Among all the Chinese provinces that I have visited, Heilongjiang is the most distinctive one. Maybe because Heilongjiang’s neighbor is Russia, so its culture is a mixture of Chinese and Russian factors. Visiting this province is like visiting another country inside China. If you want to refresh your experience in China, you can choose Heilongjiang. In this article, I would like to give you some basic details about this stunning province.
|Area||Over 460.000 kilometers|
|Population||Over 36.8 million|
|Neighbors||Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Jilin, Russia|
|Number of ethnic groups||35|
|Cities||Harbin, Daging, Hegang, Heihe, Jiamusi, Jixi, Qiqihar, Qitaihe, Suihua, Yichun, Daxing’anling, Mudanjiang, Shuanyashan|
|Time zone||GTM +8|
Heilongjiang is in the northeast of China. It is known as the second Moscow since this province’s culture is the combination of Chinese and Russian ones. Even the weather in Heilongjiang is similar to Russia’s. In last decades, most of the inhabitants here were Russian and lots of Russian constructions remain such as churches, buildings, etc. These ancient buildings are existing along with modern constructions. Advertisements on the streets also have both Chinese and Russian.
Harbin is the administrative center of Heilongjiang, known as the “Ice City” thanks to the national Ski Festival and Ice Festival held every year. Harbin is also the most well-known tourist destination of the province since you can get every beauty of Heilongjiang in this city. If the beauty of other provinces in China are mountains, temples, deserts, the beauty if Heilongjiang is winter, snow, and ice.
Heilongjiang’s strength is tourism. In 2017, it is estimated that the tourism industry has brought to this province approximately 5 billion USD, mostly from Harbin tourism. You could visit Heilongjiang every year even though the weather is freezing; in the summer, it could be cool and pleasant like a summer resort; in winter, it would show off its most beautiful-in-white landscapes with various activities and festivals. You will need the L visa to enter Heilongjiang.
Best Time To Visit Heilongjiang
For other provinces, I advise people to avoid the winter since the coldness may prevent you from enjoying the scenery and some activities. However, with Heilongjiang, I highly recommend you visit it in the autumn and winter; December, January, February, and March in particular. Winter is the most beautiful and outstanding time in Heilongjiang. The lowest temperature has ever recorded is -52.30C in January. Traveling to Heilongjiang during this time is not intense or harsh as you thought. It is the most touristy time of the year as you can see the Ice Festivals with distinctive marvelous art ice cravings.
Let’s Go From Beijing To Heilongjiang!
From my perspective, either by plane or by train is very convenient and fun. Depending on your taste that you would like to fly or buy a train ticket.
Various airlines are providing flights to Harbin, Heilongjiang from Beijing. I chose to go by Air China since it is the most common airline in China. You can have other options such as China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China United Airlines, etc. It only takes you about 2 hours to reach Harbin Taiping International Airport (HRB) in Harbin.
It is more convenient to travel by train if you don’t want to arrive in Harbin but other cities in Heilongjiang. The railway network in Heilongjiang is quite developed. If you go by train, you can spend time watching the scenery on the way. However, it would take more time and needs lots of patience.
Heilongjiang Tourist Attractions
Never miss these spots in your itinerary:
– Zhongyang Walking Street (Harbin): It is one of the longest and widest streets in China. You can buy everything here, from clothes of international brands to street food and souvenir. After a long day playing in the freezing weather, you may need to find something hot to eat and drink in Zhongyang. This street is also perfect to take photos and hanging out with friends.
– Ice and Snow World: It is a must-go destination in Harbin, Heilongjiang. Everything is made of ice, so the temperature is not so pleasing. You can watch various ice masterpieces (which is unbelievably amazing). You can also see ice performance (like skiing and other activities). You can slide on ice just like in the water park. You can’t say you have visited Heilongjiang if you haven’t been to the Ice and Snow World. The ticket price when I visited here was 330 RMB.
– China Snow Town (Zhongguo Xuexiang): It is 280 kilometers far from Harbin. I asked my hotel receptionist to order a car carrying here at the price of 120 RMB. It is very dangerous to go here by yourself since there will be lots of ice and snow on the sloppy road. The ticket to get in costs 90 RMB, adding 5 RMB for the bus to take you to the village. Remember to keep your ticket throughout the journey. You can stay the night here as there are plenty of homestays and hotels.
– Shuangfeng Forest Farm: It is where China Snow Town located. You can go forest skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, dog and horse sledding. The sunrise and sunset landscape from here are perfectly outstanding and tranquil.
– Songhua River: It is called the Mother River of northeast China. In the winter, the river is frozen, letting tourists stand on and play some sports such as skiing. The ice from this river is taken for making such masterpieces in the ice festivals.
Some other interesting sightseeing for foreign visitors:
– Wudalianchi Global Geopark
– St. Sophia Church
– Jingpo Lake
– Summer Solstice
– Temple of Bliss
– Zhaolin Park
– Mao’er Mountain: Tourists come here to ski (it is a recommended activity when visiting the land of ice and snow). You can rent the proper equipment for skiing at this destination.
Besides, Heilongjiang is famous for several festivals relating to ice and snow. Some highlighted festivals that you should visit if you have a chance are:
– Harbin Ice Lantern Festival: Here has several huge ice cravings such as towers, buildings, castles, etc. It is officially open on 5th January every year, but the ticket would sell out since Christmas. On the first day of the festival, you can watch a flawless 15-minute firework performance.
– National Ice Festival
– National Ski Festival
What’s About Cuisine?
Since Heilongjiang is a neighbor of Russia, its cuisine is influenced strongly by Russian. Heilongjiang cuisine is a perfect combination of two countries. Maybe because of the cold weather, the food is quite oily and spicy. There are not many seasonings so it’s quite easy to eat. Some dishes you should find and try are mushroom chicken soup, braised salmon, Harbin red sausage, assorted chum salmon roll, stewed frozen tofu, deer’s tail in clear soup, cooked deer meat with soy sauce, minced chicken meat and hedgehog Hydnum, roast deer meat, etc. You can easily find them on Zhongyang street.
Some Tips For Better Trip
To travel around the city or from destination to destination, buses are the most advantageous transportation. It also helps you to save money. If you want to travel to another city in Heilongjiang, you can go to the bus station and buy a ticket to your destination.
The language is another thing you should notice. In general, Chinese people don’t speak and understand English well. In Heilongjiang, people can also understand Russian. As a result, you should prepare some basic Chinese sentences for better understanding.
The winter here is extremely long. Snow is falling almost half of the year, from October to the next May. It is said that “The weather here doesn’t have more than 3 sunny days”. The depth of snow in this province is 2 meters on average. Therefore, you should prepare proper clothes and accessories carefully (that can wear in the temperature of -200C). You will need gloves, face mask, and scarf to keep you warm. Also, prepare qualified shoes that keep you standstill. Some other equipments you need to carry are a backup charger, thermostat stickers (a lot), a hot bottle of water, etc.
To travel to Heilongjiang, you definitely need good health if you don’t want to get sick. With me, I could only stay outside for 3 to 4 hours because it was too freezing. Remember to bring snacks and a hot drink for better strength since you will walk and play a lot outside the cold weather.
Heilongjiang is the most unique province in China that I have ever visited. I thought that China only has mountains, deserts, forests, and modern cities. Not only do you have one more destination in your journey diary, but you also learn how to deal with intense and harsh freezing weather when visiting Heilongjiang. Don’t forget to consider Heilongjiang for your ideal holiday if you ever want to experience the coldness, snow, and ice along with the distinctive mixing culture of China and Russia.