South Korea’s Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival has been held on a frozen river in the remote mountainous county of Hwacheon for 16 years.
Despite its distance from Seoul – about 120 kilometres to the northeast, on the North Korean border – the 23day ice festival draws big crowds.
Continuing this year until January 27, it’s expecting 14,000 foreign tourists each weekend.
The county, whose population is just 27,000, earned 479 million won (US$428,000) in revenues during the first two days, up 17.4 per cent from the same period last year. And this was despite a cold wave that sent the mercury to minus10 Celsius.
Clad in thick winter clothes, families and foreign tourists flock to Hwacheon Stream to fish for sancheoneo, a species of trout that lives only in very clean fresh water and grows the length of a human forearm.
The festival also features outdoor activities including barehanded fishing, a sledding contest and meetings with Santa Claus. Some 27,000 lanterns light up Seondeung Street.
To encourage more tourists to stay overnight, the organiser offers diverse night programmes such as night fishing.
Launched in 2003, the event was chosen as the nation’s best festival by the Culture Ministry in 2010 and has developed into one of the world’s four major winter festivals.