Sweden has long been a proponent of the health benefits of a polar plunge, so it’s no surprise that one of its newest wellness retreats is built around the concept. Arctic Bath, a floating hotel on the Lule River in Swedish Lapland, makes it easy for guests to take part in the local tradition of cold baths—brief, full-body dunks in icy water—followed by a trip to the sauna (a practice we’re already sold on), which, at Arctic Bath, conveniently surrounds a cold-water plunge pool cut straight into the Lule.
The hotel, which opened in January, features 12 cabins—six on shore, and six that sit on docks atop the Lule and are connected to land by a floating walkway—and a spa, which has a nest-like design mimicking a beaver’s logjam, once a common sight along the river. If the wood (which is sustainably and locally sourced) and wide windows feel reminiscent of Sweden’s more well-known Treehotel, with its stilted suites perched high above Lapland’s forest floor, it’s because the project was created by the same developers, Bertil Harström and Johan Kauppi.
The hotel’s rooms fall under three categories: land, suite, and water. The land cabins are built to accommodate up to five people, with a loftlike layout complete with a spiral staircase, minibar, and heated floor. Suites, like the one pictured above, have the same layout and with similar amenities but are designed for two people. Water cabins are two-person, free-floating structures located close to the hotel’s spa.
Floating on the water in the middle of the hotel complex is the Arctic Bath spa, at the center of which is an outdoor pool that lets guests plunge directly into the Lule River. The surrounding facility houses saunas and treatment rooms for massages and facials.
Cold baths, like the ones offered at the pool, are having a renaissance—a growing group of cold-water swimmers and bathers swear by their health benefits. Recent scientific studies also make the case: cold-water immersion is said to increase dopamine levels (and decrease depression); improve blood pressure; and lower cortisol, the stress hormone.
Lapland, a region that rings the northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, is an undeniable adventure destination. In between spa sessions from December through April, the hotel arranges guided sled-dog tours, as well as year-round day trips to the Storforsen Nature Reserve, a riverside respite great for spotting reindeer and home to some of the biggest whitewater in Europe.