Sweden's Original Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi - Let's Travel Deeper ...

How is the Ice Hotel is Built

  • Around 27 artists work on creating the hotel’s new art suites each year.
  • 600 tons of ice are used in the construction process.
  • 35,000 cubic metres of snice (a mix of snow and ice) are used to create each new hotel – equivalent to 700 million snowballs.
  • The chandeliers in the Main Hall comprise 1000 handout ice crystals.
  • Huge blocks of ice, weighing two tons apiece, are harvested from the river late the previous winter and stored in anticipation of the start of building.
  • Moulds are used to create the shape, but the material is strong enough to stand alone and after a few days’ consolidations the molds are removed. The corridors and rooms are constructed in a classic, catenary arch shape, which is self-supporting and incredibly strong.
  • Room after room is filled with the right amount of snow and ice so the artists can get started immediately they arrive and turn their sketches into an artistic reality.
Ice Hotel Sweden Rebuilt Every Year
Ice Hotel - Building Moulds
Ice Hotel - Building Moulds

What is Kiruna Really Like?

Most Swedes live in the flat South of the country.  The capital, Stockholm, has 266 people per sq km, but in the empty north that figure drops to just nine.

23,407 people (Giron) live in Kiruna and their nickname is “the No-problem People”.   You can see why they would need to be:  Kiruna is home to the world’s largest iron-ore deposit, going 4km deep.  Years of iron-ore extraction was sucking the stability out of the bedrock underneath the town, so in 2007 the town voted to shift itself a couple of miles northwest.  They are tough, resilient people.

The Swedish Lapland Climate

In Swedish Lapland, nature plays a key part in life and survival and its people are highly sensitive to the small details of the changing seasons.

Life can be very tough this far north – knowing how to work with nature and survive it’s extremes are essential and the modern day comforts of snowmobiles and heating must make a huge difference.

Sweden's Original Ice Hotel

The Sámi people describe eight seasons instead of four:

  1. Spring-Winter – Gidádálve – March/April   The favourite season when both heat and light return after the grip of Winter.  Water drips and birds chip.  Ski with your jacket unfastened and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.
  2. Spring – Gidá – April/May. Green buds burst, water starts to run freely and early spring flowers are in bloom.  It’s light all day long and reindeer calves are born.
  3. Spring-Summer – Gidágiesse – June.    Light nights and trees in full leaf – it’s time for outdoor hiking and cycling adventures before the Summer mosquitos arrive.
  4. Summer – Giesse-June/July.  Swim, sunbathe and enjoy the midnight sun – but avoid the mosquitos.  Build a fire to protect yourself – the insects will stay away from that.
  5. Autumn/Summer – Tjaktjagiesse – August.  The air is crisp and the trees are full of colour.  The mosquitos begin to reduce in numbers as Autumn approaches.
  6. Summer/Autumn – Tjaktja-September/October.  Warm days and frosty nights.  Time for hiking, hunting and gathering mushrooms and berries to see you through the long Winter.
  7. Autumn/Winter – Tjaktjadálvve. – November/December.  Days are short and ice and snow cover the ground.  Water is frozen.
  8. Winter – Dálvve – December – March.  The longest of the eight seasons.  A carpet of snow covers the ground and relentless snow storms rage across the mountains.  The Northern Lights frequently fill the sky.

The Chef’s Table Menu at the Ice Hotel’s Verandah Restaurant captures the flavour and rhythm of the Eight Seasons perfectly.  Read more on my previous post.

Ice Hotel Sweden - Chef's Table - Verandah Restaurant
Ice Hotel Sweden - Chef's Table - Verandah Restaurant

What do the Sámi people wear?

The traditional Sámi dress is rarely seen these days, which is a shame, because it is a real work of art – colourful, beautiful and also practical.  The colours of the Sámi flag are used to weave the fabric used for the traditional dress.  You can see some lovely examples of their traditional dress here.

Sámi Textile Weaving
Sámi Textile Weaving

What do the Sámi People Eat?

Reindeer Meat - Waste Not Want Not

Every part of the reindeer is used:

  • Fat (for flavouring)
  • Liver, Kidneys & Heart. 
  • Blood – used instead of eggs and milk to bind a pancake – Blodplätter are fried in reindeer fat and eaten with lingonberries.
  • Blood is also used to make Blodpalt dumplings – eaten with the Marrowbone.  You can fin small buckets of reindeer blood in Lapland supermarkets if you want to give it a try?
  • Bones (Used for Weaving – see photo above)
  • Hooves

Reindeer meat is dried, cured and smoked to keep it through the Winter and there are many traditional recipes for making nutritious, lean Reindeer meat taste delicious:

  • Renkött – Dried meat – sold in supermarkets and makes a nice souvenir.
  • Renskave – Frozen, thin slices of reindeer meat that can be sautéed over an open fire or stewed with onions, cream and mushrooms.  Lovely with mashed potatoes and lingonberries.
  • Suovas – Dry salted reindeer meet, smoked for 8 hours or more.
  • Bidos – Heart – Made into a Soup/Stew with vegetables
  • Gurpi – Cured reindeer meat tied together like a sausage using the fatty lining of the reindeer’s stomach.
  • Renkorv – Reindeer Sausage

Gahkko or tunnbröd (thin bread) 

Gahkko or tunnbröd (thin bread) is the main bread that the Sámi people baked. It used to be crispy so it could last for months and the Sámi could carry it with them on their nomadic journeys with their reindeers. Nowadays there is also a soft variety.

Ice Hotel Sweden Wild Boar Tenderloin
Wild Boar Tenderloin
Ice Hotel Sweden - Arctic Char
Arctic Char

Other delicacies to look out for on your trip include:

  • Kalix Roe – Swedish Caviar, made from the eggs of the vendace fish that swims in the Bothnian Bay off the coast in Kalix
  • Arctic char is a cold water fish common in mountain lakes above the polar circle. Part of the salmon and trout family, it has a pleasantly mild taste.
  • Moose – A bit like beef, but with a gamier flavour and – in my experience – considerably tougher.
  • Wild Boar
  • Garden Angelica.  This herb grows wild in Scandanavia and is much prized.
  • Almond Potatoes – names because of their tiny size.


Fika is a Swedish institution – part of every home and workplace.  At it’s simplest, it is a break for a snack between meals.  It may only be a cup of coffee, but if you are lucky, it can include a cookie, a bun or an open sandwich.  Above all, it is a social time – a time to spend with family/friends.  

In days gone by, a typical schedule might have been:

06.00-06:15 Pre-breakfast fika in solitude:  Bun and coffee.

07:00-07:30 Breakfast with the kids: porridge, or cultured milk and cereal, coffee.

10:00-10:I5 Fika with colleagues:  Bun, cake or cookie and coffee.

12:00-13:00 Lunch:  Warm food followed by coffee and maybe some cake.

14:15-14:30 Fika with colleagues:  Bun, cake or cookie and coffee.

17:30-18:30 Dinner with the family:  Warm food followed by coffee.

21:00-21:30 Kvällsfika with the family:  Sandwiches and tea, maybe with cake/bun.

Ice Hotel Sweden Hot Chocolate
Ice Hotel Sweden Hot Chocolate
Ice Hotel Sweden Snowmobile Trip - Fireside Fika
Swedish Fika

Eating that often got you through circa 16 hours of manual labour a day and kept you alive through Winter.  These days, you might only “fika” twice a day – but it is still an important part of Swedish life.

Don’t mind if I do?!

Next Trip - Lanzarote