CHINA — If you think enduring teeth-chattering cold is part of the fun when you travel, then the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is the carnival for you.
Set in Heilongjiang Province in northern China, it’s the world’s biggest snow and ice festival and features plenty of spectacular installations and activities.
The annual festival officially runs from January 5 to February 5 but some attractions open to visitors before the opening ceremony, including the most popular of them all — the Harbin Ice and Snow World, made with ice blocks pulled from the nearby Songhua River.
This year, the Harbin Ice and Snow World spans over 600,000 square meters and includes more than 100 landmarks. It’s made of 110,000 cubic meters of ice and 120,000 cubic meters of snow.
In addition to walking up the gigantic illuminated ice castles, other highlights include an exquisite snow Buddha statue (made of more than 4,500 square cubic meters of snow), a 3D light show and the 340-meter-long Northern Lights-themed ice slides.
Visitors can also check out works by sculptors from 12 different countries, all there to compete in an annual competition.
Entrance to Harbin Ice and Snow World costs RMB330, or $48.
There are also many free activities around town to enjoy until the end of February, including 2,019 snowmen of different shapes and sizes built along the river.
First celebrated in 1985, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was inspired by Heilongjiang’s traditional lanterns, which were carved out of ice and illuminated by candles.
Celebrating its 35th year in 2019, it’s now considered one of the world’s top winter festivals, joining the ranks of the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Canada’s Quebec Winter Carnival and Norway’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival.