The Harbin Snow & Ice Festival is one of the most fascinating events happening in China every Winter. In this extensive destination guide, we’ll explain what you can expect of the festival.
Harbin is one of the world’s coldest cities with more than ten million inhabitants and it’s also an important industrial center in the Northeast of China. However, the city is also famous for one particular event: The Harbin Snow & Ice Festival, happening each winter in the coldest months of the year, mainly in January and February. Visiting isn’t very easy, but doable and in this guide we’ll try to help you plan your trip as information in the internet is relatively sparse.
While Harbin is quite remote, it’s quite well connected to other cities in China. The number of international destinations might be limited, but through the hubs in Shanghai, Beijing and even other Chinese cities, you’ll find plenty of connections to Harbin. The flights take between two and five hours, depending on where in China you depart from. Train connections to Harbin are available as well, bullet trains connect Harbin with cities like Beijing, Shenyang or Dalian with relatively quick travel times.
After having arrived in Harbin, you can get around either by taxi or by DiDi, the Chinese equivalent of Uber. The app is also available in English and makes it so much easier to get around. Be aware that hardly any driver in Harbin speaks any English, so you better speak some Chinese, have a card with the address with you or use DiDi. This is important for every transfer you happen to have in Harbin. While there is also a metro and some public transportation, it’s hardly an option for tourists to get around.
If you are visiting the Harbin Ice Festival, you should definitely pack accordingly as temperatures can get crazy low. When I was visiting, I was relatively lucky as the temperatures where around -10 degrees Celsius. This is on the very high side as daytime temperatures often hover around -20 or even -25 degrees. At night, it can get as cold as -40 degrees Celsius, so please pack accordingly if you come here. It definitely makes sense to buy shoes and cloths for these temperatures if you are not particularly well equipped for cold temperatures yet.
Furthermore, it’s recommendable to stay at a more upscale hotel in Harbin as heating is a huge thing. To get a sense of that: When staying at the Crowne Plaza Harbin, it still was way too cold in all public areas despite heating. Personally, I’d recommend staying at one of the Shangri-La Hotels or any other luxury hotels, so you have a great base for exploring the Harbin Snow & Ice Festival despite the crazy low temperatures.
The thing I was wondering about most before going to Harbin is how to get tickets for the Harbin Snow & Ice Festival. At first, I thought you need to buy them ahead of time, which oddly is only offered by agencies and also is quite expensive. Well, it’s actually much easier: You can just go to the entrance of the attractions and buy your tickets there. The ticket for the Ice & Snow World Harbin, which is the major attraction, is about 400 CNY (~ 50 Euro / 55 US-Dollar) for a single entrance or about half more for multiple entries, which is a good thing if you stay for multiple days and don’t want to stay in the cold for too long.
Buying tickets was really easy and is possible with WeChat Pay, but not with Western credit cards, so plan accordingly or bring cash. Communication has been fairly easy, even in English. Be aware that there is not one ticket for all attractions, but you need to buy another ticket if you want to visit the Harbin Snowland, for example. Tickets for the other attractions are bit cheaper than the ones for the Ice & Snow World. Most attractions in the city center like parks with ice sculptures, are free of charge.
Planning a trip to the Harbin Snow & Ice Festival isn’t very easy to organize and can be quite expensive with flights, equipments, ticket and so on. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed visiting as the whole experience really is one of a kind.
Particularly, the Harbin Ice & Snow World is just incredible with large castles built out of snow and ice.
I’ve seen several other snow & ice buildings in my life, but never anything like what the Snow & Ice Festival in Harbin has to offer.
You can walk through buildings or on bridges and you’ll definitely feel like the whole experience is absolutely surreal.
The crazy ice sculpture art is yet another amazing experience.
While I wouldn’t necessarily return to the Ice & Snow Festival every year, I feel like this could be a cool experience every ten or so years. However, it’s definitely something you should do once in your life if you have the chance.
If you happen to visit the Harbin Snow & Ice Festival, you should definitely plan a couple of things and be preared for what’s coming. That said, visiting is an amazing experience and absolutely worth the money and effort.
Do you have any questions about visiting the Harbin Snow & Ice Festival? Feel free to ask us anytime!