Creator of Sweden's magical Icehotel unveils this year's suites

If you’re looking for a cool hotel experience post-pandemic, then Sweden’s Icehotel hits the sub-zero mark.

This unique place, which is now in its 31st year, invites guests to sleep in themed frozen chambers which are like nothing like you’ve ever seen before.

Think of the craziest dreams you’ve had, cast that vision in ice and voila! Everything from Frankenstein’s lab to a giant King Kong have been incorporated into past designs.

One half of the hotel – the original part – is temporary, with new suites crafted each year, while the other section called 365 is open all-year-round with a solar-powered refrigeration system stopping rooms from melting.

Luca Roncoroni, Icehotel’s creative director, tells that masterminding such a wacky structure is no easy feat and work starts in early spring.

From the icy wilds of Jukkasjärvi, he explains: ‘To build the seasonal part of the Icehotel – there are 12 suites this year – we harvest around 1,300 ice blocks from the Torne River, one of the last wild rivers in Europe.

‘The giant chunks weigh around 1.5 tons each so we need some JCBs to help with the heavy lifting. These blocks are stored in our refrigerated warehouse until the autumn when building work starts.’

Traditionally there is a contest each year inviting designers from around the world to imagine the hotel suites.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic limiting travel this time around, the contest was just open to Swedish artists.

Luca went about making his selection and in the end, 19 teams and 35 artists worked on this year’s build project. 

This included 12 suites in the original hotel, called 31 this year, and six new rooms in 365, along with a new forest-themed ceremony hall for weddings and special celebrations.

To create the opaque walls of the grand igloo-esque hotel, snow and ice are combined to create a material known as ‘snice’.

Not only is this cool blend very strong, Luca says that it also provides ‘magnificent soundproofing’.

Pure ice which has a crystal-like sheen, is then used to make a range of furnishings including beds, side tables, sculptures and even chandeliers with more than 1,000 frozen crystals polished by hand.

Adding to the magic LED lights, which don’t produce heat, are used to illuminate various features.

Luca, who is originally from Lake Como in Italy, says one of the key skills needed to do his job is to have a love of the cold.

He first started working with ice while he was living in Norway as an architecture student and he was hooked from the get-go.

As there is no school for ice sculpting, he ‘practised and practised’ the craft alone until landing an apprenticeship at the Icehotel in 2001 where he quickly excelled.

Over the years he has travelled the world crafting frozen works of art for clients including British sculptor Anish Kapoor and fashion brand Chanel, and he has been in his current role as creative director since 2019.

With temperatures sometimes dipping below minus 30 degrees Celsius, Luca’s work attire consists of ‘lots of layers’.

His bundled up uniform including two pairs of woollen socks, thick-soled winter boots, wool underwear, a good hat and a buff that ‘covers the neck to the tip of the nose’.

He and his team take regular breaks if the cold is particularly piercing and they check in on each other to make sure things like frostbite aren’t taking hold.

Thanks to this buddy system, no major accidents have happened in the Icehotel’s history.

When it comes to working with the ice, the texture ‘is harder than clay but much softer than wood’.

Therefore, no hammers are required. Luca’s tool kit includes various kinds of chisels to delicately sculpt designs and an electric chainsaw for some more rapid action.

This year he crafted one of the suites in 365, with his design inspired by a Swedish sauna. The room includes towels, stoves, coals and a ladle, all fashioned out of ice.

The Italian muses: ‘This is probably the coldest sauna in the world. Here everything is imaginary, and a play with contrasts and irony.’

Six of the new suites in ’31’ and ‘365’ were unveiled on December 11 and the remaining six in ’31’ will officially open on December 21.

Designs look to various influences, from strawberry market vendors to children’s toys and the fairytale Rapunzel.

Stays at the Icehotel range from £500 and run up to £1,030 for a deluxe suite complete with an adjoining ‘warm bathroom’, hot sauna and bathtub.

After guests stay, fresh snow is laid on the ground to give a ‘nice cushioned feel’ and sculptures are checked for chips with touch-ups where necessary.

So what does one wear when sleeping in sub-zero conditions?

The Icehotel website advises travellers to wear thermal underwear, warm socks and a hat, and ‘perhaps bring an extra fleece jacket’.

A chilling yet thrilling experience, in a ‘fairytale, dreamlike land’.

For more information on the Icehotel and to book a stay visit

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