At China’s Harbin ice festival, a wintry delight of frozen palaces awaits

Giant snow mazes, illuminated frozen towers and crystal palaces etched from vast blocks of ice greeted visitors to China’s annual ice festival in Harbin.

The frozen dreamscapes have drawn millions of visitors over the years to the wintry northeastern city, which opened the festival on Tuesday.

Preparations for the annual winter celebration in the province of Heilongjiang begin weeks in advance, with workers mining millions of cubic feet of ice from the surface of the Songhua River over long, gruelling shifts. Walls of ice carved into the shape of a giant flower were lit up on Tuesday night as the festival opened.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics have inspired a push across China to promote winter sports and tourism, with the number of Chinese snow resorts increasing nearly fourfold in the past decade.