The Harbin Ice Festival Is Winter Wonderland

Harbin Ice Festival Introduction

I had arrived in China in November and several friends recommended that I visit the annual Harbin Ice Festival. This would be a great addition to my China travel itinerary. Therefore, I immediately began planning my trip after watching the Shanghai New Year’s Eve Fireworks at The Bund.

Fortunately, the year I attended the Harbin Ice Festival was also the 30 year anniversary celebration. The 2014 festivities officially started on December 20, 2013 and lasted until February 2014. However, exhibits usually open early and stay open until after the official closing dates (weather permitting).

Additionally, there are many winter activities to partake of near Harbin such as the Siberian Tiger Park, Harbin Polarland and of course the Harbin Ice and Snow World! I arrived on January 14, 2014 for a 3 day visit.

The Harbin Ice Festival History

The ice festival in Harbin is very much part of modern China. Originally, it got started as Harbin’s ice lantern and garden show which began in 1963. Thereafter, it evolved into the ice festival in closer resemblance to what occurs today. Unfortunately, the festival went through a rough patch during China’s cultural revolution and was it was interrupted for several years. However, the festival was restarted in January 1985 and has been running strong every year since!

Harbin Ice Festival in Harbin China

The Harbin Ice Festival features an entire village that is made of translucent ice and snow. At night the lights project a misleading warm ambiance in the freezing cold arctic air.

The largest snow and ice sculptures in the world are constructed for the Harbin Ice festival. In fact, in 2007 a Canadian themed snow sculpture was erected featuring Niagara Falls and the crossing of the Bering Strait. The enormous sculpture was 250 meters long and used over 13,000 cubic meters of snow! As a result, this gigantic sculpture was awarded the Guinness book world record for largest snow sculpture in 2007.

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Accommodations For Harbin Ice Festival

From our accommodation at the Shangri-La Hotel it was only a short drive across the Songhua River to get to festivities.  Additionally, there was an outdoor winter restaurant featured at the Shangri-La called Ice Palace Restaurant. As a result, I believe this is the coldest restaurant in the world at minus 18C inside! It was FREEZING!

Ice Palace Restaurant Harbin China - Harbin Ice Festival

The Shangri-La Hotel in Harbin features an outdoor restaurant made entirely of ice. Fortunately, they serve steaming hot food.

“Harbin Ice and Snow World”

They construct an ice city called “Harbin Ice and Snow World” as part of the annual event and the location was not far from our hotel. It was really amazing to visit Harbin Ice and Snow World at night because everything was lit up. Additionally, the ice structures were all beautifully translucent and inviting. However, it was freezing cold outside and potentially dangerous if you are not properly dressed. Furthermore, Harbin Ice Festival tickets can be purchased at the entrance.

Harbin Ice Festival

The Harbin Ice Festival features a hand crafted arctic village called “Harbin Ice and Snow World”.

Harbin Ice Festival

The entire city is illuminated and features different forms of architecture. The ice city is very inviting and fortunately there are some cafes to stop in and warm up a bit.

Harbin Ice Festival

This is a Chinese Pagoda made entirely of ice at the Harbin Ice Festival.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Facts

  1. Average temperature in summer 21.2 degrees Celsius
  2. Average temperature in winter is -16.8C and -35C is not uncommon, especially at night (see below)
  3. All of the ice used for construction is taken from the nearby Songhua River
  4. The Harbin Ice Festival is the largest ice festival in the world
  5.  Harbin is located in Heilongjiang Province in NE China 
  6. The Harbin Ice Festival features the world’s largest ice sculptures
  7. In 2007 the Guinness World Record was set for largest snow sculpture.
Harbin Ice Festival

This ice structure at the Harbin Ice Festival reminded me of the tunnels at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China,.

Harbin Buddhist Snow Sculpture - Harbin Ice Festival

A Buddhist snow sculpture featured at the Harbin Ice Festival. The snow sculpture is very well done with intricate details.

Harbin Ice Festival Viewpoint

This is a viewpoint from which visitors can get a bird’s eye view of Harbin Ice and Snow World.

Harbin Ice Festival Atmosphere

The other visitors at Harbin Ice and Snow World were very friendly. The festival is very popular in China and as a result there are many Chinese tourists. Although we did see a few westerners in the hotel our traveling companions around the Harbin winter attractions were mostly from China. At the hotel I specifically recall these goofy Italians in the restaurant trying to teach the chef to cook ravioli! Idiots!

The temperature was extremely cold at the festival, especially at night! To offset the bitter cold, thankfully there were little heated cafes to step into that were situated around the ice sculptures. This is very fortunate because it would not have been possible to stay outside for very long if the warming stations were not available. 

Harbin Ice Festival

This giant frozen thermometer at Harbin Ice Festival makes a very nice centerpiece. It is -33C and the temperature is dropping!



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