Exploring Sweden Part 1 – The Original Icehotel

Angela, our Product Manager at Giltedge Incentives, recently travelled to the northernmost county of Sweden with an incentive group. She stayed at the world-famous Icehotel, which is entirely carved out of ice.

Its glistening interiors feature rooms, a bar and even a restaurant. This year-round winter getaway is located in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi in the glacial Kiruna Municipality.

Icehotel

Origins of the Icehotel

The Icehotel hasn’t always been boarding tourists, in fact, it acquired its first visitors quite by chance. Before the long winter became peak season in Jukkasjärvi, tourists mostly visited the region for fishing, rafting and canoe paddling in the summer season.

But the hotel’s founder, Yngve Bergqvist, decided to develop the village of Jukkasjärvi for the winter season. He travelled to Japan for the annual winter festival and inspired by what he saw, Bergqvist invited two ice sculptors back to Sweden to host an art workshop for his town. Blocks of ice were cut out of the Torne River and carved into sculptures.

During this incredible winter of 1989-1990, the Arctic Hall was created – an igloo exhibiting ice artwork.

One day, a group of tourists wanted to stay the night, but all the cabins were booked. Bergqvist suggested that they sleep in the Arctic Hall and they become the first guests of what is known today as the original Icehotel.

Icehotel Design

Framed by glassy lakes, fir trees and reindeer, the Icehotel is a real bucket list experience! Located 200km north of the Arctic Circle, the hotel is set in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi. Each year as the Torne river freezes over, the Icehotel is reborn.

Each November around 40 international artists are invited to bring their innovative room designs to life within 6 weeks. Since its inception, more than 500 artists have contributed to the annual reincarnation of the Icehotel – sculpting the ice into works of art reflecting their artistic visions for the Ice Rooms and the adjacent Ice Bar.

Thanks to a fascinating engineering feat, the hotel can operate year-round using solar panels to keep the building perfectly chilled in both winter and summer.

Art Suites & Ice Rooms

The unique blueprint of the Icehotel is made up of warm and cold sections. The warm section offers year-round accommodation in the comfy Kaamos Rooms as well as the Nordic and Arctic chalets decorated in a classic Scandinavian style. The cold section is for the braver lot; this accommodation is carved entirely out of ice.

Icehotel 365’s deluxe suites boast both warm and cold sections in the same suite. The heated areas contain a bathroom, shower and sauna and are connected to the sleeping room which is – you’ve guessed it – carved out of ice. The beauty of these suites is that they are available all year round using solar technology to preserve the ice.

The art suites are themed ice rooms carved by talented sculptors into interior masterpieces. They are connected to the warm Riverside Lobby with communal saunas and changing rooms. Ice rooms and suites bear temperatures of minus 5 – 8 degrees Celsius. The beds are dressed in reindeer hide and guests rest in thermal sleeping bags. Sounds uncomfortable but it’s remarkably cosy!

We received an orientation tour of the icy side of the hotel and an essential ‘how to sleep cold’ demonstration after which we spent the night surrounded by ice. In the morning, a staff member delivered warm lingonberry juice alongside strong coffee to heat us up after our wintry hibernation.

Ice sculpting competition

The legacy of the Icehotel is, of course, the art of ice sculpting and to this day blocks of ice are taken from the Torne River to be transformed into pieces of art. This tradition is shared with guests in an interactive and fun ice sculpting competition.

The crystal-clear ice blocks are harvested from the river, the same ice used to make the rooms at the hotel. We spent a fun couple of hours of hammering, chiselling, sawing, filing and drilling – each person digging deep to find their inner artist! Some participants were clearly better sculptures than others but we were all were proud of our results.

Angela and her group showing off their art work

The 5 winning sculptures were kept in the freezer and displayed at our dinner venues. It became a fantastic talking point each evening – especially since each sculpture changed shape and form as they progressively melted a little more each day.

Auroras

As we were walking back to our rooms after dinner – the skies opened up and we had an uninterrupted 20-minute spectacular display of the Northern Lights above us. A magical experience that almost seems surreal – the sky literally moves in a constant array of changing light patterns. It really is an impressive natural phenomenon that leaves you in awe of Mother Nature!

Photos don’t do it justice…  it doesn’t capture the scale or movement. It’s something we’ll all cherish in our memory banks forever.

Stay tuned for “Exploring Sweden Part 2” as Angela shares her experiences of dog sledding and other fun group activities with us.

Ready to go?

Winter in Sweden can be a wonderful experience especially if you’re visiting the Icehotel. If you’re ready to secure your next incentive trip to Sweden, get in touch with us and we can start planning it for you.