Best Time to Visit Harbin
Plan your Harbin tour in winter? The best time to visit Harbin is winter! Harbin’s winter is synonymous with Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, the largest and most magical ice and snow carnival in China. Now Harbin Ice and Snow Festival has been reputed as one of the four most famous ice and snow festivals in the world along with the ice festivals in Sapporo, Quebec and Oslo.
Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is normally open on a trial basis from December 24 through 31 though it officially opens on January 05 each year. Basically Harbin Ice and Snow Festival lasts till the end of February.
So when is the best time to visit Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in the two months’ period? It seems hard to have a uniform answer to this tantalizing question. It depends on several factors – your vacation time, train or flight tickets, hotel rates, entrance fees, Christmas, New Year, Chinese Spring Festival ( Chinese New Year), Lantern Festival and so on.
The Two-month Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
The two-month Harbin Ice and Snow Festival meets Christmas, New Year and Chinese Spring Festival, adding more festivity and cheerfulness to the ice holiday. I now divide the two month ice festival into four periods which, let you think which period is most suitable for you.
Christmas Period ( Dec 24 – Dec 30)
Christmas for the West is similar to Chinese Spring Festival ( Chinese lunar new year) for the Chinese, the most important holiday. The celebration of Christmas is getting its popularity in China, especially in the big cities like Harbin, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and more.
The Christians and Catholics are increasing in numbers here; young people seek Christmas as the time to boost their romance; smart merchants grab Christmas to promote theirs sales or images.
It is not a bad time to visit Harbin Ice and Snow Festival during Christmas. You are entitled to 50% off the exorbitant entrance fees due to its trial opening. Hotels and bars are festively decorated with much activity going on. Train tickets are not so hard to get in Christmas time as in Chinese Spring Festival and New Year.
But one thing you should keep in mind is that you need to book your hotel well in advance, especially on the eve of Christmas as numerous Chinese would fight with you for the local hotels on that particular evening. Besides, you should be also lenient to the ice and festival itself since maybe only 90% of the ice and snow carving has been finished when you go visiting due to the trial operation period.
New Year Period (Dec 31 – Jan 02 )
New Year is not treated equally as Chinese Spring Festival ( Chinese New Year), but the Dec 31-Jan 02 period is still an important occasion for ordinary Chinese. A three-day national holiday ( Jan 01 – 03 ) drives people to leave home on vocation. Harbin is definitely on the destination list of many holiday-makers.
With ice and snow festival still on a trial operation, visitors have to be charged normally without discounts for the entrance fees to enter the ice and snow festival venues. Train tickets are not easy to get, but much better than Spring Festival. It is preferable to reserve your hotel well in advance due to the sudden surge of the New Year holiday-makers coming to Harbin.
Spring Festival Period ( later Jan or early Feb )
For me, Spring Festival Period is the best time and the worse time as well to visit Harbin during the ice and snow festival. When I say “Best Time”, because you not only visit the Ice and Snow Festival, but also experience the Chinese New Year in the Northern China. When I say “Worse Time”, because Spring Festival creates the largest human migration in the world, people going back and forth, causing the big transport problem.
But if you could manage your transport going to Harbin ( train or flight) as well your Harbin hotel booking, Spring Festival is a good time to visit Harbin during the ice festival.
Chinese New Year, pronounced in Chinese as “xin nian”. “xin” means “new” and “nian” means “year. It always falls on the first date of the beginning of the spring, hence the “Spring Festival”. The date for Chinese Lunar new year is not fixed, between late Jan and early Feb each year. For China Lunar New Year, people enjoy 3 day holiday. Chinese government makes it a 7 day holiday by moving the prior weekend and the upcoming one together. This is the Chinese government’s “holiday economy” policy.
The non-holiday period of the two-month ice festival is the ideal time to visit Harbin in winter. Train tickets are easy to get with numerous hotel choices.
In the ice and snow festival venues, you have better opportunities to take wonderful pictures instead of mass photos with so many visitors crammed into the venues during holiday season.
By the way, even during the holiday season ( Christmas, New Year and Spring Festival ), all the hotels, major restaurants and shopping stores are still open with much activity going on.
The three major ice and snow venues in winter
There are three major venues where yearly Harbin Ice and Snow International Festival will be held.
Ice and Snow World
Visiting Time: suggested 3-4 Hour
Check out Harbin Ice and Snow World for more information.
Entrance Fee: RMB 150 ( daytime: 09:00 – 12:00) RMB300 (evening time: 12:00 – 21:00); RMB330 ( Holiday evenings )
Location: An open and spacious area on the west of Sun Island and northern bank of Songhua River.
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 21:00
How to Get There
Take bus 552, 551, 346,212, 211 and get off at the stop of Sun Island Daokou ( 太阳岛道口站); or take a taxi from Zhongyang Pedestrian Street, costing about RMB 30.
Snow Carving Festival at Sun Island
Visiting Time: suggested 2-3 Hour
Check out Snow Carving Festival at Sun Island for more information.
Entrance Fee: RMB 240
Location: An open and spacious area on Sun Island and northern bank of Songhua River.
Opening Hours: 8:00 – 18:00
How to Get There
Take bus 29, 85, 88 and get off at the stop of Sun Island ( 太阳岛); or take a taxi from Zhongyang Pedestrian Street, costing about RMB 40.
Ice Lantern Festival at Zhaolin Park
Visiting Time: suggested 2 Hour
Entrance Fee: RMB 200
Location: Zhaolin Park
Opening Hours: 5:00 – 21:00
How to Get There
Take bus 101, 103 and get off at the stop of Zhaolin Park （兆麟公园）or walk from Zhongyang Pedestrian Street.
Tip: Hassle-free Northeast China Escorted Tours
Don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route? No worries, We at Tour Beijing have some options for Northeast China guided tours with English-speaking tour guides:
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Harbin Ice and Snow World
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Harbin Jihua Ski Resort
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Harbin – Yabuli – China Snow Town Shuttle Bus
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Night View of China Snow Village
Qiqihar Taxi: Qiqihar Taxi Fares, Tips and Phones
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Yanji Taxi: Yanji Taxi Fares, Tips and Phones
Jilin Taxi: Jilin Taxi Fares, Tips and Phones
Changchun Taxi: Changchun Taxi Fares, Tips and Phones
Dandong Taxi: Dandong Taxi Fares, Tips and Phones
Shenyang Taxi: Shenyang Taxi Fares, Tips and Phones
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