The World's 10 Best Ice Festivals

Editorial credit: aphotostory / Harbin, China is home the world's largest ice and snow festival.
Editorial credit: aphotostory / Harbin, China is home the world's largest ice and snow festival.

During winter, it's hard to resist the temptation to stay cooped up and cozy. Luckily, many places in the world have been trying to combat the winter blahs with amazing ice festivals.

The art of ice carving was originally taught in culinary school but has since moved out of the kitchen to the great outdoors. Today, hundreds of teams of ice and snow sculpture artists from around the world gather in the northern hemisphere frequently to celebrate the ice festivals and compete in sculpting. The ice carving competition results in some of the finest artworks that attract thousands of spectators. Below, we will outline some of the most amazing winter festivals that exist worldwide.

10. Snow Village - Lapland

Editorial credit: BBA Photography /

Snow Village is an exciting destination located about 200 kilometers above the Arctic Circle. The village boasts of a snow hotel offering delicious meals in the spectacular ice restaurant. Snow village is constructed every year when the temperatures drop below zero. The constructors use snow and ice as building material to construct over 30 rooms. There are also other standard suites with different themes and designs. Visiting the snow village is an enjoyable experience but can also be uncomfortable for those who forget to bring with them suitable winter clothing!

9. Ice Music Festival - Geilo

Ice Music festival is a unique ice festival that takes place in Geilo, Norway. Hundreds of music lovers and artist take part in this festival that takes ice sculpting to a new level. Artists gather on the first full moon of the year to create working musical instruments from ice and snow. Instruments such as guitars, violins, harps and even stringed instruments are some of the most popular during the festivals. The artists then take to stage to play their freezing instruments which produce some of the unique instruments. The performance takes place in a specially constructed igloo

8. Ice Magic Festival - Banff

The Ice Magic Festival has been taking place for over 20 years in picturesque Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, Canada. Each year, the festival organizers come up with a theme which competitors have to bring out in their ice artwork. The competition takes about 36 hours/ Final artworks are often displayed for visitors, who also have an opportunity to enjoy free ice activities such as freestyle sculpting and ice games such as sliding and hockey.

7. International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture - Krasnoyarsk

International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture marks the beginning of every New Year. The festival is held annually on the freezing banks of the Yenisei River in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Teams from as far as the US, China, and Japan travel to the Siberia’s third largest city to compete in both ice and snow categories under a unique theme. The festival involves the creation of fortresses, labyrinths, and mythical objects in line with the year’s theme. Special expert-led workshops are also opened for visitors who would want try their hands on ice and snow carving.

6. Ice on Whyte Festival - Edmonton

Ice on Whyte Festival is a 10-day outdoor ice art that is accompanied by lots of food, music, and fun. The ice festival kicks off every January 23 when the temperature in Edmonton is at its lowest, with ice-carving artists from as far as Russia, Latvia, New Zealand, and Malaysia competing with local artists. The competition involves the use of chainsaws and chisels to dig through more than 500 blocks of ice weighing over 155,000 pounds. Other snow-based fun activities such as giant ice slide and ice carving classes also take place alongside the carving competition.

5. Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Festival - Breckenridge

Editorial credit: Arina P Habich /

The Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Festival is a championship for ice sculptors from around the world who go head to head in a competition to create the most amazing displays. Participants are divided into a team of four artists with each team given a 12-foot high, 20-ton block of snow to work with. The teams have 65 minutes to complete their masterpieces, after which marks are awarded by the judges. Visitors also have the opportunity to vote for their favorites to determine the People’s Choice winner.

4. International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival - Paris

The International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival takes place on the on the ski resort property of Valloire-Galibier. The festival is in its 26th year and takes place in every January for a period of two weeks. During the festival, the resort comes alive with music, lighting, and plenty of frozen activities. The opening ceremony is often accompanied by a free concert while the closing ceremony is characterized by fireworks. The competition attracts a team of sculptors from around the world who take part in the creation of some of the amazing ice art with the winners getting rewarded for their creativity.

3. Snowking - Yellowknife

Snowking event is a popular annual event in Canada, held in Yellowknife, the capital and the largest community in the Northwest Territories. It is a month long community festival that is held every March. The festival turns Yellowknife into a winter wonderland with the creation of legendary snow castles. The snow castle is built from the ice and snow from Great Slave Lake and is often a centerpiece of the snowking calendar. The Snowking event is also part of celebrating culture and art and all that Yellowknife has to offer.

2. Quebec Winter Carnival - Quebec City

Editorial credit: serkan senturk /

The Quebec Winter Carnival has been offering snow lovers from Canada and around the world a chance to celebrate and enjoy everything about winter for the last 60 years. It is the world’s largest winter carnival, offering over 200 activities throughout the city of Quebec. Some of the popular activities include sleigh racing, hockey games, and parades. Snow sculpture and soap box derby are among the festival’s favorite, alongside visiting the carnival mascot known as "Bonhomme" at the huge ice palace. Quebec Winter Carnival takes place annually from around January 28 to mid-February.

1. International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival - Harbin

Editorial credit: aphotostory /

The International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, in the northern Chinese city of Harbin, is the largest frozen event in the world. it dates back to early the 1960s when it started as lantern and garden party before transforming into the grand event that we see today. The ice sculptures are carved from large blocks of ice obtained from the surface of the Songhua River. The sculptors battle each other to create the largest and the most outlandish artwork not only in the festival but on the planet. Some of the ice arts created resemble buildings, animals, and other mystical creatures. The ice festival starts on January 5 every year, but with weather permitting, it can start earlier.


More in Travel