There’s nothing quite like the arrival of winter. As the weather becomes cold and the days get shorter with darkened skies — in the Northern hemisphere at least — it can be easy to feel a bit melancholy and dreary. But there’s still a lot about the cold weather season that can be awe-inspiring and romantic. Most notably: snow and ice.

Don’t believe us? Here are six of the most amazing snow and ice festivals all around the world.

Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival

The Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival is a gorgeous, winter-tastic excuse to head to Asia. The festival happens every year from early January to late February in Harbin, the capital city of China‘s Heilongjiang Province. Close to Russia, you can feel the cultural influence of their Northern neighbor everywhere you go, from the architecture to the food and more. The festival features ridiculously impressive castles, sculptures, and more, all made of ice and snow. Be sure to check everything out at night, when all structures are lit up with multi-colored lights.

Valloire International Ice Sculpture Competition & Snow Festival

Based in southern France, the Valloire International Ice Sculpture Competition and Snow Festival generally occurs every January at the popular ski resort Valloire-Galibier. During the course of just over a week, the event presents visitors with the great opportunity to vote for the best snow sculpture after viewing the most incredible artwork by extremely talented sculptures. Visitors will also be able to listen to live music, participate in winter activities, enjoy amazing fireworks, and watch a torchlight parade. The event has been enjoyed by hundreds of travelers from around the globe for nearly thirty years, and the sculptures travel near and far to participate in this popular competition.

International Snow Sculpture Championships

One of the most popular ice festivals in the United States occurs in Breckenridge, Colorado. Breckenridge is home to a world-renowned ski resort, which is also where the International Snow Sculpture Championships take place every year around late January. The event attracts talented sculptors from all over the world, and they come together to construct unbelievable snow sculptures. Every team has five days to create a masterpiece, and the only rule is that participants can’t use power tools. Once they view all of the fascinating displays, visitors can vote on their favorite one. The top snow sculpture will be named the People’s Choice winner. Many visitors love that the amazing snow sculptures are traditionally illuminated at night.

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Ice Music Festival Norway

Held in Geilo, Norway, Ice Music Festival Norway is an amazing event that was inspired by Terje Isungset, a prominent musician from Norway. During one weekend every February, the festival features the artists performing with instruments made from natural ice and snow. If you ever attend this unique music festival, you’ll probably see hundreds of musicians playing a wide variety of instruments including harps, drums, guitars, violins, and many more. Attendees usually enjoy the beautiful melodies while inside an igloo, which makes the performances even more magical.

World Ice Art Championship

Taking place for roughly 30 years in Fairbanks, Alaska, the World Ice Art Championship is an event that ice lovers don’t want to miss. At this extremely fun event, you’ll discover about 100 skilled artists creating never-before-seen ice sculptures in a series of competitions lasting about six weeks from mid-February to the end of March. Kids love this event too. In past years, many children have awed over a kid’s amusement park that was created only with ice. The event even has several fun activities for children. Almost every artist who participates in this event is trying to become the official BP World Ice Champion.

Sapporo Snow Festival

The Sapporo Snow Festival is generally a multi-day event during early February in Sapporo, Japan. It usually features a few main sites: Odori Park, Susukino District, and Tsudome. The festival truly has something for everyone, whether you want to check out the skating rink, unique snow sculptures, winter activities, tasty Japanese food, and even attractions for children. It first started in 1990 and has continued to grow every year since. Today, several million people travel to Japan every year just to view the hundreds of beautiful sculptures, while several artists come from many different countries to participate.

Know about some amazing international snow and ice festivals that should be on this list? Tell us about them in the comments! 

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About The Author

Hannah Winsten is a freelance writer and marketing consultant living in New York City. A total travel junkie, Hannah came to CheapOair as a French translator and SEM associate after returning from a stint living abroad in Paris. She’s also working on her first book--you know you want to read it. Find her on Twitter at @HannahRWinsten.