Customize This Trip
Free service - no credit card required
Land in Swedish Lapland and there’s only one place to start the experience: the sauna. Soothe your mind after the journey, steam rising all around as you sit back on the wooden benches. Your temperature rises and rises and rises. Then it’s out the door and into the snow, a brief jump in the heart and an instant cooling effect. Back to the sauna and you relax some more until your fingers turn shriveled, toxins have been expelled, and the blood is circulating well after the flight. Before the sauna, you land in the northern Swedish town of Lulea and transfer out to Harads, a small snowbound village of around 600 people.
The hotel is five minutes from the village, and your room is separated from everything. Standing four to six meters above the snowy ground the contemporary treehouse provides serene views over the Lule River and towards the Arctic Circle. A different architect has designed each of the seven tree houses here, all of them providing a place of rejuvenation amid a landscape of spruce trees and wandering elk. By staying in such a remote location, and such a unique hotel, you must forgo some modern luxuries such as fast Wi-Fi. However, there’s a superb sense of connecting with nature and a view towards the nighttime sky, where the northern lights may be dancing on this first night in Swedish Lapland.
You’ll probably wake up late on most mornings. It’s not just a typical vacation luxury but also due to the late hour that the sun rises. Sunrise seems to extend for two or three hours, the sun skirting the horizon, casting everywhere in a perpetual pink glow. The sun’s color shimmers off of the snow and ice, painting everything from forests to lakes in a transitory glow. Traveling on remote snowy roads, you spend today in Flakaberg, where a Sami family welcomes you in and narrates many different sides to indigenous culture. Your host is a master storyteller and there is a nuance to the tales, showing how life and culture have changed over the decades but also stayed the same.
Hear all about the forests of Swedish Lapland as reindeer cover the valleys and coffee is boiled upon the campfire. Go to meet the reindeer as you wander the farm, learning of their wild history, and how the Sami people use them. Lunch is traditional, as you would expect, based on seasonal organic products and a diet that’s been passed down for generations. Back at the treehouse, you have time to relax in the sauna before the night closes in and you search for the northern lights. The setting is ideal for encountering this phenomenon, hardly any light pollution, and an uninterrupted view of the sky just a few steps from your treehouse.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Gliding across virgin snow and pristine trails you head deeper into the wilderness, first slaloming through the forests before opening the throttle to cross-frozen lakes and open valleys. This is a wild white world, snow covering the ground in every direction. Snowmobiles are an easy way to travel, comfortable vehicles that can cover large distances otherwise inaccessible to vehicles. Mostly you cross narrow one-track trails, in and out of the forest. Sometimes there’s an open lake just made for feeling the wind rush past your ears. Regular stops are made so you can appreciate the silence of the land and learn about the Lappish surroundings, the guide telling stories that will connect you to Lapland for years to come.
Back at the treehouse, there’s another night for the northern lights. They fill the sky four of five nights out of seven throughout winter and spring here, with the weeks around the spring equinox often the most impressive time of year for the spectacle. Every night the lights dance in a different way. Sometimes it’s just one color, meandering slowly across the sky. On other occasions you witness three colors blurring into one, the entire sky filled with ephemeral movements that will never be repeated. It’s often a humbling experience, to see a work of nature so rare and unscripted, to appreciate how much mystery still exists in our world.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Enjoy the train ride that rumbles north through Lapland and into the Arctic Circle. Watch the landscape unfold and admire the endless sheets of snow, before disembarking in Kiruna and a short transfer to the Ice Hotel. You’re welcomed by berry juice and keep your bags in storage lockers for now. There are private places to get changed and you can use the sauna, but during the day your ice suite is part of an art gallery, an art gallery you can spend one or two hours exploring.
Every suite is distinct, sculpted from ice that will eventually melt and leave nothing of the gallery behind. So each year the ice hotel is different, with suites crafted by different artists and architects. Under interior light, the ice glimmers a soft blue hue, but the artists also include crumbling snow to provide a sharp white contrast. While each suite and each year is different, there are some similarities. The ice bed is part of the sculpture and integral to the art, such as steps leading to an ice-sculpted bed in a tree. Furniture and furnishing are all ice as well, the attention to detail beyond what you can fathom from a distance.
Within the ice hotel, the temperate stays between -5 and -8 ºC, usually much warmer than the temperature outside. Rather remarkably it feels warm to be inside the Ice Hotel. Snow is an insulator and you’re away from the wind. However, the temperature is too cold for you to leave your luggage in the room, or for a private bathroom. So instead, men and women have separate dry changing facilities. You dress in warm thermal underwear, step into a cozy sleeping bag, and hop down the icebound corridors to your suite. Of course, all that’s after is a drink in the ice bar and another evening looking out for the northern lights. A night in the ice hotel is unique and it is the art design suites that most showcase the inimitability of the experience.
Wake up to a cup of lingonberry juice delivered to your bedside. Take in the setting; you’ve just slept within the art. Hop back to the dry room and have breakfast before transferring to a warm room for the next two nights. Sleeping in the icy art is incredible but not recommended for more than one night; warm rooms are more comfortable for days when you have different activities. Today it’s off on a dogsledding safari, a team of huskies pulling you through a picturesque forest and across frozen rivers. After an hour of sledding, you stop for a warm drink in the wild. Then an hour more as you feel a connection to nature and the ancient allure of dogsledding. There’s an opportunity to mush (drive) your own sled should you wish.
Tonight you dine beneath the aurora borealis. Travel to a wilderness camp perched between lake and forest, and a tepee-style tent you’ll instantly recognize from day two with the Sami. Rustling sounds alert you to wild animals nearby such as elk, reindeer, possible Arctic fox or lynx. Maybe you hear the echoed yells of a gray wolf. As the northern lights stretch out through the sky, you sit around the fire and tune all your senses into this special place. A three-course dinner follows, complete with fire-boiled coffee and the delicacies Lapland is known for.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sculpting ice. It’s not easy. But it’s absorbing and relaxing, working with an ice block and chisel to create art from water. A guide provides the background and introduces you to basic techniques, a grounding to take forward into your own creations. The ice sculpturing class only enhances your admiration for the ice hotel, how long it must take each suite to be sculpted, only for the sun to cast its spell and melt it all down to water once more. There’s some time in the middle of the day to take a walk through your surroundings; within a few steps of the hotel, there’s nothing around but an endless horizon of nature.
Night comes quickly in the Arctic, sunset blurs into the sunrise as those effervescent pink colors stretch for an eternity. After dark, you head out on snowmobiles, following guides that know superb open spaces for watching the aurora. If it’s later in spring then the lakes may have melted, creating mirrored reflections of the nighttime sky. Stop beneath the mystical show and the guide tells truths and tales about the aurora, how they were interpreted by past generations, and how they have been mythologized over the years. A three-course dinner is included, but it’s the lights you remember, a snowmobile tour allowing you to visit places many miles from any ambient light, where there’s nothing but you and the stars above.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Appreciate the surreal white landscape for one more morning, sunrise hues drifting across the ice, trees turned to sculptures as they carry the fallen snow. You’ll be transferred to Kiruna Airport to start your homebound journey, memories of the northern lights accompanying you all the way home.
The classic Swedish Lapland experience only exists a few months of the year. The beauty of this land is ephemeral, arriving with the snow before drifting into the land of the midnight sun. Reindeer dot snowbound valleys. Huskies glide you across frozen lakes. The aurora borealis dances through the sky. Perhaps nowhere illustrates the fleeting nature of this land more than the Ice Hotel. Every room is sculpted from snow and ice, individually designed every year, then melting back into the water. It’s in the winter and spring when the magic and mystery of Swedish Lapland comes to the fore. The evanescent land creates a remarkable travel experience. It’s not just an experience that’s only available for four months a year; return to Swedish Lapland in another year and the experience will be different.
The northern lights shimmer throughout winter and spring, typically four or five nights a week at this time of year. By spending a week in Swedish Lapland, you have the opportunity to not only witness the phenomenon but also admire its nuance. Different atmospheric gases produce different colors and the show is never the same; it’s like a ballet troupe improvising a performance through the night sky, dancing delicately and slowly then dissolving into the stage. Each evening, you have a chance to look up and look for the aurora borealis; nights in Harads place you a few miles south of the Arctic Circle while nights in Jukkasjarvi have you 150 miles inside this revered land.
Further along your trip, you have discovered all the classic Lappish experiences, with something new for every day on this handcrafted tour. Soak your mind into a steamy Swedish sauna, then jump out into the snow and repeat the process. Do this upon arrival on day one, and you’ll start to include the sauna every evening. Spend day two learning about Sami culture, hearing stories from a master Sami storyteller, and reindeer herder, in a magically remote place of the world. You snowmobile through snow-enveloped forests, humbled by the feeling the wilderness can provide. All these experiences are followed by nights at a treehouse hotel in Harads, where you sleep amid the spruce trees high above the snow.
A scenic train journey brings you to Kiruna and then Jukkasjarvi, where an incredible art gallery is your home for the upcoming days. Every single suite at the Ice Hotel has been individually sculpted. They defy the imagination, creativity, and ingenuity for a project that will soon melt to water. Every year they must sculpt it all again and every year there are different artists and completely new suites. Throughout the day the whole hotel is an open art gallery, but later in the afternoon, they become private hotel rooms. You sleep within the ice-sculptured suite and it’s surprisingly warm and toasty. Then you wake to the smell of steaming berry juice and the marvelous artisanal surroundings.
Spend one night in an ice suite then two more nights at a warm room at the ice hotel. Day five is all about exploring the Arctic Circle, through the forests and across the frozen lakes with two unique adventures. Explore on a dogsledding safari during the day then spend the evening at a wilderness camp. Deep in the forest and beneath the stars you dine beside a tipi-style Sami tent and listen for the wild animals that roam. Create your own art with an ice sculpturing class, then ride snowmobiles onto open valleys in search of the aurora borealis. Even in the last days you take a few steps from the hotel and wonder at the fleeting nature of the land you are experiencing. Soon the snow will melt, the hotel and aurora will be gone. But for now, it’s your winter playground in Swedish Lapland.
Begin planning your dream Sweden tour by connecting with one of our luxury Sweden travel companies.
$2445 per person (excluding international flights)