Icehotel – Kiruna, Sweden - Atlas Obscura

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The world's first ice hotel is still one of the most elaborate and beautiful. 


200 kilometers above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, about 17 kilometres from Kiruna, is a little village of Jukkasjarvi where dogs nearly outnumber the humans, but for a few months each year it becomes host to the world’s original “ice hotel,” which has been melting and being rebuilt since 1990.

The 5,500 square meter Icehotel is rebuilt each year with snow, ice, and “snice,” a mixture of snow and ice that helps hold the whole place together like mortar. All of the frozen materials for the structures are taken from the waters of the nearby Torne River around December, and then the buildings return to the waterway when the site melts around April. The exact number of rooms varies from year to year but generally hovers around 65, with each chamber being a unique space designed by a visiting artist. Artists from all over the word vie annually for the opportunity to be among the year’s list of artisans invited to put their unique vision and skills to work in designing and decorating one of the rooms. It is art at once beautiful, practical, and as fleeting as a flake of snow.

The destination is also popular among newlyweds who can tie the knot in the adjacent Ice Chapel, and then stay afterward to take advantage of the beauty of the hotel’s bridal suite.

In addition to the artist designed rooms, the common spaces feature ice chandeliers, and crystal clear furnishings, with running fountains, tinkling ornamentation, statuary both peaceful and fierce, all crafted entirely of ice and snow. The original Icehotel is, well, pretty cool. 

Know Before You Go

The hotel exists between December and Mid April, and is accessible by car, taxi, or shuttle service from Kiruna airport.

The Icehotel site can be visited all year round, including a guided tour of the freezer warehouses used to store ice sculptures.

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