Ice castles and snow sculptures at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China

The Colorful Frozen World of Harbin's Ice Festival

The Colorful Frozen World of Harbin's Ice Festival

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Dec. 9 2013 12:08 PM

Frozen Castles, Slides, and Sculptures at Harbin's Ice and Snow Festival

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It's almost a new year, which can only mean one thing: it's almost time for the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. For a month every January, the city of Harbin in China's northeast transforms into a winter wonderland of castles, tunnels, slides, and sculptures — all made from ice and snow, and illuminated in shades of pastel at night.

The festival began as an ice lantern garden party in 1963. (The term "garden party" may evoke scenes of summer dresses and sandwiches in a verdant milieu, but Harbin's January temperatures can plummet to -28 degrees Fahrenheit.) China's Cultural Revolution caused a prolonged interruption to the annual celebration, but the ice festival returned in 1985 and has been going strong ever since.


Photo: Rincewind42


Photo: Tracy Hunter


Photo: Rincewind42

Visitors pause for a rest halfway down the ice slide.


Icy wonders to entice:

View Haerbin, Heilongjiang in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.