Chasing Aurora Borealis – Part 4 – Kiruna, The Ice Hotel

Kiruna is a mining town 1 hour south of Abisko. Here, you find the world’s largest underground iron mine. However, it isn’t the mine that brought us here. Kiruna is home to one of the world’s famous and most original attractions, The Ice Hotel. We decided to stop by for a day to visit the hotel.

Originally, I wanted to put all of us in the Ice Hotel. The original ice room was fully booked out and the warm “wooden” cabins cost USD450/pax! It was just way too expensive for us. However, the hotel staff was kind enough and told me that I can visit the ice rooms for a small entry fee.

When we arrived at Kiruna, it seemed like a white ghost town. There are only 18,000 people living and working here. We stayed in a small hotel at the town center, Bishops and Arms Hotel.

Strange but true – the first human being I spotted was a young lady from Singapore. She was chatting with my taxi driver to help her to call another cab for her entourage. This is what I love about the Singapore accent. It helps us to identify and connect with one another. I immediately approached her and offered our taxi but she has a big group. It was so good to bump into another Singaporean out here in the northern county of Sweden. There is never a trip when I don’t bump into Singaporeans. We are everywhere, at any time!

By 4pm, all the shops closed and there was no one or car on the street. We were the only ones wandering on the streets. Being too long in Hong Kong, I found it difficult to adjust to this new no-man’s land. It felt like a mock-up town in a Disney theme park. We managed to find a pizza joint where we had some really good food!

At 5pm, we called a cab and it fetched us to the Ice Hotel. The 20min 12km ride to Jukkasjärvi cost us 550sek (about SGD106/way).

When we arrived at the Ice Hotel, I was a little disappointed by its entrance. I was expecting to see a grand ice palace like the one we saw in one of James Bond’s movies. The entrance was an odd looking arch with lots of wooden structures beside it. Where is all the ice and fanfare, I thought to myself? Having visited the gigantic ice and snow festival of Harbin, the Ice Hotel looked so small and tiny. In my honest opinion, it’s not worth the money or effort to fly all the way to Sweden to stay at the Ice Hotel; unless this is part of a bigger travel itinerary or you are already residing in Sweden or the nearby countries. I feel the underwater hotel suite at Conrad Maldives is much more worthwhile, exotic, unique and spectacular!

The friendly artists and designers were still touching up the interiors when we walked into the Ice Hotel. Every year, The Ice Hotel interviewed and selected some of the world’s most original and unique designers (with the most refreshing ideas, no experience in ice needed) to design and build its suites. The hotel (celebrating its 24th year) was only 80% completed (all the ice here was harvested from the pure waters of the Torne River). We were still able to visit some of its “legendary rooms”. There were mainly 5-6 types of ice rooms – namely the snow room, ice suites, art suites, the northern light suites and the deluxesvites. The snow and ice suites looked very basic with one icy bed and 2 icy couches. We sat on the bed; it was smelly (stench from the thick animal fur) and hard. I didn’t find it comfortable or even romantic. To me, it was a fancy art gallery. Forget about the bathroom or toilet, there wasn’t any in these type of rooms (only the Deluxesvites come with personal sauna and toilet). Privacy was questionable too as I didn’t see any solid door. Only curtains (like the ones in dressing rooms). Maybe it wasn’t fully complete at the time of our visit, that was why it felt a little bare.

The art suites were much more impressive. Each room had its own unique theme and design. At the entrance of each room, there was an ice signage marking its creators and the title of their work. I spent a lot of time here photo-taking the well-sculptured interiors. Very impressive indeed.

We ended our tour at the world’s famous Absolut Ice Bar. The bar was brightly illuminated in blue hue. There was a big giant icy deep-sea “humpback anglerfish” at the side of the bar counter. The bar was big and can hold up to 50 people. Harshad and Tracy had their drinks from glasses made of ice. The bar was very quiet at the time we visited. There, we met our Singaporean travelers and exchanged tips on our previous Aurora Borealis encounters. On our way out of the Ice Hotel, we witnessed a small and quiet wedding ceremony at the lobby.

The next morning, we wanted to visit the world’s largest iron mine but it was closed on Sunday. It was daybreak and the town was eerily quiet. We went to the Kiruna Church where we met very friendly locals who offered us free hot tea and buns. They were so friendly that they allowed us to take photos of the church (something that I wasn’t allowed to do in Rome, England and Australia).

By 3pm, the sky set and it was dark again. We made our way to the train station. It will be another 18-hour train ride back to Stockholm where we take a one day break before we fly off to our next adventure.

3 Responses to Chasing Aurora Borealis – Part 4 – Kiruna, The Ice Hotel

  1. I enjoy reading your blog!

  2. Chester Chen says:

    Very nice pics Joe! So much want to travel too!

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