5 Reasons Why You Need To See The Ice Sculptures In Harbin, China

things to do in harbin china

While some people feast their eyes on extraordinary sunsets, warm seas or mountain top views, there are some who pack winter clothes to witness an extravagant array of ice made sculptures. Their destination? Harbin, China. An established tourist city in Heilongjiang province, Harbin has been hosting the Ice and Snow World Festival for more than 10 years now, offering visitors a one-of-a-kind treat with a 600,000 square meter (148 acre) exhibition of man-made ice sculptures. As many as 15 million visitors forget about the sub-zero degree coldness when they start walking around Harbin. If you are looking for things to do in Harbin, why not check out these ice sculptures. So what makes ice sculptures over this part of China special?

1. They are more than just replicas

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tracy Hunter used under CC BY 2.0

Prepare yourself for some serious ice work recreations when you walk around the lanes of Harbin’s Ice Festival. The tallest structure was created in 2014 and depicts the majestic architectural design of Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland. People can literally go inside and explore the ice sculptures as if they’re entering a real structure. Some are even adorned with slides or ice mazes to make the ice encounter more realistic and entertaining for the whole family.

The festival started with only Chinese artists joining, but eventually more and more sculptors from all over the world added their masterpieces until it became the ice festival it is today. Truly impressive, as one may describe. Over the years, the sculptors try to be as detailed and intricate in designing their ice works in a way that people easily recognize familiar structures at a glance.

Other famous ice sculptures in the festival includes The Great Wall, Egyptian Pyramids, and majestic structures from Chinese fairy tales. It also included replicas of Russia’s famous East Palace, and Moscow’s Red Square last 2005, aligned with the theme ‘Friendship between China and Russia.’ The yearly theme adds more meaning to each sculpture and creates a lasting story that every visitor can treasure.

What to Expect in the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Website: Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

2. They have the brightest illumination

Harbin Ice and Snow World
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dayou_X used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Not only will you see huge ice sculptures in Harbin, your eyes will also adore the LED lights painting them like flavored icicles. The special lights used for the festival highlight the intricate details of each sculpture and add a magical feeling to the whole venue.

Experience a bright night when you’re in the Ice and Snow World Festival and Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Festival. Both these venues use multi-colored lights, all computer-controlled and with sophisticated animation that light up the ice works from the inside out, creating an enchanting effect. Both children and the young at heart would love such a colorful display.

Ice art appearing bluish white in the day will surprise you with neon colors at night. If you view the city from above, you’ll probably think you’re looking at a rainbow village made of ice. Indeed a sight to behold in the midst of freezing cold weather.

Best Time to Visit Harbin

Website: When To Visit the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

3. They awaken your senses

What makes your ice experience in the Ice and Snow Festival, Zhaolin Park Festival, and Sun Islands Festival even more special are the wide array of ice activities surrounding the ice sculptures. These ice sculptures do not stand alone as far as entertaining visitors is at stake. Activities like ice rock-climbing, skating, skiing, sliding, snow fights, ice golf, and ice archery are available for you during the festival duration. You can also expect world-class performances which give more emphasis to the theme. It perfectly complements the visual beauty provided by the ice works. Children can enjoy ice mazes and ice slides as well for a more interactive experience.

The sculptures plus the mini-adventures you get to try completes your ice experience in Harbin. You do not simply fill your eyes with wonders; your whole body with all its senses comes alive.

Winter Activities in Harbin

Website: Winter Activities in Harbin

4. They stay solid for up to three months

If you’re planning a trip to Harbin for this festival, keep in mind that festival starts from the end of December to the end of February. Opening and closing schedules do change, so it is best to monitor travel advisories. One thing’s for sure, whatever month you choose to go (from December to Feb), the ice sculptures look good from the start of the festival to the end.

If you ever wonder why these ice blocks don’t melt, well the freezing weather plays a big role. The temperature in Harbin can get as low as -25 degrees Celsius (-13°F). To enjoy the sight, make sure you wear appropriate sub-zero clothing to keep you warm. Ski boots and face masks are ideal. It is also advisable to do some exercise when your hands or feet start to feel numb due to the cold. But don’t worry, the festival also houses coffee huts for those who need indoor heat. The best part? Your whole Ice Festival experience can add to the warmth you need.

Travel Tips

Website: What To Wear For the Ice and Snow Festival

5. They give a unique experience year after year

If you think visiting Harbin is a one-time, big vacation you can only enjoy once in your life, you’re wrong. Since it started in 1999, the Harbin Ice Festival has been successful every year and continuously breaks records for the number of visitors. The exhibit keeps on growing, attracting over 30 competitive teams of sculptors from 10 countries including Japan, Canada, Malaysia, and Russia in 2017 alone. There is a different theme for each year, which makes visitors excited no matter how many times they’ve seen this spectacular event.

It’s no surprise you’ll keep coming back for more. You can start booking your trip now for the 34th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival which officially opens on January 5, 2018. Expect grand ice sculptures revolving around the theme “Harbin Glory, Ice Snow in Northern China.”

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tours

Website: Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tours

Cold but worth it

Ice sculptures may be temporary, but the experience you get from seeing, feeling, and even smelling them lingers. With the kind of visual display, artistry, and mad creativity offered by Harbin’s Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, you wouldn’t mind braving the cold weather just to see them for yourself. And yes, it’s definitely worth it.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Carmela Ann Santos is a freelance writer and a licensed teacher from the Philippines. Her top destinations would include any place with a clear view of cloud formations and peaceful waters. She...Read more

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