The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is a totally unique artistic and cultural event, originally started in 1963. Interrupted for several years by China’s Cultural Revolution, the Festival then recommenced in its current format in 1985 and has run annually ever since. The festival now attracts a million visitors to Harbin over its approximately six weeks duration, and is recognised as the most outstanding of the four major ice and snow festivals in the world. Harbin sits on the same latitude in the northern hemisphere as Dunedin, NZ in the southern hemisphere but is much colder. Temperatures can reach as low as -35°C, meaning the warmth and comforts of a good base hotel are essential.
Harbin will surprise you! It is one of China’s largest cities, growing over 100 years from a base camp for Russian engineers surveying for construction of the eastern end extension of the Trans Siberian rail line. It was also home for up to 25,000 Jews fleeing persecution in the early 1900’s. Prior to the Second World War, this area was considered (along with Palestine and Morocco) as a possible permanent home for the Jews. In 1945 most Jews departed for Israel and Japan, but a significant Jewish presence still remains. The historic influence of foreign cultures can best be found in Daoli District, the oldest and most interesting part of town.
Visitors to Harbin in winter are treated to this especially unique Ice and Snow experience. It is visually unforgettable, photographically magnificent, and culturally unique. Like everything else, the food is a product of Harbin’s cultural mix and its cold weather. Atmospheric Russian, Chinese and Western restaurants serve appropriate fare. Wonderful Chinese dumplings, Mongolian lamb hotpots, and a range of other appetizing specialities, washed down witt the local Hapi beer or chilled vodka. In fact China’s first brewery was built in Harbin by the Russians in 1906.
You see pictures of this amazing spectacle on TV news broadcasts every January. There is nothing else like it on Earth! A large area is dedicated to half size reproductions of world icons, famous palaces, and huge sculptures. They are built from blocks of ice carved from the Songhua River, and highlighted at night by fluorescent lighting from inside.