Around a thousand kilometres north of Stockholm, on the majestic Lule River, sits a scattered collection of buildings that make up the Arctic Bath retreat. The central, circular structure camouflages into the flat, snowy landscape behind a chaotically crisscrossed facade of timber. A handful of cabins are oriented around it in two parallel lines, their tiny, angular designs curiously slanted, as though bowing in reverence to the beauty of their surroundings. But if you were immersed in this serene landscape, you’d likely do the same.
This is Swedish Lapland, the Scandinavian country’s northernmost province. Known for its diverse wildlife, frigid climate, and Indigenous Sámi culture, the region is ideal for those looking to connect with nature. During summer, the sun still shines even in the middle of the night. In winter, the sky is lit up by the northern lights — beautiful gradients of green, purple, and shimmering pink playing amidst countless glittering stars. There’s a mystical feeling to the place, where hawk owls and eagles fly over snow-capped pines and herds of reindeer graze. And it has proved the perfect place to bring a luxury wellness retreat to life.
Given its distance from major cities, Arctic Bath may not be the most conveniently located for visitors, but it is well worth the trek to these lesser-trodden climes. “People come for the exclusive and immersive experience,” says the retreat’s Elin Westman. “The untouched beauty and promise of a unique retreat overcome the challenges of accessibility.” Its design, too, is inspired by the enchanting beauty of the surrounding environment, as well as Sweden’s immense and historic timber industry. At the close of the 19th century, vast logs were commonly floated southward down the country’s river network, and the location of Arctic Bath’s main timber-clad building, on the banks of the Lule, is a nod to this tradition.
Inside this central structure is where you’ll find the arctic bath that gives the resort its name. The middle of the building is open to the air, with a round cut-out in the floor through which visitors can dip directly into the Lule’s chilly waters. And, while those who aren’t already fervent disciples of ice bathing may bristle at this idea, Westman insists that the pursuit is designed to be relaxing.
“The combination of the serene surroundings and the soothing qualities of the bath provide a truly rejuvenating experience,” she says, adding that some studies have suggested that cold water exposure may even have positive health impacts. Adjacent to the refreshing bath, guests will find a sauna, hot baths, and a steam room. Arctic Bath recommends following a holistic routine during your stay, one that integrates both the spa’s amenities and a guided ritual of stretches and breath work called Julevädno — the name for the Lule River in the Sámi language.
And the river, despite being one of the largest in Sweden’s wild north, is remarkably calm and still. A thick layer of snow sits atop it; the same snow that blankets the countless spruces, and settles on the cabins’ slanted roofs. It’s a pristine place, and one that reminds guests of Arctic Bath’s sole imperative: to disconnect from the rest of the world and live peacefully in the moment.