Backtrack two days and it’s Thursday afternoon at Kiruna Airport. The temperature shows -14 and the season’s first Ice Hotel guests are getting off the flight from Stockholm, clutching their jackets tight to their bodies, hats pulled well below their ears.
This is extremely cold for most of us – even for me as a Swede – but our jolly guide Andreas, who picks my friend Renée and I up at the airport, doesn’t seem too bothered.
“So, welcome to the Ice Hotel,” Andreas smiles proudly as we arrive. It’s the opening weekend and although all of the art suites aren’t finished yet, there are already tourists walking around inside, photographing the amazing rooms.
The Ice Hotel is surrounded by wooden chalets as well as one restaurant, one dressing room and a lounge. These are all warm and cosy places, offering everything from saunas to hot chocolate and fancy cocktails in glasses made of ice.
Apart from experiencing one night’s sleep in one of the ice rooms, which is due to happen on Saturday, Renée and I are here to try some of the activities available in the area; reindeer racing, moose safari by horse and ice sculpting.
We check in and get settled.
As my alarm sounds at 8am the next morning I struggle to get out of bed – it’s still pitch black outside. We’re staying in one of the warm chalets for the first two nights, a combination that most guests at the Ice Hotel prefer.
A few hours later, I find myself on a sledge with a crazy reindeer tied to it. We have spent some time with its owners Per-Anders Nutti and his son Pavva at their Sami camp, listening to stories about the Sami culture and I’m now due to try reindeer racing.
A reindeer can get up to a speed of 70 kilometres per hour, Per-Anders tells me just as Pavva shouts “go!”, releasing the reindeer from his hands.
Terrified, I fall off the sledge.
“Wow, that must be a record…” Pavva murmurs to his father.
I decide to give it another go and this time I’m doing much better. “Faster! Faster!” I hear myself shouting, while laughing hysterically, half way down the racing track.
In the afternoon Renée and I head to a farm 40 minutes drive from the Ice Hotel. A girl named Jenny lives here together with a cat, a dog, two goats and a whole bunch of Icelandic horses. We are here to do a moose safari tour.
“Oh, look over there!” Jenny says, just as we are about to get up on our horses. She points towards two big moose standing in a field about 50 metres away from us.
Despite already having completed our mission, we venture in to the Lapland forest. It’s very chilly but luckily the Ice Hotel supplied us with warm overalls, boots and gloves as soon as we arrived.
“This is as far as you’ll ever get from the Stockholm rush hour,” I think to myself as we make our way through the trees.
When Saturday night arrives I’m nervous. It’s now a staggering -32 outside and -7 in the hotel. I’m told to wear only one layer of clothing – it’s important to not start sweating during the night as that will make you cold.
After completing my outfit with a hat and two pairs of woollen socks, I get into the big sleeping bag I’ve been given at the reception. The bed is quite comfortable but I struggle to fall asleep as the feeling is so surreal.
I spend some time trying to convince myself I really don’t need a pee. I also can’t help but wonder what it would be like to share my sleeping bag with someone special…
Suddenly it’s 7am and I’m being woken up by a member of staff who offers me a warm lingonberry drink. I have a sip and then fall back in to a sleep so deep that I nearly miss the incredible breakfast that finishes at 10 am.
On the last day we are taking a class in ice sculpting. I spend an hour obsessively trying to carve out a chimney in the mini Ice Hotel I’m making. Very therapeutic. Proudly, I upload a picture of my artwork on to Facebook.
“So did you see the Northern Lights?” you may ask, as this is one of the main reason tourists visit the very north of Sweden.
Well, they did appear in the dark blue sky on both Friday and Saturday night but sadly we missed it.
On Friday we were too busy eating delicious mooseballs (as in meatballs made of moose meat, nothing else..!) at the newly refurbished homestead restaurant, Hembygdsgården.
And on Saturday? Well, I slept on ice – and got a diploma that is now pinned up on my wall back home in Stockholm.
ICE HOTEL no 24 open 6 dec 2013 – 22 Apr 2014
Rates: Cold rooms from 1600 kr per person and night. Warm chalets from 1350 per person and night.
Get here: Fly direct from Stockholm Arlanda (1.5 hours) with SAS or Norwegian.