The ice is right! Spectacular sculptures light up the night sky in China for the annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
There are many reasons to dislike winter weather – the sub-zero temperatures, predictably miserable weather and dark nights all contribute to sullen faces around the globe.
But there are still reasons to smile too, as proven by this wonderful theme park in north-east China created entirely from ice and snow.
The 28th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, which opened Christmas Day, features work by some of the country’s best ice sculptors and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
Have an ice day! A horse and carriage navigates the snow-covered streets of Harbin Ice and Snow Festival’s impressive city
Sky high: Some of the sculptures at the event tower over visitors – reaching up to 50 metres in height
In these stunning photographs the festival’s amazing sculptures are seen illuminated from the inside after night has fallen – with visitors meandering in between the impressive works.
Those who attend the event can navigate the ice cities on foot or via the festival’s horse and carriage rides. As well as walking around and marvelling in awe at the colourful creations, they can also zip down snowy slides or climb up the staircases of ice castles and investigate what’s inside.
The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is one of the world’s top ice festivals.
Ice to see you, to see you ice! The scultpures are illuminated from the inside with complex, computer-controlled LED systems
Mind the step: Visitors can navigate staircases that have been carved into the numerous creations
It now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with famous ice-based events such as the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan and Quebec’s Winter Carnival (Carnaval de Québec) in Canada.
Harbin is known as Ice City, as the winters there are bitterly cold (the temperature can drop down to as low as -30°C), but the conditions are perfect for the ice festival which has its origins in the ice lanterns that were sculpted by local fishermen.
The very first festival is said to have been held in Zhaolin Park in Harbin’s old district in 1963.
What goes up, must come down: A female ice-lover zips down one of the slides at the event
Rapid growth: The Harbin Snow and Ice Festival has grown in magnitude in recent years thanks to the growing economy in China
It was suspended for some time during the Cultural Revolution, then it started up again – finally, in 1999, the city government started the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.
At first its clientele was mainly Chinese, but in the last few years it has become an international festival and competition attracting people from all over the world.
The growth of the festival has been in tandem with the continued growth of China’s economy, which in turn has contributed to the magnitude of the snow sculptures and ice architecture.
Colourful ice creations: The spectacular sights at the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival in China
Last year, tens of thousands of people laboured on the displays, which include world record-sized snow sculptures – some longer than two football fields, while other monuments measure up to 50 metres tall (160ft high).
They all use technologically sophisticated equipment with computer controlled LED and regular lighting creating the stunning displays of colour seen in all of these photos.
Of course, with such rapid growth this year’s event is touted as being one of the biggest so far.
How did they do that? This impressive skyline was made from blocks of ice measuring up to three feet wide
Winter fun: As well as sculptures, the festival also features a range of ice-based rides
Slippery slope: Visitors are dwarfed by the giant ice architecture
Spread out across three zones, the theme park features a range of snow-based rides, ice mountains and reproductions of some of the most iconic buildings in the world – all carved from giant blocks of ice and snow.
The town, located near the border with Russia, experiences dry but freezing winters and has an abundance of ice on tap from the nearby Songhau River.
Winter activities at the festival include Yabuli Alpine Skiing, winter-swimming and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.
Taking the scenic route: Rows of ice pagodas line one of the park’s central roads
Cool reception: Craftsmen have reproduced some of the world’s most recognisable buildings
Grand entrance: This giant ice archway is an impressive entrance to the city