It all started with Art.
The story goes something like this. In the late 80’s, Japanese ice artists visited northern Sweden, an area known as ‘no man’s land’ at the foot of the Arctic Circle. It was there they created an exhibition of ice art. A year later, French artist Jannot Derid held his own exhibition in a nearby igloo. One night, there were no rooms available in town so visitors asked for permission to spend the night in the exhibition hall. They slept in sleeping bags on top of reindeer skin. Voila! The first guests of the Icehotel (c) had unofficially checked in.
Located in Jukkasjärvi, a town in Swedish Lapland (northern Sweden), there are only 541 permanent residents year round, the majority of whom are Sami, a nomadic Nordic people that live in the area stretching from northern Norway to the Kola peninsula in Russia with a fascinating culture based on animistic beliefs where everything from animals to minerals have a soul. They have 400 words for reindeer alone. Pushed north by the Vikings, they are one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world settling the Scandinavian Peninsula over 4000 years ago.
Since its creation, the Icehotel (c) has seen numerous guests. New ice art, and the rooms themselves, are created by visiting artists from around the world. Yes, the entire hotel is made out of ice blocks taken from the Torne River. The best part? When the weather warms, the hotel begins to disappear… melting right back into the environment from which it’s sprung. With more than 80 rooms and suites, bar, reception, and even a church (in case you want to get hitched in the Arctic Circle), guests can expect to pay about 1,400 Swedish Krona (@ $196 US dollars/night). Keep in mind, the hotel only exists between December and April.
The only building not made of ice is the amazing restaurant which serves up cuisine fresh from the fells, forests and marshes north of The Circle. Think venison, ptarmigan (a medium-sized game bird), wood grouse, reindeer, salmon, whiting, grayling and arctic char. Desserts are prepared from the wild cloudberries, blueberries, lingonberries and arctic bramble that thrive in the nearby marshes and moors. In addition to the local fare, the hotel offers excursions such as dogsledding and snow safaris.
So if the ancient Sami, safari sledding, cloudberries, and ice rooms that promise to make you feel as if you’ve stepped into the hands of time aren’t Jaunt worthy enough for you… forget ever living up to the likes of Bond.
Stay home and eat a pot pie, as far as I’m concerned.
I’ll be Laplanding it Up.