Updated: Mar 6
Visiting Sweden in the wintertime may not be on most travelers' bucket lists. Winters in Sweden are cold and dark compared to the mild light summer months. But the cold climate and the high latitude offer an opportunity to stay in one of the most unique and one-of-a-kind accommodations the world has to offer. This is a great side trip if you are planning a trip to Sweden. The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi has created an Ice Art Museum that doubles as hotel suites for guests to stay in. The hotel has artists from all over the world create hotel art suites using only ice. The suites are changed every season with new artists creating their own little ice world for the public to experience, and visitors from all over the world come to marvel at the creations. So if you ever wanted to spend the night in a museum or experience what it is like to spend the night in a luxury igloo this is the trip for you.
If you are not already in Sweden you are probably flying into Stockholm Arlanda to start your trip. From Stockholm, there is a direct flight to the small town of Kiruna, 145 km (90 miles) into the arctic circle with a flight time approximately 1.5 hours from Stockholm. Once you land at the airport (the smallest I have ever seen) you can book transport to-and-from the Ice Hotel with a bus that will take you to the hotel. If you prefer you could opt for the dog sled for the scenic route. The hotel has many accommodation types but I recommend choosing the two-night package with one night in the Art Suite 365, and the second night in a warm cabin (it was recommended by the front desk to do it in the opposite order, but I would highly encourage spending the first night in the igloo). If you are planning not to rent a car and go on excursions once you get up here, two nights are sufficient to experience the Ice hotel and Jukkasjarvi.
Since the art suite, you are staying in is also a museum, paying visitors will have access to all the rooms until the late afternoon, but this also gives you a chance to see all the suites before they are booked for the night to the paying guests. Stroll around the museums and grab a cocktail from the ice bar while you take in the beauty. And don’t worry, there are heated restrooms, showers, locker suites, and saunas for you to use so you don’t have to sit on an ice toilet or take cold showers. The hotel provides all the gear you can possibly need for the harsh climate (like it can get really cold, I’m talking 40 below 0 cold) as well as sleeping bags for your night in the igloo. There is even an “emergency” room that is indoors if you are unable to handle the night in the ice suite. I found the ice suite being warmer than the temperature outside so it was not as cold as you imagine. Although it was cold I think one night the ice suites is doable. But I do recommend getting a warm room for the second night to recover and thaw out. I personally felt like one night is enough to get the full experience.
The village of Jukkasjärvi is tiny and besides the hotel, there are only two other places to grab food in the area if you do not have a car. Since these can fill up I recommend making a reservation to the restaurants in advance in order for you to secure your table. The restaurants were good for what you can expect for a small village in the north, they were able to cater to vegan food so if you have food restrictions it should not be a problem to accommodate you.
If you take a 10 min walk down the main road from the hotel is Nutti Sami Siida a Sami Village museum and restaurant where you can learn more about the Sami culture. They are the indigenous people of the North. Here you can learn about their lives and even hang out with their Reindeer. It was super fun to go into them and feed them some food you can buy from the gift shop. They are very calm and friendly and they get super excited about food. So they will have no problem eating from your hand and sniffing your pockets for more treats. They also have a restaurant here to eat some traditional foods. All local and homemade, it was super delicious.
There are many activities the hotel arranges like dog sledding, snow scooter excursions, horseback riding, visits to Sami village and reindeer meeting, Sami food tours, and northern lights photography classes. You can book these in advance on their website to tailor the itinerary
personally to you in advance, or you can also book at the hotel the same day. I personally really enjoyed the snow scooter with a traditional Swedish fika in the forest with our friendly guide preparing a fire and answering any questions you may have about the area.
Visiting the arctic circle is off the beaten path, but is a really cool experience in the wintertime. If you are lucky with the space conditions you will enjoy the experience of the northern lights which is on many travelers' wish lists. Staying at the Ice Hotel is a great weekend getaway for adventurous and family travelers alike. You can design your itinerary to suit the tastes of anyone.