Visiting the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi is one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Swedish Lapland.
For many people a journey to this living art project, which melts each spring to be rebuilt again in the winter, is a bucket-list experience matched only by seeing the northern lights and going mushing with a pack of huskies – both of which you can actually do near the hotel.
But for budget travellers, there is a glaring problem: trips to the Icehotel cost a helluva lot of money.
As we write this article, holiday companies in the UK are charging in excess of £750 (10,000 SEK) for a three-day trip to the Icehotel – and that’s not including flights!
Per person, that is – and that’s before you even start adding up the cost of dogsled tours, food and other fun activities you’ll want to try when you arrive.
And once you’ve factored in flights, if you’re travelling as a couple you won’t come home from your short trip to northern Sweden with much change from around £2500. Unless, that is, you do things slightly differently.
Here’s our guide to seeing the Icehotel on a budget.
When is the Icehotel open?
Work starts on the Icehotel in October using ice that was harvested the previous winter (it’s stored in big warehouses onsite).
The hotel opens to the public in December and then stays open until the melt starts – usually in early April.
Each year, the hotel is rebuilt with different themes and ice sculptures by different artists. Check out pictures of some of this year’s rooms here.
If you are visiting in summer, however, you can stay in the purpose-built Icehotel 365, which has ice rooms and art suites available all year round.
It also has a huge ice hall, an ice bar and exhibitions of ice sculptures and ice art.
And even if you’re visiting in winter, you can keep prices down by staying one night in an ice room in the original hotel, followed by a night in a ‘warm’ room, at the Icehotel 365.
In fact, we recommend this option, because – let’s face it – after a night in a spartan ice room, you’ll probably want to cosy up in these ensuite hotel rooms with Scandinavian decor and enjoy a bit more comfort.
What to wear at the Icehotel
Bearing in mind that the average temperature in the Icehotel is -5 C, you will want to come equipped with suitable clothing.
For outdoor activities, the hotel lends out snowsuits, boots, gloves and a balaclava, but you will need to bring thermal underwear, warm socks and a hat, plus an extra fleece or jumper for indoors.
Although reindeer skins and warm expedition-style sleeping bags are provided in the ice rooms, the hotel recommends that you wear your indoor clothing in bed, too!
The ice rooms are only available for guests from 6pm to 10am, but the nearby heated Riverside Lobby building is open and staffed 24 hours a day with bathrooms, showers, saunas and lockers to keep your belongings in.
Where is the Icehotel?
The Icehotel is located in a small, historic village called Jukkasjärvi, deep inside the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland.
All things considered, Jukkasjärvi is surprisingly easy to reach. The hotel itself is just off the long, straight road that runs through the middle of the village, right beside the Torne River.
How do you get to the Icehotel?
If you want to get to the Icehotel cheaply, your first target should not be Jukkasjärvi but Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost city.
It’s around 17km to the west of the Icehotel and has very good transport connections with the rest of Sweden.
There are a few different options for getting to Kiruna – we’ll assume you’ve already arrived in Sweden.
Fly direct from Stockholm: quick but pricey
In winter, there are several direct, daily flights from Stockholm to Kiruna’s airport.
Norwegian and SAS both have planes operating this route, and if you book far enough in advance you may get return flights for as low as £100. At peak time, however, fares are nearer £300.
For details of how to get to and from Kiruna Airport, see our Kiruna guide.
Take the train to the Icehotel: slow but scenic
Night trains take around 16 hours to get from Stockholm’s Central Station to Kiruna. They’re comfortable and warm, and can be great value if you book ahead online.
However, you’ll need to balance any cost savings with the fact that you’ll be losing time – and probably spending money on snacks and beer along the way.
Plane and train combo: the compromise
If you want a solution that balances cheap fares with time spent travelling, consider mixing a quick domestic flight with a train journey on to Kiruna.
You may find that by flying to another destination in northern Sweden first, and then taking the train, you can save a lot of money and still get to enjoy some snowy scenery along the way.
Getting to the Icehotel from Kiruna
However you get to Kiruna, the next step is to get from there to the Icehotel.
If you’re looking for the sensible option, our advice is to take the bus, as buses running between Kiruna and the Icehotel are reliable and cheap.
Bus #501 from Kiruna bus station takes 35–40 minutes and stops right outside the Icehotel for a very reasonable 47 SEK.
For more details, see our Kiruna guide.
However, if you’re flying in to Kiruna, and are happy to splash out, we love this really special way to get to the Icehotel from the airport – by dog sled!
Arriving at the Icehotel by dog sled is the ultimate Lapland experience. You’ll be met at the airport, with all the warm clothes you need provided, then will glide across the snow to the hotel.
The journey takes around 75 minutes and costs 7225 SEK (US$ 690) for up to four passengers. Pricey? Yes, but what a way to arrive!
Staying at the Icehotel
Let’s be totally honest – if you want to stay inside the Icehotel, it will be expensive.
Bear in mind that you’re competing with wealthy folks from all over the world for what is a very limited amount of space (there are only 53 ice rooms available at any one time, and the original, icy part of the hotel is only open for a few months each year).
To give you an idea of prices, rates for the cheapest ‘cold’ doubles at the original Icehotel – known as ‘ice rooms’ – start at around 7,700 SEK per night.
Proper art suites, the carefully sculpted rooms you’ve seen in the glossy travel magazines (pictures here), begin at around 9,700 SEK.
Because of the high prices and limited availability, many people visiting the Icehotel on package tours have just one night in an ice room before transferring to a warm room in the Icehotel 365.
Standard hotel-style en-suite rooms in the year-round Icehotel 365 start from around 3,000 SEK.
Whichever type of room you decide to go on, it’s worth shopping around (you may find deals on sites like Booking.com).
Visiting the Icehotel on a day-trip
You may decide that you simply cannot visit the Icehotel without sleeping in the thing, which is completely understandable. But it is possible to get a good feel for the place without actually staying the night.
As a day visitor, you can look round the ice art exhibitions, the individually sculpted art suites, the ice rooms and the ice church, then grab a drink at the Ice Bar in the Icehotel 365.
And we think the best way to do this is on a guided tour.
We love this day trip from Abisko to the Icehotel, which includes transport from Abisko, plus a guided tour of the hotel and its amazing ice rooms and ice sculptures.
Alternatively, you could base yourself at one of the cheap hostels in Kiruna and take a tour to the Icehotel.
We love this half-day tour that includes lunch in a street food tipi where you can try moose or reindeer, transport to the hotel plus the entrance fee to the hotel and its amazing ice sculptures.
Visiting the Icehotel DIY-style
And for a real budget trip, we suggest staying in Kiruna and getting the bus to the Icehotel for 47 SEK each way. You’ll then have to pay the entrance fee to Icehotel (see below).
The downside of this is that you can’t book entrance tickets in advance, and can only buy tickets on the door (no cash). So you take a risk that you might get the bus to the hotel and discover that there’s no availability to visit it.
If you’re happy to take the chance, this is the cheapest way to visit the Icehotel.
Here are the current entrance fees in Swedish Kroner, plus the US$ equivalent at the time of writing.
|Students and seniors
|Mid-December to mid-April
|SEK 375; $36
|SEK 275; $26
|SEK 125; $12
|Mid-April to mid-December
|SEK 295; $28
|SEK 195; $18
What about activities near the Icehotel?
And if you’ve made it all the way to Jukkasjärvi and the Icehotel, we suggest trying some of the local activities such as dogsledding, snowmobiling or a northern lights tour.
You can also find out about the local Sami culture, on a foraging and traditional dinner trip, or on a reindeer tour. Alternatively, just hole up at the hotel and do an ice-sculpting class.
We like this fabulous snowmobile and northern lights tour that combines two of our favourite activities in one trip.
You’ll be picked up from Kiruna, and taken out into the wilderness to the camp in Poikkijärvi.
Here, expert guides will kit you out in all the warm gear you need for a fun snowmobile trip over the crisp, white landscape.
And you’ll be far away from any light pollution so, provided it’s a clear night, you’ll have a good chance of viewing the spectacular northern lights too. Then, you can warm up with some Swedish fika – coffee and a tasty cake.
We also love this fun snowshoe and ice fishing adventure, that picks you up from Kiruna and teaches you the traditional techniques of snowshoeing and ice fishing in the wilderness.
And for the ultimate in cute, you won’t want to miss this bucket-list husky trip. There are two options available.
You can either sit back on the sled and enjoy being pulled along by huskies, or you can learn how to drive the dogs yourself and take control of the reins yourself.
Pick-ups are available from both Kiruna and the Icehotel.
How much does a DIY Icehotel trip cost?
So, we’ve looked into how much you would spend on a two-night, three-day stay at the Icehotel itself and how much you could save by doing a DIY version.
The Icehotel recommends that you spend just one night in an ice room, and any other nights in a warm room in the year-round hotel, so we’ve calculated the price of a night in each.
For our DIY version, we’ve picked the cosy Husky Lodge Hostel just outside Kiruna, with its own on-site husky farm!
|One night in an ice room, including breakfast
|One night in a warm room, including breakfast
|Transfer from Kiruna airport to the Icehotel
|$26 per person
|Ice dinner at the hotel restaurant
|DIY at the Husky Lodge Hostel
|Two nights in a double room, including breakfast
|Taxi into town
|Dinner at a street food restaurant in Kiruna
|$25 a head
|Return bus from Kiruna to the Icehotel ($9) plus day entry ($28 in summer)
So, by doing it yourself, staying in Kiruna and visiting the hotel on a day-trip, you can save almost $800 on a two-night trip.
And of course, if you’re travelling as a couple or a family, the savings will be way bigger.
Don’t forget insurance – even if your trip has already started!
It’s no good visiting the Icehotel on a budget if you don’t have adequate travel insurance. Even though Sweden is safe, we strongly recommend getting a decent policy in place for your trip.
It really can make a world of difference if you lose your valuables or get involved in an accident.