A mere 19km from the Swedish Lapland town of Kiruna lies the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi world famous for being home of the iconic ICEHOTEL. Jukkasjärvi is located approximately 200km north of the Arctic Circle and next to the Torne River so is the perfect place for winter ice sculptures and a complex made entirely from compacted snow and blue ice.
What started out as additional accommodation for students of an ice sculpture course eventually became the unique and inspiring ICEHOTEL which is architecturally different from year to year and is easily the largest hotel made of ice in the world. Almost everything in the hotel is made of ice, such as the furniture, chairs decorations, a Church (popular with marriages) and of course the world renowned ICEBAR. Of course even the glasses in the ICEBAR are made of ice, so your Absolut Vodka drink is served ‘in the rocks’! The hotel rooms are individually designed (complete with ice sculptures) by invited artist with construction beginning during December and if temperatures remain below −5 °C the hotel will remain open into April.
The snow is sourced (or if snow falls are late, is produced) locally with ice blocks several feet thick harvested from the adjacent Torne River which is frozen over by December. However, if you happen to be in Swedish Lapland after April you need not worry as you can visit the ICEBAR in the Art Center at Jukkasjärvi even during the 100 days of Midnight Sun over summer, which is in itself an experience worth witnessing! The ICEHOTEL is probably beyond the budget of the intrepid traveller, but if you do intend to stay, be sure to book months in advance, even a year in advance, as it is commonly fully booked each winter.
There are many other activities to do while in the Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi area during winter. A popular one is to view the Aurora Borealis by yourself or by joining a guided Northern Lights tour, attempt ice sculpting, give ice fishing a go, join a night husky sleighing trip or a snowmobile trip.
Many travellers organise their own journey to Jukkasjärvi once they have made their way to Kiruna, and this is easy as there is a local bus you can catch which only takes 15minutes to reach Jukkasjärvi. Once there, you are free to explore the beautiful winter paradise and visit the ICEHOTEL even if you are not spending the night. You are not permitted to see inside the bedrooms, however you are free to visit the ICEBAR and enjoy a drink as well explore the inner corridors and mesmerizing Ice Church.
If you are travelling specifically to Jukkasjärvi to see or stay at the ICEHOTEL as well as see the Aurora Borealis (maybe even making time for some winter dog sledding with a pack of huskies), it is popular to make the trip over at least 4 days as the travel involved reaching this remote outpost is considerable. Plus the longer you are in the high arctic the better opportunity you’ll have to witness the Northern Lights. Many fly into Kiruna (often via Stockholm) and base themselves there for a few nights and also venture to Abisko as this is considered one of the best spots in the Northern Hemisphere to see the Aurora.
If you do not have the time or energy to organise your own journey, Discover the World has a package, including one with direct flights from London (at time of writing) to Kiruna which may suit an extended winter weekend break!