The term ice hotel has, in recent years, been scattered around Scandinavia and the Nordics, partly due to the heralding of the region as such a juggernaut of innovation and modern design. But before its imitators, there was only one, the coiner of the phrase, cemented in a constant reminder via its eponymous moniker – the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, nestled among Swedish Lapland’s northern reaches. Sweden’s 1989 creation made hunkering down on a bed of ice a revered experience for winter travellers – and it’s managed to uphold its superior status even now, with its ephemeral ice sculptures painstakingly recreated anew each year. Its new ICEHOTEL 365 construction enhances its appeal one further; an engineering stroke of genius in a permanent hotel made of ice, kept cool via solar-powered technology.
There may be parity between the original ICEHOTEL and its followers in neighbouring Finland and Norway, but it somehow still manages to stand far and above. This is in part due to its consistently spectacular – and impressively creative – ice carvings; there's everything from clouds encircling fur-strewn beds and eerie Queen of the Norths to King Kong's mammoth arms 'hugging' elaborate snow structures. You're kept warm with thermal sleeping bags, but outside, the raking Northern Lights make it hard to stay in bed – this is one of the world's best places to witness them. Come summer, the glorious midnight sun bathes the landscape in a delicate glow, perfectly explored with hikes through boreal forests and white water rafting. Combine all this with excellent, inspired cuisine, from fresh salmon on ice to moose steak, and you'll find the ICEHOTEL is quite unparalleled when it comes to an unforgettable Scandinavian holiday.
Those who venture this far north are ostensibly here for the outdoors, and the ICEHOTEL has offerings in hordes. Vaunting remote wilderness and endless fir forests, the landscape is magical during any setting. But it's perhaps winter when it gives its best performance; an ethereal white expanse muffled by snow, frequently lit by the star-spangled sky and glimmer of the Northern Lights' vibrant tendrils. Perhaps you'll head on snowmobile safaris in search of that revered aurora, snowshoe among ice-covered stalagmites, or mush your own team of eager huskies, the quietude only interrupted by the dogs’ steady pitter patter. There're more serene ventures, too, from the ICEHOTEL's private sauna experience, best interspersed with bracing dips in the lake, to ice fishing on the thick glacial blanket and reindeer safaris along remote forest paths.
Culminate days sampling wonderfully creative dinner offerings. An 'ice menu' presents the likes of Arctic char and moose fillet, served, naturally, on ice, along with such delights as salmon tartare and topside of reindeer on the regular menu. The new 'chef's table' on the veranda goes one up, featuring a twelve-course tasting menu served alongside expertly-matched drinks. Days are best finished off with something altogether more warming, served in an ice glass, of course, at the ICEBAR's below-freezing surrounds, where the sculptures that loom above are just as intricate as the rest of the hotel.
Its sister hotel, ICEHOTEL 365, commands just as much attention, and its permanency means excursions among Jukkasjärvi's verdant landscapes are innumerable, be it under the everlasting midnight sun or the ethereal contours of the Northern Lights. The design triumph boasts the artistic extravagances and frozen ICEBAR of its winter neighbour, along with spectacular architect-designed Art Suites ethereally lit to make the most of the otherworldly carvings. A welcome antidote to outside’s frost, there are also Scandi-chic fur-adorned warm rooms and en-suite bathrooms. And when the sun never sets during summer's glorious few months, verdant forests, serene lakes and summer meadows are itching to be explored via horse back, hiking and biking, as well as kayaking and canoeing on swelled rivers and purling streams.
4 days from £1,160 pp incl. flights
This is the ideal holiday for the adventurous at heart – a three-night break in the wilds of Swedish Lapland, staying at the world-famous ICEHOTEL. Add on everything from husky sledding to Northern Lights hunts.
Treehotel & ICEHOTEL
5 days from £1,785 pp incl. flights
With stays at two on Scandinavia's most iconic hotels, plus the chance to add on a raft of thrilling activities, this holiday to Swedish Lapland makes for an exceptional winter adventure.