A night in an Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland seemed like an unforgettable way to celebrate a special birthday.
The adventure was eagerly anticipated but tinged with trepidation. It was impossible to imagine sleeping in temperatures of minus 5 degrees on a bed made from ice.
We opted for the unconventional husky sled transfer from Kiruna airport to the hotel in Jukkasjarvi. Iâ€™d had visions of an elegant sleigh pulling us gently along with us all being ensconced under fur rugs. The reality was very different.
On leaving the small airport terminal, we were greeted by loud barking huskies and taken to a nearby shed to prepare. We donned enormous all in one ski suits over our normal ski clothes, black terrorist type balaclavas topped by â€˜Deputy Dawg hatâ€™ with furry ear flaps. Black leather boots and long leather gauntlets completed our outfits. Our luggage was put into enormous sacks and transported by road in the vans which had delivered the dogs. We were not an attractive sight and apart from height, you couldnâ€™t tell the four of us apart.
We sat astride the long, low wooden sledge in height order with the tallest at the back, our feet tucked on the runners. The twenty dogs got into position: in pairs and in line according to experience and age. With a â€˜mush, mushâ€™ we were off. The dogs were obviously very fit and ran surprisingly fast. In places the track was rutted or steep and it felt like being on a roller coaster.
There was snow everywhere and the scenery was breathtaking. After 40 minutes, my toes started to feel chilly and I was grateful to see the hotel in the distance. It was absolutely stunning.
On the introductory tour, our guide told us that each year the hotel is sculpted from ice cut from the Torne River. Everything, including walls, ceilings, chandeliers and beds are made from ice.
There was even a chapel for weddings with a difference and translucent sculptures everywhere. The unique ice suites were all different and sculpted by different artists. One had a telephone box, another life size statues of the four Beatles. Our suite was amazing; a â€˜roomâ€™ within a â€˜roomâ€™. It included a small hall with ice benches covered by reindeer skins and a staircase leading to a mezzanine bed.
Day visitors are banned from rooms at 7pm and we were able to open our duty free champagne, which was obviously well chilled, in the privacy of our room. Dinner in the main hotel was excellent with desserts served on plates made from ice. Fortified by nightcaps from the Absolut Icebar we felt that we couldnâ€™t put off the inevitable any longer.
We changed in the warm area and walked the short distance to our ice room dressed in pyjamas with snowsuits on top. After safely negotiating the stairs, we shed our snowsuit and boots and wiggled into our double sleeping bag (with individual liners) without standing up because the ceiling was four foot high. Not the easiest of tasks! Probably because of the effort involved, I slept considerably well despite waking at one stage feeling rather warm and claustrophobic!
We were woken up at 8am and served hot lingonberry juice in bed. The adventure was over. We had survived and thankfully my main fear had not been realised: I hadnâ€™t needed the loo in the night!
The hotel information was absolutely right: it was an â€œice-night to rememberâ€ but probably one not to be repeated.