Travel trend: the magnetism of the Arctic Circle

Pristine scenery, striking architecture and the promise of adventure – no wonder travellers are making the trek far north

Arctic Bath spa hotel in Sweden
Anders Blomqvist

The irresistible pull of going off-grid has travellers swapping sand for snow in increasing numbers. Touted as ‘the new exotic’, this region, which encompasses the northernmost territories of Norway, Sweden and Finland, plus swathes of Russia, Canada, Alaska and Greenland, is a trending destination in experiential tourism. The industry is taking heed; adventure holiday advocate Scott Dunn is sailing 45 percent more boats to polar regions this year, while new Scandi projects offer compelling reasons for visiting its most accessible areas.

Octola hotel Finland
Octola

Delays only bolstered the buzz around new floating wellness retreat Arctic Bath in Sweden’s northernmost reaches. It’s one of several innovations in arctic accommodation over the last 18 months there’s also Octola, the first five-star lodge in Finnish Lapland, which sits in 740 acres of private wilderness, and Manshausen 2.0, comprised of three aluminium-clad eco cabins on stilts in Norway’s Barents Sea.

This year also sees a decade-long project by Oslo-originating design practice Snøhetta come to fruition, when the serpentine Lofoten Opera Hotel opens as part of an 11,000-square-metre complex of apartments, an amphitheatre and spa. Other architectural efforts are educational – take The Whale by Danish practice Dorte Mandrup, dedicated to watching the majestic creatures, or The Arc, a new centre for the Svalbard global seed-storage facility that will allow visitors digital access to this archive of nature.

Manshausen 2.0 Norway
Manshausen 2.0 / Adrian Giret

But arctic travel is a notion not without controversy; coined ‘last-chance tourism’, the curiosity this landscape inspires in the face of the climate crisis is driving potentially damaging migration. With this in mind, Snøhetta has revealed plans for the world’s first energy positive hotel, pledging that all new buildings will follow suit within 20 years. Set to open in 2022 at the base of Norway’s Almlifjellet mountain, Svart hotel will harvest solar energy and reduce consumption by 85 percent compared to other modern hotels, marking a new frontier for sustainable travel in the process.

For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration February 2020

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