You’ll ap­pre­ci­ate just how re­mote a lo­ca­tion you’re stay­ing in

Emirates Man - - STYLE | TRAVEL -

is an ac­com­mo­da­tion at night, by day the Ice­ho­tel is a gallery for guests and vis­it­ing tourists, and it doesn’t take long to see why. Each room is beau­ti­fully carved with or­nate and orig­i­nal de­signs – ge­nius feats of ar­chi­tec­ture all – and you might nd your­self sleep­ing in­side the icy ren­der­ing of a bell pep­per, amidst a chess set or with frozen mem­bers of the an­i­mal king­dom watch­ing over you. But you won’t miss a TV when you slide into your gi­gan­tic sleep­ing bag (tested to mi­nus 50, mean­ing you’re more likely to sweat than shiver) and switch off the light – as you will see and hear noth­ing, there’s just si­lence and black­ness. Un­sur­pris­ingly, this makes for a peace­ful night’s slum­ber, un­less of course you wake up need­ing the loo – as that re­quires a 100-yard jog dressed in your ther­mal un­der­pants, and ad­mit­tedly not quite as tran­quil an ex­pe­ri­ence.

But dis­miss Jukkasjärvi’s sparse­ness at your peril, as La­p­land is so much more than an off-the­beaten-track retreat. You can spend en­tire morn­ings be­ing schooled in the art of ice sculpt­ing. Armed with a chisel and a block of ice, you are en­cour­aged to take in­spi­ra­tion from the art­work all around, and let your imag­i­na­tion run wild – with the nest ren­der­ings show­cased around the com­plex.

Mean­while, book a wilder­ness tour and you’ll be taken out by an iden­tikit Swedish tour guide (blond hair, blue eyes, fright­fully at­trac­tive) on a long and wind­ing route to your own ex­clu­sive, snow-capped cabin. Even bet­ter, you’ll be trav­el­ling there by snow­mo­bile.

As a mode of trans­port, snow­mo­biles take some se­ri­ous beat­ing. Crammed with power and boasting top speeds of 130kph, the giddy head rush you feel on one of th­ese ma­chines is matched only by the erce breeze that blasts your cheeks as you zoom around and en­deav­our to stay aboard. On your snow­mo­bile tour you’ll fol­low your guide through a va­ri­ety of ter­rain, from climb­ing hair­pin slopes amid the wind­ing for­est, to putting your ma­chines to the test on sprawl­ing, wide open ats. Be care­ful, this writer found out per­son­ally that fall­ing off at just 5kph stings, so rest as­sured that while whizzing across ice at full throt­tle is quite the ride, the frozen ground is an un­for­giv­ing crash mat.

Af­ter a log cabin pit stop for a cup of warm lin­gonberry (Swe­den’s na­tional fruit) and sand­wich, you’re in prime po­si­tion to view one of mother na­ture’s big­gest won­ders: aurora bo­re­alis, more com­monly known as the North­ern Lights. Fleets of hol­i­day­mak­ers head to Scan­di­navia, Alaska, Siberia and be­yond for en­tire va­ca­tions where the cos­mic rays refuse to show, but keep an eye on the fore­cast be­fore you go (the North­ern Lights’ vi­brancy is judged on a scale of zero to ve) as you might just be lucky enough to en­counter a gor­geous day-glo fug of green, pur­ple and blue.

From there you’ll em­bark on an­other rapid jaunt to your own se­cluded cabin in the woods, il­lu­mi­nated by can­dle­light and re­plete with fresh drink­ing wa­ter – di­rect from the frozen lake out­side. Thaw your frosty limbs in your en suite sauna, then cool down with a tra­di­tional Swedish shower – ba­si­cally the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge with­out the char­ity – as your guide pre­pares a hearty Scan­di­na­vian feast of pot-roasted meat, pota­toes and veg, along with olives, cured meats and mush­rooms on toast. The fol­low­ing morn­ing you’ll be treated to a break­fast of por­ridge and salted cof­fee (an­other Swedish del­i­cacy), be­fore ski­doo­ing your way back to the sprawl­ing Ice­ho­tel com­plex, look­ing for all in­tents and pur­poses like a Christ­mas card.

Step out into the ‘real’ Jukkasjärvi, or at least what lit­tle there is, and you’ll nd a small gro­cery store, church and a Sami (La­p­land’s in­dige­nous tribe) mu­seum, which has its own herd of rein­deer. Just like ev­ery­thing else in this iso­lated utopia, the church is vis­ually magni cent – its deep red paint­work amongst the ocean of white vis­i­ble a mile away. In­side the Sami mu­seum you’ll learn the his­toric rit­u­als of the na­tive La­p­lan­ders, and ad­mire the var­ied trin­kets proudly on dis­play. It’s ab­so­lutely worth a

visit, rstly as it might be your only chance to speak with a bona de lo­cal (who’ll im­part re­gional knowl­edge and his­tory lessons on the Sami peo­ple) but also as the en­try fee will grant you ac­cess to the graz­ing rein­deer in the ad­ja­cent eld. Th­ese crea­tures will be pleased enough to see you – pro­vided you bring along a bag of food from the gift shop, that is. Be warned: although the rein­deer are fairly docile, it’s highly ad­vis­able to keep an eye on their antlers at all times – else you run the risk of re­turn­ing home with­out both eyes.

If it’s wildlife that ap­peals, Ice­ho­tel of­fers a husky sledg­ing ex­cur­sion that pro­vides a hefty in­jec­tion of adorable an­i­mals, along­side a pic­turesque tour of Jukkasjärvi – con­ve­niently sched­uled for when the sun is bright­est in the sky. Take your seat in the sledge, and the pre­vi­ously yap­ping huskies go si­lent the mo­ment your driver shouts mush (or what­ever the Swedish equiv­a­lent) and take ight. Glid­ing along the frozen River Torne in day­light gives you the chance to truly ad­mire your sur­round­ings – the win­try sun beam­ing in the sky while ev­ery snow-cov­ered tree, house and patch of land glim­mers be­neath it. Sel­dom a house for miles around, you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate just how re­mote a lo­ca­tion you’re stay­ing in.

As with most other ex­cur­sions you’ll stop mid­way for a ka (cof­fee and pas­try break). You’ll also be granted an op­por­tu­nity to get hands on with your fur cov­ered chauf­feurs, as they take a well-earned respite. Not that they’ll need long, as af­ter roughly 30 sec­onds they’ll start howl­ing again , des­per­ate to em­bark on yet an­other run.

The culi­nary scene in Jukkasjärvi is limited by na­ture, yet what it lacks in choice it more than makes up for in qual­ity. Af­ter a long day out in the cold you’d set­tle for just about any­thing to re­stock the calo­ries you lost through shiv­er­ing, but head to the lux­u­ri­ous Ice­ho­tel restau­rant and you’ll nd a la carte dining of Miche­lin star qual­ity. With a tan­gi­ble sense of tran­quil­lity per­me­at­ing ev­ery inch of the ho­tel’s grounds, the restau­rant is no dif­fer­ent – bustling but not packed, at­mo­spheric though not noisy, with wait­ing staff on hand at a mo­ment’s no­tice. Full of warm, per­sonal touches, the head chef may ex­plain his menu to you at the ta­ble, and make rec­om­men­da­tions based on what’s in the kitchen paired with your pal­ette.

The menu of­ten changes, but the starter of duck with foie gras is a rich treat, whereas you’d be strongly ad­vised to for­get the antlered friends you made and opt for a tra­di­tional rein­deer steak with­out re­morse. Then, for dessert, sam­ple the cus­tom­ary lin­gonberry par­fait over the tempt­ing al­lure of choco­late – it’s cus­tom­ary, af­ter all.

Half a mile up the road the rustic, tim­ber-built Homestead restau­rant sits right on the river. The build­ing dates back to 1768 and is also a mu­seum, while the or­ganic, hearty meals will warm you as much as the ick­er­ing re­place. With spec­tac­u­lar Swedish meat­balls, rein­deer stew and moose all on the menu, along with Scan­di­na­vian beer and wine, you won’t re­gret go­ing na­tive with your din­ner choices.

Be sure to ll up, both your glass and your plate, as you’ll need plenty of fuel, and that ex­tra layer of fat, when re­trac­ing your steps home in the bl­iz­zard con­di­tions out­side. In case we didn’t men­tion, it’s mighty cold out there.

Left: A huskie ride. Be­low: The en­trance to the Ice­ho­tel An es­sen­tial ac­tiv­ity to try dur­ing a visit to La­p­land

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