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China Travel Guide: Harbin’s Winter Wonderland


  • Travel to China
  • China Tours
  • Classic Journeys

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CTS Horizons is the UK's number one operator for China and beyond. We offer superb private journeys and tailor-made holidays to the world's most fascinating destinations!

With China’s huge size, it is possible to discover all kinds of climates and landscapes: Beautiful wintery scenes included.

Travelling to Heilongjiang Province’s capital city Harbin, located in the North Eastern part of the country, allows for one to escape the humid climates of the South and if you visit at the right time, you will almost certainly not be disappointed. Harbin’s largest tourist attraction is without a doubt the annual Snow and Ice Festival. Each year an estimated 10,000 workers come together to plan, build and carve incredible art sculptures made from huge ice blocks. The sculptures displayed have included things such as animals, temples and even the Great Wall of China. It is currently the world’s largest ice sculpture festival, attracting more than 10 million visitors a year!
When to visit?
The recommended time to visit Heilongjiang’s capital, Harbin, is throughout the winter months. The festival, located in Zhaolin Park, commences at the end of December and runs until the end of February. However it is important to check exact dates and opening times online as it changes year by year.
What to bring?
As you can imagine, temperatures in Heilongjiang during the winter are sub-zero. The average temperature during the winter months is between -10 ̊C and -25 ̊C, however just last year the lowest recorded temperature was a freezing -44 ̊C! So we advise to prepare well and to ensure that you pack your luggage accordingly.
Other than the best winter boots, hats, scarves, gloves and thermal underwear you can find, we also advise that you prepare your camera for the harsh winter conditions. In cold temperatures, camera batteries have a tendency to die a lot faster than normal — and at the world’s largest Snow and Ice Festival you are definitely going to want to get lots of great snapshots! If possible, pack extra batteries and when you aren’t snapping away we recommend that you keep your camera inside your jacket to keep the batteries warm and prolong battery life.
How to get there?
As mentioned above, the annual festival is held in the city of Harbin. The closest airport is Harbin Taiping Airport, located roughly an hour by car away from the site of the festival. From Beijing it is possible to secure flights for an average price of 1000 RMB (approx. £114) with an average flight time of two hours.
It is also possible to reach Harbin by train from Beijing, with bullet trains taking approximately 8 hours and costing as low as 350 RMB (£40). Whilst travelling to Harbin by train will definitely extend the journey time, this is definitely something that may appeal to those travelling on a tighter budget.
What else is there to see in Harbin?
If you are planning on spending a few extra days in Harbin then you may be wondering if there is anything else worth going to see or do. The short answer is yes.
After arriving in Harbin, you may notice that it has a strong Russian feel to it. If you are interested in architecture, you may find a visit to Saint Sophia’s Cathedral worthwhile. The cathedral was opened in 1917, and the reason it looks like it belongs in Russia is because the building was constructed by the Russians. Although today the population of the city is predominately Chinese, however there was a point in time that an approximate 40% of the population of Harbin was that of Russian expats. 
Additionally, Harbin is also a great place to visit if you are an enthusiast of outdoor winter sports. With a whole array of ski and snowboarding resorts to choose from with stunning mountainous backdrops, the city really does make for a great place to experience something different in China.
The most popular ski resort in the province is Yabuli Ski Resorted, located on Daguohui Mountain. It is possible to get ski passes from as low as 200 RMB (£22). China can be a great place to ski and snowboard for prices much cheaper than those found in European ski resorts.

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