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Three of the best ice festivals

01-27 09:45 TimeOut Beijing
Harbin and Sapporo have the big sculptures, but the Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival boasts a grand spectacle courtesy of Mother Nature.

If you're up for the cold, these festivals are ready and waiting to amaze you with ice sculptures and attractions.

Harbin Ice Festival

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Until Thursday 5 February

For those who dare brave the –30 degree temperatures, a truly unforgettable extravaganza awaits at the world’s largest ice festival in Harbin. Towering ice sculptures abound across the city, with spectacular light-up displays on show at night at the main ice park on the outskirts of town. Ice festival aside, the city’s history gives it a unique favour that is well worth savouring: from 1910 to 1950 Harbin was effectively Russian-controlled and as a result, the city today is distinctly Sino-Russian, with the onion-domed Cathedral of Saint Sofa particularly worth a visit.

Getting there Regular daily two-hour fights depart from Beijing to Harbin with prices starting from 900RMB for a return ticket.

Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival

Until Saturday 28 February

Harbin and Sapporo have the big sculptures, but the Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival boasts a grand spectacle courtesy of Mother Nature. In winter, white crystals of ice coat trees – as though dusted with icing sugar – all along the Songhua River. To accompany this natural phenomenon, known scientifically as ‘rime’, the city puts on festivities including fireworks, ice lanterns and winter sports competitions. Visitors can also head to the frozen Songhua Lake to ride horse-drawn sleighs and watch swimmers brave the icy waters.

Getting there To get to Jilin from Beijing, your best bet is to first fly to Changchun – Spring Airlines (www.china-sss.com) flies from about 900RMB return – then get a 45-minute train (from 38RMB one-way).

Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival

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Until Saturday 28 February

Held up in Beijing’s northern Yanqing county, the Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival is a good alternative to the perennially-crowded festival in Harbin, replete with hundreds of ice blocks chiselled into everything from sculptures of Chinese dragons and giant chessboards to a human-sized ice maze. All these attractions are set against a stunning backdrop of a 70-metre-high frozen waterfall, while the more adventurous can even attempt tobogganing or hit the ice slides. Entry 100RMB.

Getting there Take the 919 express bus from Deshengmen station (just east of Jishuitan subway, Line 2) out towards Jingzhanglukoubei in Yanqing county. Get off at Dongguan. The 80km trip is 16RMB each way and you can use your subway swipe card – no need to buy tickets.

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