We left Kiruna early on Day 3 to visit the world famous Ice Hotel located just outside of Kiruna in a small locality called Jukkasjärvi. I had been looking forward to this part of the trip since I found out we would get to see this amazing attraction. The Ice Hotel located in Jukkasjärvi was the first of any in the world, and it has been constructed every year since it first began in 1990.
Our guide told us that they begin harvesting the ice from the Torne River in April when the ice is approximately 1 meter thick. They then transport the ice to a location nearby where it is kept until November when construction begins. It takes between 6-8 weeks to build the Hotel, and every year different artists are commissioned, producing unique designs that are particular to that year.
Our tour guide was looking a tad bit cold
The Torne River flows from Lake Torne, which is the second deepest lake in Sweden. It was formed from a melting glacier and is considered to be one of the purest forms of water in the world. This is evident by the clarity of the ice that is used in the hotel – it was so clear you could almost see through it!
Getting a little R&R on a chair made of ice, no big deal
Within the Hotel there were standard rooms, suites, and deluxe rooms. The standard rooms were just that, standard. They all looked the same and had the same components. The suites were far more interesting, with each one being unique because they were all designed by different people. We weren’t allowed to see the deluxe rooms, but considering how amazing even the suites were I can only imagine what they could have been like.
Staying at the Hotel is pricey, with rooms ranging in price from 200 euros to 800 euros for just one night! I asked our guide how one sleeps in such a room, with the temperature consistently held at -5 degrees C or about 23 degrees F, and he said that people who stay here only sleep in thermals and a sleeping bag.
Also located in the Hotel is an Ice Bar. I’m sure many people probably related said “Ice Bar” to Absolut Vodka, because traditionally these two things have had some correlation. At one point this was true with the Ice Bar in Jukkasjärvi and Absolut Vodka, but their partnership no longer exists with this particular bar. They do, however, still serve Absolut Vodka. Their mixed drinks are also named after the names of the suites.
I really enjoyed visiting the Ice Hotel and Ice Bar in Jukkasjärvi. If you’re ever up in the Arctic Circle during the months that it is open I would recommend going there, if even for a visit. I promise you will never see anything cooler. No pun intended.
After that stop we made our way up to a traditional Sami hut in Rensjön where we learned more about the Sami people and their history with reindeer herding. This group of people is one of the largest indigenous groups in the world, and is the only indigenous group located in Scandinavia. In addition to this, only Sami people are allowed to herd reindeer.
Sami hut where we tried reindeer meat and a broth made from the bones of reindeer (not my meal of choice… if I had a choice)
I see… Dasher, Dancer, Prance, and Vixen…
Guess who fed the biggest one of the bunch?
The reindeer were quite skiddish. I don’t blame them though, if I had paparazzi flashing bright lights in my face I would be a little bit too. We were given a type of moss to feed the animals, and some were comfortable coming up to us and eating, while others were a little more hesitant. To be honest, when any of the ones with big antlers got close to me I did get a little scared.
From here we continued on to Abisko National Park where we would be staying for the next couple of nights. The park was created in 1909 after Sweden’s first laws on nature conservation were implemented. I also learned that Abisko emulated some of the regulations and establishments from Yellowstone National Park and incorporated them into their own standards. I thought this was really neat considering I live so close to Jellystone.
Our hostel was located right on the Torne Lake, which was absolutely beautiful.
We ended the night with a BBQ at a replica of a Sami teepee. During the BBQ, glögg, sausages, and pepparkakor were enjoyed. We kept our eyes out for the northern lights, but they didn’t appear on this night because it was a bit too cloudy. After a long day of travel and sightseeing, I ended the day with a hot shower and a decent night’s rest.
P.S. I also switched roommates and bunked with the three girls from the Netherlands and a guy from Germany named Paul. This was a much, much better accommodation.