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Sweden's Ice Hotel

Kiruna, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, is the gateway to Sweden's famous Ice Hotel. It sure is not the only of its kind and is reveled by (to mention just a few) Finland's Mammut Snow Hotel, Romania's Bâlea Lake Ice Hotel, Norway' Kirkenes Snow Hotel, Quebec's Ice Hotel, and Japan's Hokkaido Ice Hotel. Sweden's Ice Hotel is probably the biggest. It costs a little more than US$2 million to construct and after just 4 months in operation, it melts down to clean running water. With 73 rooms going for up to US$900 per night, and averaging 80% occupancy, the total income of the hotel over this short period is about US$6 million. That's not even including income from their US$15 a drink at the ice-bar, their restaurants, and their totally rip-off excursions where a short dog-sled trip, an hour on a ski-doo, or a hike to see the aurora borealis (northern polar lights) can cost you between $80 and $300.

An ice hotel is made entirely of snow and/or sculpted blocks of ice. Their lobbies and all (or many rooms) are filled with ice sculptures.
Sweden's Ice Hotel is situated in the village of Jukkasjärvi, about 17 km from the town (and train station) of Kiruna, northern Sweden. Its reported to be the world first Ice Hotel originating in 1989.

The entire hotel is made out of snow and ice blocks taken from the waters of the crystal clear (and nearby) Torne River. Even the glasses in the ice bar are made of ice. Once you finished drinking your vodka, feel free to crash the class against the wall at the exit. (Don't ask for free ice....just go lick the walls). Around March each year, tons of ice are cut from the frozen Torne River and stored nearby in the "production hall" which has room for 10,000 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow. The ice waits here until November when it is used for creating the ice bar and for ice sculptures used in the themed rooms.

When cold enough, around November, snow is sprayed on huge inverted catenary shaped steel forms and allowed to freeze. Once frozen, the forms are removed which leaves the free-standing corridors. Dividing walls are then built in to create rooms and suites. Additional ice blocks cut from the river are also used by selected artists to create the most amazing sculptures displayed in the themed rooms and all over the hotel. Even the large chandeliers are carved from ice. The hotel opens in phases. The first phase opens in the beginning of December and for each week, another part of the hotel opens up for guests until the beginning of January when the entire construction is completed. The hotel normally closes by mid to end of April and within three weeks (in warm weather), it all melts down to show the new growing green grasses of the spring.

Going there in summer? While the Ice Hotel will be nowhere in sight, don't despair. Check out the visitors centre for photos but please don't waste your money to book any activities through them. The fees they charge for their activities is a total rip off (or should I say: Daylight robbery!). The summers in Lapland is quite intense. The sun burns for 100 days and nights without setting and the countryside turned from snow to vibrant green. The nights are as bright as the days as the sun doesn't set at all. Enjoy the wilderness and tell them I'll be back in August 2009!

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