Ever wondered what it would be like to step into a real-life version of Elsa's ice palace? To be surrounded by ice walls, ice staircases, and shimmering ice turrets, straight out of a fairy tale? Well, pack your warmest coats and get ready to make that fantasy a reality at the Harbin Ice Festival 2024! Imagine a city where the buildings glisten like diamonds under the winter sun and the night is lit up with a kaleidoscope of colors, all made of ice. Yes, it's as cool as it sounds – pun intended!
This annual frosty fiesta, which opens its icy arms to the world in late December, keeps the chill and thrill going for a good two months until late February. While the official ribbon-cutting ceremony is on January 5th, 2024, you can sneak a peek at the majestic ice and snow sculptures from as early as December 17th, 2023.
The Ice and Snow World, Harbin's crowning jewel, is where the magic happens. And unlike Cinderella's ball, there's no closing ceremony here; the party only ends when the sun decides it's time for the ice to melt away in March.
The festival at a glance
Dates and Location
The Harbin Ice Festival 2024 officially kicks off in early January and lasts until late February. The primary festivities are centered in various locations across Harbin, with the most prominent being the Ice and Snow World, Sun Island, and Zhaolin Park.
A dazzling opening ceremony sets the tone for the festival. This grand event features an array of performances, including traditional Chinese dances, ice skating shows, and a stunning fireworks display, symbolically illuminating the icy sculptures.
Ice and Snow World
The Ice and Snow World is arguably the festival's highlight. As night falls, this area comes alive with colossal ice structures, intricately carved and brilliantly illuminated with colorful lights. From towering castles to detailed replicas of famous global landmarks, the craftsmanship is awe-inspiring.
Harbin gets dark at around 4 PM during this time of the year. The best time to enter the ice world is around 3 PM when you can appreciate the transparent and shining ice sculptures in the daytime, followed by dazzling colors and light effects at night.
Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo
Sun Island serves as a canvas for some of the world's most talented snow sculptors. You can walk among giant snow sculptures, some reaching heights of over 30 feet. These artworks range from mythical creatures to scenes depicting cultural and historical narratives.
Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Garden Party
Zhaolin Park offers a more traditional experience with its Ice Lantern Garden Party. Here, ice lanterns of various shapes and sizes create a fairy-tale ambiance, with themes often reflecting Chinese folklore and legends.
There are fun activities that your kids are sure to enjoy, such as small ice slides. You may also find some un-carved ice blocks inside the park which are used for family competitions. If you happen to be there with an ice sculpture competition, join in the fun!
For the daring, ice swimming in the Songhua River is a popular activity. Swimmers, often locals, brave the icy waters, showcasing a traditional aspect of Harbin's winter culture.
The festival also hosts a range of winter sports, from ice skating to skiing. Yabuli Ski Resort, located a few hours from Harbin, offers excellent skiing opportunities for those seeking adventure.
No visit to Harbin is complete without indulging in its local cuisine. The city's Russian influence is evident in dishes like Harbin sausage, while traditional Chinese fare, such as hot pot with lamb, provides warmth in the cold weather.
- Temperatures in Harbin can plummet to -30°C (-22°F).
- Visitors are advised to dress in layers, with thermal wear, waterproof jackets, and insulated boots.
- By flight: If you want to travel to Harbin quickly and easily, the best way is by flight. Right now, many countries don't have direct flights to Harbin. So, if foreign tourists want to go there, they usually have to first fly to big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and then take another flight to Harbin. There are only a few international flights that go directly to Harbin, and they come from countries like Russia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.
- By train: Trains are a good way to go to Harbin City. If you're coming from nearby places, taking a train is easy and not too expensive. It's more convenient than dealing with parking when you get there. There are trains that go between Beijing and Harbin, as well as Shanghai and Harbin.
- By car: If you want to go on a road trip, you can drive to Harbin. It takes about 14.5 hours from Beijing and 25 hours from Shanghai.
If you’re in Harbin, chances are that you’ll want to stay and see the place both during the day and at night! There are plenty of options to choose from, but we advise you to book in advance as the festival attracts tourists from around the globe.
When should I visit the Harbin Ice Festival?
- If you’re keen to see the sculptures being carved, Christmas is a good time to visit. While they aren’t fully made, you’ll get to see and appreciate the process.
- To join in the grand celebrations: January 5 is the opening ceremony and December 31 is when you’ll get to see the fireworks.
- To avoid large crowds: It’s recommended that you visit from January 6 to 20 and in February, when the sculptures and all the amenities are well established, and the best part - visitors are fewer compared to the the Chinese public holiday time (December 31 to January 2 for New Year's Day, February 9 to 15 for Chinese Spring Festival).