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Just back from: The ICEHOTEL

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20 August 2013

My colleague Charlie and I had the chance to experience an overnight at ICEHOTEL. ICEHOTEL was one of the stops on our Swedish Lapland tour and definitely one of the most memorable places I have visited. Each year, the hotel is built from scratch with winter 14/15 seeing the 25th ICEHOTEL rising from the Torne River. It is this river that provides the hotel with its building blocks.

ICEHOTEL opens its doors to day and overnight visitors on the first weekend of December each year and stays open until mid-April. By June, the hotel has completely melted and flooded back to where it started, the Torne River. In the riverside location of ICEHOTEL, you not only find the ICEHOTEL, but also various types of warm accommodation, which makes ICEHOTEL a resort in its own right offering you accommodation, restaurants and exciting excursions all in one place.

We flew to Kiruna airport with SAS via Stockholm and were greeted by ICEHOTEL reps that took us to the hotel, only 15 minutes drive away from the airport. ICEHOTEL also provides transfers from Kiruna town centre and railway station, making it easy to combine stays between ICEHOTEL and the ski resorts of Bjorkliden and Riksgransen further up north.

On our arrival at the ICEHOTEL we checked in at the reception building. We only stayed one night at the ICEHOTEL but I would definitely recommend a three- or four-night stay - one night in cold accommodation and two or three nights in warm accommodation. This will allow you to make most of your stay here and really appreciate the surroundings and artwork as well as take part in excursions, not to mention increasing your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

It is recommend having the ‘cold' night first - this way you do not have to change rooms halfway and you get your winter break off to an exciting start. Another option is to have the cold night as a last night, but make sure you are not flying back on an early flight. When you check in, the receptionist will help you with thermal clothing (which is included for the whole stay at the ICEHOTEL) and show you around the building telling more about how the hotel was built and the different room types.

The cold rooms do not have storage facilities but you can leave your luggage in lockers at the main building by the ICEHOTEL. You will be given a key to your own locker where you can store your clothes and change to your sleeping attire. It's best to leave your luggage in the storage building - if you take it to your cold room, it will freeze! In the main building you will also find relaxation areas as well as sauna and bathroom facilities. There is also a roaring fire and hot lingonberry juice on tap in case you need to warm up!

After the guided tour, we joined in for a ‘survival' course on how to sleep well at the ICEHOTEL. This introduction gives you more info about how to dress appropriately and how to make the bed. You will be given an Arctic sleeping bag that is made for extremely cold temperatures of -25°C - but fear not, it will only ever get to -5°C at the ICEHOTEL, so the sleeping bag will keep you warm during the night.

ICEHOTEL offers both single and double sleeping bags - the choice is yours! Remember though that the sleeping bag acts like a thermos bottle: if you put cold in, it will stay cold, so it is best to make sure you are warm when you climb into your sleeping bag. It is recommended you sleep in thermal woollen underwear - it is the air between the layers that will keep you warm. A hat is also essential as the sleeping bag doesn't cover your head very well and you lose lots of heat from your head.

During the night I wasn't cold at all, in fact at times I was too hot, so effective was the thermal sleeping bag! Another good tip for sleeping well is to enjoy a nightcap at Absolut Ice Bar before bedtime - the bar stays open till 1am. But beware of having too many drinks; if you need the toilet during the night, you'll need to get out of your sleeping bag and go to the warm building!

In the morning, ICEHOTEL guides come and wake you up serving hot lingonberry juice. You can warm up in a sauna in the main building as well as have a shower before breakfast is served. You will also get a certificate of your stay at the ICEHOTEL upon check out or moving to warm accommodation.

ICEHOTEL is one of the finest (and quirkiest) hotels in Scandinavia and one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences I would thoroughly recommend for everyone. Sleeping in ice accommodation paired with exciting activities and the possibility of seeing the Northern lights makes this a perfect winter break with a difference.

Picture: Nest; Photo: Paulina Holmgren

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