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Oliver reports from the Ice Hotel, Sweden

15.01.15 - By Oliver

RB Collection Director Oliver Broad visits Sweden for the first time staying at one of the most famous hotels in the world, the ICEHOTEL.

I always thought the idea of sleeping on ice is a strange concept but one that has sparked a huge interest amongst travellers and firmly put the small village of Jukkasjarvi in the north of Sweden on the map.

My journey began at Gatwick airport where I flew with one of the new generation budget airlines Norwegian who offer a very efficient service with free Wi-Fi onboard and comfortable brand new aircraft.  The flight via Stockholm was well timed and after our early morning departure we had arrived in Sweden for lunch.  Our visit to the ICEHOTEL was scheduled for our last 2 nights of our 3 night break, our first stop would be the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park, voted one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights by National Geographic.

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It wasn’t difficult to see why this is a great spot to see the natural phenomenon.  Accessed only by chairlift, the Aurora Sky Station is a mountain post from where you can enjoy a specially prepared 3 course traditional dinner, followed by a guided tour of the station and information about the Northern Lights.  Later in the evening you are free to explore the mountainside while suited up to protect you from the freezing temperatures, in the hope that the lights will come out to play, and so they did!  The lack of light pollution and elevated position make this a perfect place to see the lights, however patience is the key and you are allowed to stay until 1am to assist with the chance of sightings.

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I stayed for my first night at the nearby Björkliden Mountain Resort which offers skiing and a range of other winter activities.  The setting is stunning and when the sun came up we spent time simply sitting and gazing at the beautiful scenery before heading back towards the ice hotel.  The drive took us alongside the Torne river which was a good opportunity to see even more of Sweden’s beautiful scenery.

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With night 1 over, it was time to visit the ICEHOTEL.  I have read so much about it that I was really intrigued as to whether it were all true.  Can you really enjoy a good nights sleep, is the roof really not held up with a disguised frame and can I really have a vodka cocktail from a glass made of ice??? All would soon be revealed.

Everything is very well organised in true Scandinavian style with warm snow suites and boots provided to ensure you don’t feel the cold.  It was around -20C during our stay but you would only really feel it when the wind gets up, otherwise it was comfortable.  Suited and booted we toured the ICEHOTEL building by a very knowledgeable guide who explained how and when the ice is ‘farmed’ from the River Torne in March, stored through the summer and then used to build the complex from October until it starts to open in mid December.  Building was still going on whilst I was there and it was fascinating to see how they would use a frame to help create the same however their carefully created ‘Snice’ (snow and ice!) would be sprayed on it to create a hard supporting structure for the building.

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This year they have built over 60 rooms made of ice, many of them called ‘Art Suites’ which are all individually designed by ice artists from around the world. They are extremely different and it was simply amazing to see what could be created.  The ICEHOTEL is in a way a museum, open to day visitors until around 6pm when it is closed to those lucky ones who have booked to sleep overnight, like I was about to do…

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Me! in one of the special Art Suiutes

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One of the special Art Suite at Sweden’s famous Ice Hotel

Another tour showed us the do’s and dont’s of sleeping on ice which was very handy to ensure a good nights sleep.  The sleeping bags were designed to withstand temperatures of under -20C and as the ICEHOTEL is only around -5/-7C inside they assured me one simple thermal layer followed by the sleeping bag inner and then the bag would suffice to keep me toasty warm.

You are free to enjoy the ICEBAR with an array of tasty Vodka based cocktails, or their indoor warm lounge area for as long as you like before collecting your sleeping bag and venturing off for your night on Ice.  One word of advice would be to follow their instructions to the T…they are the experts after all.  Zipped up, nice and cosy it was time to experience what so many had done before me. Quickly you feel your body shutting down into a very relaxed state and then slowly but surely off you drift. A few people I spoke to the next day had the same feeling, the odd one not liking it at all but glad they had experienced it.

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Ice Bar at Sweden’s Ice Hotel

Either way, nothing can compare to it and I was really pleased and proud to have survived!  An early wake up call with hot lingonberry juice was a warm welcome and it was time to get back to normal with a hot sauna.

The excitement in the room from fellow guests was apparent, all with a look of triumph on their faces as they realised what they had done…slept on ice !  It still sounds a strange act even now after I have done it, and it is hard to put into words the experience but it is certainly one of the most unique and exciting things I have ever done and definitely something I can recommend.

In part 2 read about the next 48 hours at the Ice Hotel including the exciting excursions and Northern Lights!