Imagine sleeping in your freezer at home. That would be warmer than staying in Sweden’s Ice Hotel.
Sweden’s Ice Hotel is completely made of ice that melts back into the river at the end of winter. The hotel is a one-of-a-kind destination located in the remote village of Jukkasjärvi, roughly 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Each year the hotel is made from ice taken from the nearby Torne River. Artists compete for 40 spots to design a room at the hotel which opens in mid-December. This was an amazing experience for me as well as the rest of the time I spent in Swedish Lapland.
Ice Hotel Highlights
- Sleeping in a hotel completely made of ice
- Dogsled from Kiruna airport to the ice hotel
- Seeing the Arora Borealis, the Northern lights (Although I saw them in Abisko not at the Ice Hotel)
- Experience the extreme arctic weather conditions
The Ice Hotel
The Ice Hotel was first built in 1989 and has evolved into a unique concept famous around the world. Every spring applicants put forward their designs and 15 to 20 are chosen to come to Jukkasjarvi to turn them into real life pieces of ice art. Judges select the winning artists and ensure there’s diversity and representation of different sexes, countries, ages and experiences. Interestingly, some of the winning designers may have never seen snow before. Huge blocks of ice are stored from winter to begin construction on the hotel the following winter. Once the foundations and rooms are built the artists work with ice sculptors to design the rooms over a six-week period.
When making a booking, the Ice Hotel recommends you stay only one of your nights in the ice room and the remaining in the warm hotel. The warm hotel is located next to the Ice Hotel and costs approximately (SEK2500 US$240) per night.
Staying at the Ice Hotel
Booking a stay at the Ice Hotel as well as activities and restaurant bookings is easily done on their website and you can pay extra for a flexible cancellation option. The Ice Hotel provides you with winter gear like gloves, hats, boots and snowsuits at no extra cost.
The Ice Hotel has art suites on one wing and three wings of standard rooms and a chapel in the middle. All made of ice of course. The hotel is open to visitors until 6pm so you can’t check into your room before then, however you can have a look at the other rooms as the hotel entrance fee (SEK350 US$34) is included in your nightly stay. Even after seeing the art suites and deluxe suites the standard rooms are still impressive.
Before going to sleep you pick up your sleeping bag which is designed for temperatures down to -25C. There are limitations as to the type of mattress that can be used in icy temperatures so it’s not the most comfortable you’ll every sleep on and neither is the pillow but I still had a good sleep.
There is a light switch next to the bed and although there’s just a curtain without a door the room is surprisingly quiet. There aren’t any toilets in the hotel so you need to walk out of the hotel and into the reception area.
Check out is at 830 am and you’re provided with a locker to put your luggage into which you can use as well as the showers, sauna and toilets until 1130am.
The 365 Ice Hotel
You can still experience some parts of the ice hotel in summer. Next to the winter Ice Hotel there is a permanent structure open all year round which has an ice bar and some deluxe ice suites. Known as the Ice Hotel 365 the temperature is maintained a -5c.
Getting to the Ice Hotel
The ice Hotel offers two transfer options from Kiruna airport, either a bus/taxi or a dogsled. The bus/taxi option costs SEK275 (US$27) and take 15 minutes, the dogsled costs 7225SEK (US$690) and takes 75 minutes.
I chose to do the dogsled transfer from Kiruna airport and it was incredible. The excitement of arriving in the arctic circle is then amplified by walking out of the tiny airport to your awaiting huskies. The views are picturesque and if you’re in Lapland you should do a dogsled anyway. It’s expensive but the price is per sled so if you’re in a group it becomes cheaper per person, almost the same price as a normal dogsled tour. Some people might not like the idea of using dogs for transport, but I can say for sure that the dogs loved working and got restless whenever they stopped. The trip takes 75 minutes and each sled costs 7225 SEK (US$690) which can hold 4 people. Snow suits, gloves, hats and boots are provided.
Drive yourself to the Ice Hotel
Visitors can drive, take a bus or taxi to the Ice Hotel. The day access costs SEK350 (US$34) which allows you to visit between 10am to 6pm. The day visit ticket can’t be booked in advance, so you’ll have to buy it when you arrive. Parking is free but limited spaces are available, there are other parking options close by.
There is a public bus which runs from Kiruna to Jukkasjärvi but there are limited times available. You can see the latest timetable in the resource section at the end of this post.
Taxis’s can be arranged from Kiruna and cost approximately SEK500 (US$49). Getting a taxi back from the Ice Hotel to Kiruna can be difficult so either arrange a return taxi before leaving Kiruna or come back on the bus. The Ice Hotel may be able to arrange a taxi for you to take you to Kiruna.
There’s plenty of companies offering day trips to the Ice Hotel. Prices will vary depending on the pickup location. From Abisko (1.5 hour drive) tours are approximately SEK1700 (US$163) and last 5 hours. From Kiruna tours also include a visit to the Nutti Sámi Siida Sami Camp and cost SEK2100 ($US200).
Eat & Drink at the Ice Hotel
A buffet breakfast is included when staying at the Ice Hotel weather you’re staying in the ice room or warm room.
There is a warm bar and restaurant onsite and The Old Homestead is another option 15 minutes away. Prices at both restaurants are similar to other parts of Sweden.
Our first night was Christmas evening so there was a set menu for the evening and was one of the best meals I had in Sweden.
The bar is warm and a good spot to meet other people. Other than that, there isn’t any nightlife. If you’re looking to find anything it’s best to ask one of the staff. Sometimes people head into Kiruna but it’s difficult to get there and back as the only option is a taxi.
Jukkasjarvi “meeting place by the water” is a tiny town with a few streets, a church, a Sami museum and a couple of hotels but its main attraction is the Ice Hotel. The town is surrounded by a lake which freezes during winter so you can walk across it.
I recommend the ice sculpting tour because they also tell you about the history of the hotel, how it’s made and can answer any questions you have. Our guide also worked on the construction of the hotel and helped build one of the rooms so she was very knowledgeable. The tour lasts 70 minutes and you’re given a block of ice and some chisels to create whatever you like. I tried to make a Moai head from Easter Island but it didn’t really look like that in the end. Some of the others were amazing. The tour is booked at reception or online and costs SEK895 (US$89).
Nutti Sami Siida
The Sami museum and café is a 15 minute walk from the hotel at the end of the town next to the lake. The museum and café are open all year round and you can learn about Sami culture, meet some reindeer and stay warm by their fireplace. They also have a gift shop and offer tours which you can find in the resource section below.
Raidu – Encounter with Reindeer
This tour is offered by Nutti Sami Siida so you can book directly with them or through the Ice Hotel. I had high expectations for this tour especially due to the price (2900 SEK, US$280). The tour markets itself as a local indigenous company offering a look into Sami life. The tour includes a snowmobile ride through the forest to a reindeer lodge. You’ll see the reindeer and if you want to you can be pulled around a track by a reindeer while you’re on a sled. Afterwards there’s a Sami bbq where you’ll eat reindeer cooked in a lavvu tent before the snowmobile sled will take you back to the hotel.
Both of the guides were really nice but there wasn’t much information about Sami culture. The reindeer lodge visit seemed too much like a zoo, the reindeer were on leads and you walk them around while feeding them. The reindeers didn’t seem to like pulling people around on a sled. I’d recommended looking for a different Sami tour while in Lapland. Also, the tour starts at 130pm shortly before it gets dark in winter.
There are various tours available in Lapland which you can do from the Ice Hotel like Northern Lights tours, snowmobile tours, wildlife tours, ice fishing among others. However, I did the tours while staying an hour away in Abisko becuase there were more options, slightly cheaper and less travel time required for most of the tour. There is also a much higher chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Abisko than near the Ice Hotel.
Expensive, but worth It
Overall I thought it was a fantastic experience that is unique and completely different to what most of us are used to. Yes, it’s expensive but, it’s in northern Sweden, it’s made from ice, it’s designed by artists and it’s built from zero every year so it’s definitely not going to be cheap. If you can spend a night there you’ll love it but if you’re on a tighter budget take the bus over from Kiruna and spend a day at the hotel and seeing Jukkasjarvi.
Still Not Enough Snow For you?
There is a lot of snow in the Arctic Circle but I was surprised to see a lot more snow when I travelled to Japan shortly after leaving the Arctic. Japan’s Hokkaido Island is much further away from the north pole than the Ice Hotel but receives a lot more snow. You can read about the heavy snow and where to snowboard and ski in my post about Niseko on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.
Travel Resources for Visiting Sweden’s Ice Hotel
Ice Hotel – The official website of the Ice Hotel.
Bus Timetable – Bus line 501 goes to the Ice Hotel.
Nutti Sami Siida – Sami adventures and tours around Jukkasjarvi.
Viator – Huge selection of activities, tours and experiences with great cancellation and price match policies.
Get Your Guide – Great selection of experiences from sea, land and air.
SkyScanner – The best place to start looking for flights. They compare prices from a huge amount of airlines.
Hostelworld – Thousands of hostels with millions of reviews. You can also contact other travelers before you arrive.
Travel Insurance – None of us plan to fall off motorbikes or break a leg snowboarding but if it happens make sure you’re covered.
Booking.com – One of the best accommodation booking pages available. This is my benchmark before searching for a better deal (which often can’t be beaten).
AirBnB – Huge range of home to rent across the globe and discounts for longer stays.
RentalCars.com – The best site for renting cars while travelling, they find the best rates and provide great insurance options.