The Harbin International Snow & Ice Festival, famed for its gigantic illuminated ice sculptures, has officially kicked off in northern China. The annual event, held in the capital of Heilongjiang Province, is now in its 33rd year.
Sculptors come from all over the world to compete. Of the 32 teams participating this year, a Canadian team is the only North American representative.
The festival is made up of several themed zones. The main attraction is the Harbin Ice & Snow World, which covers more than 750,000 sq. metres and features up to 180,000 cubic metres of ice.
According to a China Daily report, more than 50 farmers worked for 20 days to supply Harbin International Snow & Ice Festival's sculptors with blocks of ice from the nearby Songha River.
Since 1985, the Harbin International Snow & Ice Festival has grown to become one of the biggest snow festival destinations in the world, joining the ranks of the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Canada's Quebec Winter Carnival and Norway's Holmenkollen Ski Festival.
The best time to go is at night, when sculptures are illuminated with LED lights.
There's just one deterrent. It's cold. January daytime temperatures in Harbin range from -13 to -24 C. But there is an upside to the chill. The sculptures can stick around for quite a while. Depending on weather conditions, the festival usually lasts until late February.