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Spending the night in an ice hotel—yes, quite literally an entirely frozen hotel—isn’t something you say no to, should the opportunity arise. And last January I was offered a chance to not only sleep in a room (and bed) made of ice, but the original ICEHOTEL, which is located in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.
Opened in 1989, this hotel is located 124 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It’s cold—incredibly cold—and it’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach 3° Fahrenheit (and often much, much lower with the wind chill). There are a couple of different room types you can experience at this particular ice hotel: cold rooms, warm rooms, and ICEHOTEL 365 rooms. The first two are self-explanatory. The third option consists of a series of cold rooms available to book all year round (the other cold rooms are only open to guests December through April).
When I visited in January while on a trip fueled by suggestions that can be found on the Visit Lapland website, I was wowed by every single room and space in the hotel. My particular room transported me underwater into a scene full of icy jellyfish. The room I actually slept in (more on that later) spanned multiple floors and had a separate sitting area—complete with a table—for lounging. Every room is designed by a different artist, and the artists change every year. And if sleeping in an ice room isn’t enough, you can enjoy a drink in a cup made of ice at a bar made of ice next to a workshop area offering ice carving classes. There is a definite theme here.
It was an incredible experience, sleeping in one of these rooms, but there are a few things I wish I would have known ahead of time. Here's what I learned from my experience sleeping in an ice hotel.
Maybe Bring an Extra Pillow
I tend to get congested in cooler temperatures (I promise, this is an important part of this section). Being made of ice, the rooms have to remain cold. And while you are equipped with an Arctic-worthy sleeping bag, liner, and big socks, it’s still a bit chilly—notably around the face where your skin is exposed to the cold air. This equation made me a bit… snore-y, for lack of a better description. I would usually fix this issue by adjusting my pillow so I’m sitting up a bit more, but this is surprisingly hard when you’re stuffed into a sleeping bag and trying to slam said pillow into the bag with you. This may not have been an issue had I been sleeping alone, but I was sharing the bed with a light sleeper. Needless to say, I got about 90 minutes of sleep.
The Rooms Can Be a Bit Creepy
And if you’re into that, you will love this experience. As I mentioned earlier on, my room had a plethora of carved jellyfish floating around the bed. It was beautiful, but I have a horrible fear of jellyfish. Said fear drove me to seek out someone who would share their room with me (enter: light sleeper). After a sleepless night of half-snores, I trudged back to my room and tried to nap with the lights on until I was woken up with some warm lingonberry juice by a kind hotel employee. If you’re easily spooked, make sure you’re staying with a friend.
Plan Extra Time to Tour the Entire Hotel
My experience is strictly from Sweden’s ICEHOTEL, but I have a feeling this would hold true for the other ice hotels around the world: Make sure and explore the nooks and crannies of these fantastic feats of architecture. There was a chapel in the ICEHOTEL that was downright peaceful to experience solo. The snow-sculpted grounds were also a sight to see at night, where colored lights decorated the walls. If there is a public tour available, take it. I learned so many facts about the ICEHOTEL—like how all of the ice is sourced from the nearby river—that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.
The Hotel Is More of a Museum During the Day
Unlike a traditional hotel where you can ensure that your luggage will be safely stowed from sight and other people during your stay, the ICEHOTEL opens up as a museum to the public during the day. Each guest is given access to a warm closet of sorts to store their belongings while the hotel is open to the public. There are benches in each warm storage room, making it a great place to sleep if you really can’t handle the cold… or jellyfish sculptures. Something to keep in mind: The staff will open the door to your room so people can peek in and see the sculpted room, even if you’re sleeping in the bed. The choice is yours on whether or not you want to sleep in.
Don’t Plan Any Strenuous Activity the Morning After
Remember: It’s more about the experience of sleeping in an ice hotel than the quality of sleep you may get. Unless you find yourself sleeping in Arctic temperatures on the regular, there’s a good chance you won’t get a lot of shut-eye. Avoid planning any cross-country skiing or other athletic endeavors early on the morning after your stay, for your own sanity.