How an Ice Hotel Works

Image Gallery: Strange Tourist Attractions Sweden's ICEHOTEL is built every year on the river Torne. See more pictures of strange tourist attractions.
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You open your eyes to the soft, diffused light of fiber optics and dawn. Ice surrounds you -- some of it carved into furniture and sculpture, some of it in massive blocks that make up the walls, the ceiling and even the floor. But despite the room's beauty, it's time to get moving. After all, your room is 17 to 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 to -8 degrees Celsius) and you've just spent the night in a mummy bag on a slab of ice. The beauty, the cold and the quick morning escape are all part of the typical ice hotel experience.

Ice hotels are oversized, extravagant igloos. Solid blocks of ice make up their formidable, barrel-shaped structures. But inside, ice hotels glitter with elaborate ice furniture, ice bars and even ice glasses. Colorful lighting makes the structures look more like magical snow castles than frigid arctic dwellings.

The hotels are built near rivers where workers can draw water, freeze it into ice and cut the ice into large blocks before trucking it into place. Extensive, large-capacity ice hotels take about five to six weeks to build. But when spring comes, all the hard work melts away, and the hotels must wait until winter to rebuild.

­Ice hotels are part of a growing trend in destination hotels. People no longer select lodgings simply because they're close to holiday spots. With normal vacations just not cutting it anymore, hotels have become destinations in their own right. Arctic resorts that once had to close shop for the winter can now attract tourists year round.

People describe the experience of waking up after a night in an ice hotel as one of sheer exhilaration. Some say it even feels like an accomplishment. In the next section, we'll learn about the original ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.