Seen from a distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Arctic Bath looks like an oversized beaver dam or bird nest. Floating in the Lule River in northern Sweden, this extraordinary property -- a combination hotel, spa, sauna, restaurant, and bar -- is designed to mimic nature, blend in with its surroundings, and yet stand out all at the same time. Its unique shape is meant to mimic neither the work of a bird nor a beaver, but rather to resemble a jumbled up pile of timber, an homage to the Lule River’s history of transporting timber downstream.
It’s safe to say you’ve never seen anything quite like it! And now, after years of anticipation, the Arctic Bath is accepting hotel reservations for 2020. Here’s what you need to know.
It Has An Extraordinary Location
Situated near the community of Harads in northern Sweden, the Arctic Bath is only a short drive away from the Arctic Circle. If you shiver at the thought of being so far north, you’ll be reassured to know that summers are beautiful and sunny, filled with blooming wildflowers. Situated on the Lule River, once a defensive line against nearby Russia, a hydroelectricity producer, and an extreme sports destination, the Arctic Bath is a perfectly positioned viewing point for the Northern Lights. While the location sounds remote -- and in many ways, it is -- there are easy connections to Stockholm via the nearby Lulea airport and train station (which offers overnight trains to the south).
It’s A Multi-Building Complex
The nest-like jumble of “timber beams” that has become Arctic Bath’s signature image is the funky facade of the main part of the spa, sauna, and lounge area. Beneath this circle of seemingly haphazardly placed wooden beams are several spa treatment rooms, sauna facilities, a hot bath and a central cold water bath fed directly by the river (and, yes, it is cold -- just 39 degrees!).
However, the property doesn’t stop there. Six modern cabins, which float in the river in summer and are frozen in place in winter, are nearby, giving guests total privacy and an immersive experience with nature. A further six cabins on the shore are the best option for guests who want to feel solid earth beneath their feet.
Architecturally, There’s Nothing Like It
The Arctic Bath’s gorgeous exterior is only one part of what makes the property so unique. From an architectural and engineering point of view, there were some incredible hurdles to clear to take the hotel from concept to reality. The property’s Facebook page shows some of the different stages of development. A nearly 30-foot anchorage had to be drilled beneath the river for stability; 64 pieces of HDPE plastic were welded together into a circle, giving the structure a combined carrying capacity of over 350 tons, and placed into position via a massive crane. There’s absolutely nothing “cookie cutter” about this place.
Wellness Is The Main Focus
Through its spa treatment rooms, the Arctic Bath will offer a number of different wellness treatments, detox, and cleansing and mindfulness programs. The onsite restaurant will focus on local cuisine and clean eating. There are a number of nature and culture activities nearby as well. Designed to have minimal to zero environmental impact, the Arctic Bath features green roofs on its land cabins. While various companies are offering their own packages that combine a stay at the Arctic Bath with different treatments and services, you can easily book your own stay and build your own package.
The Style Is Scandinavian Luxury
While the setting is remote and rustic, there’s nothing unrefined about the Arctic Bath’s accommodations. On the water, the cabins include a double bed, heated floors, a wood pellet burning stove for winter heat, air conditioning in summer, a minibar, Wi-Fi, washroom with a shower, and a deck. On land, the cabins are elevated on poles and situated among vegetation. They can accommodate five people and the sleeping loft is connected to the first floor via a spiral staircase. They offer the same amenities as the water cabins, plus a little extra space (for instance, they come with bathtubs). Both are designed with the clean, simple minimalist lines Scandinavian style is known for.
Pets Are Welcome!
True, it’s probably not a good idea to invite Fido for a sauna treatment, but pets are welcome in 11 of the 12 cabins. A one-time additional cleaning fee of 250 Krona (about $26 USD) applies. Proceeds from the cleaning fees are donated to a local clean water charity initiative.
Believe It Or Not, The Arctic Bath Isn’t The Only Amazing Hotel In Town
What can outshine the incredible creativity and innovation of the Arctic Bath? Only its sister property, the Treehotel, which boasts Mirrorcube, one of the most famous hotel rooms in the world! As the name suggests, it’s indeed a cube made out of mirrors and it is indeed a treehouse -- one of seven quirky, fun, and utterly unexpected treehouse-based hotel rooms. There’s also The UFO, Bird’s Nest, The Blue Cone (which is actually bright red), Dragonfly, and the oversized (in terms of treehouses) 7th Room. They’re all delightfully charming spaces, but the Mirrorcube is the real star. The background of countless photoshoots for high profile fashion magazines and the darling of A-list celebrities seeking privacy, Microcubes glimmering glass sides seem to melt away in the forest, offering a true hideaway in every sense of the word.
Both Properties Are Driven By Passion
Having met Kent Lindvall and Britta Jonsson-Lindvall, the husband-and-wife team behind Treehotel, in 2016, I had a firsthand introduction to how proud stakeholders are when it comes to the two dynamic properties. Kent, who is also a member of the Arctic Bath owners partnership, showed me the plans and vision for the project. As we chatted over a giant bowl of local cloudberries, he showed me a binder filled with early sketches and ideas for the Arctic Bath, which first came to life back in 2010 -- at the opening of the Treehotel, in fact. There’s something in the water here, and it goes beyond innovative properties! Creativity seems to infuse everything that happens in Harads, and the Arctic Bath reflects this spirit of innovation and imagination.