Romance Wanderlust: ICEHOTEL

Romance Wanderlust - a yellowed and burnt edge map with a compass in the corner, with Romance Wanderlust written across itI know what you’re thinking. “It’s winter! It’s cold! Carrie is going to take us someplace tropical!” Well NOT SO FAST, Bitches. I’m Googling ice hotels for this month’s Romance Wanderlust, and you’re all Googling with me! Bwah ha ha!

But seriously, these places are beautiful. Weird and cold, but beautiful.

After careful consideration, I’m focusing on one ice hotel in particular. The not very creatively named ‘ICEHOTEL’’ is located in the village of Jukkasjärvi. This means that I have a legitimate reason to use my beloved Monty Python quote:

Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër? See the løveli lakes. The wøndërful telephøne system. And mäni interesting furry animals, including the majestik møøse.

And also, why not see the ICEHOTEL? Parts of this location are permanent (a new feature is that they have some ice rooms all year now). However, the big draw of the installation is that every year most of the ‘cold rooms’ are allowed to melt during the summer and then in the winter they are sculpted from scratch with new designs, making it an art installation as well as a hotel. The temporary condition of the rooms adds to the magical ambiance created by the artists.

All photos in this post are by Asaf Kliger.

Livoq, designed by Fabien Champeval and Friederike Schroth
“Livoq,” designed by Fabien Champeval and Friederike Schroth, Photo credit: Asaf Kliger

ICEHOTEL has ‘Cold rooms’ and ‘Warm rooms.’ The warm rooms (which are permanent and made out of standard materials, not ice) are basically nice hotel rooms, in soothing light earth tones, with big windows that look out onto the forest.

The cold rooms are AMAZING. All rooms include a tour and access to the sauna. Some rooms have a door and some have a curtain. Some have ice sculptures and some are carved into these cool geometric block shapes. All have a mattress called the “carpe diem” mattress. Carpe Diem seems like a great name for a coffee or an alarm clock but for a bed? Anyway it’s covered with reindeer hides which I suspect is a deal breaker for many, and you sleep on top of the furs in sleeping bags (and yes, they do have two-person bags). Reviews say that the whole effect is surprisingly warm.

Queen of the North designed by Emilie Steele and Sebastian Dell'Uva
“Queen of the North” designed by Emilie Steele and Sebastian Dell’Uva. Photo credit: Asaf Kliger

A popular feature of ICEHOTEL is that they host weddings. The hotel website has many high concept photos but all I could think is that everyone looks very cold. Also if I may offer a tip based on experience: sled dogs are not romantic. I’m fond of their sweet fluffy selves, but they bark all the time and they smell weird and they shed and they are always dirty. Just because I like them doesn’t mean I would let them anywhere near my wedding dress.

Wedding in the middle of a lot of sled dogs.
Don’t do this! I’m begging you! Do you have ANY IDEA how loud these dogs are? Photocredit: Asaf Kliger

On the one hand, surely all of us from cold climates are asking ourselves, “So…you stay there…voluntarily? And you pay them, not the other way around?” On the other hand, the rooms do look magical. There’s also a lot to do. There’s an icebar where all the glasses are made out of ice. You can go to storytelling night and watch the Northern Lights. You can go on a sled dog ride or a snowmobile ride or, in different seasons, learn about edible Arctic plants. They have Midnight Sun boat trips in summer and ice carving classes all year.

There’s a foodie restaurant where all the food is tiny and photogenic and a more “comfort food” type restaurant nearby. Bring your Elsa cosplay and your thermal underwear for a magical night, but between the preponderance of reindeer on the menu and the hides on the bed, it might be best not to mention it to Sven.

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  1. Mikaela says:

    Since I live in Sweden, the Ice hotel is on my bucket list. I do think I am going to wimp out and stay in an ordinary room, though.

  2. MinaKelly says:

    We went there for our honeymoon! It is stunning. It’s split into two parts, one part in what’s essentially a giant fridge, that’s got ice rooms all year round (and the bar), and the seasonal hotel built out of the nearby river. It’s worth signing up to the newsletter on the website to get pictures of the new rooms every year, because they’re all done by different artists. We slept inside a Faberge egg 🙂 The reindeer furs are incredible; they are so insulating you wouldn’t know they were laid on top of slabs of ice. Reindeer are incredible!

    The outside temperature is around -40c, while the ice hotel is around -5c, so is actually feels pretty mild inside! With the thermals and the sleeping bags, it doesn’t actually very different to camping in spring/autumn in the UK. I can’t remember perfectly what I wore – I think thermal tights and thermal vest, and pyjama pants? Or maybe socks and my pyjamas? You don’t want to wear too many layers because it takes longer for your body heat to warm up the sleeping bag. We went for a double sleeping bag, but I think you’d actually be warmer in a single because it’s easier to tighten it around your face.

    You do need to book stuff to do during the day, which isn’t cheap. I’m scared of dogs and neither of us have a driving license, which meant a lot of the activities weren’t ideal for us, but we learnt a lot about the local Sami culture (in a slightly touristy way) and visited the church and museum in Jukkasjarvi. Best thing was the Northern Lights photography with Juve, who was fab and helped us get some good shots on quite a low energy night, and indulged me in a long chat about Kiruna.

    – Get the night train from Stockholm, it’ll make you feel like you’re swanning around Europe in the 1920s and might encounter a spy in the buffet car, and then you wake up in the Arctic! Though when we were leaving a lot of trains were cancelled, so try and be flexible in your itinerary.
    – But don’t get hung up on paying for a transfer. There’s plenty of taxis and a bus. A lot of the transfers are done by people picking up lots of different tourists from different places/activities, which means they’re not great if you’re cutting it fine when it comes to trains etc.
    – They are not kidding about wearing a lot of layers to be out and about during the day/night. You need a full set of winter clothes (in my case, thermal vest, long sleeve shirt, t-shirt, jumper, fleece, winter coat) underneath the polar suit they give you. Also, take a scarf. I forgot.
    – Watch Midnight Sun, which is set in the area, before you go. Just because it’s a really great scandi-noir that goes into some of the Sami stuff, and whats going on with Kiruna (where the airport and train get in) is nuts. Also I broke my arm in Abisko, and having already watched the show I was more amused to find myself in Kiruna hospital than I might have been otherwise 🙂 Swedish healthcare is amazing, and everyone spoke incredible English, and I talk a lot when you give me morphine.

  3. Darlynne says:

    You’ve hooked me. Since I’m holed up in 360+days-of-sunshine-a-year Reno but someone forget to tell the sun, this actually sounds wonderful.

    Old lady concerns: Is the floor also ice; is getting to the bed a new Olympic sport? How do lips fare when drinking out of an ice glass? Because I remember getting my tongue stuck to a metal bar as a kid and some experiences don’t fade.

    @MinaKelly: Thank you for brightening my day.

  4. JenM says:

    I always wanted to stay overnight at an ice hotel until a few years ago when I was in Quebec City in January and visited (during the day) the seasonal ice hotel there. It WAS great fun to wander around, see the rooms, and have a hot toddy at the ice bar, but somehow, my younger self had never taken into account that you’d have to actually get out of that wonderful warm bed if you needed to use the loo in the middle of the night. Sadly, I think my window for this adventure has closed.

  5. JK42 says:

    I had reindeer when I was in Iceland – one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten!

  6. CarrieS says:

    @Darlynne – I wondered that too!

  7. LauraL says:

    I love the wedding picture!

    One of Hallmark’s January movies was “Winter Castle” which was filmed at the Hotel de Glace near Quebec City which must be the one you visited, JenM. The rooms and lobby looked absolutely charming with amazing ice sculptures. The movie repeats on March 2, if you want to see the ice hotel experience through the Hallmark lens, plus a destination wedding.

  8. JenM says:

    Thanks LauraL! I checked out the video and that’s definitely the place we visited. I’ll have to watch the movie next time it’s on. I would recommend to anyone that they visit an ice hotel. They are fascinating. I just don’t know that I’d want to stay overnight.

  9. Simona Ahrnstedt says:

    My novel HIGH RISK takes place in Kiruna and the couple have a date in Jukkasjärvi in their gorgeous restaurant. Google their FOOD! I went there to do research (I live in Stockholm) and was completely blown away by the experience. Its beautiful. Like stepping into Narnia. I don’t even like winter and I still yearn to go back. Oh, and you can also get to see the Northern Lights. One of my best trips ever.

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