Taking the concept of an igloo to new heights, Icehotel has grown from a one room art gallery known as "Arctic Hall" to a sprawling 4000 square metre complex incorporating about 3000 tons of ice and 30 000 cubic metres of snow in its 60 guest rooms, main hall, ice-art gallery, Ice Bar, Ice Church and Ice Cinema (complete with ice-screen). The idea sprung from an ice sculpture exhibition in 1989 and is now the world's largest hotel made completely of ice and snow.
Located in the village of Jukkasj'rvi in Lapland, Sweden, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, construction of the Ice Hotel begins each October when snow canons and heavy-machinery are used to mould the snow over vaulted steel forms up to five metres high. These are removed after two-days (and re-used elsewhere) and the free-standing structure reinforced with ice-pillars. By December the interior is being refined by guest artists, who create windows, doors, desks, beds, chairs, tables and lamps as well as sculptures, in preparation for the arrival of the season's first guests - there were 14,000 overnight guests and 33,000 day-time visitors during 2000/2001.And what do you get up to so far from civilisation? Well apart from the indoor facilities, visitors can take part in snowmobile safaris, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, fishing, hot saunas, and as your unlikely to be this far north very often, there's also a chance to check out the Northern Lights before the Icehotel melts to become the "waterhotel" in late April. This year Icehotel will also feature a bonus for theatre lovers - the chance to see Hamlet performed in the local Sami language whilst seated in an ice replica of Shakespeare's "The Globe". There's also a unique Arctic Challenge adventure course adapted for all year round use and there are plans for an igloo village to house guests in the future.And if you happen to be stuck on the wrong side of the Atlantic, there's also anIcehotel in Duchesnay, outside of Qu'bec, Canada. Like its counterpart in Sweden, Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada has two art galleries, a movie theatre and Absolut Ice Bar and covers a total surface of 3000 square meters. Visit www.icehotel-canada.com to view the floor plan of the 2002 construction and more pics of the impressive architecture.A deluxe suite at the Ice Hotel Sweden costs around AUS$1000 per night and the entrance fee for a visit is AUS$20. Overnight stays at Ice Hotel Canada begin at CAN$458 per night for a double room.