Dark and cold are the two words that I would have given you to describe the Arctic Circle a few days after the winter solstice. I wasn’t wrong with cold but the light is amazing. “Kamoos” is the term given to the purply-pinky coloured skies. The sun doesn’t make it up above the horizon but even so reflects on the sky and the snow to give a light that you feel part of. The Cultural Wednesday family headed off to the IceHotel in Swedish Lapland for Christmas: we expected cold, hoped for the Northern Lights and were bowled over by the daylight.
The IceHotel has two distinct parts, warm and cold. The cold part is made of ice. Every autumn the hotel is rebuilt to an entirely new design and in the spring it all melts back into the River Torne. Sixty or so rooms are created ranging from the luxurious art suites to the more basic snow rooms. Fifty different artists from all over the world design and create the rooms. Once the structure is built it is covered with “snice”, a precise mixture of, you will not be surprised to learn, snow and ice that acts as an insulating layer. In addition to the hotel rooms there is the IceBar where drinks are served in ice glasses and an ice church where 80 or so couples get married every year, the bolder brides spurning insulating layers and wearing traditional wedding dresses in -5C.
As soon as you arrive at the IceHotel you go straight to “cold reception” to be kitted out in serious cold weather gear. Padded onesies, thick boots, balaclava, thermal hats and huge mittens. Every time you venture outside you pull these on over the top of your regular coat that you wore on the plane over. On our first day it was -40C outside – so cold that our eyelashes froze. To keep us warm we hired Cross Country skis and headed off along the river to explore.
Three of our four nights at the IceHotel were spent in a very warm and cosy wooden cabin. Once inside with the door shut you can admire the snowy scene outside whilst sipping hot chocolate without the danger of frostbite. On our final night we slept in the icy part of the IceHotel. Before you settle down for the night you are given a survival talk. Essentially don’t wear too many clothes or your body warmth won’t heat up the sleeping bag and you’ll be too cold and make sure you wear a hat. Then once changed into your thermal underwear, you are issued with a four seasons sleeping bag, which you drape over your shoulders, and make your way to your room. I had feared that sleep would be hard to come by but once my head hit the pillow the next thing I knew it was morning and we were being woken by staff bringing us glasses of warm lingonberry juice.
After the amazing daylight faded we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights every night of our stay. One evening they were just a faint glimmer but on our last night all the stops were pulled out. What appeared to be mists of swirling colour dipped and dived all over the sky above us. Other guests had come armed with fancy cameras and tripods, looking at the pictures that I managed to take with my less fancy equipment made me think that maybe an upgrade would be in order.
No holiday is complete without excellent food and drink. We ate in the Homestead Restaurant, which is a ten minute walk from your warm and cosy cabin and does family friendly food. The IceHotel restaurant is a mere five minute walk away and altogether more upmarket. There we had a stunning meal that was served on ice platters, the Junior CW’s were offered pizza but chose the unknown and declared it all to be wonderful.
We opted for a package from Discover the World that included direct flights from Heathrow to Kiruna.
Save it for later.