Article
8 comments

The Ice Hotel: Eating Lapland & Exploring It

Lapland

Lapland

Arriving in snowy Kiruna I was so excited. There was a buzz on the flight., Most people were traveling for important birthdays and other such events, and I was so surprised to be on a flight where everyone wanted to chat. My first stop was a dash to see if the astronaut pig was still there but woe, he was gone. Maybe he is in space now?

Kiruna Space Pig – photo taken 2 years ago on my last trip

The crunch of snow underfoot followed by whispery snow was thrilling. I bounced out to the waiting bus and immediately joined a tour of the ICEHOTEL. I was dying to see it. And then I thought, it is cold isn’t it? Of course it is cold, but until you are standing there, standing on the ice, surrounded by ice, sitting on ice, does it actually hit home.

I was hungry so I made my next stop dinner. Right after I collected my all in one snow suit, huge snow boots, leather mittens that made me look like a seal or the joker, and a balaclava. I was set.

I trekked to The Homestead. Just down the road. So I followed directions, crunching through snow as I went. But where was it? After 10 minutes I spied a couple also in snowsuits and asked them. Just down there, they said. Look out for the candles. And have the burger, it is great! So, renewed I trotted on.

Around a corner I spotted an outdoor Christmas tree and some candles. Was this it? It was. Toasty and warm and very inviting, I ventured in from the snow and -10 deg outside,

The Homestead, ICEHOTEL

The Homestead, ICEHOTEL

I removed my snow suit and sat for dinner. I started with lovely fresh and bright lingonberry cocktail (with pear and vanilla).The chef freezes 300kg of lingonberries, cloudberries, blueberries and raspberries when in season to get them through the winter. For starter I had blueberry cured salmon, whichwas delicious and now, as I travel home to Ireland in the ferry, I have blueberries in my bag as I want to give that a go

Goepi Burger, The Homestead

Goepi Burger, The Homestead

Main course was the burger, the goepi burger. What is goepi? Smoked minced reindeer I was told, The burger was served rare, was that ok with me? Yes please. It was one of the most delicious things that I had on the trip, perfect burger, rare and moist with great texture. The bun was fluffy with a crisp exterior. It was huge but I managed it. I felt very full.

Cloudberries with Vanilla Ice Cream in an ice bowl

Cloudberries with Vanilla Ice Cream in an ice bowl

Next stop dessert, and I had to try the ice option. As well as carving the hotel, essentially out of the river, the ICEHOTEL also makes (1 million) glasses and plates too. Vanilla ice cream and cloudberries was served on top. How to describe cloudberries? Native to the arctic region they are an orange berry, slightly sour and almost savoury in flavour, delicately intense. I love them.

When in Lapland jump on a snowmobile. I didn’t think I would enjoy it but I loved it. I was a bit of a speed demon wanting to go faster, faster, and faster again. On my first trip, we snowmobiled for two hours or so from 11.30am to a cabin in the woods where we had a wilderness lunch. The lunch was typical of Lapland, Sami Souvas, smoked salted reindeer fried in butter and served in bread. Utterly delicious and part of the Slow Food Arc of Taste. They opened the last Terre Madre in Turin with it.

Snowmobiling in Lapland

Snowmobiling in Lapland

Cooking by the fire

Cooking by the fire

The next night I went on the Northern Lights snowmobile expedition. This is the best year for 50 years to see them, assuming there is little cloud. Unfortunately there was a lot of cloud, but we did have an amazing snowmobile ride through the forest in the dark to the same cabins, where we chowed down on moose goulash. No booze as we were all driving. Which was nice for a change.

Bleak roe, creme fraiche and white fish roe with blinis at ICEHOTEL restaurant

Bleak roe, creme fraiche and white fish roe with blinis at ICEHOTEL restaurant

My last meal was at the ICEHOTEL restaurant itself and I kept it light, although I do regret not having the ICE tasting menu where all dishes are served on ice or with ice. My starter was wonderful bleak roe (I visited a producer when I last visited Lapland 2 years ago and even popped some fish to make some myself), white fish roe and crème fraiche with blinis.

For main course I had a more hearty moose dish, a fillet which had been cooked for 50 minutes at 80 degrees C so that it was melt in the mouth tender. Served with spiced lingonberries and spatzle, this was a filling dish. So much so that there was no room for dessert, which is a shame as I do love those arctic berries.

I travelled to the ICEHOTEL with Discover the World who operate direct charter flights from Heathrow to Kiruna, with packages for 3 nights starting from £1,093pp or via Stockholm from £870pp.

ice-hotel
Article
12 comments

The ICEHOTEL in Sweden: Sparkling, Gorgeous and So Very Surreal

The ICEHOTEL

The ICEHOTEL

The ICEHOTEL. Childhood obsession with the Snow Queen and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and all things snowy and polar lie dormant in my head. I have always wanted to (properly) see the northern lights (we saw them in Ireland when I was a child once) and the southern lights too. I love all things sparse and white. I like the idea of the space, the silence and the starkness of it all.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - just outside by the restaurant

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – just outside by the restaurant

So much so, that in my brief time as a physiologist in university, I contemplated signing up for the British Antarctic Survey. I went to one of their recruitment meetings, so very keen, but realised quickly that I was not the kind of person that could survive three years there.

ICEHOTEL cabin for wilderness lunches in the woods

ICEHOTEL cabin for wilderness lunches in the woods

So I thought that I would visit there. I bought the Lonely Planet guide, studied penguins, made little penguins, bought memoirs and any book with any related stories.

But it was too expensive. So I looked at working on a ship. I really wanted to go. But I never did. I still want to go and I hope that I will soon.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland

The level of obsession targeted at the Antarctic applies to any similar place. Arctic Canada, places near polar regions like Tierra del Fuego, Greenland, and of course Scandinavia. I want to breathe cold air, see icicles, feel the crunch of soft fresh snow under my feet and feel the sharpness of the cold on my cheeks.

ICEHOTEL reindeer doors

ICEHOTEL reindeer doors

The ICEHOTEL opened 23 years ago and has been in my sights since. I first visited Swedish Lapland 2 years ago in the Autumn and adored the landscape spotted with pretty lakes protected by towering trees. I loved the food – the reindeer, moose, arctic grouse, lingonberry, cloudberry, I even tried bear.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - ice room entrance

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – ice room entrance

We saw where the ICEHOTEL would be but it wasn’t built yet. It is only built after the river Torne has frozen over, and the ICEHOTEL is built from bricks carved out of it (and snice – snow and ice – from the river sprayed over metal frames and left to solidify in the cold). The whole concept is magical.

Ice Bar at the ICEHOTEL

Ice Bar at the ICEHOTEL

What was it like? Startling, bright, cold, a little dazzling. Reindeer hide doors, bristling with a little sparkling frozen ice greet you. To the left a bar, with vodka cocktails in ice glasses and some hot drinks too.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - ice room

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – ice room

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - ice room

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – ice room

A little further down the arched corridor on the left are the ice rooms. With an ice double bed with reindeer skins and mattresses, an ice sculpture even two ice armchairs and a table. The room itself is soft with no harsh angles, the bed angular within.

Another corridor down are the new northern lights rooms. Stunning with a beautiful recreation of the northern lights on the ceiling of the room. Only a few are ready – The ICEHOTEL has only just opened for the season and they are still building – so I go across to the other side to the Art Suites, where I will make my home for the night.

Each room is designed by different artists, and they vary dramatically. The beautifully elegant Flower room, designed by two Japanese artists, inspired by the recent trauma that Japan has had to go through, it is a symbol that there is always hope.The Eternity room, a stunning but slightly scary room with two large creatures guarding the top of the bed, with the bed facing an angel carved into the wall. There was also the gloriously bonkers Cold and Crazy and a room scattered with UFOs.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - Eternity Art SUite - this reminds me of Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights and I find it amazing but slightly scary

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – Eternity Art SUite – this reminds me of Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights and I find it amazing but slightly scary

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - Fabulous Art Suite full of UFOs

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – Fabulous Art Suite full of UFOs

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - stunning Flower Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – stunning Flower Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - Iceberg Art Suite with fabulous quilted ice walls

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – Iceberg Art Suite with fabulous quilted ice walls

My bed for the night was in Whitewater. I steeled my nerves with some cold cocktails from the bar and a hot lingonberry one then went to collect my arctic sleeping bag. When you check in at the ICEHOTEL they supply you with a snowsuit, snow boots, huge mittens and a balaclava. I was taking the balaclava in with me for the night. To stay warm, surprisingly, you must wear only thermals as anything loose on your body or more than one layer will trap cold air near your skin, and make you cold.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - my Whitewater Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – my Whitewater Art Suite

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - dressing room door through which you dash in your thermals (and a jumper in my case) from warm to cold. The jumper had to come off before I slept though as it would trap cold air.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – dressing room door through which you dash in your thermals (and a jumper in my case) from warm to cold. The jumper had to come off before I slept though as it would trap cold air.

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland - in balaclava and thermals about to go to bed

ICEHOTEL, Swedish Lapland – in balaclava and thermals about to go to bed

I wrapped up, giddy with excitement and with only a small peephole to look out. I wondered if I would sleep. Then I woke up several hours later. My face and legs were a little chilly but I was ok.

I fell asleep again and woke needing the loo – WOE – how would I get out of this sleeping bag, escape the warmth and come back in? I didn’t need to worry, 2 minutes later there was a voice: “Good morning, it is 7.30am, would you like some hot lingonberry juice?”.

Grinning, for I have lasted the night and actually really enjoyed it “Yes, please”.

I drank my hot lingonberry juice and still cold, grabbed a hot chocolate and returned to my warm room where I spent my other two nights and slept again. The sleep in the cold room is very light I think.

There is no actual sunset at this time of year and it is beautifully surreal. A faint sliver of light appears over the hills behind the ice hotel at about 11.30 and then the light disappears and it is dark again. In the snow, and in the silence. Unless of course, you are in the Ice Bar and someone is dancing Gangnam style. Which I was on occasion, although only watching.

Would I recommend it? Yes, wholeheartedly. Would I go again? In a heartbeat. This is the best year for 50 years to see the northern lights, and I have yet to see the Ice Church too (they are building it). Maybe I might even try to go back in Spring.

I travelled to the ICEHOTEL with Discover the World who operate direct charter flights from Heathrow to Kiruna, with packages for 3 nights starting from £1,093pp or via Stockholm from £870pp.

Article
14 comments

A Postcard from the Ice Hotel in Lapland

The Ice Hotel, Lapland

The Ice Hotel, Lapland

Greetings from the Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland. I am here with Discover the World on a three night trip, and on night two. I have stolen a few minutes to post a few photos before I go stay in my ice room. I will report back!

Close up of the reindeer doors of the Ice Hotel

Close up of the reindeer doors of the Ice Hotel

Looking sketchy and cold outside the Ice Hotel. Just before I got my snowsuit and snowboots - no cold can get me now!

Looking sketchy and cold outside the Ice Hotel. Just before I got my snowsuit and snowboots – no cold can get me now!

I went out for a wilderness lunch on a snowmobile - electrifying! I am now hooked

I went out for a wilderness lunch on a snowmobile – electrifying! I am now hooked

We met these huskies on the way

We met these huskies on the way

... some cocktails before hitting my ice bed at the Ice Bar

… some cocktails before hitting my ice bed at the Ice Bar

This is my room for the night. One of the Ice Hotel Art Suites - I will report back tomorrow!

This is my room for the night. One of the Ice Hotel Art Suites – I will report back tomorrow!