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Building Sweden’s ICEHOTEL

Most people have seen ice sculptures being made but how many have seen or know what goes into making not only an entire building made of ice, but the world’s largest hotel and all the incredible sculptures within it? As you can imagine, this is remarkable feat is one of patience, attention to detail and the product of modern feats of engineering. The ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden is more than just a frozen hotel, it’s a work of art.


Unlike other hotels that are made of more durable materials, the ICEHOTEL has to be rebuilt each season – for even as the hotel resides in one of the coldest places on Earth, the hotel melts every year as temperatures become mild. This makes travelling to the hotel and staying here something special as it only exists for a short time each year and each time it’s rebuilt (the 2012/2013 iteration is the 22nd), it is a little bit different.

It’s no wonder then with its fame around the world as a vacation destination that construction of the ICEHOTEL is much more complicated than building a simple igloo. In order to make the structure safe as a human dwelling while also being aesthetically pleasing, the ICEHOTEL employs a number of talented engineers and artists to turn an almost empty space into a first class hotel – but it doesn’t happen overnight.

The first step in construction of the hotel is to ensure the weather conditions are just right, which means it’s cold enough that ice will not only form but will remain frozen. The 2012 ICEHOTEL saw conditions arrive in October, meaning the pipe work laid to assist in its construction wasn’t needed to freeze the ground (the ground freezes slower than the air) and the building could commence ahead of schedule.

Many of the key parts of the hotel are built in advance and moved into place to ensure the hotel is up and running as quick as possible. This is important as it ensures both the integrity of the structure and the duration for which the hotel can be open to the public – this year, a full month ahead of normal. As the weather changes, so too does the building, which adds to the appeal of this dynamic hotel for the guests as well as the creators.

Definitely a worldwide effort, the ICEHOTEL employs artists from all over the world with hundreds vying for a position to create the works of art found within. Each year different themes are featured from classic works to pop culture icons, many of which are constructed for hours at a time just before the hotel opens its doors. This ensures no two seasons are exactly alike within the hotel, giving visitors and artists a chance to see and create something new each year in a venue that is second to none.

Lasting until April most years, the ICEHOTEL is one of Sweden’s most interesting attractions and all lovers of winter should not hesitate to grab a flight up to take in its majesty in one of the most dynamic environments in the world. Whether it’s a cocktail at the Absolut ICEBAR or taking part in any number of Lapland activities from cross country skiing to viewing the Northern Lights, a stay in the ICEHOTEL is one you will never forget.