Hotel Review: The ICEHOTEL, Sweden

Ice-Hotel-03 Polar bear, polar bear, polar bear,’ I mutter under my breath. I’m kneeling in deep drifts of snow in the midst of a pine tree grove trying to light a fire. The small stack of twigs and birchbark peelings, arranged like a hashtag, is smouldering. A few minutes ago there was a flame, but now I have eyefuls of smoke.

‘That’s it,’ says Johannes, our wilderness survival guide. ‘If you get smoke in your eyes you have to say polar bear.’ Daft mutterings aside, in just over three hours he has taught us to light a fire with nothing but flint and soggy twigs whilst knee-deep in snowdrifts, showed us how to survive in a snowstorm and made pine needle tea – which took an hour to bring to the boil on our sad excuse for a fire.

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The battle won, we kick snow over our hard-fought fires and head back to Sweden’s ICEHOTEL across the frozen Torne river. It’s this river, the last unpolluted river in Sweden, that gives up 1,000 tonnes of frozen water every spring to create-crystal clear blocks of ice – most weighing over a tonne.

The frozen palace 

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While the ICEHOTEL looks more like a low-slung igloo complex when it emerges from the snow every December, this year it has a taller sister hotel, the ICEHOTEL 365, which will be kept at -5°C all year round, meaning you can sleep on ice even in summer. It’s a 15-minute drive from Kiruna airport in the north west – I’m above the Arctic Circle and, in December, sunlight only hits the frozen snow for around an hour a day. In January, there are just  20 minutes of non-darkness.

I visit the 27th ICEHOTEL just before Christmas. At this time of year the temperature is usually -15°C. This year, it’s hovering around 0°C, but feels a lot colder. Everyone gets one night ‘sleeping cold’; each of the art suites is a di erent fantastical ice landscape, each like sleeping in a di erent dream. Every year, the ICEHOTEL chooses a number of artists to create the icy rooms, but this year a number of suites in the new all-year-round hotel have their own (warm) bathrooms and saunas, plus ice armchairs, ice goblets and a bottle of bubbly. It feels like a Bond villain’s lair from the Seventies.

To read Georgina’s full ICEHOTEL experience, order a copy of our Feb/March issue. 

 

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