Spending a night in the freezing cold is not a choice many people would make. Stranded hikers, yes; paying tourists, not so much. But if said night is spent inside the famous Ice Hotel in northern Sweden, 125 miles above the Arctic Circle, in the little town of Jukkasjäarvi, then one might make an exception.
Twenty-seven years ago, the very first Ice Hotel was built entirely out of blocks of ice harvested from the Torne River, which runs alongside the site of the hotel. And every winter since, the Ice Hotel has been sculpted by artists from all over the world from those same blocks of ice, and then left to melt each spring when the sun is finally out for more than a few hours a day.
This year, for the first time ever, people are able to stay at the Ice Hotel year round, thanks to the new Ice Hotel 365, a permanent structure that maintains a temperature between 19 and 23 degrees Fahrenheit. The original Ice Hotel is still sculpted every winter, so the property now has a total of about 65 rooms and suites; 22 are year-round suites. Each room is sculpted by a different artist, making the Ice Hotel a veritable ice gallery.
During peak season, rates for a cold room are upwards of $640, and getting a booking can be difficult, but companies like Off the Map Travel, which specializes in Swedish Lapland, can do everything from getting you a reservation in a deluxe suite with a private sauna to flying in hundreds of roses for an on-site marriage proposal.
They can also help you plan the rest of your stay, arranging activities like dog sledding, seeing the Northern Lights, and learning about the indigenous Sami culture, all of which are highlights of the region.
So what is it like to actually sleep in the Ice Hotel? Much cozier than you might think.
Upon arrival, I was directed to the heated service building, where it's nice and warm. I was given a key and told it was for my changing room and locker. This building houses a lounge area, bathrooms, saunas, and private changing rooms for each guest and it's open and staffed 24 hours a day. I quickly realized I wouldn't have to sit on a frozen toilet. You could say I was relieved.
But I still didn't know which room I'd be staying in. That's because guests can't book specific rooms—they just book a type of room: warm room, basic cold room, cold art suite, cold art suite 365, or cold deluxe suite 365. Because each room is an individual work of art, guests and visitors can roam the hallways all afternoon, popping into the various rooms to see which one they like best. The entire hotel and all its rooms are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Hence the changing rooms and lockers where you can store you things and have a moment of privacy.)
Walking into the first art suite was truly magical. Who knew there were so many shades of white and blue? The room called Dancers in the Dark was by Tjäsa Gusfors and Patrick Dallard. Music played and there were little spheres of ice suspended from the ceiling, twisting and shimmering, creating ethereal shadows along the blue walls. Two whimsical dancing figures stood in front of the bed, whose base is made entirely of ice, and then topped with a thick mattress and several reindeer hides.
Design Tommy Alatalo
Each room is unique and ingeniously crafted. There was Don't Get Lost (above), a labyrinth with the bed in the center, and Dreamscape, which featured a gleaming ice staircase that leads up to the bed. The Ikebana Room, where I would ultimately sleep, was inspired by the Japanese art of flower arranging and featured a large, crystal-clear cherry blossom tree behind the bed.
After an incredible dinner in the (heated) restaurant featuring the hotel's Ice Menu, which highlights local delicacies like caviar, arctic char, and reindeer, and a few drinks at the glinting Ice Bar (out of ice-carved glasses, of course), I headed to my changing room. The Ice Hotel recommends sleeping only in your base layer thermals, and they provide an expedition-level thermal sleeping bag. I also borrowed a snowsuit and boots for the walk to my room.
As I walked down the sparkling hallway, carved entirely out of ice and decorated with frozen chandeliers, the air was silent and serene.
Entering my vault-like room was thrilling. The qualities of ice—its sheen, clarity, and radiance—were highlighted by the bluish lighting in the room. As I settled into my sleeping bag, and looked up, I noticed that even the ceiling was meticulously carved. I was warm and snug in the sleeping bag, and the reindeer hides provided an extra layer of protection against the frost.
The next morning, I was awakened by a cheerful voice asking if I wanted some hot lingonberry juice. Of course I did. It was time to head back into the heat.
For more information on the Ice Hotel, visit icehotel.com.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.