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.

Polar Bear, IceHotel

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.

Frosted Eye

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.

IceHotel Church

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.


Suitcases and Sandcastles
Tin Box Traveller



  1. February 11, 2015 / 9:01 pm

    Wow what an amazing experience & to get a spectacular view of the Northern Lights must have been the icing on the cake.
    Jane xx
    My Midlife Fashion

  2. November 3, 2016 / 5:01 pm

    Ohhh wow. Your experience sounds amazing Catherine. What a fun thing to do at Christmas and I am sure the whole family will remember it for decades to come. Seeing the Northern Lights is my dream but I am so scared of being cold having had hypothermia twice.. in Australia! Love this inspirational trip shared on #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      November 3, 2016 / 5:04 pm

      It was amazing, the boys asked to go again this year and looked very downcast when I explained it was not to be an annual trip!

      • November 3, 2016 / 5:30 pm

        Haha. Oh you spoilsport! I’m sure they will have a fantastic Christmas regardless 😃

  3. Clare Thomson
    November 3, 2016 / 7:28 pm

    I was so excited when I saw this on the linkup, Catherine! I’ve always dreamed of visiting the Ice Hotel so it’s so fantastic to read a proper review of it – and with children. What a great idea to have warm and cold areas and it’s fascinating how you have to wear all those thermals in bed. I’d probably have to wear double – I get freezing fingers and toes just in our old house in the UK. What an incredible experience. Thanks for writing about it so well and sharing it with us on #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      November 3, 2016 / 7:44 pm

      Thank you, it is an amazing experience

  4. November 3, 2016 / 11:05 pm

    How absolutely amazing. I visited the IceHotel on a trip to Lapland and it looked spectacular, but we didn’t stay (except for some hot chocolate) as we were off snowmobiling. I’d forgotten about the frozen eyelashes too! We were there towards the end of January so slightly lighter but still knee high snow. Such an amazing trip although it’s my second to the area where I haven’t seen the Northern Lights. I need to go back and try again. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      November 3, 2016 / 11:17 pm

      We ski in Norway, the first time it was because I wanted to see the Northern Lights. We didn’t and so went back the next year and the next, when we did. By then the boys love the place so much that we just keep on returning!

  5. November 3, 2016 / 11:52 pm

    Sounds really interesting and your pictures look great! I am thinking of travelling to Kiruna this winter and try the Ice Hotel there, but haven’t found any companion yet 🙂

  6. November 4, 2016 / 6:16 am

    This place looks amazing! I’ve never considered visiting a place like this, probably because it’s so far from home, and we generally don’t do extreme cold, but it’s definitely going on my list now! As an aside, I hope I haven’t commented twice as I had a bit of trouble using my mobile device earlier… Great post! #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      November 4, 2016 / 8:58 am

      Thank for battling through the electronic barriers!

  7. November 4, 2016 / 9:02 am

    Absolutely amazing!! I would LOVE to stay in an Ice Hotel one day! I’m sure it was an amazing experience! #FarawayFiles

  8. bavariansojourn
    November 4, 2016 / 9:13 am

    This sounds amazing! I have slept in an iglu at the top of the Zugspitze, but we didn’t see the Northern lights sadly! 🙂 #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      November 4, 2016 / 9:16 am

      An iglu at the top of the Zugspitze sounds amazing!

  9. November 4, 2016 / 9:46 am

    Wow! This post gave me chills (good ones not cold ones ;))! I’ve been wanting to check out the Ice hotel but was pretty afraid of the cold. It looks like you guys had an awesome time though! Saving this for a maybe trip (if I can muster up the bravery) for next year. 😬 Thanks for sharing!

    • Catherine
      November 4, 2016 / 10:07 am

      They lend you super warm clothes, so don’t let the cold put you off!

  10. November 4, 2016 / 12:12 pm

    awesome! I’ve only done the Ice Bar in London:) but the ice hotel, cool! #farawayfiles

  11. November 4, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    I had to read this post because we married in the Ice Hotel! We spent our wedding night in an ice suite – you know the ones, with magnificent ice carvings brrrr, now that was cold with all that extra ice! We also saw the Northern Lights but went on a snowmobile tour to view them, they really are something special. Thank you for my trip down memory lane! #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      November 4, 2016 / 8:48 pm

      Pleasure! What an amazing place to get married xx

  12. November 4, 2016 / 9:25 pm

    This looks so cool. I love the eyelash picture. What a great experience.

  13. November 4, 2016 / 10:49 pm

    Seems like such an incredible experience! that eyelash picture! Amazing! #FarawayFiles

  14. November 5, 2016 / 2:39 am

    What a cool experience! Can’t believe your eyelashes froze – I’ve never been in that sort of cold before! Sounds like a pretty unique experience though and worth putting on the bucket list!

  15. November 5, 2016 / 6:19 am

    How lucky you were to be see the aurora on all four nights of your stay! I was not as lucky during my visit to the ice hotel, though I enjoyed exploring the hotel and its ice carvings!

    • Catherine
      November 5, 2016 / 9:22 am

      We were very lucky, the first night they were a bit faint and you wondered what all the fuss was about but the others showed us why!

  16. November 9, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    Dying to do something like this! You were so lucky to see the Northern lights every night – I have heard it isn’t a guarantee! Thank you for sharing and linking with #FarawayFiles – this was a great one! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

    • Catherine
      November 9, 2016 / 5:34 pm

      No guarantees, indeed the people who paid extra to go to the ‘best place in the world’ to see the lights didn’t get to see them that night!

  17. November 9, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    I would absolutely love to do this – thanks for sharing

  18. Lisa (Travel Loving Family)
    May 8, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    Oh this sounds like a once in a lifetime amazing experience! Not too keen on the idea of frozen eyelashes but I LOVE the sound of drinking hot chocolate whilst snug in front of a roaring fire 😉 Thanks for sharing your experience with #MondayEscapes.

    • Catherine
      May 8, 2017 / 11:14 pm

      The children are keen to go again but we have told them that they are paying next time!

  19. May 9, 2017 / 3:34 am

    Oh my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything even close to -40c, my mind can’t process how cold that must be!! Such an incredible setting, though, so it would certainly be worth bundling up!

    • Catherine
      May 9, 2017 / 7:31 am

      It certainly was, because your body was warm you didn’t shiver and feel chilled

  20. May 10, 2017 / 6:46 am

    What a superb experience for the kids too, I wouldn’t have thought they would have coped! #MondayEscapes

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