We have booked a few nights in a cabin near Muonio in Finland, just across the border. It’s about 350kms from where we have spent the last few days, but it took us all day and part of the (very long) night to get here. We packed up and left the apartment at Katterjokk just after 10am, wandered around Abisko for a short while and then drove to Kiruna, where we stopped to have a walk around the town centre, pick up some groceries and have lunch in the car.
Just a few kms east of Kiruna is the turn-off to Jukkasjarvi, home of the Swedish Ice Hotel. We had considered staying there for about a nano-second, until we found out it costs at least $700 to stay in the ‘Cold’ part, as opposed to the ‘Warm’ part which is just like any other hotel room, but costs $350 per night. We figured that we had already experienced sleeping on ice for free, so decided to save our money and not stay there, but we did want to have a look at it. Just driving into the car park was an experience – the car park spaces are marked out by huge blocks of ice. We wandered past the hotel reception and the hotel shop towards the magnificent, but temporary, Ice Hotel. It melts at the end of each cold season and is then rebuilt again at the start of the next . It is still in the ‘being built’ stage at the moment.
There is a beautiful, very minimalist chapel just outside the main entrance to the hotel. built mostly of snowy blocks of ice, with clear blocks providing ‘windows’ and fittings for lights. The chapel pews are long solid blocks of ice with reindeer skins providing insulation and padding. The altar is another single block of clear ice. We walked past the hotel entrance down to the lake, and saw new parts of the hotel still at the construction stage. There was a team of dogs and a sled out on the nearby frozen lake, and a forklift was carrying blocks of ice to the builders. We snuck into the main entrance and into the bar, where even the drinking glasses are made of ice, but we needed to purchase a ticket to get any further and we felt like we’d seen enough (*cough* – okay, we’re cheapskates and didn’t want to pay). It was well worth the detour, though. There are also Ice Hotels in Norway and Finland.
We kept on driving towards Muonio in Finland, taking a wrong turn somewhere along the way and ending up in a little village where the (snowploughed) road didn’t go any further, so we had to turn around and find the correct road. We haven’t brought any maps with us, and have been relying on the GPS in Greg’s phone. The ‘voice’ is a very British gentleman we have named ‘Nigel’ and he does tend to get us lost at times. Anyway, we finally got to our destination at around 8pm, then wandered around for a while trying to find the right place. Fortunately the manager was watching out for us and came out to get us all sorted out. We’re staying in a comfy little cabin that has a sauna somewhere, and it is also possible to swim in the icy lake. I feel hypothermic just thinking about swimming when it’s -2C outside. We’ll check it all out tomorrow, by the light of day.
We’re still inside the Arctic Circle, and it is possible to see aurora here, but it’s cloudy again tonight and it’s been a long day, so we won’t be venturing out to look skywards.