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Sweden's ICEHOTEL is known for many things - Its 'out of this world' location, gorgeous architecture and even freezing comfort. But the one thing it is not, is longevity! The hotel located in the village of Jukkasjarvi, has to be rebuilt from scratch every year because it is carved entirely from ice blocks that melt when the summer comes along. The great part about that is, each rendition gets increasingly better!
Now in its 24th year, the idea of constructing an ice hotel in this remote village came about quite accidentally. Many years ago, a local company looking to attract tourists to Jukkasjärvi during the freezing winter months, decided to host an art exhibition inside an igloo built on the nearby frozen Torne River. The 60sq.ft. structure was a huge success attracting many day visitors. However, it was not until a group of brave souls arrived with reindeer hides and sleeping bags and announced their intention to spend the night inside the igloo, that the villagers had an 'aha' moment and the ICEHOTEL was born.
The hotel has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Constructed from 1000 tons of Ice and 30,000 tons of 'snice' a mixture of ice and snow, it now covers 5,500 square meters (59,200sq.ft.). The construction process begins in March and April, when about 5,000 tons of ice is harvested from the river and transferred to a cold storage where it sits till the beginning of winter. Building the hotel begins in earnest in November when about 100 workers, half of them artists invited to design special sections, descend upon the region. By December, it is ready and open for business.
Each version of the hotel is unique, more a work of art than a structure made from frozen water. It's 47 rooms built to accommodate visitors on all kinds of budgets vary from luxurious suites to rooms that are furnished with just an icy bed and a reindeer skin.
This year's top-of-the-line deluxe room is called Mini Evolutions and includes an en-suite sauna, relaxation area and bathroom, as well as, higher ceilings and a full time Mini Country man aka butler. Built in conjunction with the German car manufacturer, it is adorned with ice sculptures and etchings that depict the transformation of the company. Other high-end choices include suites that have been carved by artists from all over the world and from different disciplines - ranging from architects to wood sculptors. There is also one that has been installed with the beautiful aura of the Northern Lights. For those seeking just the bare bones experience there are the Ice and Snow rooms that house a frozen bed and a few pieces of icy furniture.
But no matter what room they are in, the temperature is the same - A bone-chilling -5°C (23°F)! In order to get a good night's rest, guests are advised to snuggle into thermal sleeping bags and keep their gloves and winter hats on, all night. It is no wonder that most end up spending just one night in this freezing environment before moving to more conventional warmer cabins nearby. But freezing as it may be, the guests all agree that it is an experience like none other.
Similar to any hotel, guests can choose to lounge around all day or pick from a number of activities like snowshoeing, Moose safaris, dog sledding, snowmobile safaris and overnight wilderness camping. Though dining choices are pretty much limited to the restaurants in the hotel, guests have very little to complain about given that they all somehow manage to whip up amazingly gourmet meals. As for the drinks? They are always chilled to perfection in the world-famous ICEBAR!
The best part about this semi-permanent structure is that it is the ultimate green building - One that houses and entertains guests all winter and then as summer approaches and the temperatures rise, simply melts into one giant puddle, leaving behind no trace of its existence.
Over the years, many copycat ice hotels have emerged and similar destinations can now also be found in Canada, Norway, Finland and Romania. However, the original one remains the biggest and the grandest of all.