Swedish Lapland: Kiruna, Ice Hotel and Sami | Campus Tour 1/7

From all around the world people come to visit the Swedish Lapland, 200 km above the Arctic Circle – yes, you read it correctly above the arctic – the land of the Sami people, reindeers, more snow than my eyes have ever seen, Northern lights and the super famous ICE HOTEL!

Now you can guess why this was the place we started our Campus Tour – winter edition, an adventure of a lifetime from sleeping in an ice room to spotting polar clouds and having a ride in dog sledding. Just by writing this I’m getting all excited all over again. So sit comfortable, grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and follow our steps through the Swedish Lapland.

Getting there

Stockholm Central station was our meeting point. I arrived early from Helsingborg and a loooong night train was just around the corner to take us to the next stop: Kiruna! 17 hours later (after playing cards, eating candies, fixing the bunk beds, trying to sleep, eating more candies and looking through the window) we were there, winter wonderland, no doubt.

Kiruna

The northernmost town in Sweden. The houses seem to rise from the snow; a small outdoor market with candies and other sweets was in the center and despite the strong wind people gather outside, having a good time. We also walked all the way to the wooden church, a Kiruna must.

Now it was time to keep moving, to the Ice hotel, around 20 minutes away! Yes, a hotel, made every year completely out of ice, as awesome, crazy and cold as it sounds.

Ice Hotel and Sami Camp

Many years ago I saw a documental about this place and since then I had it in mind. Imagine then how I felt when I say the big sing in the entrance that announce us we where there. I’m sure the rest of the crew was as excited as me. Two huge block of ice were at the entrance of the world’s first Ice hotel, I know you should not hug ice but oh well, in this case you can make an exception. Along with Marina, we took a nordic method of transport and ride to the entrance.

The hotel, including beds, couches and lamps are built of snow and ice blocks taken from the Torne River nearby. I can’t find the exact words to describe it, is surreal. Every room is unique, made by artist from Sweden and all around the world making the whole place a work of art.

At this point you may be thinking: but isn’t too cold?! How come!? Inside of the hotel there is controlled temperature of around -4 C but we got special outfits to wear to keep our normal body temperature. – And if I need to use the restroom? Is it also made of ice? – I had the same concern but don’t panic, they have warm cozy restrooms in the reception where you also get a locker to keep your stuff, so you’ll survive.

After checking the place, been amazed by all the small details and before going to bed we had one more thing in the list: visit the Sami Camp, which is just a short walk away.

The Sami are indigenous people that habit in the Arctic area. Their story starts around 10,000 years ago been the first brave ones to move to the north of Europe after ice melted. Reindeer herding is an essential part of their culture. They also have a very close connection with nature, which is reflected in their language. Having words and expressions to describe things we don’t have the words for. In their camp we fed the reindeers and sat around the fire with our Sami tour guide to talk about traditions as well as challenges they are facing in the modern world of today.

We end up the talk with fika and coffee with… cheese (a Swedish Lapland thing).

Our next stop included a bunch of huskies and a sled, can you guess?. Another “first” during the Campus Tour: dog sledding. Making our way through the trails full of snow, surrounded by pine trees, hoping for northern lights. The dogs were so smart just with a word or a sound from their leader they knew where to turn or stop, while the moon kept illuminating the path. 

Back in the Ice hotel it was time for sleep. In an ice bed, at -4C. We each grabbed a sleeping bag and place it over the reindeer skin in the ice bed.

Next morning we woke up with the most beautiful clouds over the Torne River.

Oh, the north, there’s something magical about this land.

Before leaving Kiruna we had one more important stop and for this you better be ready to reach for the stars. Curious? I’ll tell you more about it in my next post.

/Ivanna

Cover image credits: Staffan Widstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

Ivanna

A student from Dominican Republic doing a Master in Strategic Communication at Lund University, Campus Helsingborg. If you have any questions contact me at ivanna.studyinsweden@gmail.com
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