Sleeping in a room made of ice and snow may not seem like a dream that would be shared by many, so we were surprised to learn that thousands of people visit the original Ice Hotel found north of the arctic circle in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden every year. With our daughter studying in Norway this last winter, it was a great excuse to include a trip to the original Ice Hotel while visiting her!
If you ever get a chance, we recommend a visit. Although your pocketbook will take a hit, you will be much richer in experiences..
Tom and I managed to snap a few highlights with our phone cameras:
After a two hour flight from Stockholm, we arrived in Kiruna, which is the northern most town of size in Sweden and is in the province of Lappland. But, the best part is that it was just 20 minutes away from Jukkasjårvi and the Ice Hotel by rented car.
Tom and I walked across the frozen tarmac at the airport, which thankfully, proved to be the coldest part of the trip.
The beautiful entrance to the Ice Hotel during the "Blue Hour"
English is the common language, so the signs are all in English which we found disappointing and helpful at the same time.
Of course, the first thing we did after arriving at the Ice Hotel was to put out a Globe Ice Lantern to freeze.
The main entrance of the Ice Hotel is graced by an enormous ice egg. Please note that the ice carvings are much more beautiful in person. Our phone cameras do not do them justice.
At the end of the Great Hall is a giant ice throne which is probably the most photographed section of the hotel.
A room in the Ice Hotel filled with stacked ice chunks to resemble Cairns or Inuksuit.
The elephant in the "Elephant in the Room" was carved from "Snice" which is a mixture of snow and ice. Tom is helping out to show scale. We decided to spend the night in one of the ice rooms. It started out cold, but we quickly warmed up in the two person sleeping bag and slept quite soundly. In fact, they had to wake us up in the morning and offered us hot Lingonberry juice to start the day.
Beneath that great dome is the Ice Hotel Bar - Fabulous! I wish some of our photos from inside the bar had worked out, but alas, you might have to go there and see for yourself.
The Ice Hotel building is made of a mixture of snow and ice and from the outside looks relatively plain. While the ice rooms are marvelous, the grounds around the Ice Hotel are limited to large buildings made of snow, piles of snow, some more snow and then some dog sleds taking a rest from adventure.
But head off in any direction and there is natural and man made beauty to be found. This charming building is a community church directly across the river from the Ice Hotel.
The Ice Hotel also offers adventures large and small. We decided to try a basic lesson in ice carving. They supply a block of ice taken from the river, an ice carving chisel and a skilled teacher. The creativity and steady hands you had to supply yourself.
After 3 hours of carving, I created a leafy plant-like thing that I was hoping to hollow out and put a candle inside. Surprise - surprise. But, my time elapsed and I had to leave it solid. They put all the student's ice carvings outside to be lit by the sun.
We arrived at the end of the season, so there were hundreds of small sculptures surrounding the carving building. This is just what could be captured in one photo.
The Ice Hotel also offers dog sledding and reindeer sledding adventures. As we have been dog sledding in the past, we decided to try driving a sled pulled by reindeer. They start by letting you feed the reindeer.
The people indigenous to northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia are Sami, and are the only ones allowed to own reindeer in Sweden. Here, the Sami guide brought out buckets of Reindeer Moss for us to hand feed to the reindeer. They were very happy to see us. In fact, they acted much like horses when you have an apple in your hand.
This little beauty was new to the flock and was not tempted by reindeer moss. She carefully stayed on the periphery and sadly, seemed to be bullied by the other reindeer. This heirarchy of lead and lower members of the flock is similar to packs of horses.
We were taken to another pen which held the trained reindeer and were told to catch our own reindeer - ha ha. That was funny. The guides, after a good laugh at our expense, lassoed a few for us. Thank goodness. We then we told to harness our beautiful beasts to the sled.
Then the fun began! I will try to paint the picture: We were being pulled through freshly fallen snow along small rivers that were opening with the spring temps. The sleds, which were hand-made from trees cut down in the woods, were pulled by REALLY big deer through a beautiful winter wonderland. All this with snow tipped mountains in the distance. Gorgeous and wildly fun! When you yipped and howled just right, the reindeer took off at a gallop! If you were not holding on, say if one were taking a photo, for instance, off you came in an instant and it took a while to catch up. Tom, who took this photo, fell off his sled and had to run for a long time. It was a big sacrifice for a photo, so please enjoy it!
Outback Lappland experienced by reindeer sled - beautiful!
After the ride, we were offered hot Lingonberry juice and reindeer sandwiches. It was a quick reminder of how central the reindeer are to the Sami people. They are literally used for everything and not a bone is wasted.
After all the adventures, we made our way back to the Ice Hotel to open up our Globe Ice Lantern. Two days of temperatures that were hovering just below freezing created a fairly pathetic looking lantern (yes, our standards are high!). But, we lit it up and enjoyed it on our last night there nonetheless. It was a great trip! And now that we have seen the ice marvels that can be made, we may submit our own ideas to create a future Ice Room at the Ice Hotel. From the many hundreds of people worldwide who submit, they only take 15 a year, so it's a stretch, but who know, a map maker and an Ice Wrangler might make an interesting team up there in Jukkasjårvi. We will see . . .
Enjoy the Glow!
-- Jennifer Shea Hedberg, The Ice Wrangler
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