The ICEHOTEL: Sweden’s Frozen Architectural Masterpiece

For more than 30 years, in the depths of winter, artists, architects, and engineers from all over the world have journeyed to the small village of Jukkasjärvi to redesign a hotel made entirely of snow and ice — the ICEHOTEL.

Named for its location as a “meeting place by the water,” Jukkasjärvi sits north of the Arctic Circle, surrounded by nearly 6,000 lakes and six large rivers. Every November, about 2,500 ice blocks, each weighing close to two tons, are harvested from the Torne River to construct a brand-new ice hotel.

Ideas for suite designs and art installations are open to everyone. Since ICEHOTEL has a dedicated construction team, entrants don’t need to be a sculptor or an architect to participate. While only 15 to 20 designers will see their concepts come to life, ICEHOTEL says it’s a challenge that inspires people to re-enter year after year.

“We appreciate each hotel in its own way, but at the same time, knowing that you can try out a new idea next year is very liberating — it has an interesting effect on creativity,” says ICEHOTEL’s Creative Director Luca Roncoroni.

Sleeping on Ice

Photo Credit: Asaf Kliger / ICEHOTEL

Each year, about 70,000 guests check in to ICEHOTEL. While some guests prefer to stay in a cozy cabin on the property, most arrive to experience a night on the ice. But before spending the night in one of these uniquely designed suites made of snow and ice, each guest must go through a “survival course.”

Guests are taught how to dress appropriately and make their beds with an Arctic sleeping bag. While Arctic sleeping bags are made to withstand temperatures up to -13° F, the temperature inside each suite will never drop below -5° F. After a night on the ice, guests awake to a warm cup of lingonberry juice in bed.

“Many of our guests have neither slept in a sub-zero hotel, nor in a sleeping bag before, so some of them are slightly nervous before it’s time to go to bed. But they usually wake up in the morning, pleasantly surprised of how good they slept in the crispy air,” says Jenny Anderson of Guest Services.

While only the deluxe suites have storage and plumbing, there is a separate building adjacent to the ICEHOTEL with storage, bathrooms, a sauna, and a relaxation area accompanied by a fireplace. The building is exclusively for guests of the ICEHOTEL and is staffed 24 hours a day. Guests can also enjoy the ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL, where they can order their favorite drink in a glass made of ice.

The Birth of the World’s First Ice Hotel

Photo Credit: Asaf Kliger / ICEHOTEL

ICEHOTEL’s history dates back to 1989 when founder Yngve Bergqvist visited Jukkasjärvi to enjoy some skiing. During his visit, he noticed that the winters were long and cold with no appeal to locals, let alone tourists.

“When I started to wonder how we could develop Jukkasjärvi for the winter season I was told it is too dreadful, cold and dark in northern Sweden during the winter,” says Bergqvist. “I wanted to turn that around and create something positive out of the cold and show there is so much light amidst the dark – the northern lights and the shiny white snow.”

Inspired by the traditional Japanese art of ice sculpting and aided by two expert ice sculptors from Japan, Bergqvis invited artists from around the world to attend a workshop. Jukkasjärvi saw its first ice sculpture, an igloo constructed on the frozen Torne River the following winter. The igloo would become known as ARTic Hall, an art gallery, and later a meeting place for church services and film showings.

One night, guests of the ARTic Hall asked if they could stay overnight. They had arrived with reindeer skins and sleeping bags. When guests awoke captivated by the experience, the concept of ICEHOTEL was born.

Adventures in the Snow and Ice

Photo Credit: Markus Alatalo / ICEHOTEL

The ICEHOTEL offers much more than just a night on the ice. No matter the season, there are plenty of unique outdoor adventures to experience in and around Jukkasjärvi.

From winter to early spring, November to April, guests can go on a Northern Lights snowmobile safari, reindeer sleigh excursion, dog sledding adventure, cross-country skiing tour, horseback moose safari, ice fishing excursion, take ice sculpting lessons, or even have a three-course dinner in the winter wilderness.

During late spring through summer, from May to October, guests can enjoy guided boat tours of the Torne River, fishing tours, mountain hikes, river rafting, meet reindeer, or enjoy a Northern Lights dinner in the wilderness.

Where Creativity Meets Winter Wilderness

Photo Credit: Asaf Kliger / ICEHOTEL

The ICEHOTEL is a testament to human ingenuity and nature’s ever-changing beauty. Each meticulously sculpted room offers a serene yet invigorating experience, where the crisp air sharpens the senses and the tranquility of ice provides a peaceful escape.

It’s more than a hotel; it’s a unique experience that merges art, nature, and the spirit of the Arctic into an adventure that stays in the memory after the ice has melted.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.