For those not familiar with comic book heroes, “The Flash” is Barry Allen, a “DC Comics” character, that is the fastest man on earth. Making a whistle-stop visit to the Sweden Icehotel, in Jukkasjärvi in Swedish Lapland, fitting in three days worth of visit in one evening had me feeling slightly like the fictional speedster.
My arrival had been straight forward enough, flying into Kiruna airport, collecting a rental car and the short drive to the ice hotel, I was waiting in the foyer to check-in. One of the receptionists then uttered the most unexpected of questions;
“Anybody sleeping cold this evening?” she enquired
I confirmed that this was my plan, and was informed time could be saved by checking in at the “cold reception”, already saving time, The Flash would be proud.
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Sweden Icehotel, flash tour
Several minutes later, I was introduced to my guide, Andreas “Tummen” Hermansson, an experience designer at the hotel, and it was from here, my visit really went into overdrive.
A quick fitting of the thermal over suit and boots and a speedy tour and explanation of the concept behind the hotel followed. Including dropping by the bar, where even the glasses are formed of ice, more whisky in ice rather than on ice.
The ice for the hotel is ‘harvested’ from the nearby Torne River in March and April, stored through the summer, before construction begins in November and completed in December. When it melts, the hotel returns to the Torne River, making it the ultimate in sustainable, recycled materials.
This transient nature of the hotel, an interim construction, taking months of planning and building, employing many ‘builders’ and artists to only last one short season may seem fleeting, but is possibly part of the appeal. Weddings and christenings are held in the ice chapel, this also returning to its source, meaning it is gone forever, nobody else will ever be married in the chapel or stay in the same room.
Each of the ice sculpted rooms are created by a different artist, supplying their design for approval by a committee which selects the best for inclusion as an “art suite” for each year. New for this year is icehotel365, which will allow guests to sleep ‘cold’ all year round due to a refrigerated system which will retain the ice 365 days of the year. All these rooms will be created by selected artists which have already created a room in the hotel.
Northern Lights and Icy Dips
Immediately after completing the short tour, I found myself climbing aboard a snowmobile, racing across the frozen river and negotiating a tree-lined trail to view an impressive aurora from the top of a nearby hill. A brief pause, staying here longer than Tummen had probably planned.
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Another speedy drive back was followed by a sauna and quick dip in the frozen Torne River, one occasion I’m glad time was on the short side of limited. I might have been in like Flynn, but I was out quicker than a CNN reporter at a Sean Spicer news conference, and the less said about my manly proportions the better!
Disrobing my outer layers quicker than a catwalk model, there was still time to fit in an enjoyable dining experience; the “Chef’s Table”. This involved a small, intimate table for two set up in the kitchen, watching the meals being prepared and delivered to the other diners, while working our way through a multi-course menu of tasty reindeer, moose and arctic char dishes. It felt very special, but is available to all guests staying at the ice hotel.
A happy, but over-fed blogger was soon collecting a fluffy, warm sleeping bag, wearing only the thermal underwear loaned to me by Tummen. He’d insisted, as I was sleeping ‘cold’, they would be essential, his profound advice was still ringing in my ears,
“It’s cold, you’ll need them!”
Suffice to say, unsurprisingly, two hours later, I was still awake, unable to sleep, due to ‘cooking’ in thermal underwear and provided ultra-insulated sleeping bag. Maybe it was a result of my new super-thermal metabolism due to spending twelve hours as the Flash?
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The following morning it was time to leave, most guests spend around three nights here, one sleeping cold and the remainder in standard rooms. Tummen had managed to fit in three days activities into a single hurried, but enjoyable evening, even a superhero speedster would be envious!