Ice Ice Baby! ICEHOTEL That is!

Midnight snowmobile ride in the Arctic Circle

Having traveled quite extensively around the world as a young family, I often ask my three boys to list their three top family vacations. Our trip to Sweden’s Arctic Circle has remained on all their lists for years now. I suppose the reindeer safari, dog sledding, snowmobiling and Northern Lights would be pretty indelible experiences for anyone, but perhaps the highlight was our lodging at the original ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, ninety minutes by air north of Stockholm.

The world’s first ICEHOTEL was founded in Sweden in 1989. Every year artists are invited to create different rooms, furnishing and decorating them with snow and ice blocks from the nearby river. From the beginning of December until April, an ephemeral gallery of unique art installations carved and sculpted from ice are enjoyed during the day as expressions of art and then later inhabited as hotel rooms as guests snuggle in for the night. Reindeer skins on ice platforms provide an essential warm base under the provided sleeping bags as adventurous travelers experience an unforgettable night’s sleep in 20F degrees, 5F outside.

During the day, the ICEHOTEL provides a snowsuit, balaclava, boots and mittens suitable to take on the adventure in the Arctic Circle. An evening snowmobile ride followed the moon, casting its glow on the rolling snowy terrain, and eventually took us to acabin in the woods with reindeer soup waiting for us.  We were falling in love with Sweden, especially because of its gorgeous and freezing surroundings!

My boys quickly attached themselves to the huskies who dutifully pulled our sled to a snow-covered tent that our guide easily dusted off revealing an entrance flap where we savored, once again, reindeer soup (he assured us it was not Rudolph!). Our guide captivated us with his stories as a dog lover and musher! The next few magical days, we enjoyed viewing the Northern Lights, a safari where we boarded sleighs pulled by reindeer, sitting around a fire with the indigenous Sami people and enjoying a vacation in the cold that didn’t involve one pair of skis, but was one of the most unique and memorable family vacations ever.

The winter months are a time of holidays, school breaks and colder weather. Only a plane separates you and your family from a truly special experience of the Arctic Circle, home of Santa Claus, the Northern Lights and a winter wonderland full of family adventures offering fun for everyone! 

Cynthia Bartlett