When I say that my bucket list is so long that I will most likely never complete it, I am not kidding. I have never actually written down a list (let’s be real, it would be a novel) but I have a mental one up in my head, and I could easily rattle off 250 bucket list items in just a few minutes.
Though I travel a lot, crossing items off this mental list doesn’t actually happen all that often. Sure, I see a lot of amazing stuff and do a lot of incredible things, but only the crème da le crème make it onto the mental list.
So, when the opportunity came up to cross one of these items off my list in Sweden, you better believe that I took it.
In the city of Kiruna in Northern Sweden, there lives a truly incredible hotel.
This hotel isn’t the fanciest one you’ll ever sleep in, and it definitely isn’t the biggest, but it has gotta be up there as one of the most beautiful.
Say hello to Ice Hotel! A hotel which is exactly what it sounds like, one made of ice!
I remember discovering the existence of this hotel for the first time around 4 or 5 years ago. I had been researching Scandinavian destinations to try and help me decide which one would be my splurge destination on a budget backpacking trip. At the time, Iceland won out, but I never forgot the Ice Hotel, and spending the night in a room made of ice quickly earned a spot on my ever-growing list.
I travelled to Kiruna from Longyearbyen, and despite the total lack of sleep from my hideous flight schedule, I was completely and utterly excited to explore.
Upon checking in to ‘Dressing Room’ – which is the name given to the check in area for those staying in ‘cold rooms’ – I dropped off my bags and picked up my guest pass. At this point, you are able to borrow a jumpsuit, boots and mittens if required. Kiruna does get incredibly cold, so for anyone who doesn’t have the greatest of Arctic appropriate gear, I would definitely recommend borrowing some from the hotel, even though it does look super dorky.
I borrowed the gear in anticipation of going on a snowmobiling trip (stay tuned for that story, it’s a total doozy) but despite the -35 degree weather, I found that I didn’t need it during the day time.
It is worth noting too that keeping your guest pass on you is essential, as it is essentially what allows you to roam through the hotel freely.
The Ice Hotel may be a hotel first and foremost, but it is also a sort of museum. Those not sleeping in the hotel can buy a day pass, allowing them to drink in the Ice Bar and explore the unbelievable artwork in all the rooms.
Now, it may seem odd to allow strangers access to hotel rooms, but the hotel has a system in place which appears to work quite seamlessly. Depending on which room you are staying in, you will either be allocated a locker or private dressing room. This locker or room is where you can store all your valuables and bags instead of in your hotel room.
The ice rooms are considered a public museum until 6pm and after this time, they are closed off and can only be accessed by hotel guests.
I arrived to the Ice Hotel mid-morning, so I ended up having the whole day free to explore and enjoy a hotel that is truly like no other.
There are two separate buildings that house these ice rooms; there is the original Ice Hotel and Ice Hotel 360.
The original Ice Hotel is the one which melts and is rebuilt each year from scratch. It is home to numerous ‘art rooms’, the chapel and several standard cold rooms. It is worth noting that not all of these rooms were created equal!
The more expensive rooms are ‘art rooms’. These are the rooms that have been uniquely designed and crafted by an artist who applied and lobbied for the opportunity to do so. The cheaper standard ‘cold rooms’ are still beautiful, but they all look the same – there is no element of unique design. If one of the ‘art rooms’ is what you are after, it is also worth noting that you can request to stay in a specific room, however these requests cannot always be honoured.
I spent hours going from room to room and though each one was unique and undeniably special, I definitely found myself with a few favourites.
The first of my favourites was ‘Audience’ by Edith van de Wetering and Wilfred Stilger. As much as I loved this room, I am glad I didn’t sleep in it. Talk about a creepy sight to wake up to!
I also really enjoyed ‘Infinitlove’ by Joao Mota and Volker Schnuttgen, as the beds in this room were definitely some of the prettiest.
‘Cat’s Cradle La Petite Mort’ by Sonia Chow and Huschang Pourian was another one that held a seriously gorgeous bed.
As for ‘White Cathedral’ by Fernand Manzi and Nicolas Triboulot, I mean look at that detailing, it’s gorgeous!
I ended up staying in ‘Lapland Waves’ by Luca Roncoroni, but I’ll come back to that in more detail later.
Separately constructed from the original Ice Hotel, the Ice Hotel 360 is a very new part of the hotel, one which is designed to remain open all year round. This is achieved by not constructing the building with ice, instead only the rooms (and Ice Bar) inside are made of ice. This may not sound like it is something that would work, but it definitely does. Inside the building is kept at around -5 to -8 degrees all year round, even during the warmth of a Swedish summer.
This part of the Ice Hotel has fewer rooms, and for those looking to splurge, also has suites with private bathroom facilities – something that none of the other cold rooms have.
After checking out these rooms, I found myself with a few more favourites!
If you like the idea of sleeping in the ocean, then ‘Hydro Smack’ by Julia Gamborg Nielsen and Lotta Lampa would be the perfect room for you.
‘Dancers in the Dark’ by Tjasa Gusfors and Patrick Dallard is the only room in the hotel which also features music.
‘Living With Angels’ by Benny Ekman is kinda creepy, but in a strangely nice way.
Honestly though, ‘Pillowbar’ by Edith van de Wetering and Wilfred Stilger (the same artists who created ‘Audience’) was my absolute favourite room in the entire hotel. I mean, what a fricking cool idea! A bar for people who want to sleep; sounds like my kinda place! Not only was the concept brilliant, but the execution was flawless. I bloody loved it.
By the time I was done exploring the rooms, 3pm rolled around and my lack of sleep started to catch up with me. I ended up having a nap in my little private dressing room area (not a proud moment, believe me) due to such serious exhaustion.
I woke up at around 5.30pm, and it was a good thing I woke up! Soon it would be time to go snowmobiling and after that, I would find out what it was really like to sleep on ice.
Trust me when I say that you really won’t believe what happened next. Stay tuned travellers!
Getting to Kiruna: SAS airlines have regular flights (1-2 times daily) between Stockholm and Kiruna
Getting out of the Airport: Contact the Ice Hotel in advance to organise a transfer
Ice Hotel: The hotel provides both ‘cold’ and ‘warm’ accommodation starting at around $360/night AUD – click here to learn more
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Threads: You will need to pack Arctic appropriate gear – click here to learn more
Remember: Book in advance, it is not unusual for the cold rooms to book up weeks (and even months) early
Disclaimer: My stay at the Ice Hotel was provided FOC by the hotel and its management, however, all thoughts and opinions expressed on this blog are unbiased and in no way influenced by the Ice Hotel, its management or its affiliates.