Harbin
The Ice Disneyland of China (AFP/Getty Images)

Once the weather turns chilly in the north of China, people start looking forward to two events. The first is the Harbin Ice Festival and the second is Spring Festival, a holiday where families reunite back in their hometowns. The Harbin Ice Festival is one of a kind in China and never fails to disappoint the thousands of people who visit each year, many of whom have never seen snow before let alone a city made out of ice!

The Harbin Festival is an annual event that has taken place in the Heilongjiang province of China for over thirty years. The festival officially opens on January 5 of each year and lasts for almost two months. The festival draws a huge crowd each year who have braved the extreme cold to see one of the man-made wonders of the world.

Visiting the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival shouldn’t be done on a whim. You will without a doubt want to bring proper attire for the occasion. The average winter temperature in the city of Harbin is around –17 °C (1 °F) and it can get as bad as -35 °C (–31 °F). However, despite the chill in the air, the crowds continue to come and enjoy the sculptures as well as the hot food and drink.

The Harbin Festival is best viewed at night as hundreds of colored lights illuminate the ice sculptures and transform them into a magical glowing ice palace. In addition to the awe-inspiring, larger-than-life sculptures, the Harbin Festival also provides fun winter activities in city parks such as alpine skiing and winter swimming. Talk about the ultimate polar bear plunge!

The immense scale and detail of the Harbin sculptures make it a must-see destination during the winter. Strap on your boots and pull on those layers and head up north to see just one of the many exciting events that China hosts throughout the year.