Updated: Sep 12
‘’Jukkasjärvi? What the hell is that?’’ I am sure that is the first thought of many that hears that name for the first time. So, let’s clear that up right away, shall we? It is a very small village in Sweden. It lies 200km north of the polar circle and belongs to the Swedish part of Lapland. This village was put on the map 30 years ago and year after year thousands of tourists’ flock to this tiny location, and some save up a long time only to be able to afford coming here for a few nights. Why you might ask, would so many people flock to a village so far away from everything? Well, because of the world-famous hotel of course. Perhaps you’ve heard about it by fellow travellers, seen it on TV in a series featuring amazing hotels or read about it in a Magazine?
Author and Food Travel Writer: Nathalie Segelborg, A Piece of My Pie
30 years ago, the first ever hotel completely made from Ice and Snow was made right there in Jukkasjärvi, and every year since they have built up a new seasonal structure, using snow and Ice that comes from the river that flows right outside the hotel. This year, 2019, marks the 30th anniversary of the original ICEHOTEL which makes this year very special for the company, so I thought I would give it the attention it deserves and give you not only 1 – but 10 reasons to why you should visit this arctic destination and see the magic for yourself.
#1 Art Suites | Seasonal ICE HOTEL
Between December and April you are able to witness the outstanding hotel made entirely out of Ice and Snow. Each Art Suite is uniquely made by a different Artist and each year new artists arrive and new dreams and ideas are brought to life. What I found out during a guided tour around the area was that ANYONE can apply to make a room. You have to have a unique Idea and if you are among the chosen few you have to be able to come to Jukkasjärvi and make the room yourself, but besides that tiny detail, Anyone is allowed to apply! During the day the Hotel serves as a Museum for visitors from all around the world that perhaps doesn’t have the bravery to spend the night in a room for themselves. After 18.00 the guests who are brave enough can check in and it closes for the public. I feel like if you’ve come all this way, you should go the extra mile and spend a night in one of these breathtaking rooms.
Ice Art at ICE HOTEL, Jukkasjärvi in Sweden
I bet that some of you are shaking your head at this, or at least are very sceptic to this idea, I know I was! But I am here to tell you that it’s not as bad as it sounds, I spent a night in one of the suites and survived so I’m talking from experience here! You will sleep on a proper bed and on the bed there is a reindeer skin that helps to keep you warm, and on top of that there is a sheet. You will be assigned a pillow and a sleeping bag (available as single or doubles for couples).
All your belongings will be put in either a private cubicle or in a locker (depending on what room you’ve paid for) and you will change into thermal underwear, dry thick socks and a hat. They advise you to leave everything but yourself and your shoes in the locker rooms, but I brought my phone with me so that I was able to take a few sneaky photos before we went to bed.
I kept my phone in our sleeping bag, it is not ideal but it survived. Do so at your own risk though, it was very cold when we woke up and the cold drained the battery, Haha!
As for the sleeping part, I slept together with my boyfriend in a double sleeping bag. we both had thermals, dry socks and a beanie on our heads and we slept like babies! They warned us that the couples sleeping bag was the colder option due to the larger opening in the bag so if you get cold easily I would recommend choosing the single.
During the morning they have a person who walks around and wakes everyone up and you can schedule a wake-up visit to suit your own travel plans, so there is no need for a phone alarm. She opened the door and said Good morning, asked if she could turn on the light and then offered us hot lingonberry juice. In the changing area there are both showers and a Sauna which you have access to for free when you stay in a cold room, that means that you can defrost and have a hot shower before having breakfast in the restaurant! For my tropical friends that perhaps have never needed a thermal before, there are ‘’sleeping kits’’ available for purchase with proper wool socks and everything you need to stay as warm as possible during the night!
#2 ICEHOTEL Restaurant
The Restaurant is located across the road from the Hotel & the cottages and are open for Breakfast, Lunch & dinner. The breakfast is included when you’re staying at the Hotel and is the perfect start to your day with plenty of healthy options and various Muesli and toppings for your Morning Breakkie bowl. As for the Lunch, it is standard Swedish lunch most of the time and not anything special at all, so I would suggest venturing in to Kiruna for lunch and come back for Dinner! I would suggest making a reservation for dinner in the Reception if you want to guarantee that you get a table as the restaurant fills up quite fast during peak season. The dinner Menu last year was spectacular and I can only hope they are doing something equally good for the 30th anniversary!
In their main restaurant you are able to choose between a Single course, a 2 course, or a 3 course meal with amazing alternatives in each category or you can try their 5 course ICE MENU where 4 courses are served directly on Torne river ice, the same Ice that helps build the Ice hotel each year.
If you want to splurge a bit more, they have a 12-course tasting Menu at the ‘’Veranda’’ which is the more exclusive alternative which only seats 13 at a time. It’s a chef’s table alternative where all the guests sit in a horseshoe formation while the Chefs prepare the food In front of you while they talk about the origin of the produce and about the History of the ICEHOTEL.
#3 Icebar | Icehotel 365
As if a hotel made from Ice wasn’t extraordinary enough, they had to take it a step further and create a bar entirely out of Ice and Snow. The bar used to be part of the seasonal hotel and built up each year like the rest of the hotel but the creators of ICEHOTEL wanted to make it accessible for people like you and me 365 days a year so they built 20 suites + the Icebar inside and named it ICEHOTEL 365. Here you can admire Ice sculptures while sipping a drink out of an Ice glass or try out ice sculpting yourself. You’re also welcome to sit down and chill out on one of the reindeer skins while listening to some tunes. During the day these rooms serves as a Museum as well. Inside this part of the hotel it is -5* year-round and this is possible thanks to the perfect climate conditions outside. During winter there is no need to cool it down further as outside temperatures can go down below -30 and during the summer it keeps cold with some help from the midnight sun. There are over 800m2 of solar panels on top of the Ice production roof which absorbs light 24/7 during peak summer. HOW CLEVER IS THAT?! When I first heard this, I couldn’t stop thinking of what a perfect location they have stumbled upon.
#4 Dog sledding
Here at the Icehotel they offer dogsledding! If you’re like me and saw "Snowdogs" too many times as a child, it is probably also been a dream of yours to go dogsledding! You can choose between different packages to fit your budget, but if you want to splurge a bit – You can get picked up at the airport and driven to the ICEHOTEL in style via dog sledding!
#5 Northern Lights
I feel like you cannot say that you have lived your life to the fullest if you die without seeing one of the most breathtaking natural phenomena’s that I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.
I think I will just let the pictures speak for themselves here, there is not much that can be said about the Aurora borealis that the pictures doesn’t already tell.
One thing I can say is that the photos doesn’t even begin to do the actual show justice.
#6 Snow mobile tour
You can’t go to the ICEHOTEl without joining one of their snow mobile tours! They have different tours to fit your specific need for adventure, but my favourite is by far the Northern lights tour! It’s a roughly 4-hour long trip that takes your through the wilderness to a little cabin where the guide cooks you a very yummy (and hot) meal! After driving a snowmobile out in the cold – this might feel like the best meal you’ve had all day. You will stop on various locations and search for the northern lights. BUT even if you don’t see it, the night sky is breathtaking with countless amounts of stars on a clear night.
Keep in mind that even If this tour is called ‘’Northern lights tour’’, the aurora lights are a natural phenomenon and can’t be controlled by us humans, meaning that there is never a 100% guarantee that you will see it.
#7 Saami Museum – Scandinavias indigenous people
Nearby the ICEHOTEL is the Nutti Sámi Siida, a Sámi tourism company that organises natural and cultural experiences for visitors year around based on Sámi culture. Did you know that the Sámi are the Indigenous people of Scandinavia? After living in Australia for 2 years I’ve become more fascinated with my own roots and my own country and our history, so for me it meant a huge deal to be able to come here and learn about the Sámi culture, a whole culture within my own country that I barely knew anything about.
To enter the Saami Museum you have to pay a small fee. But then you are able to read and learn about Sámi history, witness reconstructed Sámi camps, try to catch a wooden reindeer statue with a lasso (and realizing how hard it is) and encounter REAL reindeers.
#8 Feed & Pet reindeers!
You can walk into the pen where the reindeers are held in the Saami Museum and get up close and personal with them. For a very small additional cost you can buy a bag of reindeer-food and all of a sudden, you’re their best friend! I would recommend that you go the extra mile and buy the bag of food for 40SEK (4 Euros), it’s worth it.
If reading about the Saami culture, seeing and perhaps even feeding the reindeers isn’t enough for you then you can book yourself on a Raidu! Which translates to ‘’Encounter with reindeer’’.
On the Raidu you will experience traditional Sámi lifestyle and enjoy an even closer and more exclusive encounter with the reindeers. You can help train, feed and race with the reindeer while learning how important the reindeers are and have been throughout the Sámi history. You will also be able to eat the traditional Sámi dish ‘’souvas’’ (smoked reindeer meat) whilst relaxing around the fireplace in a lávvu-tent.
My favourite part about the Raidu is when they put sleds behind the reindeers and let you race with them! It’s thrilling and super exciting and don’t worry if you fall off, the fresh powder snow will catch you! Haha!
#10 Lounge Bar
Even if most of the exiting things happen outside or in minus degrees weather, we all need someplace warm and relaxing to come back to at the end of the day. The lounge bar connected to the main lobby is the ideal place for this!
Whether you’re just after a cup of coffee or tea or if you’re after some refreshing alcoholic beverage this place will meet your needs. It’s very cozy with an open fire that burns throughout the whole day. My personal favourite out of the drink selection is the hot chocolate that truly warms you up from the inside, and if you’re in the mood to spice things up you can add a shot of Baileys, Yum!
But the reason why I put this as reason 10 isn’t because of a hot chocolate. They also have a selection of Cocktails at the lounge bar where they have taken the traditional Cocktails and added a winter Twist. How about a warm Mojito served hot? Or perhaps a Cloudberry Caipirinha? My personal favourite is the Arctic Raspberry Bomb, a perfect combination between sweet & sour made with a Bramble Vodka.
Another favourite of mine if I had just come back from a cold winter adventure would be the Apple Crush, another warm Cocktail that reminded me of Apple Pie, Yum! Before coming to the ICEHOTEL I had never seen, or even heard of warm Cocktails before and I will admit that I was a tad bit sceptic, but after trying them out for myself I hope I will see this concept appear on other drink lists around the world, especially on cold destinations!
Thanks for reading about Jukkasjärvi and Ice Hotel!
Author and Food Travel Writer Nathalie Segelborg from Sweden blog about Food and Travel on this site, but she also has her own blog where she not only talks about travel, but also combine the subject with another one dear to her heart, Mental health! Check out apieceofmypie.com and follow on Instagram.
Guide to ICE HOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
This Guide to famous and original ICE HOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden with things to do, food and activities like dog sledging, Sami Culture Museum and Aurora Borealis. ICE HOTEL itinerary here.