This Swedish Hotel Only Exists for Five Months Out of the Year Before Melting Away

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP / Getty Images
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP / Getty Images

Located 200 km above the Arctic Circle is the small Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi. It’s one of the more isolated settlements in the country – and also the most visited. This is due to it being home to one of the most unique tourist spots in Scandinavia: the world’s first ice hotel. Only open from December to April each year, the Icehotel is a must-visit for those looking to make their next getaway a little more special.

The Icehotel is rebuilt each year

One of the Seven Wonders of Sweden, the Icehotel traces its history back to 1989-90. It’s constructed entirely of ice and snow taken from the nearby Torne River and is built in sections, meaning work often continues long after the attraction opens to the public each December.

Chairs made from ice positioned below a chandelier
Icehotel, 2007. (Photo Credit: Thomas SAMSON / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images)
Room with a table made from ice positioned in the middle and a unicorn statue in the distance
Main Hall of the Icehotel, 2014. (Photo Credit: Lars Thulin / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

When the time comes to design and prepare the next iteration of the Icehotel, artists from across the world are invited to submit applications, from which a jury picks 50. Along with rooms and suites, a main hall, church, and a bar are also constructed fully from ice. Each is complete with a design all its own – no two rooms look the same.

Are you expected to sleep in the cold the entire time?

While the appeal of the Icehotel is getting to stay in a room completely made from ice, it’s recommended guests not limit their stays to just this one type of accommodation. While it would definitely be something to write home about, the rooms stay around -5 and -7 degrees Celsius. The suggestion is to book an ice room only for your first or last night’s stay.

Light-up art above a hotel bed
Icehotel, 2002. (Photo Credit: Peter Grant / Getty Images)
Woman's face carved into a wall of snow
Icehotel, 2005. (Photo Credit: Stephan Herz / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.5)

The remainder of one’s trip can be spent in what have been dubbed the “warm buildings.” Within walking distance of each other, these include heated hotel rooms and cabins, a restaurant, a main reception hall, and a lounge. This way, guests can still enjoy the beauty of the Arctic – they just won’t freeze.

Two rows of ice sculptures
Main Hall of the Icehotel, 2008. (Photo Credit: Laplandish / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Exterior of the chapel at the Icehotel
Chapel at the Icehotel, 2005. (Photo Credit: David LEFRANC / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images)

For the one night guests do spend in their ice room, they’re met with a uniquely-decorated space that’ll instantly take their frozen breath away. Along with art pieces, rooms include a bed frame made from ice, complete with a slatted bed base, mattress, reindeer skins, and pillows. Heavy-duty sleeping bags are also provided to ensure everyone remains warm.

A gorgeous place to get married

As aforementioned, each year, a church is constructed alongside the Icehotel. Operated in cooperation with the Swedish Church and the local parish in Jukkasjärvi, the site is consecrated each Christmas with a service, after which it runs as a regular church until the weather starts to warm.

Interior of the church at the Icehotel
Church located near the Icehotel, 2007. (Photo Credit: bjaglin / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)
Snow sculpture hanging over a bed
Icehotel, 2018. (Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket / Getty Images)

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Throughout the approximately five months the Icehotel is in operation, it’s estimated that around 140 couples get married at the church, where wedding nights are often accented by the stunning aurora borealis. As well, both local families and tourists bring their newborn children to the location to get baptized – a unique and memorable event for everyone involved.