The “Ice City,” as Harbin is known, hosts one of the world’s largest snow and ice festivals, the Harbin International Ice Festival. Held throughout much of January and into February, it features some 1,500 larger-than-life ice structures that shimmer with multi-colored lights. Every year there is a different theme, varying from mythical beasts to famous landmarks from across the globe. The 33rd Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival that will be held in 2017, will open on January 5th to the theme “Happy Ice Snow, Exciting City.” It will include a grand opening ceremony, fireworks display and a series of theatrical performances as well as ice and snow activities, the Ice and Snow Amusement World, Zhaolin Park and other special events at venues throughout the city. Other winter experiences can be enjoyed here too, including dog sledding, romantic sleigh rides, winter swimming and watching Siberian tigers, safari-style. Harbin and the surrounding area also offers some of the best winter sports opportunities on the planet, including skiing and snow boarding.
This winter wonderland in Hakkaido is a port town that lures visitors with its beautiful architecture and long, picturesque canal that’s famously lined with Victorian-style gas lamps and stone buildings that once housed herring merchants but today serves as the home of shops and eateries. The Otaru canal, which is also open for short cruises, happens to be the main venue for the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, an event where locals place floating candles inside the canal, distributing some 15,000 snow candles and lanterns to light up the narrow pathways. The entire town has an unusual look to it, somewhat more Russian than Japanese, more industrial than bucolic, but still incredibly delightful, especially in its winter glory.
Gangwon-do, South Korea
Pyeongchang in Gangwon-do is the process of preparing for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and as such, there may be no better time to take advantage of the Taebaek Mountain slopes. South Korea has ramped up development of its winter zones, including building a new high-speed KTX rail line from Seoul to the Olympic resorts, including Alpensia and Youngpyong. Yongpyong is the biggest ski and snowboard resort in Korea, offering something for all types of skiers with beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert routes available across nearly 30 different slopes. Alpensia is considered a haven for beginners and intermediates who can practice and perfect their skills at a relatively quieter resort with six slopes.