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Travel: Chillax in luxury at Arctic hotel in Sweden

© Press Association ImagesSami Anna Kuhmunen with her lavvu.
Sami Anna Kuhmunen with her lavvu.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught to fear the cold – wrap up warm, wear a coat, never go out with wet hair.

We’ve been conditioned to dread and detest “the cold”.

But what if we were to turn the tables and embrace the very thing that scares us?

“There’s nothing to be frightened of,” assures therapist Nina Medin, as I slip into a skin-prickling pool of 4C river water – the centrepiece of new, high-end design hotel Arctic Bath.

Clad with log the property’s circular spa floats or freezes in Swedish Lapland’s Lule River – depending on the season.

The not-so-chilling story

Taking a cold bath is at the core of Swedish wellbeing.

The idea to create a hotel dedicated to the wellness tradition started 10 years ago.

Architect Bertil Harström, had ambitions to build a cold bath in an imaginative and innovative style. “He spent years searching for the right location,” says AnnKathrin Lundqvist, one of Arctic bath’s co-founders. “He watched how the Lule River flowed and how the ice formed and melted.”

Developing a spa addiction

Sauna etiquette is second nature to Scandinavians. A SaunaGus spa ritual is the perfect introduction. Moving between Arctic Bath’s wood pellet-fuelled saunas, Nina throws essential oils mixed with water on to hot rocks and circulates the steam by swinging a towel above her head.

I’m invited to meditate before heading to the cold bath. Starting with a tentative toe wriggle, I soon progress to full immersion, tilting my head back and gazing at the stars.

The feeling? Like a million electrodes pulsing through my body; my mind cleared of all thoughts bar one. As Nina explains: “When your body kicks into survival mode, that’s when you really see results.”

Sleeping with dreamy designs

From bespoke, pollutant-free, organic cotton swimsuits, to furnishings supplied by classic Swedish brands, every detail of the property has been finessed with meticulous care.

There are 12 rooms, all with spine-tingling views. On land, split-level cabins sleep up to five, with spiral staircases leading to a mezzanine. Warm lighting and use of natural materials are as comforting as a cuddle.

© Press Association Images
Anna Kuhmunen feeding her reindeer.

Smaller water rooms also have year-round appeal: north-facing windows are perfect for aurora watching, while in summer, guests can swim or kayak from their private deck.

Dining the sustainable way

Gourmet Sami chef Kristoffer Astrom, and his kitchen partner, Maarten De Wilde’s creations include six-day cured trout resting on a bubbly pillow of celeriac puree and lingonberries on a tasty reindeer blood pancake. Squeamish for some, but this is sustainability – typical of Sami culture, nothing ever goes to waste.

Putting the property in context

A 10-minute walk away, Harads village has a dusty museum filled with antique looms and rat traps, a church with an eyeball painted above the altar, and an Iranian pizzeria. Learn about community quirks from local guide Thorbjörn Enberg, who’ll invite you into his home for Swedish fika coffee.

An hour’s drive away, Pite River’s Storforsen rapids tell the story of this region’s “timmerflottning” industry, where logs were floated from forests to sawmills. A walkway hugs the raging water, and on frosty days evaporation dresses trees with crystal tips.

But the most memorable activity on offer at Arctic Bath is a morning spent with Sami reindeer herder Anna Kuhmunen in Jokkmokk. After feeding her herd with soft bundles of lichen, we sit around a fire in her lavvu listening to folkloric tales and learning about the modern day struggles of the original inhabitants of “Sapmiland”.

Eyes bluer than glacial pools and with cheeks rubbed crimson by the wind, Anna is at home in the cold. Having quelled my fear of low temperatures, finding new strength in sustaining shivers, I think I’ve become a fan of it too.

Rates at Arctic Bath (arcticbath.se) start from 9,600 SEK/£774 per night, based on two sharing water accommodation on a half-board basis, including breakfast, a five-course set dinner, spa access, Arctic Bath spa robe and spa bathing suit or shorts, slippers and a spa ritual kit.


P.S. 

Rates at Arctic Bath (arcticbath.se) start from 9,600 SEK/£774 per night, based on two sharing water accommodation on a half-board basis, including breakfast, a five-course set dinner, spa access, Arctic Bath spa robe and spa bathing suit or shorts, slippers and a spa ritual kit.

Factfile: 

For further information on Swedish Lapland, go to swedishlapland.com

For more on Sweden, visit visitsweden.com