5 mins

Frozen - 5 of the world’s best ice and snow festivals

With giant sculptures, dog sledding and even saxaphones made of ice, these frozen winter wonderlands of ice and snow, from Japan to Sweden, are the perfect place to unleash your inner Elsa and Let It Go

Ice sculpture at Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, China (Dreamstime)


1: Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, China

Artists working on snow sculpture in China (Dreamstime)

When?Jan 5–25 Feb, 2017

Why go? This is the daddy of all snow festival, the world’s largest. China's northern outpost has utilised its bitter winters to great effect, forging life-sized ice palaces and towering snow buildings, as the ambitions of its sculptors reach ever loftier heights.

Harbin festival lit up at night (Dreamstime)

After dark, light shows see the ice come alive. There’s also an ice lantern art fair, winter swimming (perhaps better for spectating than taking part) and ice hotels, plus a chance to enjoy dog sledding.



2: Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan

Large snow sculpture at Sapporo (Dreamstime)

When? Feb 1–12, 2017

Why go? It’s come a long way since its humble student origins, with thousands now flocking to northern Japan's Hokkaido to see snow and ice artists labouring on their creations: frozen carvings of iconic sights, from Angkor Wat to bullet trains, Manga characters to giant bears.

Best seen lit up at night, the main section of Sapporo’s annual Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) winds 1.5km across Odori Park.

Don’t be surprised to see Hello Kitty walking around, waving to the crowd, or brass bands valiantly playing on while the snow falls, working their instruments with gloved hands.

There are also lively displays by skiers and snowboarders off giant ramps, and abundant food stalls selling local specialties, such as crab soup, scallops and hot wine.

There’s more refreshment nearby with the delicious noodles of Ramen Alley and, a short bus ride away, Sapporo Beer Museum, Japan’s first beer factory.



3: Kiruna Snow Festival, Sweden

Husky dogs around Kiruna (Dreamstime)

When? Jan 25–28, 2017

Why go? Deep in Swedish Lapland, local Sami traditions are mixed with the modern (and bizarre), as ice sculptors flock to the area in the last week of January each year to create weird and wild glacial masterpieces amid the tundra, including arty abstracts alongside faces, figures and animal forms.

The festival has been going since 1986, when the first event marked the launch of the Viking  satellite from nearby Esrange space centre.

Also here, you’ll find playgrounds for children, sculpted from the ice, and an opportunity to ride on a sled pulled by huskies for the classic Sami experience



4: Carnaval de Québec, Canada

Skaters and a local mascot in Quebec (Dreamstime)

When? Jan 27–Feb 12, 2017

Why go? A staple in the Quebecois diary, the city’s snowscapes boast frozen sculptures aplenty, light shows, a giant ice palace and night parades with floats full of dancers.

Dog sledding, sleigh racing and canoeing all add to the fun.

In fact, there are more than 200 events planned for this year’s Carnaval, including axe-throwing. You could even try your hand, or rod, at a bit of ice fishing, either outdoors or from the heated warmth of an igloo’s interior.



5: Ice Music Festival Geilo, Norway

Ice harp player (Emile Holba)

When? Feb 9-12, 2017

Why go? Try a music festival where not only is the venue an igloo, but all the instruments (from guitars to drums) are made of ice, too. That’s quite a feat, but this is billed as the world’s only ice music festival.

Situated in the mountain region of Geilo in Norway, close to the Hallingskarvet Plateau, the festival’s held under the first full moon of each year.

Ice musician (Emile Holba)

No two events are the same; line-ups change yearly, as does the ice quality, altering the sound. This year sees the first ever ice saxophone, which should really be something to see and hear.



Main image: Ice sculpture at Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, China (Dreamstime)


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