My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

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After two days of serious articles about the future of Avios and BA Executive Club, I thought we’d do something lighter today!

I visited the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden yesterday and thought you might like to see some pictures and a video.  We didn’t plan to come here but it turned out to be near to where we are staying so we took a trip over.

What most people who have only seen the odd random photo don’t understand is that Icehotel is really three hotels in one.  You have:

the temporary, annual, Icehotel, created from scratch each November by a team of artists – many of whom have not worked in ice before – flown in from around the world (whilst we were there, they were cutting ice blocks from the river behind the hotel to put in storage for this November)

the permanent Icehotel 365, which looks like the temporary Icehotel when you are inside but is actually a standard concrete block building with an exceptionally strong cooling system!

a standard hotel which, in this part of the world, means a collection of simple wooden cabins, very similar to what we are staying in ourselves in Kiruna

You do NOT stay in the Icehotel for your full stay.  It is obviously impractical.  Most people book a cabin for a few nights and then choose to spend a night on the ice, with all of their luggage etc remaining in the cabin or, if it is the first or last night, in storage.

The temporary Icehotel is just a collection of rooms plus a wedding chapel.  Icehotel 365 contains the Icebar and some larger, and arguably more impressive, rooms.  The standard hotel has the usual mix of bars and lounges.

Day visitors are welcome.  The hotels are empty during the day with the rooms left open as guests move across from their cabins in the evening and leave at breakfast.  A family ticket for four to tour both Icehotels was 699 Kr (£60).

(I cannot begin to explain how expensive most things are in Lapland.  The 10-minute taxi ride from the station to our hotel was £30.  All of the hotel activities, eg husky riding, are £500 – £1000 for a family of four for a 3-4 hour trip.  Using the hotel pool costs £90 for the four of us – it is not included in the room rate – because it is technically in the spa.  The shuttle bus ride to the Icehotel, 15 minutes each way, cost over £100 return for the four of us.  And so on.  If you have any concept of the value of money you should leave it at the airport.  The best one was when we found that our hotel charges £20 to sit in the lobby in the evening because you have a decent view through the windows of the Northern Lights should they turn up.)

You need to treat Icehotel as an art gallery rather than a hotel.  And, from that perspective (since it is clearly hopeless as hotel, having no facilities other than blocks of ice to sleep on) it is a huge success.

I made a video of some of the more impressive rooms which you can find below.  Here are some photos (click to enlarge slightly).  This is the central corridor, from which four side corridors contain the rooms:

My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

This is a sea-themed room.  Note the reindeer skins on the bed which cover you at night:

My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

And another room:

My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

This is from a space-themed room:

My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

This room had some casual chairs for guests:

My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

And this one had a travel theme, with the bed in a boat:

My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

The hotel is a popular wedding venue.  This is the chapel built into the hotel this year:

My trip to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

I’m genuinely not sure I’d want to spend a night here.  As a work of art it is fantastic, but as somewhere to stay ….?  The cabins in the main hotel are also low on luxury, but this tends to be the ‘back to nature’ style in this part of the world and we have something similar at our own cabin at our hotel.

For a better view of the hotel, take at look at the video below.  This also includes some shots of Icehotel 365, the all-year hotel next door.  If you can’t see the video below, you will find it on our You Tube page here.  You can also subscribe to our channel via the same link.

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The hotel website is here if you want to find out more.  Kiruna Airport handles 2-3 daily flights from Stockholm from SAS and, depending on season, Norwegian.

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Comments

  1. Yes, these ice hotels are just a gimmick, but people who have paid a lot of money for the “experience” rarely say so! We went to Harbin northeast China for the ice festival and the Shangri-La where we were staying had an ice bar and restaurant extension built each winter. We had booked in the restaurant but my wife took one look at the miserable looking seriously heavily dressed people and baulked. She was very right! The bar was good fun for a short while with glasses made of ice that you throw against the wall after the drink.

  2. How’s the plumbing?

  3. TravellingJake says:

    This looks great but for a much cheaper alternative, try Levi in Finnish Lapland. We booked a whole week there through Inghams ski company on half board with almost daily activities for a lot less than the sky high prices listed here.

    • Mike L says:

      Completely agree, Levi is stunning too

    • @mkcol says:

      Thirded – been twice about 15 & 20 years ago and would happily return.

    • Was thinking that when I read the article. Didn’t remember paying that much for the husky rides or seeing santa.
      Combined it with some skiing but the skiing wasn’t that good, but too flat 🙂

  4. Sadly, I think you have missed a lot of the detail about the Ice Hotel, which I have visited and stayed at 3 times. Yes, you stay one night ‘on the ice’ as you put it – but you are issued with fantastic thermal sleeping bags – large ones – so you are not covered by the reindeer skins, which form a layer between you and the ice. You change in warm, private cloakrooms and then walk through into your room. There are toilets, showers and a sauna in this area so you are not cold when doing any of those things! The ‘Warm Rooms’ in the permanent hotel are very comfortable, with all modern facilities. It is an expensive stay – but the setting inside and out is simply stunnng. Generally, in February when we were last there it is -40 outside (but for all excursions you are issued with thermal layers, hats, gloves and jackets) and -5 inside the hotel and Ice Bar (which, strangely, makes inside feel warm…). The restaurants are excellent at the Ice Hotel, with excellent use of local cuisine. We were lucky to experience several Northern Lights displays – once during dinner, when everyone just went outside to enjoy the spectacle. I have no connection with the Ice Hotel, other than a very happy guest on each visit, and I wouldn’t want anyone to be put off by comments about cost or comfort!

    • Agreed! Was the trip of a lifetime for us and we remember our night at the ice hotel very fondly. We had one night in Abisko in an overpriced hostel but guaranteed northern lights and one overnight husky adventure and wilderness cabin. My only regret was spending £350 each on SAS/ Norwegian flights to Kiruna. Using RFS to Stockholm and train didn’t cross my mind. ???? nothing was cheap about the trip but excellent memories!!! Oh don’t make the mistake we did which was to rely on Public transport – simply not reliable. Thank goodness we found a taxi driver in the middle of nowhere one day! It’s too cold for hound children and we left our infant with grandparents but looks fun for much older kids!

    • +2
      Fully agree with Matthew and Jo. As someone who’s also stayed several nights at the Ice Hotel (not simply visited as a day tripper) this review comes across as very jaded. Of course everything is expensive, rural Swedish Lapland isn’t exactly abundant with cheap foreign labour! We went snowmobiling, took an ice sculpting class and ate in the themed restaurants knowing how much these activities cost before arriving, none of it was a surprise. The key is to pre-plan transfers and activities to get the best rates, once you’re there you’re a captive buyer like you would be in any other tourist destination. Also as a guest you get free access to areas day visitors have to pay admission to. Their operation and infrastructure needs to be viable for 12 months of the year even though the visitor season is little more than 3 months. We knew full well how expensive the trip would be, still it’s one of the most memorable and enjoyable we’ve ever done and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone to save up and immerse themselves in the experience.

      • As you say, “We knew full well how expensive the trip would be”. Probably because someone like me told you. I’m certainly not saying don’t do it, and I’m not saying ‘don’t go to Lapland’ – I am just flagging up a key point.

        We are spending about 3x more than hotel bill per day on other stuff. That figure is usually about 0.5x.

  5. Shazza says:

    I don’t mean to be rude or lower the tone but that second photo down……..

  6. @mkcol says:

    This icehotel reminds me of Hotel de Glace in Quebec province where my husband & I married just over 8 years ago – they have the same concept of annual temporary ice hotel set in the grounds of a regular hotel plus cabins. Staying in Hotel de Glace for our wedding night was genuinely magical & nothing at all to do with having just got married (I’m not sentimental like that).

    Also to echo another comment above – try Finnish Lapland instead & don’t get gouged like it seems you have been in Swedish Lapland. I’ve twice stayed at the Hotel Levitunturi in Levi too.

    • ankomonkey says:

      We stayed there last Feb. The whole area has a lot to offer. We had no complaints.

  7. Graham Walsh says:

    Taxis are the same in Norway. 15 minute walk or about 1 mile in cab is £15. Thankfully when I took my kids at half term, they wanted to walk to the hotel and play in the snow 🙂

  8. Peter Cashen says:

    We were in Lapland this December with the kids. We stayed up north in Saariselka.

    We went to the bar on the first evening; beer 8 Euro, Sprite for the kids 4 Euro… and then the wife asked for a prosecco!! Out came the credit card.

    To my absolute surprise, a glass of prosecco was 3 euros, and the bottle was 10! This is for a full sized bottle! Not everything is expensive ha

    • Agree, I am surprised that alcohol is reasonable (by London standards). Just been quoted £55 for a shuttle bus to the airport (15 minutes away) for four so we are taking a taxi at the bargain price of £35.

      • Alcohol is made elsewhere and doesn’t require local labour cost, while driving a bus or a taxi does. And London markup on alcohol is ridiculous as people see it as making easy money with doing nothing + taxes and duties which make up to 3/4 of unit price in the UK

        • Norway is the most expensive country in the world to buy alcohol and the border is just up the road! I was expecting the same here but it isn’t the case, although it is illegal for supermarkets to sell alcohol – the Government has a monopoly at retail.

        • Supermarkets in Sweden sell alcohol just like they do in Finland. But they cannot sell anything with more than 3.5% alcohol content. That is where the state run off licence chains have the monopoly.
          Over the counter medicines like aspirin receive a similar monopoly at pharmacies in Nordic countries and supermarkets can’t even sell you a packet of Strepsils (which are counted as “medicine”). Thanks to that the prices for things like aspirin are 10x what you pay in the UK.

        • Crafty says:

          Prosecco isn’t…

        • Crafty says:

          Wait, sorry. I misread your comment as “alcohol is made everywhere”! Ignore Or delete please.

  9. Chris Jarvis says:

    We stayed at the Ice Hotel last March and it was a fantastic experience. I agree IT IS VERY EXPENSIVE and I don’t think its the sort of place to do on a budget but if you can afford it and don’t fret about the cost the experience is worth it. We really splashed out and had one of the ‘suite’ rooms in the 365 building. With these you have your own private warm bathroom, changing room and sauna via an airlock at the back of the room. This means if you find the ice room too cold in the night or if you need to go to the loo in the middle of the night its not a trek! That said we found sleeping on the ice really comfy and had a fantastic nights sleep. In your sleeping bag its really quite warm. Seeing it during the day gives you a taste but staying there is needed for the full experience.

  10. I stayed in the ice hotel in Kemi in Finland many years ago and it wasn’t anywhere near as expensive as what is described for Jukkasjarvi. The best part of the trip was taking snowmobiles onto the frozen sea and joining an ice breaker mid voyage and a tour around the boat with lunch onboard. After that we put on survival suits and jumped into the open water the ice breaker had made (it was about -20 deg). It wasn’t too expensive but generally these things are cheaper if you book direct with the operator in Finland and not through some UK agency.

  11. I stayed here in 2013 before the 365 building was built. Had a fantastic weekend – although I wasn’t paying the bill. Had one night in the ice room and I couldn’t sleep due to being uncomfortably hot! They have some serious thermal sleeping bags and I had to keep mine half unzipped to try and find the right balance. When I was there they had the option of some smaller rooms in the ice hotel without the impressive sculptures for cheaper.

  12. another_will says:

    I stayed there last year as part of a 4 day excursion including Tromso, Narvik and the ice hotel.
    The Arctic train, from Narvik to Kiruna in Sweden was spectacular. We were picked up at the train station and dropped off at the Ice hotel and everything was pre-paid so no need to even think about the money. It was an interesting experience. Pretty much as described by others already. My lasting memory was of how poor the service was – as soon as you go over the border from Norway waiters and waitresses suddenly go from being happy and helpful to miserable and sullen.
    I wouldn’t go back but glad to have seen it. I would spend more time in Norway next time if I get the chance.

  13. where2travel says:

    I’ve only been to the one in Quebec and thought it was good fun, certainly a bit different and we enjoyed the one night in the actual ice hotel (with a day of activities on either side). That was at the previous location since it moved closer to Quebec City a few years ago (but I assume it’s much the same). At the time, I remember looking at the various ice hotels and came to the conclusion that it was a lot cheaper overall for the holiday in Quebec than the equivalent stay in Sweden (from the UK).

  14. I get the actual ice hotel bit, but I don’t understand why anyone would voluntarily stay in a hotel made of concrete that is made to feel cold!

    Anyway, Giles Coren and Monica Galletti made a programme about the ice hotel last year (BBC), very worth watching if it pops up again. They showed some of the artists working, as well as what it’s like to stay there.

  15. Cate ⛱️ says:

    Hmnnn…..probably the £90 to use the pool (per session?) and £20 to sit in the lobby (per session?) would have been a deal breaker for us. I’d be tempted after a few days to claw some of this back by throwing a reindeer on the BBQ.

    But if it’s something you really want to experience then that’s fine. Thanks Rob

  16. Trystan says:

    I didn’t see any fire exits!

  17. Richmond says:

    Renting a car in Kiruna airport is not that expensive and then you don’t have to pay for tansfers. Visited Kiruna twice, once by public transport from Tromso and second time flew via Stockholm on SAS. From Tromso there’s a bus to Narvik and then train to Kiruna.

    It can be done on reasonable budget and enjoyed.

    Regarding Saariselka, it’s expensive but I had excellent reindeer steak there and by London standards price wasn’t shocking.

  18. Apologies, this is completely off topic – does anyone know whether Club World seat selection charges get refunded when upgrading the reward flight to First using more Avios?

  19. pablo fonseca domingo panto says:

    This countries surrounding the north pole are very expensive.
    I once went to norway, and a baguette was £26 and a bottle of coke £5.
    I suppose this is what happens you pay your cleaners £30 an hour. Well paid people causes skyhigh inflation.
    it is very nice to see this hotel in all its glory but the price point is too high for me. For others, I hope they can enyoy their stay.

  20. Curious says:

    Hi Rob, I’m genuinely curious. Why choose to go here? Was it imperative? Are there no better locations for the Easter break with your children? (I’m thinking of the vast array of European choice on our doorstep)

    • Wife’s idea, ask her 🙂 I just went along with it.

    • Even Rob is unable to respond… pffff…

      @Curious, may I return the question and ask why you would go somewhere else? Perhaps a diving trip to the Red Sea (or say the Mediterranean if you’d like to stay within Europe) or a cultural trip to Rome?

      There is lots to see and experience in this area, in particular Kiruna I find very interesting. The snowy landscape is beautiful and peaceful, you can go hiking, dogsledding, go on skidoo trips, (organised) camping trips, may see the polar lights, … Kiruna has the largest iron ore mine in the world and where else can you see an entire city being moved and planned in a modern way (because of the mine)?

      What I want to say is that this is everything but a dull place. I’ve been there already but during January, when you get the (almost) polar night on top whilst being a student and I loved it (and I’ve been again). It’s not as easy affordable as other places, but certainly doable if you plan a little ahead.

      But I can see that this location is not a place for everyone.

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