By Nina Kokotas Hahn
Seems we all have a travel bucket list brewing in the back of our minds, and this year, I’ve decided to put mine to paper—er, blog—as a means of outlining a sort of travel contract with myself. Until now, the ideas simply swirled around in the recesses of my travel journalist brain, almost like movies with inconceivable endings. And while I’ve been blessed to see a good portion of the world, there are entire continents I’ve yet to set foot on.
So, this year, I’m bringing the bucket list to the forefront, sharing one new destination here each month on the Orbitz blog. Not only will this pan out to progress (and a fire under foot) for me, but I’m hoping you will also feel inspired to make the trip of a lifetime in 2013.
Without further adieu, think wintery, snowy stuff and the first bucket list destination for the year: Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. It’s in this small village located 125 miles above the Arctic Circle and 10 miles from Kiruna Airport that we find ICEHOTEL, the world’s first and largest hotel made entirely of ice and snow.
The first time I heard about it, I assumed only the likes of Superman could survive a night, but the more I learned, the more alluring and mystical this bizarre Swedish Lapland experience all became.
Every winter, the hotel is re-made by harvesting snow and ice from the frozen Torne River; come spring, the hotel melts and the water is returned to the same river.
Even better is the fact that ICEHOTEL brings in dozens of artists from around the world to craft this spectacular ice palace. So not only is everything is made up of ice, we’re talking beautiful works of art that span bars, tables and beds to ornate walls, stunning ice sculptures, and themed art suites.
Like any art exhibit, the hotel is redesigned every year and built in phases, typically from mid-December to mid-January. This season, in ICEHOTEL’s 23rd incarnation, some 18,000-square-feet and over 22,000 tons of snow and ice will make up the completed frozen retreat. There will 65 rooms in all, including one deluxe suite, 16 art suites, nine snow rooms and, new this year, 10 Northern Light suites.
Yes, it’s gonna be cold, though it never gets colder that 17-23 degrees Celsius. Guests do sleep on a bed of ice—basically, a giant sculpted block of ice—but it’s covered with a mattress and reindeer hides, plus you get a thermal sleeping bag. ICEHOTEL also provides hot lingonberry juice in the morning, winter overalls, boots and mittens.
Perhaps the mother load of all ice bars, the hotel’s ice bar is also a social spot to grab a hot or cold drink, though I hear the signature Absolut Jukkasjärvi (Absolut Vanilia, blueberry liqueur, elderflower cordial, Blue Curacao) is the way to go.
Winter season at ICEHOTEL runs from December to April with rooms starting around $600. I’d recommend staying for a one-night experience, then finding warmer, less experiential accommodations nearby.
Have you been to ICEHOTEL? We’d love to here from you in the comments below! We’d also like to hear about destinations from your own personal bucket list.
Nina Kokotas Hahn is a contributing magazine writer and travel blogger. Globetrotting since infancy, she’s the daughter of a travel agent and knows a thing or two about finding hidden gems and great travel deals.