In the far north of China, close to the border with Russia, the city of Harbin is home to an annual winter festival. Showcasing both the magnificent ice sculptures of local artists and those from around the world, the Harbin Ice Festival has now been running for over 20 years. After wrapping up warm take plenty of time to soak up the vibrant and creative atmosphere of the festival and explore the amazing ice works, many of which are built on an awe-inspiring scale. Ice art subjects can include well-known buildings, animals, gardens and scenes from Chinese folklore. After dark, the sculptures come alive in a dazzling display of light and colour from the thousands of tiny lights lying hidden within the ice.
Each summer, usually in June, crews of oarsmen take to ornately decorated dragon boats as part of the 2000 year old Dragon Boat Festival. Long boats with carved dragon’s heads move swiftly across the water to the rhythmic and motivational sound of drums.
The Shoton Festival is one of Tibet’s most important festivals. Locals gather together to witness a giant thangka painting being displayed on the outer walls of the Drepung Monastery before relaxing in the grounds of the Norbulingka Monastery to watch operas and eat yoghurt. Yak races and dancing also form part of this unique festival.
Festivals in China are very much family affairs and a time where workers can take a break and head home. Tourists are welcomed in all celebrations and although transport can be much busier it is worth timing your trip to take in one of the many festivals on offer.