Instead of hibernating, here’s what’s going on around the world to excite you for your next trip. Get inspired by these images of cold weather festivals.

Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan

A large and well-known winter festival is the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan (top image by samshutterstock). 

Starting off as a one-day event in 1950, visitors can enjoy hundreds of snow sculptures at various sites in and around Sapporo. The annual seven-day event in February features sculptures that depict everything from popular culture such as Star Wars or Minions to traditional Japanese pagodas to even Donald Trump.

Top tip for photographers: Invest in some touch screen gloves if you haven’t already so that if you need to fiddle with the camera dial, you don’t risk getting your hands cold (which will make it all that much harder to get that perfect shot in the cold weather).


Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival, Iceland

For a country that has an average of merely five hours of daylight during the darkest winter months, having a festival that celebrates local art and culture seems almost like a must to beat the winter blues.

Visitors to the Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival can see Glacier Requiem, which transforms Hallgrímskirkja church into a melting glacier, or watch an installation film of shrinking glaciers melting, making a unique sound.


Shetland Viking Festival, Scotland

Gales, sleet, and snow have failed to postpone Scotland’s Shetland Viking Festival in mid-winter. A celebration of Shetland history, Up Helly Aa or “Up Holy Day All,” refers to any of the twelve fire festivals held annually in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. On the last Tuesday in January, a procession of a thousand guizers led by Guizer Jarl march through the streets of Lerwick (and other small towns and villages) in themed costumes. They carry torches which they throw onto a replica Viking longship, lighting it ablaze in the night sky.


Beat the Winter Blues with These Instagram-Worthy Cold Weather Festivals — Carnaval de Québec, Québec City, Canada
Image by Maridav

Carnaval de Québec, Québec City, Canada

Making its debut in 1894, Carnaval de Québec is one of the world’s major cold weather festivals and is synonymous with Quebec’s winter life. The 2020 celebration features activities over ten days with updated classics like the Ice Palace and parades and, of course, everyone’s favorite snowman, Bonhomme.


Beat the Winter Blues with These Instagram-Worthy Cold Weather Festivals — Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China
Image by Haobo Wang

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China

Located in the Northeast China province of Heilongjiang, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival claims to be the largest ice and snow festival in the world. Originating in 1963, the festival has grown from a local event to an international competition, drawing 10 to 15 million visitors annually.

The festival includes three venues, covering 600,000 square meters, where you can see ice sculptures as tall as forty-six meters high. They are lit up with computer controlled LEDs and regular lighting, making for that perfect photo.

Editor’s Note: At the time of writing, China is experiencing travel bans due to the Coronavirus outbreak. It’s important to know the restrictions on your travel before going to China, and stay safe and informed as the news progresses.

Top tip for photographers: Given its proximity to Siberia and that the average January high in Harbin is -13C (8F), you’ll need to protect your camera batteries as the cold saps battery life.

As a general rule, a fully-charged camera battery will normally last for fifty photos (without flash) but in these cold conditions it will be more like twenty-five. You can probably stretch that to another ten if you take the battery out and warm it for a while, repeating this action until the battery runs out. When not taking photos, keep your camera warm inside a down jacket. Also consider preparing more batteries for your camera and keeping them warm so you can keep snapping!


Looking for more inspiration? Check out these contributor tips: