Towering ice palaces at China’s Harbin Ice Festival

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China held its opening ceremony on Sunday 5 January, amid fireworks and celebrations.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightAFP

The annual festival, in China’s north-east Heilongjiang province, is one of the biggest ice and snow festivals in the world.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightREUTERS

About 220,000 cubic metres of ice and snow were reportedly used to build the ice world.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightAFP
Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightAFP

Visitors were treated to a towering frozen ice palace.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightAFP

There was even an ice steam train.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightREUTERS

The 36th Harbin Ice Festival began in 1963 and was interrupted for a few years because of China’s Cultural Revolution, resuming again in 1985.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightREUTERS

As well as towering ice structures, the festival includes activities like sledging, ice hockey, ice football, speed skating and Alpine skiing competitions.

Football at the Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

There are also swimming competitions in frozen water. Participants seen below are competing in the Songhua River.

Swimming competition at the Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightEPA
Swimming competition at the Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightEPA
Swimming competition at the Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

A highlight of the festival was a snow-themed group wedding ceremony. About 40 couples were reported to have got married this year.

A mass wedding ceremony at the Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightEPA
A mass wedding ceremony at the Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightEPA

Harbin Ice Festival runs until 25 February 2020.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightAFP
Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage copyrightSHUTTERSTOCK