Explore the Winter Wonder of Harbin and China
While the rest of the country may be headed to warmer climes come January, those who decide to take the road less traveled by heading out on Oriental Tours' nine-day, all-inclusive Winter Wonder of Harbin and China Tour will be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Travelers will spend three nights each in Beijing and Shanghai, but surely the jewel in the crown is Harbin and its Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.
Each year, Harbin is transformed into a magical winter wonderland as massive sculptures and castles are built from enormous blocks of ice cut from the Songhua River, which runs through the city. Although the city's main thoroughfares are transformed during the season, the most impressive sculptures are located in three main areas: Sun Island is home to a massive snow sculpture exhibition, featuring almost true-to-size ice castles decorated with whimsical figures; Snow and Ice World, where each night visitors can stroll through breathtaking illuminated ice sculptures and lanterns; and Zhaolin Park, which is considered by many to be the main event. Here, traditional ice lanterns and other illuminated sculptures are also on display, and while the sculptures are typically finished in December, the full illuminated display doesn't occur until January.
During their three-night stay in Harbin, visitors will have the chance to take in some of the city's other notable sites as well, including the Siberian Tiger Park. Sitting on more than 355 acres, it's currently the world's largest natural park for Siberian tigers, which are listed by China as a first-class protected species. The park is home to more than 500 Siberian tigers, as well as white tigers, lions, lynx, leopards, black puma, and Bengali tigers.
Another highlight is the St Sophia Cathedral, the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the Far East. Renowned for its Byzantine style, the church is said to be so beautiful that it must have been made by God's hands.
From Hardin, it's off to Shanghai, where for three days and nights, visitors will take in the sights and sounds of this exciting city. Among the highlights is the classical Yuyuan Garden, whose small size belies the numerous things to see and do inside its walls.
Once in Beijing, travelers will have time to explore the 798 Art District. Located in a vast area of factories built by the East Germans, today the area houses some of Beijing's finest examples of modern and contemporary art. Art and history lovers will also enjoy the National Museum of China. Sitting to the east of Tiananmen Square, the museum covers Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man, 1.7 million years ago, to the end of the Qing Dynasty, and has a permanent collection of 1,050,000 items. Visitors can view such notable items as the world's heaviest piece of ancient bronzeware, the "Simuwu Ding," and a Han Dynasty jade burial suit sewn with gold thread.
Oriental Tours' Winter Wonder of Harbin and China ($2,899 per person) departs January 23 from Los Angeles and San Francisco. It includes deluxe hotel accommodations, transportation within China, meals, sightseeing and entrance fees, and English-speaking local guides.
More by Kristina Rundquist
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