If you can’t make it up to Harbin’s famous festival, satisfy your wanderlust with a trip to Longqing Gorge instead, in Beijing’s northern Yanqing county. From Saturday 15 until the end of February, the gorge is holding its 26th annual ice and snow festival. Under two hours from central Beijing by car or public transport, this offering of winter fun might not be as large as its rival in the northern city of Harbin, but you will find hundreds of ice blocks chiselled into everything from sculptures of Chinese dragons and giant chessboards to a human-sized ice maze. All these attractions are set against a stunning backdrop of a 70-metre-high frozen water fall, while the more adventurous can even attempt tobogganing or hit the ice slides.
A visit to Longqing can be done as a day trip, but its icy figurines are at their most magical in the evening when lit with multi-coloured lights. So consider staying overnight in a nearby farmer’s guesthouse or the Happy Holiday Hotel (5105 5555; double rooms from 372RMB).
Longqing Gorge Yanqing county (6919 1020 or 81191011)
Open Saturday 16 January - February 28. 100RMB entrance fee. To reach Longqing, take the S2 train from Beijing North Railway Station to Yanqing Station; from there, take bus 920 to Longqing Gorge.