A cold pool at its heart allows guests to plunge into the waterway for an invigorating dip, whether the Lule is bathed in the rays of the summer’s midnight sun, or locked in ice at winter, when temperatures can drop as low as -35°C.
Taking in the Northern Lights may be a memorable experience from any vantage point, but what could beat seeing it from a brand-new floating spa hotel in Swedish Lapland? Located just south of the Arctic Circle, and less than 90 minutes by car from the coastal city of Luleå, Arctic Bath (cabins from US$1,014, half-board) celebrates both the area’s history and the magnificent scenery along the Lule River.
Connected to shore by pontoon bridge, the circular main lodge is clad in a cat’s cradle of pine logs, nodding to an erstwhile timber industry that saw felled trees floated downriver to sawmills in Luleå. A cold pool at its heart allows guests to plunge into the waterway for an invigorating dip, whether the Lule is bathed in the rays of the summer’s midnight sun, or locked in ice at winter, when temperatures can drop as low as -35°C. There’s also two large saunas warmed by woodchip furnaces; a treatment room for massages and facials using botanical-based products from Swedish skincare brand Kerstin Florian; and open-air hot tubs that act as a foil to the bracingly cold central pool.
Stoves and heated floors are a common feature in the hotel’s 12 rooms, evenly split between cozy floating abodes and larger stilted cabins built among stands of birch on the riverbank. The latter were designed by Luleå-based AnnKathrin Lundqvist, who gave them streamlined interiors and double-height living spaces with a river-facing wall of glass.
Getting out into nature is a must: activities include dog-sledding, horseback riding, and meeting the indigenous Sámi residents, such as reindeer herder Anna Kuhmunen, to learn about their semi-nomadic way of life that has persisted in spite of external pressures. Back at the hotel, rising Sámi chef Kristoffer Åström (pictured above) and his Belgian counterpart Maarten De Wilde harness sustainably sourced local ingredients such as foraged berries, moose, and wild-caught Arctic char in their “Sámi fusion” fare. For those of us attuned to the tropical heat of Southeast Asia, all this sounds refreshingly cool.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2020 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Swede Spot”).