Monday, January 19, 2015

IceHotel Sweden

We went to the IceHotel! They style the name as ICEHOTEL but I refuse to capitalize the whole thing since it gives it way too much emphasis with shouting letters. Icehotel doesn't look right and Ice Hotel is too generic because several of them exist around the world. The Hotel de Glace is near Quebec which is closer to our family and friends if they want to try something like this.

The IceHotel is actually in Jukkasjärvi but Kiruna is the big town with the airport. Kiruna is also a little easier to spell and say. We can now say we've been 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, slept in an ice room in -3°C / 23°F temperatures, and had lots of fun snowmobiling and dog sledding. Unfortunately we can't say we saw the northern lights because it was cloudy almost all of our time there. If we had an actual "bucket list" then we definitely scratched off a bunch of cool stuff... or would that be cold stuff? :-)

We arrived from Stockholm on a big plane to the small Kiruna airport where you get on and off outside. Fortunately the weather was nice. Arrivals and departures are just 2 different doors to the terminal building. It's not a busy place.


The IceHotel operates a bus. We checked in for the cold room and put our bags in our assigned locker. You change clothes, use the toilet, shower, and sauna in a building next to the ice structure. The IceHotel is open to all guests during the day for tours and to just wander around in so we checked it out first since our first activity was in the evening.


ice hotel entrance 

backlit ice carvings on the wall 



tour guide podium 

making one more super expensive luxury suite 

Blocks with people's words on them from a contest.
A friend at the embassy has one! 

The following are inside the various Art Rooms. We stayed in the Northern Lights room which had colored lights and was bigger than the basic room but not as fancy as these rooms with various sculptures and room designs.





 


carved in the ceiling of a room



required to have fire alarms and extinguishers...
the laws make no exceptions for ice structures!

This is back along the main hallway of the hotel:


More art rooms:





 





Our first activity was an evening snowmobile ride with dinner before we went to bed. We're glad we did snowmobiles at night for the fun and dog sledding during the day for the sightseeing. It was fun at night because we drive around single file in the dark following a guide who kept us on the right trails so we wouldn't get anywhere near any ice holes. We only went on the very thick and well travelled trails so no worries.

Me and someone else's son since my wife and daughter drove another one.
It was 2 per snowmobile.

another group passes us during one of our stops 


Don't worry about having the right outerwear and concentrate of bringing the underlayers. The hotel provides these really warm jumpsuits, balaclavas for your face, and big comfortable snow boots. They also provide big mittens but we preferred our Gore-Tex gloves with extra liners. It was cold out but we were comfortable and didn't get too cold over the weekend:

 We stopped at a cabin for reindeer sandwiches, beef stew, and cake around a fire:




It was the northern lights snowmobile tour but all we ever saw was the glow of Kiruna off in the distance.

We returned to the hotel, grabbed our sleeping bags and sheets, and headed off to sleep in the ice. This was our room when we had normal clothes for freezing temperatures and time enough to stand around and take a picture:



It was cold and hard to sleep because the thin mattress felt like it must have been frozen. The mattress is actually on wood surrounded by ice but that doesn't hide the cold. The pillows were crappy and thin too but that's probably out of necessity. Overall, if you really want the experience then I'd say go for it. It wasn't actually as bad as I feared. But if you're on the fence for sleeping in one of these ice freezing rooms then I'd say skip it and just stay in the warm rooms. You can visit these rooms as much as you want during the day. You can be in them for hours and just pretend. OK, it won't be the same as wearing boots with your night clothes, hurrying to your bed, and scurrying quickly into a sleeping bag to try to escape the environment you intentionally went in... oh, it was fine but I'm not doing it again. :-)

Snowmobiles were fun to drive but we decided letting someone else mush the dogsleds was a better idea. It was also a nice and relaxing experience to be able to look around while we had a little daylight and not have to worry about falling off and having the dogs continue running to their chosen destination. They love to run so they'd keep going with or without you.



stopping for lunch










We also hung out some in the Ice Bar (a big igloo)





It's next to the Ice Church









 

Some parting shots of outside and around the hotel. It was definitely a unique Swedish experience!