I admit I sometimes have crazy ideas. Like this one – visiting the Snow and Ice festival in Harbin, China. You have to know I’m someone who gets cold easily, but in the last years my wanderlust is defeating the cold.
Maybe you heard of this famous festival in China – it’s held in winter (what a surprise) and it is really worth seeing. Here are our 7 tips for first time visitors:
- Bring warm clothes and SHOES
It is really cold. And I mean really cold – usually it’s around -20 degrees Celsius and the ground is entirely covered with snow. Put on layers, wear thermo clothes (skiing underwear), don’t forget scarves, glowes and a hat. But the most important are your shoes. We have to admit, the first thing we did in Harbin was buying both of us new super warm shoes. And hands down, these are the warmest shoes I have ever bought.
- No English
Be prepared that almost no one will speak English. We had some trouble with public transport because of that, but somehow we got to the places we wanted. Although the people are really kind (and quite different from the Chinese in other parts of the country), we had difficulties communicating.
- These are 2 different festivals
There is the Snow festival and there is the Ice festival – these are two different festivals and 2 different venues. And of course separate tickets. For Chinese standards the entrance fee is quite steep with 330CNY (aprox.42€) for the Ice festival and 240CNY (aprox. 31€) for the Snow sculptures. Inside the festivals are also some fun attractions besides the sculptures – you can ride with inflatable rings down on icy or snowy slopes, ride on funny chairs where you push yourself forward with poles. Other, more conventional activities are spinning top, ice bicycle, skating, tire sliding, rock-climbing, ice karting, dog-sledging, curling, ice bumper cars etc.
The Snow festival is better to visit during the day, when you can fully admire the snow sculptures. The Ice festival is better when it’s dark, because the ice structures have led lights which illuminate the whole place like an ice fairytale.
- Food and drinks
In both places you can buy warm drinks and some food for reasonable prices. We also had our own hot bottle with us, which was a life saver.
- Visit the city
Don’t forget to visit the city – there are already a few sculptures on the main street and the best fun is definitely on the frozen river.
We went from the city centre to Taiyang Avenue crossing by bus (buses 29, 47, 80, 119, 125, 126, 127, 211, 212, 213, or 215), from the bus station on the main street/crossing to the entrance to the ice festival mini buses are available. Then take the same mini bus back to the main street, cross it and walk about 700 metres. At the next big crossing turn left, walk another 500 metres and you’ll reach the entrance to the Ice festival. In the evening we were to cold to cope with anything except taxi. But have your address written in Chinese.
We visited Harbin during our winter tour to China, where we also celebrated NY’s eve in Beijing, did some sightseeing in Shanghai and a DIY trip to the Great Chinese wall. If you are in Harbin for some reason during winter or you are visiting China in this time, consider visiting the Ice and Snow festival as it is truly amazing.