As winter looms on northern horizons, Sweden’s Icehotel is making its comeback.
But after 26 years is this frozen institution still cool?
It might be too early to judge, but its creators have unveiled new designs they hope’ll keep their guests chilled out.
Among them, a life-sized ice elephant.
Due to open its doors in Jukkasjarvi, northern Sweden, on December 11, the Icehotel is rebuilt each year to a new blueprint using 5,000 tons of ice taken from the nearby River Torne in March and cold stored over the summer.
It melts away in spring.
This year, the hotel’s creators say a bumper ice harvest has yielded blocks that are 10 centimeters thicker than usual.
They’ve also unveiled the latest designs for the 19 suites that are described as both boutique accommodation and “ephemeral art project.”
These include “Elephant in the Room,” a suite featuring a life-size African elephant carved from ice – the work of Scandinavian sculptor AnnaSofia Maag.
There’s also a Russian imperial-inspired theater set and the 1970s-themed “Love Capsule” where guests can cling to each other beneath reindeer skins.
Spain-based Rob and Timsam Harding will be crafting a Mediterranean interpretation of Arctic life, but at -5 C (23 F).
So how do guests unwind in subzero temperatures?
There are thick capes, high-quality sleeping bags, luxury fur throws and – in one suite titled “Counting Sheep” – frozen ewes and rams to help them nod off.
The hotel also has warm rooms and chalets for guests unwilling to subject themselves to a night on ice.
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It also has perhaps one of the world’s chilliest chapels.
It’s due to open on Christmas Day and 100 couples are expected to get married there before the season is out.
Then there’s the Northern Lights — the Icehotel offers an alarm to alert guests when the aurora borealis appears.
Northern Sweden lies under the auroral oval – the area where the phenomenon typically occurs – and when skies are clear it’s a great viewing spot.
None of this comes cheap.
Simply Sweden offers a range of vacations at the Icehotel, with prices starting at $1,415 per person.
In the years since the Icehotel was founded in 1989, other ice hotels and experiences have sprung up around the world.
Icehotel’s own Icebar has become a chain with drinking spots in Stockholm, London and beyond.
Those glorified freezers can’t match the frosty magnificence of the original Icebar though, with its authentic Arctic setting and snowmobiles and dog sledding just on the doorstep.
Intriguingly, Icehotel is branching out into space travel and taking reservations for trips with Virgin Galactic.
That service has yet to take flight.
In the meantime, the frozen tundra of northern Sweden still feels like no place on Earth.