Did you really sleep with Mermaids?
It’s true. I spent the night of June 14th surrounded by male mermaids, also known as Merman, flexing their muscles and lifting giant barbells. Don’t worry, my husband was there too and also slept in the room of the Mermen.
Sleeping in the Merman room had long been a bucket list item for me. Many people may think this is a weird bucket list item, and admittedly, many of my bucket list items are very weird. But this one makes sense.
So why was sleeping in a room filled with a flexing Merman a bucket list item for me? Because this room was in no other place, than the legendary Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. Jukkasjarvi is located above the Arctic circle and is home to the original Ice Hotel, one of the most unique hotels in the world.
This kind of stuff is the reward that happens when you pay off debt and stick to a budget! Nothing is more fun than crossing off bucket list items!
So, what’s an Ice Hotel?
An Ice Hotel is exactly what it sounds like it would be. It’s a hotel made completely out of ice and man, it’s pure beauty. The rooms, the beds, the decorations, the bar, even the drinking glasses are all hand-carved from ice.
The idea for the Ice Hotel started back in the early 80’s when one of the local Jukkasjarvi men noticed there were tons of visitors to the area in summer, but not many in the winter. Not shocking since the town of Jukkasjarvi is located above the Arctic Circle. This means 24 hours of sunlight in the summer, but less than 4 hours of daylight in the winter. Depressing!
This local guy liked to travel and on one of his trips, he went to the Sapporo Ice Festival in Japan. He saw huge ice sculptures at the Sapporo festival and massive crowds who came to view them. He decided ice sculpting was the way to bring tourists to Jukkasjarvi in winter. So he went home and built an exhibit hall, made completely out of ice. It was the size of a large living room and was used to showcase local artists. The public loved the exhibit hall and eventually some artists got stuck in town overnight and slept in the exhibit halls. Turns out, they loved it. So the local guy built a hotel to go next to the exhibit halls and the Ice Hotel was born.
What’s it like to visit?
Disclaimer: Anyone can visit the Ice Hotel without actually having to stay in a cold room overnight. The Ice Hotel is open to the public every day from 10am-6pm. There is no cost to enter. During these hours, the hotel allows visitors to freely roam the hotel to view the art, which is different in every room. Our room was Merman themed but other rooms were carved to look like a Victorian library or a robot dormitory. The hotel provides visitors with a big puffy, white jacket to wear, gives the visitors a brief overview of how the rooms are constructed, and then everyone is free to explore. The bed area of the rooms are roped off so no one can take a day time nap, but the rest of the room is open.
The art in each of the rooms is strikingly different. Artists from all over the world send in their design submissions once a year and then a committee selects the winners.
Interesting fact: Artists don’t have to have any experience with ice carving in order to design a room. The hotel will teach the winners how to ice carve. I have thought about entering and creating a penguin kingdom room. After all, I did partake in some ice carving when we stayed there! See more on that below!
What’s it like to stay there?
There are two options to stay at the Ice Hotel. One is to stay in a warm room. The warm rooms are standard hotel rooms and are in cabins just outside the Ice Hotel. We stayed in a warm room for two nights during our visit. Warm rooms are standard hotel rooms with a bed, private bath, and every other amenity you’d expect. There is nothing made of ice in these rooms. The other option is to stay in a cold room, which we did for one night.
The cold room is 22 degrees. Yes, it’s cold and the beds are made of ice, but it’s the experience that is beyond cool. When you rent a cold room for the night, your reservation comes with a warm locker in the reception area to store your items. The locker is about 10 feet x 10 feet so there’s plenty of room for everything. We had no problem storing our bags there. There’s also warm showers and a large bathroom area with a sauna in the warm reception area as well.
The cold room’s bed frame is made of ice. There is a standard mattress that sits on the ice bed frame and the mattress is covered in reindeer hides. Reindeer hides are soft and oh so warm! Pillows are provided as well. The hotel also provides all guests with sleeping bags for up to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and warm boots for the walk into the cold room. Guests can choose a double sleeping bag or individual one. We did individual ones because I like to steal blankets and waking up with no heat did not sound appealing to my husband.
What do you wear to sleep?
We wore long underwear, hats, and sweaters to sleep in for the night. The fewer the layers the better. Nothing is worse than sweating and then freezing in a cold room! The sleeping bags are warm and you can cover your whole body in them. I had everything covered except for my eyes and pretended I was a little snow caterpillar. The lights turn off in the hotel room and it’s pitch black when you sleep. We couldn’t even see our Merman when the lights were off! I slept soundly after I found my sweet warm spot.
In the morning, the hotel sends a worker to wake up guests at 730am to prepare the hotel for the tours that start at 10am. I was sleeping so soundly I didn’t even hear the girl come in with our warm lingonberry juice! FYI- Lingonberry juice is delicious! I think our Merman was jealous he could not have a drink of this tasty goodness.
What about the bathrooms?
People always ask about the bathrooms in the cold rooms. There’s no ice toilets. In fact, there’s no individual bathrooms in the cold rooms at all. But there is a shared warm section that is attached to the Ice Hotel. There’s two different doors that seal the warm section off from the cold section to prevent melting. This means the door from the cold area has to close before the second door to the cold room opens. In the warm section, there are plenty of toilets and warm water.
The warm bathrooms serve as the public bathrooms for the Ice Bar and Ice Hotel tours during the day as well. In the picture below, the black door leads to the warm bathrooms! The Ice Bar is located in the lobby at the end of the hall that leads to the Ice Hotel cold rooms.
What’s there to do besides see an Ice Hotel?
There’s plenty to do in the area surrounding Jukkasjarvi. In fact, the majority of it is walking distance or a short drive from the hotel. While we were there, we visited a traditional Sami Village. Sami are the original inhabitants of the Arctic circle and are famous for their reindeer herding. We got to feed reindeer in the Sami Village, which was beyond thrilling to me!
Fun Fact: Reindeer have no top teeth!
There’s also a ropes course, a short 15 minute drive from the Ice Hotel. We were at the course during shoulder season so we had the whole course to ourselves. Obstacles include crossing rope bridges, climbing tall towers, and ziplining. After completing the course, guests are rewarded with warm lingonberry juice and cinnamon rolls! YUM!
What was my favorite activity?
Finally, the Ice Hotel has activities on site as well. The one I loved the most was ice carving. The hotel provides you a full snow suit, gloves, and boots to wear for the experience, which is conducted right next to the Ice Bar. An instructor gives a brief overview on how to carve the ice and then gives guests three hours to complete a carving. The carving can be whatever the guests want to make. I chose to do a pig face and my husband chose to make a mountain scene with the Colorado “C”. Everyone gets their own block of ice so it’s fun to see what different people create. Our instructor made a donut. (I thought about carving a Merman but that seemed too difficult!)
Turns out carving ice is actually really easy. I thought it would involve a hammer and a chisel, but I was wrong. I’s just involves a small chisel that slices the ice like a butter knife through butter. No hammer is needed. The chisel is strong enough on its own. All of the tourists who saw us making our ice carvings took pictures and thought we were real artists, which was pretty funny.
Fun Fact: I was interviewed by German radio about my Ice Carving skills!
Didn’t we stay there in June?
Yep, I slept in an icy wonder in the summer. It was 70 degrees outside and 22 degrees inside. How is this possible that our Merman room didn’t melt? Solar energy. The hotel runs completely on renewable solar energy. Since the hotel gets 24 hours of sunlight in the summer, using solar energy is pretty efficient. Then in winter, it’s cold enough that solar energy isn’t needed anymore.
All of the ice is harvested from the Torne River, which is directly next to the Ice Hotel. In spring, the Ice Hotel harvests huge blocks of ice and stores them in a solar-powered warehouse. There’s even a beer that’s made specifically for the Ice Hotel from the Torne River water. It was a nice lager that we drank at the Ice Bar.
Interested in Visiting?
You should be! Find out more by visiting www.Icehotel.com and tell them Jodine from Ginger Journeys sent you! Tell the Mermen I say hi as well!