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Harbin Ice Festival, China

  • Celebrated: Jan. 05, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2013
  • Location: Harbin
Harbin Ice Festival 2013


The annual Ice Festival is Harbin's main winter draw. The Harbin International Ice Festival only started about 10 years ago, and it is already one of world's four biggest such ice and snow festivals, along with the famous ones in Sapporo, Norway and Quebec. At first, mainly Chinese participated, but in the last few years, it has become an international festival and competition. As the festival grows in international participation and as China's economy grows, the size of the snow sculpture and ice architecture exhibits keeps growing. Now, the work going into making these exhibits is astounding, and their size and beauty is amazing. Last year, tens of thousands of people labored on the displays. Take a China Highlights tour to Harbin to see the various ice sculptures.
Walking around the three venues, you'll see world record-sized snow sculptures longer than two football fields, and some ice buildings, palaces, monuments, or statues about 50 meters tall (160 feet high) that you can walk and slide around in and on. These displays are technologically sophisticated, using computer controlled LED and regular lighting to put on stunning displays of changing color and design. For example, there was a replica of the Great Wall of China that people could slide on. Many of the architecture replicas have ice slides. Harbin is called “Ice City,” and the winters are bitterly cold, but the conditions are right for the ice festival.

The Date

The festival is officially held from 5 January to the end of February. However, the exhibits may open earlier and stay longer. Ice sculptures of various shapes are displayed for the event. Take a China Highlights tour to see the beautiful ice carvings.

When is the best time to go for the festival?

Winter travel season begins from Mid-November in Harbin. The best time to go for the ice festival is from Mid December when the exhibits may open to the end of February.

What are the highlights to see?

Ice lanterns show during the Harbin Ice FestivalThere are three places where travelers can see ice sculptures and lanterns and other winter activities: the Grand World of Ice and Snow for a great variety of snow activities, Sun Island Park where ice sculptures are displayed, and Zhaolin Park for ice lanterns show. Read Mia's Harbin travel story with photos.

How to arrange the itinerary?

As a general,five days are enough to cover the highlights of Harbin. For a 2-day tour, in the morning travelers can stroll along the Central Street, a pedestrian for dining and sightseeing, and the old foreign-style buildings, and have lunch at one of the many western restaurants in the street.  Head to the Sun Island Park after lunch, you may need around two hours to explore these ice artworks. and then take a free bus of the park to the Grand World of Ice and Snow. For the second day, you may visit the St. Sophia's Cathedral., the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Far East, Siberian Tiger Park that has hundreds of Siberian Tigers, lions, and other large cats on exhibit, and enjoy the fabulous ice lanterns show in Zhaolin Park in the evening. China Highlights offer tours ranging from two to six days to Harbin for travelers to choose, or we can help youcustomize your own tour.


How did all this start? It is said that making ice lanterns was something the fishermen in the area did in the winter. They needed a way to keep their lamps burning in the winter when they were out on the lake, so they invented the ice lantern. They filled a container with water let the water freeze. They put a lamp or a candle inside the piece of ice. Wala, they had a lantern. In 1963, the first Ice Festival is said to have been held in Zhaolin Park in the old district of the city. It was suspended for some time during the Cultural Revolution, then it started up again. In 1999, the city government started the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.
Since 2001, the festival has been held on Sun Island Park in the Songhua River. This gives the festival a lot of space to build dozens of huge snow structures and also to simultaneously hold athletic competitions such as speed skating competitions.
Now, tens of thousands of people are involved in constructing the ice and snow exhibits in the three sites. The ice buildings have grown huge in Stalin Park. And there are more foreign entrants in the ice carving competition in Zhaolin Park.

Getting There

Ice sculpture displayed during the Ice FestivalFrom Beijing, it takes about 3 hours to get to the winter festival sites, including the flight to Taiping International Airport (2 hours) and taxi to the sites (1 hour). The airport is about 30 kilometers outside the city. Buses travel between the festival sites and the airport. Most of the trains between Beijing and Harbin are overnight trains that leave in the afternoon and arrive early the next morning. See Harbin Transportation

Travel Essentials

1.Harbin's winters are extremely cold. In January, the average temperatures range from a high of –13 °C to a low of –25 °C So dress warmly to enjoy the festival.
2.In Harbin and the rest of China, if you use a taxi, make sure that the drivers turn the meter on. If you don't, when you arrive, they will charge you their own prices. Also, carry small denomination bills, because you may be handed fake money if you try to get change. 
3.From the airport or the train station, it is better to take a cab that is waiting in the official taxi waiting line to avoid problems.

Credit by : http://www.chinahighlights.com/festivals/harbin-ice-and-snow-festival.htm
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