Time Magazine reckons that the IceHotel in Jukkasjarvi is one of the Top 100 places to visit in the world. How about visiting the IceHotel with Kids? Is sleeping in at -13°C with two eleven year olds a good idea? Christmas at the IceHotel, just steps away from where Father Christmas begins his journey, that is tempting to boys (and their parents) turns out that staying at the Ice Hotel with kids turns out to be amazing.
STAYING IN THE ICE HOTEL WITH KIDS
First things first you don’t sleep in cold rooms every night. There are two distinct parts of the Swedish IceHotel warm rooms and cold rooms. We spent two nights in a warm room and one in a cold one. The other thing that I had been worried about was what on earth we were going to do all day given that it was bound to be dark as the sun wasn’t going to make it above the horizon. Turns out that even though you never see the sun, its light bounces around from just below the horizon giving an amazing pinkish glow called KAMOOS.
ICE HOTEL WARM ROOMS
Huts, incredibly well insulated huts, that’s what the warm rooms are. You open up the door into a vestibule where you clamber in or out of your thick outdoor clothing and then open another door into a sitting room. We had a family hut that had two bedrooms, a sitting area and a bathroom. Everything was warm cosy, comfortable and Scandinavian.
ICE HOTEL COLD ROOMS
Cold rooms made of ice. Your bed is ice, topped with a mattress, topped with a reindeer hide. You sleep on top of the hide in an all seasons sleeping bag. As the public are allowed to wander around the ice rooms during the day you don’t get access to your icy room until quite late. You spend that time in a warm reception that has comfy chairs, wifi and toilets. Forget skimpy nightdresses, in the ice room you sleep in thermal underwear with a hat. Lockers are available to stow your daytime clothes and valuables. You don’t need to wear really thick clothes because if you overheat you will sweat and that will then cause you to chill. Once in your thermal sleeping kit, you slip your big snow boots on your feet and wrap your sleeping bag around you like a shawl and then process to your room. There are family rooms but we were too late to book one and had two double rooms with one adult and one boy in each. I confess that I thought we would get no sleep at all, turns out that we all slept like logs until an IceHotel person woke us in the morning with warm Lingonberry juice.
DOES THE ICE HOTEL HAVE TOILETS?
Hmmm, not so much …. well how would they flush! If nature calls in the night, you get out of your sleeping bag, pull on your snow boots and make a dash for warm reception. Sounds grim but in actual fact it is quite special being in the icy corridors in the small hours. Once you have drunk you Lingonberry juice in the morning you make your way to the sauna and shower in warm reception.
HOW IS THE ICE HOTEL BUILT
Every Autumn, as the temperatures begin to fall, construction begins. Blocks of ice harvested from the River Torne are the building blocks used to create the basic structure and then the whole lot is sprayed with SNICE. What is Snice, I hear you cry. Since is a mixture of snow, ice and air, it has a higher density than snow and so reflects the sun better and prevents the whole structure from melting. Every Spring the IceHotel melts away completely and each year a brand new one is built, the front door and the chandeliers in the main hall are the same, everything else is different … a unique work of art each year.
WILL I SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS AT THE SWEDISH ICE HOTEL
Hopefully! The Northern Lights don’t appear to order. Whilst we were staying, some people arrived from the place that they had stayed the previous night, the place which is meant to be the best place in the world to see the Northern Lights. They had had skies shrouded in cloud and seen nothing. We had had skies as clear as a bell and had been treated to a stunning display. I am afraid that I have no pictures good enough to share but that is the fault of my camera and lack of tripod rather than the lack of swirling coloured lights.
CAN YOU STAY IN THE ICE HOTEL ALL YEAR ROUND?
No, well sort off. The classic IceHotel melts in the Spring. The warm rooms remain and now there is IceHotel 365 which is open all year round. It wasn’t there when we visited, so I don’t know what it is like. I would however love to see what the landscape looks like without its blanket of snow.
WHAT TO DO AT THE ICE HOTEL
During the day the rooms at the Jukkasjarvi Ice Hotel are open to be viewed. Each year a team of artists designs and builds every room from scratch. Every room is completely different. When we visited we didn’t know which rooms we were going to be in and had great fun speculating which one would be ours. Once you have seen inside the rooms there are many other things to do, some of the activities have age restrictions.
A pack of Huskies will pull you in a sled across the Torne river and out into the wilderness beyond. Midway you stop at a cosy cabin for lunch. This is suitable for all ages, we didn’t do this at the IceHotel as we had treated the boys to a Husky sled ride in Norway earlier in the year.
Do you fancy designing and making an IceHotel suite yourself? Well you can take the first steps toward being able to by taking an Ice Sculpting class. A teacher will explain the basics and then you are presented with a block of River Torne ice and a set of tools and off you go. Your finished work of art will eventually melt away so make sure you take lots of pictures of it! To wield hammer and chisel you need to be at least 12 years old.
There are two levels of snowmobiling on offer at the IceHotel an Adventure and an Experience. On the Adventure you head off into the wilderness and discover ice covered lakes or the shorter Experience where you don’t go quite as far. On both you can either drive or be a passenger, if you want to drive you have to be over 18 and have a driving licence (make sure you bring it with you if snowmobiling is your heart’s desire). As long as you are big enough to sit on the snowmobile and cling on, you can have a go. Just beware that anything not wrapped up is likely to end up frosted in ice!
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING AND SNOW SHOEING
Hiring Cross Country Skies or Snow Shoes and heading off on your own,map in hand, is a fabulous way to discover the area. You get to experience the amazing silence of the region on your own. We could already cross country ski and so opted for the skis, click here to read about our Norwegian Cross Country Skiing adventures. Whilst cross country skiing is not hard I would suggest that maybe heading off in the Arctic on your first attempt is not the best idea. Snow shoeing however is easy. All you do is strap on the shoes which look like hi tech tennis rackets onto your feet, over your snow boots, grab a couple of ski poles and walk. It really is as easy as walking, with the added bonus that you are less likely to slip over in the snow.
WHAT TO WEAR AT THE ICE HOTEL
What will you wear, was one of the most asked questions people asked us before we went. Layers lots of thin layers. No need to worry about buying clothes that you will only wear when in the Artic. When you check into the IceHotel you are issued with a snowsuit which is really just a very warm padded onesie, a pair of thick snow gloves and a pair of snow boots. Under your borrowed padding you wear your layers.
I confess that I am a devotee of Uniqlo Heattech which was my base layer. Regular readers will know that we cross country ski and so we wore what we wear in Norway. A thin base layer, a fleece and a breathable waterproof coat. Thick ski socks, silk liner gloves and a hat. We find Decathlon invaluable for kitting us all out without breaking the bank.
EATING AT THE ICE HOTEL
Food is available from three places within the Ice Hotel, you just need to select how hungry you are, what you want to eat and how much money you want to spend.
Breakfast and lunch at the IceHotel Restaurant are always buffets. Every type of Scandinavian vegetable, fish and meet dishes are available. Most exciting to the boys was the option of having meatballs for breakfast. In the evening the restaurant turns into a fine dining establishment with exceptional food beautifully displayed on ice from the Torne river. If your children are fussy, this option is likely to be a stressful waste of money, but ours will eat anything and revelled in each new dish that came their way. Should you wish to stay and linger over drink there is cosy bar with roaring fires.
As the name implies the Homestead restaurant is located in an old wooden farmhouse. Everything from the Hygge style book is here, roaring fires, glowing lamps, cosy chairs. Here the food is burgers, meatballs, steak and salmon all served simply but deliciously. The Homestead is a short walk away from the IceHotel rooms but wrapped up warm in your IceHotel snow suit it is a treat to be out under the starry sky.
Just behind the main entrance lobby is a cosy bar area selling hot and cold drinks and bar snacks. This was perfect for us at the end of a long day travelling to the IceHotel when we just wanted something quick and then bed. Especially as the next day was Christmas Eve, the day when Father Christmas visits the IceHotel at the beginning of his epic journey round the world.
ICEBAR BY ICEHOTEL
The Ice Bar is made entirely of ice. The walls, the floors, the bar and the seating, everything is ice. You drink from glasses made from River Torne ice. We sat swathed in our snow suits, hats, gloves and boots sipping on suitably cold cocktail. It was one of life’s more amazing experiences. We only had one drink and then headed for a warmer inside but I’m sure that if you drank enough cocktails you would begin not to notice the cold!
GETTING MARRIED AT THE ICEHOTEL
Yes your really can get married at the IceHotel. Every year an Ice Church is built, it opens on December 25 each year and is handed over to the Swedish Church. You can have your wedding here, renew your vows or have children Christened. Even if you are not planning on a ceremony of any kind the Ice Chapel is an incredibly beautiful and spiritual place to sit and take stock of things.
CHRISTMAS AT THE ICEHOTEL
In addition to all the stunning icy things to do at the IceHotel Jukkasjarvi at Christmas there are some extra special things on offer. Father Christmas pops in just after dusk on Christmas Eve with presents for everyone, then he sets off delivering gifts to rest of the world. On Christmas Eve, after Santa had gone on his way, there was a special Christmas buffet served in the restaurant with traditional Swedish Christmas food.
On Christmas Day itself as dusk began to fall, we were given flaming torches and set off to walk the half mile to the traditional wooden Jukkasjarvi church for a concert. This was a magical thing to do, the church was lit with candles and we were treated to a varied programme of traditional Lap music and more familiar hymns.
WOULD I RECOMMEND TAKING CHILDREN TO THE ICE HOTEL?
YES! Not really little children, I would say that ten or eleven would be the youngest that you would want to attempt a stay. Younger than that and coping with cold might result in tears and tantrums. I would say steer clear if your children need buggies, the paths are flat but you would be very limited as to which activities you could join in with. When we talk about travel and holidays (which is a lot) the boys always ask if we can go back to the Ice Hotel. Our answer is yes, when you can pay for us to visit!
HOW TO BOOK THE ICE HOTEL
You can book via the IceHotel website, you would then need to book flights to Kiruna. We opted for a package from Discover the World, a large part of the attraction of the package was that it included direct flights from Heathrow to Kiruna. How much does it cost to stay at the IceHotel? Packages with Discover the World start at £1,117 per person including flights, three nights accommodation and breakfast. Not the cheapest mini break that we have had with the children but certainly the most memorable!