A Hotel New Every Season: Icehotel 2012, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

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What’s a guaranteed refreshing escape any time of year? It’s the Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi, about 17 kilometers — or 11 miles — from Kiruna, in northern Sweden. This was the world’s first famous “ice hotel”; after its first appearance in 1990, it was such a hit with travelers the world over that it has come back every year since, from December to April. Just looking at these pictures of the 2012 version might make you shiver: everything in this hotel, including chairs and beds, is made from snow and ice blocks from the Torne River nearby, and the temperature stays below freezing — about 23 degrees Fahrenheit. As for how to decorate such a structure? The Icehotel hosts the work of contemporary artists, who compete fiercely every year for the privilege.

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The Icehotel even enables guests to experience its unique style during the summertime. Inside a “freeze house” is the “summer version” of the hotel with two art suites, an “ice bar,” and opportunities for guests to try their hand at ice sculpting. You can experience sleeping in “minus degrees” — have a good sleeping bag! — as well as visit the ice factory, where the basic materials for the next year’s Icehotel are waiting: blocks of crystal-clear ice. Under the glow of the midnight sun shining for 100 days and nights, this might just be a perfect unique getaway for your next unforgettable vacation. Explore the surrounding wilderness…or indulge in the nightlife, just a stone’s (or snowball’s) throw away: all kinds of options are yours in this “cool” Swedish escape.

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