This week marks the annual exodus of people from Beijing. Individuals and families alike will embark on journeys back to their hometowns to see loved ones and ring in the new year. For those of us staying in Beijing that have seen all the glorious dumpling making events and other festivities that the city has to offer during the Lunar New Year, a change of scenery might be good. Luckily, winter is the perfect time to travel to the Harbin Ice Festival up in the northern Heilongjiang Province. Below is a quick guide for the sights, activities, and other tips to take note of when visiting Harbin this winter.
If you’re looking to spend your vacation sliding down slopes of white, fluffy snow then Yabuli in Harbin is the place for you. The famed Yabuli Ski Resort sits 180 kilometers from Harbin and is China’s largest ski resort. Getting to Yabuli is as easy at taking a flight from the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) or taking the Beijing-Harbin High Speed Railway. Of the resorts that exist in the area there is also the Club Med Yabuli Sun Mountain Lodge. Club Med Yabuli offers downhill skiing lessons and snowboarding lessons.
Festivities Abound: The Ice Festival
For those looking to explore the ice palaces, ice lanterns, and ice sculptures that Harbin has to offer, below are the top spots to visit when checking those out. Though at this point in 2017 the Ice Festival is making its last rounds (closing on February 25 depending on the weather) there should still be plenty of ice wonders to see for visitors.
Sun Island Scenic
The Sun Island Scenic Area hosts the Harbin International Snow Sculpture Art Expo each year where talented people shape snow and ice into fascinating sculptures. The scenic area is located past the Songhua River, away from the city center and is broken up into 3 areas: 1) Animals world on the northwest side, 2) the center of the garden which has lakes, and 3) the ice and snow series on the south side. The Snow Sculpture Exhibition is the world’s largest indoor ice and snow art museum.
Location: No.3 Jingbei Road, Sun Island Scenic Area, Songbei District, Harbin
Admission Fees (Snow Sculpture Exhibition): RMB 240 for adults, RMB 120 for kids 3.9 and 4.6 feet (1.2-1.4m), and free for children under 3.9 feet (1.2 meters).
Hours: Jan. 1 to the early Mar. 2017: 8am-8pm.
Ice and Snow World
Located on the south side of Sun Island Scenic Area is the Ice and Snow World which is lauded as the main attraction of the ice festival. Ice and Snow World is said to have the four key “mosts”: the most beautiful night views, the most art attractions, the most recreational activities, and the most options for alternative entertainment. Inspiration for the various sculptures usually come from traditional fairy tales or architectural feats such as the Great Wall and the Egyptian Pyramids.
Location: West side of Sun Island, Songbei District, Harbin (near Heilongjiang Science and Technology Museum)
Admission Fees: RMB 330 for adults, RMB 200 for children between 3.9 and 4.6 feet (1.2-1.4m), and free for children under 3.9 feet
Hours: 11am-10pm (Dec. 22, 2016 to March, 2017)
Zhaolin Park’s is an ice world perfect for kids. The Park hosts over 1,000 ice sculptures including ice lanterns, animals, and mystic creatures. In addition to these kid-friendly masterpieces, Zhaolin Park also has recreational activities for children such as ice slides. The pieces at this site light up and thus are best visited when dark. While this park is the smaller of the festival’s three total main venues, it is still worth a visit if you have the time!
Location: 74 Youyi Lu (74 Friendship Road), at the northern end of Zhaolin Dajie in Daoli District
Admission Fees: RMB 150 per adult; children under 1.2 meters get in free. The park is free admittance all other times outside of the Ice Festival dates.
What to Pack in that Rucksack
January is the coldest time of year in Harbin, with temperatures dropping to -24 degrees C (-11 degrees F). This affects both your body and your technology so if you want to keep both your selfie game strong and everyone’s fingers intact, below are some helpful tips and essentials you will need to pack.
Clothing: Layering is the name of the game, and thermal will be everyone’s secret weapon. Layering is important since Harbin’s centralized heating means while the outside is an arctic oblivion, when one is inside it’s actually quite warm. For the outdoors, don’t forget to pack thermal undergarments, gloves (two pairs at a time depending on the thickness of your gloves), extra socks, and both a thinner jacket and a heavier jacket to layer together. Hats are a must (or something at least to cover your ears and forehead) as well as extra pairs of pants and long johns. Sunglasses may also be a good idea since snow can often be blinding. Packing a set of snow shoes or water proof winter shoes will also keep your feet warm. Preferably bring boots with tread to help ensure a more balanced walking experience.
Tech: In order to protect your cameras and phones from running out of battery too quickly, always put them away in a warm place (such as a warm inner jacket pocket) when not in use. Extremely cold temperatures will negatively impact batteries, making them last potentially half as long as they otherwise would.
General Health: Bring a water bottle for hot water to stay hydrated and warm. No matter where you are, it’s usually a good rule of thumb to try and stay hydrated! Also, if at any point you feel you are starting to get frostbite, get into a warm place and warm up slowly. Do not run any part of you under hot water or do anything too extreme to warm yourself.
Here are some useful maps for the trip as well.
Photos: Tracy Hunter, Rosanna He