Surviving a -5 degrees night at the Icehotel

Surviving a -5 degrees night at the Icehotel

Was I a masochist for wanting to stay in a hotel whose room temperature was minus 5 deg C?

If so, I was in the company of tens of thousands who had braved the cold and spent a night or more in the Icehotel.

Don't bother worrying about Wi-Fi connections and checkout times: This hotel is anything but usual.

Cold comfort

Located in the village of Jukkasjärvi in the northernmost reaches of Sweden, near the city of Kiruna, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, the Icehotel is a wonderful blend of the abundance of nature and the skill of human engineering.

It is constructed from scratch with blocks of ice extracted from the adjacent Torneälven River in November every year, and melts around April.

There are no taps, sinks, baths, toilets, cupboards or appliances in the room - just a bed, chairs and table surrounded by a floor, walls and ceiling - everything is crafted from ice. However, there are lights and ironically, as required by Swedish law, fire sprinklers.

Don't spend too much time in the room - there are plenty of activities to engage in, and the lounge or restaurant is a warm place to chill. The Icehotel comprises a cold section made entirely from ice, and a warm section where the normal chalets are.

Around 9pm or later, when you are ready to tuck into bed, you collect your sleeping bag from the reception, and sprint from the warm section to the cold section. The dash is necessary: the outdoor temperature at night in winter is around minus 30°C.

Surprisingly, after spending the day partaking in the likes of a cross-country snowmobile tour (below), when the temperature outdoors is a "warmer" minus 15°C, my room actually felt cozy.

Strip down to the bare necessities (read: underwear) and snuggle in.

Indeed, it got hotter than comfortable quickly in the super-insulated sleeping bag, which is why if you go to bed in more than your underwear, you will likely end up sweating, making yourself vulnerable to catching a chill.

If you carry anything else into the room with you, like your camera, place it the sleeping bag too. Otherwise, it becomes a block of ice by the morning.

Also a pre-bedtime tip: Try not to drink too much before sleep as you don't want to have to get out of the sleeping bag to use the toilet.

Each room comes with a locker in the warm section. However, as the locker is only around a 1m cube in shape, there is precious little you can carry with you.

As I was staying a few more days in Kiruna, I had left the bulk of my luggage at the conventional hotel I had booked, and took along only a change of clothes, toiletries and battery-charger with me to the Icehotel.

On checkout, I was presented with a diploma stating that I had "survived" a night in a freezer room - well, not in those words - along with the date, and indoor and outdoor temperatures of my stay. What a lovely souvenir.

Other than experiencing the Icehotel, there are many reasons to visit this area during winter.

My list includes viewing the spectacular aurora borealis, enjoying the mesmerising snow-covered outdoor scenery complete with mountains and lakes on cross-country skis, going on dog-pulled sleds or snow mobiles, and fishing on a frozen river by drilling holes in the ice.

Staying at the Icehotel, as well as exploring the northernmost part of Sweden during winter, was very memorable.

This article was published by, the Special Projects Unit, Marketing Division, SPH.

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