A frozen wonderland that surpasses all others lies in the heart of the world’s most populous nation. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival takes the cake as the most grand ice festival in the world. This icy showcase spans 600,000 square meters, exceeding famous festivals in Norway, Switzerland and Japan.

The Harbin Ice Festival’s monumental ice sculptures reach heights up to 46 meters. For that reason, it attracts tourists and artists from every corner of the globe. Yearly, between January and February, the town of Harbin, transforms into the ice capital of the world. Make this festival your next bucket list destination!

Photo Credit: Sino Images

China’s City of Ice

Harbin is a hub within the Heilongjiang province of China, which is located in the northeastern region. It borders Siberia and is infused with the culture and historical significance of Russian architecture. As the capital of Heilongjiang Province, it also boasts the largest metropolitan population in Northeast China.

Harbin’s unique location, natural beauty and long-standing traditions make it exciting for visitors to explore its streets, festivals, and architectural marvels. Harbin’s location heavily influences their seasons. Famously coined the City of Ice, it is known for its long, freezing, and snowy winters, and a short, cool summers.

An Icy Wonderland

Photo Credit: Gavin Hellier

The festivals began in 1984 and has been a tradition ever since. The temperatures in January are so cold they can drop below the negatives. The sub-zero temperatures create the perfect environment for the festival. In short, the village remains open for approximately 190 days, on condition that the weather permits. And of course, once the weather gets warmers, the sculptures slowly melt away, leaving a bare canvas for next year’s festival.

Thousands of sculptors and workers from around the globe unite to craft this frozen metropolis of ice. Designs are complete with houses, roads, bridges, and castles. Additionally, there are sculptures of mythical creatures, animals and cultural relics. These towering works of art are not your typical ice sculptures. As a matter of fact, they resemble actual buildings and are crafted with square ice blocks from the frozen Songhua River.

As night falls in Harbin, the enchanting ice sculptures illuminate from a laser light show. Also, beyond the breathtaking ice sculptures the festival features exhilarating games and an array of activities. Fun and massive ice slides, skating rinks, bike tracks, reindeer rides, and encounters with snow foxes.

Additionally, the frozen Songhua River becomes a playground for sledding, ice sailing, skating, and more. Zhaolin Park comes alive with stunning ice lantern displays, food vendors and more, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the icy wonderland.

Not only is Harbin a sight to see, but the City of Ice is also scientifically significant. The Nature Index, a database tracking scientific output, ranked Harbin number 102 on their list of the Top 200 Science Cities in the World.