church is re-consecrated yearly, because it melts in springtime along with everything else. It's used for weddings more often than regular sermons, which is just as well. With pews, altar and cross made entirely out of ice, it must be hard for a pastor to get across the idea of Hell as an unpleasant place.
Watch Shakespeare's works in the round, in Sami language. No. Really. The hotel has plans to build its own "Ice Globe" by January 2003, a copy of the original Globe Theater in London. A local production of "Hamlet" is one of the first shows scheduled.
Getting to the Icehotel is an adventure in itself. The first leg of the journey ends in Stockholm; from there it's a local flight to the town of Kiruna. From Kiruna, the excitement begins: you have your choice of arriving by dogsled or snowmobile.
There is another Great White North you can travel to for a frosty experience. Icehotel has a second franchise in Quebec, Canada, near Quebec City.
1. From the menu:
"Smoked rack of reindeer served with root vegetable cake and portwine gravy.
On Torne river ice we also serve black currant chutney, shiitake mushrooms and sorrell aioli."
--Ice Hotel. ( Last updated : December, 2001 ) "above the Arctic Circle, beneath the Northern light." www.icehotel.com. Accessed February 22, 2002. This site requires Flash 4 and other plugins for viewing. Definitely worth it: with the plugins you can tour the bar in 3-d, and watch videos of the snow-cannons in action.
--Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada. ( Last updated : December, 2001 ) "Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada." www.icehotel-canada.com. Accessed February 22, 2002.
--Chelminski, Rudy. "Cold Comfort." Smithsonian. December 2001 : 62-70.