The Ice Hotel – Jukkasjärvi, Norrland, Sweden
The World’s Largest Igloo
Is this the coolest place to stay in the world? You bet. The Ice Hotel is a magically translucent palace with guest rooms (there’s even a Honeymoon Suite), a cinema, a 45-foot vodka bar using “glasses” crafted from ice, galleries, and a futuristic-looking colonnaded reception hall whose pure ice chandeliers are lit by fiber optics. Built every November since 1990 out of 4,000 tons of densely packed snow and ice, the hotel disappears each spring when it melts into the River Tome on whose banks it is constructed.
The surreal ice building is a marvel in itself, but the interior trappings can be even more amazing: the furniture, art, and sculptures in the public rooms are the work of engineers and well-known ice carvers. Things can be surprisingly toasty (well, maybe that’s an exaggeration): your ice-block “bed” is lavishly draped with layers of reindeer hides beneath your high-tech sleeping bags.
You can roast in the sauna before a hearty breakfast, then set off for a day full of fun (but remember you’re north of the Arctic Circle and the sun doesn’t shine for six weeks from December to January): choose from snowmobile (or reindeer) safaris, dogsledding, ice fishing, experiencing the eerie patterns of the Northern Lights, cross-country skiing, helicopter tours, or visits to native Sami (the once nomadic people formerly called Laplanders who herded reindeer for a living) villages.
For those who get their share of been-there-done-that kicks after just one night of chilling out in a freezer whose internal temperature hovers around 25 degrees Fahrenheit, nearby conventional chalets (featuring creature comforts like central heating) offer alternative accommodations.