Sunday, January 08, 2012

Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi - Part Two

It's been almost a week since I visited the Ice Hotel, but part two is finally here. I almost don't know what to say. It was an incredible experience to visit the Ice Hotel and to see and experience this in-person. The pictures are beautiful but they just doesn't capture how it feels to stand in the hotel and witness the beauty of the ice, snow and lights.

I have always loved snow culture, and been infatuated with "northern" things like snow, icebergs, etc. I remember wanting to visit the Arctic Circle when I was a kid, loving the Lawren Harris paintings of the north, wanting to take a trip to Alaska to see the icebergs or go to Greenland, Iceland or Norway to see the fjords. At some point my interest in/fascination with Norway morphed to Sweden, possibly because I was attracted to the art of Carl Larsson, started reading a lot of Swedish fiction (Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Henning Mankell, Helene Tursten, Camilla Läckberg, Åsa Larsson and Stieg Larsson) and my interest tvåändsstickning (two-ended or twined) knitting. My interest in Sweden grew, so to come to Sweden was a dream come true. I knew that if I didn't visit the Ice Hotel while I was in Sweden, I would kick my own arse, so I made decided to visit for one day.

The Ice Hotel has a large reception area, a bar and lounge area, a chapel, and cold accommodation - all built of snow and ice. There is also more traditional hotel environments, including warm accommodation in chalets. The cold accommodation is more expensive than warm accommodation, and is an experience. There are different types of rooms - art rooms designed by different artists, featuring a unique bed and other furniture and decor; ice rooms featuring a large bed, two arm chairs and a small table and sculpture; and snow rooms featuring a large bed that could sleep probably four people. The rooms are accessed behind the reception area, and there are about six corridors that lead off from the great hall. The rooms are along the corridors, and each room has only a reindeer skin curtain as a door. Guests in the cold accommodation leave all their valuables and whatnot in a warm dressing room, and sleep in a thermal sleeping bag on a reindeer skin. The rooms are kept at -5 degrees Celsius. The rooms are available to be viewed by the public between 10 am and 6 pm daily, so you don't get to hang out for a long time in the rooms...but I am not sure you would want to! The rooms are cold and the beds look hard! I also found that smell of the reindeer skins pretty overpowering, even at -5.

I had a lovely room in a warm chalet, a blissful 23 degrees with all the amenities. I'm glad the cold accommodation wasn't available for the time period I booked, because I probably would have stayed in an ice room if I could but I probably had a better experience staying in a warm room! I am the person who sleeps with 4 blankets, including one heating blanket cranked to the maximum...let's be honest -- I would have been miserable in an ice room!

The ice hotel itself is stunning, and it is an incredible experience. I only stayed a day but if I had stayed longer, I could have signed up for some of the many activities that they organize, like dog sledding, snowmobile rides or ice sculpting. I had hoped to be able to take the Northern Lights tour but it was too hazy to see the norther lights the day I was there.

The other thing about going to the Ice Hotel is that you are about 145 km north of the Arctic Circle, which means in the winter there is a month when the sun never rises. When I was there, the "sun" "rose" from about 11:30 to 12:30 each day. I say "sun" and "rose" because you never actually see the sun rise, the day is just lighter than pitch black. It's quite disconcerting to be doing day things in the pitch black. It was totally fine for one day, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about much longer!

The Ice Hotel is located in the small town of Jukkasjärvi, which is about 17 km away from Kiruna, the airport that you fly into. I took an Ice Hotel bus transfer to get to the hotel (although you can book a private taxi, snowmobile or dog sled!). While I was at the Ice Hotel, I also walked around Jukkasjärvi village a bit, checking out the pretty houses, the Nutti Sámi Siida museum and reindeer camp, and the local church.

It was an awesome experience to visit Jukkasjärvi and the Ice Hotel! I'm not sure I would do it again, but I am so glad I did it this trip! I got to see a different side of Sweden than I saw in Skåne, the southern part of Sweden, where I spent most of my trip.

Ice Hotel Mosiac

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