The world’s winter wonderlands

Christmas may be over but the winter is still very much with us, as our American friends know only too well. But if you’re missing the ice and snow of a traditional British winter, here are a few sparkly attractions from around the world to give you inspiration.

Picture: Tracy Hunter

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival

China’s 30th annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival opens throughout January and February 2014. The pop-up, LED-illuminated 600,000 square metre theme park at its centre this year incorporates interactive features like installations you can walk through, ice slides and zip wires. Artists have created more than 2000 sculptures from Songhua River block ice or purpose-made snow, including a 48 metre ‘crystal castle’ and replicas of the Colosseum and the Empire State building.

7000 people took two weeks to create the ‘ice city’. There are also exhibits in Zhaolin Park and at Yabuli ski resort, and the festival now incorporates the city’s traditional Ice Lantern festival. Harbin, capital of the chilly northern Heilongjiang province, is itself colloquially known as an ‘ice city’. Particularly affected by chilly Siberian winds it has an average January temperature of  -18º.

Pic: Nazzen

Sapporo Snow Festival

Japan’s 65th Sapporo Snow Festival takes place from 5-11 February 2014. 6500 truck loads of natural snow will be delivered from various parks in or near Hokkaido’s capital to two outdoor city venues so that Odori Park and Station Avenue in the Susukino entertainment district can become illuminated galleries featuring around 200 stunning large and small sculptures made from ice or snow. The grounds of the Tsudome Community Dome host a winter adventure park offering activities like snow or ice slides, snow rafting and bamboo skiing.

The annual festival grew from a 1950s school project to create six snow statues in Odori Park, and is now organised around a community ice-sculpture competition attracting about 2m international visitors.

Visitors often make a day visit to Asahikawa’s smaller Winter Festival (6-11 February this year) which features an international competition and a spectacularly huge riverside snow sculpture, this year celebrating the 30th anniversary of Transformers.

The Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

A 5,500 square metre boutique hotel built annually from 1,000 tonnes of Torne River ice offers a range of luxury and ‘art’ suites between December and mid-April. Each annual iteration is unique, with suites created by artists and designers from across the globe which melt with the advent of spring.


This year the reception area features an installation by Brazilian street artist Speto to mark the FIFA World Cup Trophy’s visit to Sweden in March. BMW’s Mini team, given free-rein to create a deluxe suite, created a huge 49 m² suite-cum-artwork celebrating both the familiar outline of their iconic car and the evolution of ice dwellings from caves to modern hotel rooms. Or you could choose to sleep in an art installation based on the aurora borealis.

You don’t have to stay in an ice hotel room to have this unique experience – public areas include a restaurant, chapel and the world’s original ice bar, and warm accommodation and overnight visits to a wilderness camp by dogsled or snowmobile are also available.

If you’d prefer to make the most of what the UK has to offer, check our articles on pop-up ice skating venues and London’s version of the Ice Bar.


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