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Three days in Harbin: A perfect 72-hour itinerary Print
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Day 2: Ice and snow tour [winter travel route]

Many people are attracted to Harbin in the winter by its breathtaking ice and snow scenery and a rich menu of winter entertainment options.

From January through to mid-March, Harbin hosts the annual international ice and snow festival. Exhibitions of snow and ice sculptures, kept pristine by subzero temperatures, are dotted across multiple locations, especially around the riverside and along pedestrian-only Harbin Central Avenue.

Making sculptures of ice and snow isn't uncommon in North Asia's numbingly cold winters, from Sapporo in Japan to Korea's Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival. Harbin's sculptures have been dazzling visitors for 34 years, attracting increasing numbers of tourists from home and abroad.

A dreamy fantasy comes alive in the city when all the ice and snow sculptures are illuminated with colorful lights.

It is recommended to wear down-lined jackets, thick gloves and even balaclavas if you plan on taking in the ice and snow art, as the mercury can drop as low as -35°C.

Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo, Harbin Ice and Snow World and Harbin Ice Lantern Garden Party are the main essential destinations at Harbin's ice and snow festival.

In the morning, you can visit Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo scenic area—a cluster of Harbin's largest-scale and most artistic snow sculptures. Sculptures on display are varied with the theme of each year's expo. Last year's display area reached 900,000 square meters; over 110,000 cubic meters of snow were used to create snow sculptures.

In January you may see artists carve snow blocks in the outdoors in freezing weather during the International Ice Sculpture Competition.

As darkness falls, a 3D light show using modern sound, light and digital technologies will be staged, providing tourists an opportunity to learn about Harbin's history and culture, as well as the development of the snow art expo. [You may come back in the evening to watch the show after you finish sightseeing at the Harbin Ice and Snow World.]

You can tour the scenic area by sightseeing bus or walking. A walking tour is perfect to slowly appreciate sculptures if you are not afraid of the cold.

Coffee huts with windows offering great views are set up to help tourists avoid the chilly air outdoors .

After you are done sightseeing at the snow art expo, you can take a 10-minute bus to the nearby Harbin Ice and Snow World—which has the best exhibits of ice and snow sculptures and entertainment, the most beautiful scenery, and the best activities. Every year, Harbin Ice and Snow World will launch a theme, with ice buildings illuminated with colorful lights on display to welcome tourists from around the world.

A good time to visit the park is between 3pm to 4pm. Most of the park facilities are available for free and include sledding, ice bicycles, snow karting, ski-doo and skiing.

When all the lights are turned on, it provides the best time to take in the view of the Ice and Snow World. Ice buildings and sculptures illuminated with colorful lights dazzle against the darkness.

At night, if you can still stand the cold weather, you should go to the Zhaolin Park where the Harbin Ice Lantern Garden Party is held to view the ice lanterns.

Ice lanterns are a folk art from North China. With a long history in the region, ice lanterns were an integral part of daily life.

Zhaolin Park in Harbin city is the birthplace of Chinese lanterns. It is home to the oldest and largest open-air artistic exhibition of ice lanterns in the world, covering an area of 6.5 hectares (about 16 acres).

The party was first run in 1963 and has since then become a calling card for Harbin's winter tourism.

Only a 10-minute walk away from Zhaolin Park is Harbin Central Avenue, where you have a choice of restaurants to delight any taste, both Chinese style and Western.


Harbin Ice and Snow World. [Photo/provided to China Daily]


A snow sculpture on display during the Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo. [Photo/VCG]

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Last Updated: Sep 10, 2018

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