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Watch the Northern Lights From a Sauna at This New Floating Hotel

arctic bath hotel
Johan Kauppi

If you've ever had the pleasure of seeing the northern lights dance with your naked eye, it's easy to understand why so many people flock to far-flung places in the Northern Hemisphere for a chance to watch the aurora borealis in action. Now, a new spa hotel in Sweden is offering its guests a front-row seat -- floating in the middle of a remote river north of the Arctic Circle. Meet Arctic Bath. Thrillist was given a tour of the Bath by Visit Lapland as it nears completion and prepares to welcome its first guests in early 2020.

arctic bath hotel
Johan Kauppi

The Arctic Bath hotel floats freely 18 meters from the shore in the Lule River and was conceived by some of the same people behind the stunning Treehotel, about a 10-minute drive away in Harads, Sweden. The lodge and separated rooms float in the river during the warm months and freeze into the river during the long, dark Lapland winters.

Johan Kauppi

Its main lodge will be a circular, open-air outpost for lounging surrounded by a cold and hot bath, several saunas, spa treatment room, lounge, shop, bar, and restaurant. At its center, there's a circular cut-out that creates a mini pool of river water, which remains accessible all year round -- even when the river freezes and the water below the surface dips to a frigid 39 degrees in the winter. Travelers bold enough to jump into the frigid waters can cool off with a door directly available from the sauna or the two on-deck hot tubs.

The restaurant will be run by a Belgian and a Sámi chef with a menu described as Sámi fusion, including foraged ingredients and reindeer. 

Johan Kauppi

The surrounding forest plays a strong role in the design. The main lodge is meant to resemble a jam of timber sent down the Lule River in homage to the region's past. The designers used native birch trees to surround the lodge and a tool used to dislodge log jams as inspiration for the shape of the cabins. 

"We have a strong environmental focus," says AnnKathrin Lundqvist, partner at the Arctic Bath. "We've chosen so many materials that are locally produced." That focus extends to land cabins, which are positioned on stilts above the ground so the cabins don't disturb the natural growth below. 

Johan Kauppi

In addition to the floating mid-river lobby, guests will walk back to the shore then take a separate walkway into the river to their cabin. There are six floating cabins that float in warmer months and freeze into the river during the winter. Each lodging has space for two to stay and an incredible view of the surrounding forest from a deck on the backside of the cabin. Each one is roughly 270 square feet with a minimalist interior and big windows, all the better to catch a glimpse of the northern lights in winter months.

Since its initial conception, the hotel has added six land cabins as well, three smaller cabins and three suites. They also reference the importance of forestry and the river in the history of the Swedish Lapland. Each land cabin is separated with a grove of beautiful birch trees, providing isolation despite the massive floor-to-ceiling windows. The suites sleep up to five guests, with a bed in the main living area, a large bathroom, and a lofted bedroom accessible by spiral staircase.

northern lights sweden arctic bath
View of the Arctic Bath cabins under construction on the Lule River. | Dustin Nelson/Thrillist

The Arctic Bath will also host several seasonal events to keep guests busy. In the summer, that includes hikes and paddleboarding. In the winter, there are northern lights expeditions, cross-country skiing, and more activities out in the omnipresent snow. That's all in addition to the wealth of activities offered in the area, many of which are collected together by the travel experience booking site Visit Lapland

Arctic Bath plans to open in February of 2020, and rooms are quickly filling up. It's an incredible jumping-off point to explore the region. And, for travelers looking to have unique experiences, it pairs wonderfully with Tree Hotel for a couple of special hotel experiences. 

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.