The Ultimate China Tour Guide To The Harbin Ice And Snow Festival

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival; ever heard of it? Even if you answer no, chances are, you’ve probably run across a few photos of this colorful festival once or twice across the internet.

I mean, who could help photographing this unusual event and sharing the breathtaking photos across the web?

Guide to Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Photo Source: ABC News

Located in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, Harbin is a city that gets VERY cold, making it the perfect place for the ice and snow festival. Every winter, the city hosts this festival which was established back in 1985, in which they turn the area into a winter wonderland of ice sculpture artwork.

The festival lasts for about a month and draws in thousands of locals, Chinese, and international visitors from around the globe. The artists come from near and far and rank highly as some of the top ice sculptors in the world.

While the ice and snow festival is the main attraction, it is proceeded by the ice lantern event which is just as beautiful and exciting for visitors.

Harbin Ice And Snow Festival Facts

A couple of fun facts about the festival include:

  • There are more than 10,000 members of staff who cut and haul large blocks of ice to be sculpted.
  • This is one of the largest snow sculpture festivals in the entire world.
  • The tallest sculptures of ice reach about 46 meters in height.
  • The festival brings in about 10 to 15 million people every year.
  • It’s the biggest ice sculpture festival in the world, stretching about 600,000 meters.
The Ultimate China Tour Guide To The Harbin Ice And Snow Festival

Photo Source: Wendy Wu

The Three Major Event Venues

The best way to understand the setup of the festival is to look at it by the three major venues and what they offer.

Ice And Snow World

This venue was first started in 1999 and is considered the largest ice architecture park in the world. The sculptures that are typically seen here are made in the image of famous world landmarks like the Egyptian Pyramids and the Great Wall of China. Other sculptures are based on images from traditional Chinese fairy tales.

-It operates from 11:00-22:00.

-Admission is free for kids under 3.9 feet, CNY 200 for kids 3.9 feet to 4.6 feet, and CNY 300 for adults.

-Buses you can take to reach it include: 29, 47, 80, 88, 119, 125, 126, 127, 211, 212, 213, 215, 216, 219, 223, 225, 226, 346, 396, 551, or 552.

The Ultimate China Tour Guide To The Harbin Ice And Snow Festival

Photo Source: Ibtimes

Sun Island

This is where the Snow Sculpture Exposition is held, displaying an entire world made of snow. It is open to the public starting in November of each year and holds the largest, indoor ice and snow museum.

-It’s open 8:00-17:00 during December, and 8:00-20:00 from January through March.

-It’s free for kids under 3.9 feet, CNY 120 for kids 3.9-4.6 feet, and CNY 240 for adults.

-To get there, you can take these buses: 29, 47, 80, 119, 125, 126, 127, 211, 212, 213, 215, 216, 219, 223, 225, 226, 346, 396, 551, or 552 and make sure to get off at Sun Island Crossing, also known as Taiyangdao Daokou Station. You can then take the cable car over the Songhua River to the scenic area.

Zhaolin Park

If you visit any one park, let this one be it. The traditional program here shows off the best of the ice lanterns. This is where you can see amazing ice sculptures that are lit up by colorful LED lights. If you have a camera, this is the perfect place to take photos. Also, make sure to attend the Ice Lantern Garden Party which has been held in this park since the 1960s. The sculptures in this park are arranged in groups according to certain themes. Some of the themes include famous buildings, European folktales, dragons, flowers, churches, waterfalls, lions, and more.

-It’s open from 10:00-21:00.

-It costs CNY 150 for adults and is free for kids under 3.9 feet.

-To get there, take the bus: 4, 8, 23, 53, 83, 114, 132, 136, 201 or 206, and be sure to get off at Zhaolin Gongyuan Station.

Event Activities

The Ultimate China Tour Guide To The Harbin Ice And Snow Festival

Photo Source: Ibtimes

Aside from roaming around the three distinct parks, there are always plenty of activities going on through the festival. Some of these include:

-A national snow sculpture competition.

-College students snow sculpture competition.

-A wedding ceremony on ice.

-The hundred-flower dance contest for seniors.

-The New Year concert.

-Sun Island Snow Sculpture Exhibition.

-International snow sculpture competition.

-China and Russia snow sculpture dual meet.

-Ice Lantern Garden Party and opening ceremony.

-Cold Zone exposition.

-Amateur ice hockey invitation competition.

-Badminton Invitational competition.

-Winter swimming invitational competition.

-Shuttlecock invitational competition.

-Tae Kwon Do Invitational competition.

-Winter fishing open competition.

-National ice hockey league.

-National cross-country skiing competition.

-National Alpine skiing competition.

Where To Stay

You’ll want to spend more than one day at the festival, which means that you need a place to stay! Don’t worry, there’s plenty of options surrounding the event. Some of these include:

The Ultimate China Tour Guide To The Harbin Ice And Snow Festival

This hotel is conveniently located for anyone wishing to visit the festival. It has WIFI, a 24-hour desk, and they will be sure to speak English. The rooms are modern and comfortable, and all feature hot showers and an electric kettle.

 The Ultimate China Tour Guide To The Harbin Ice And Snow Festival

This hotel option is quite artistic, with a moody look that is perfect for a romantic getaway. It’s located in the Nan Gang neighborhood, and rooms have a flat screen T.V and a computer. It’s conveniently located near popular attractions as well as the ice and snow festival.

The Ultimate China Tour Guide To The Harbin Ice And Snow Festival

If you want to stay for a while in complete comfort, these apartment-style accommodations are your best bet. They are located in the Wanda Plaza in the Nangang District and are decorated with modern décor. Also, they are conveniently located for those attending the ice and snow festival.

What To Pack

What you pack is essential to your comfort while visiting the festival. If you aren’t prepared, you could be in for a freezing and unpleasant trip. So, what should you bring?

  • Sunglasses: Sure, it’s cold, and it’s winter, but the reflection of the snow is sure to hurt your eyes if you don’t protect them.
  • Sub-Zero Clothes: The temperatures here are in the negatives, so you better be wearing clothing that can handle it. Opt for earmuffs, thermal underwear, face masks, scarves, hats, and insulated boots.
  • Extra Camera Batteries: The cold weather will use up more battery power than what you might be used to. Make sure t bring extras because you don’t want to miss out on the photos.

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is a once in a lifetime experience that you won’t want to miss. Come prepared, get your camera ready, and enjoy this beautiful display of art and culture in China.

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.