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Authored by Laura Clear

Jilin is a northeastern Chinese province bordering Russia and North Korea, and while it may not be the first place you think to go when you think of China, come winter it is a destination full of superlatives; of ski resorts, natural hot springs, and stunning ice-rimmed riverside trees.

For those travelers looking for a destination which offers an incredible winter wonderland, and lengthy period of winter snow, this is the place to be. From October to April, Jilin is transformed into a truly magical destination with mesmerising natural wonders you have to see to believe.

From a stunning, deep-blue volcanic crater lake within the country’s largest reserve, to China’s extraordinary frozen fog, the following are 7 reasons to spend this winter among the wonders of Jilin.

7 Reasons You Should Spend Winter Among the Wonders of Jilin

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Floating pagoda photo credit: Andreea Mitrea

Ski Resorts

When you’re planning a trip to China, skiing and snowboarding probably aren’t the first thing on your list. In fact it’s probably not on your list at all. But maybe it should be.

With the Winter Olympics scheduled for China in 2022, ski resorts and snowfields across the country are seeing huge upgrades, and there’s never been a better time to hit the slopes.

With pristine white slopes, Jilin’s ski resorts are also a fantastic way to admire some truly dazzling views. Water droplets freezing in fog over the landscape makes the air glisten which is truly a wonder to behold. Songhua Hu, and Changbaishan Ski Resort are two you shouldn’t miss.

Natural Hot Springs

There is no possible way to visit Jilin without making your way into a hot spring. It’s quite incredible how two extremes in temperature (-24 degrees celsius outside and 42 degrees celsius water) combines to provide the perfect environment for a dip.

“Sunrise at the Shennong Hot Springs is particularly beautiful. This place is truly magical at every time of the day, but it was worth the 6am wakeup to see the sky turn soft pink over frosted trees and the hot water steam in the minus degrees.” Niki Csanyi

Wusong Island

Named as one of China’s top four natural wonders (or four “miracles”) alongside the dramatic landscapes of Guilin, the stone forest in Yunnan, and Three Gorges on the Yangtze River, Wusong Island is one of the most popular scenic spots in China. It boasts beautiful rime scenery; an ice-covered wonderland of flowers and trees popularly known as frost flowers or ice-rimmed trees.

Rime occurs when water droplets in fog freeze onto objects they touch. Though it attaches differently from snow and ice causing a very unique coating on the plants and trees. Elsewhere this is a rare occurrence, but the unique environmental conditions in Jilin make it an annual event. For rime to occur, it needs a combination of a below freezing temperature, sufficient airborne moisture and clear skies overhead; Wusong Island is embraced by water on all sides.

The landscape appears lost in a deep frost which is absolutely stunning to see; a fascinating crystal fairyland with jade trees and sliver flowers. This occurs from late November to early March.

Wusong Island

Wusong Island

Wusong Island

Changbai Mountain

Changbai mountain is is a volcanic mountain, and one of the greatest natural attractions in Jilin. It offers postcard worthy landscapes, and the 2 million year old Lake Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) with truly stunning views.

Actually a mountain range, it is especially beautiful in winter, and there are several stops for exploring unspoiled nature along the way. The mountain has several peaks, as well as beautiful waterfalls, amazing hot springs and marvellous lakes.

The view from any of Mount Changbai’s 16 tallest peaks is intoxicating, while the view from Tianbao Peak especially makes you feel that you are standing on the roof of the world.

Laolike Lake

Another of Jilin’s most scenic spots, this is a giant frozen lake, complete with beautiful snow covered trees and spongy snow.

There’s something surreal about walking through the snow surrounded by a forest of gorgeous white trees. A winter wonderland is there ever was one, you’ll not find a more picture perfect winter landscape than this!

Jilin China

Snow selfie photo credit: Hasnain Naqvi

Dunhua City

Dunhua City also known as the city of happiness. It is full of vibrant colors which are absolutely spectacular against a winter backdrop of ice and snow. It’s impossible not to be captivated and amazed by the beauty which surrounds you here.

The city is watched over by the worlds first Big Buddah. 48 meters in height, it is the biggest Buddha statue in the North East.

Walking up towards the temple takes around 20 to 30 minutes and is highly recommended as, not only will you be able to enter the giant buddha statue which itself inside is its own site, but you will also have fantastic views of the whole of Dunhua.

Dunhua City

Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival

The Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival has become a unique festival in north China which is themed to celebrate China’s extraordinary frozen fog (rime). Held annually since 1991 and sponsored by Jilin Provincial Tourism Administration and Jilin municipal government, this year’s festival is held from December 18, 2016 to the end of February, 2017.

Activities in the festival are rich and colorful. Tourists can enjoy skiing, sledding, and driving snow mobiles throughout Jilin’s ski resorts, as well as visiting all of the above Jilin attractions and destinations.

Video Snapshot

Tips For Winter Travel to Jilin

The closest airport is Changchun Longjia International Airport, which handles domestic flights as well as oversea routes from Seoul and Tokyo. Ctrip.com is the best travel site for China vacation packages.

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Pack appropriate clothing for the extreme low temperatures and dress warmly.

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Travel with sun protection; you can easily get sunburnt in the snow. UV radiation can be more intense in higher alpine regions, meaning more risk of getting burnt. Protect your skin, make sure you pack/wear protective clothing, including a hat/beanie, use water-resistant sunscreen (at least SPF30+) and wear sunglasses / goggles to protect your eyes.

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Travel with extra camera batteries as these quickly run flat in low temperatures. If you attach a heating pad to your camera this will help resist the cold. You can also travel with your technology in a ziplock bag so that then lens and screen’s don’t fog up.

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Laura is a graduate of Guilford Young College in Hobart, Tasmania. Inspired to travel since a young age, she recently returned from a year studying abroad in Germany, where she became fluent in her second language and fell in love with Europe along the way.

2017 will see her relocate to Canada where she will base herself for travel throughout North and South America. She is the youngest writer on the Mapping Megan team.

    57 Comments

  1. Great post. We are potentially moving to China in February, and this is a destination I didn’t know very much about. Trying to make a list of places to visit within the country so we can see as much of China as possible. Looks amazing and the Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival looks like a fun festival to add to the schedule for next year!

    • Thanks Drew :) Definitely schedule the Rime Ice and Snow Festival into your calendar for next year. Jilin is a region you should absolutely make the time to see as part of your move :)

      Happy travels! & Wishing you both all the best for your move.

  2. I love hearing about destinations for the first time, and until now Jilin, and specifically Jilin in the winter, was totally off my radar. I never envisioned China as a potential winter getaway. Hot springs, waterfalls, and volcanic lakes are perfect ingredients for my winter recipe!

    • Glad we could introduce you Howard! Jilin really is such an underrated destination – travel now before the word gets out ;)!

  3. I love natural hot springs, especially in the winter when it’s so cold outside that you have to run and get into the water! Jilin looks like a really cool place to visit, and a completely new destination for me. Great to have all the tips in this post too.

    • The hot springs here in Jilin are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen – the setting, and the rime ice gives it an incredible mystical feel. Hope you have the chance to visit soon Laura!

  4. Winter travel is definitely something we should do more! We never thought China could look that amazing during winter! These pictures yet convinced us; it looks pretty amazing!

    • Us too! Glad we could put Chinese winter on your radar Nat … Jilin is probably one of the best destinations in the world for a snow holiday, hope you have the chance to travel soon!

  5. There is clearly both ‘rime’ and reason to spend winter in Jilin. I’d never thought of skiing in China, but I’m always up for a good hot springs destination and hiking in beautiful wintry snow. Sounds fab.

    • Haha love it Carol! I’m sure you would love winter in Jilin. Hope you have the chance to visit soon!

  6. Aside from wanting to see pandas and the Great Wall, I’ve really not thought much about China for several reasons. I do think that if and when I go, destinations like Jilin are probably the right choice in China for me. I’m not really in to cities in the first place. I’d much rather experience skiing and other winter activities in a place that looks as stunning as this.

    • I think that China is one of those destinations which has its big draw cards, like the Great Wall and pandas, but most tourists don’t know too much about the regional provinces after that. Which is a pity since this is where the real beauty is at!

      Hope you have the chance to visit Jilin during winter soon :)

  7. Wow. This is so truly out of this world for me. Heavenly. So aptly mentioned as crystal fairyland.
    In India, we find such snow-clad trees in high Himalayan places. But, never heard any such place in China. Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad we could introduce you Himanshu! It doesn’t seem like many travelers have considered China as a winter destination, so I’m glad we can convince people otherwise!

  8. Wow! What an offbeat place of China. Usually we get to read the common places but this looks fresh. “Frozen lake with snow covered trees”… sounds like a fairy tale setting.

    • Jilin truly is a fairytale setting :) Glad we could introduce you to a part of China you hadn’t heard about before. Hope you have the chance to visit soon!

  9. Laura is right, skiing and snowboarding in China are not on my list at all, and she’s right also about having not heard of Jilin. Guilin, yes (and I’d love to go there too!), but Jilin, no. At least until today. Wusong Island certainly looks like a place I’d enjoy taking photos while the hot springs sounds like a perfect place to spend time after being out in the cold.

    • I’m so glad that we could introduce you to a region you hadn’t heard of before … and hopefully inspire a future trip :D

  10. So beautiful this landscape on teh photos… I confess that i don´t like the winter and the cold but is really great. China has a lot of diferent things to see and done.

    • Some very warm clothes and a hotel with a cozy fire and you won’t even recognize the cold :D!

  11. I will refer to seven destinations and will take one of those places for their honeymoon. thanks for sharing

    • Glad you enjoyed the post :) These destinations are definitely romantic, so would be perfect for you honeymoon. Congratulations!

  12. China is winter! Wow, I never could have imagined that. And this place looks so pretty. I’m certain that if you remove the name of the place from you post, no one would be able to guess where this is…certainly nowhere close to China :)

    • Haha it’s a bit like that! I don’t think China is really on the radar as a winter destination yet, but undeservedly so! Jilin is such a beautiful destination that it rivals some of the best in the world – travel now before the rest of the world finds out! ;)

  13. Beautiful post, Megan! Jilin seems like a must visit winter destination. Love the pictures! Thanks for sharing the video!

    • Thansk Gagan! So glad you enjoyed the photos and the video – hope you have the chance to enjoy winter in Jilin for yourself at some stage soon :)

  14. Winter and China typically don’t go together in my mind. China is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of winter vacations. That said, thanks for the introduction to Jilin. Your video and pictures are amazing and the rime scenery is simply spectacular. I’d love to experience the rime effect personally. What a great and informative post!!

    • You’re not the only one! It doesn’t seem like too many people associate China with winter travel, though I hope that we can change that!

      Glad you enjoyed the video and the post Rosemary, and that we could introduce you to Jilin. Hope you have the chance to travel next winter, and experience Rime!

  15. I love reading posts like this as it has highlighted a new destination to join my bucket list. What an incredible place! How long would you say is the ideal amount of time to visit for? If it’s -24 degrees outside I would need lots of clothes layered up to prepare. The frozen lake is interesting- is ice skating allowed on it? Fantastic read, thanks for sharing

    • I’m glad we could introduce you to Jilin Maddy! Laura and her group spent a week there, and took a bus tour organized by Ctrip. A week is a good amount of time to spend to see everything, though if you’re wanting to include a couple of days skiing, I would plan for extra time at the resorts.

      Yes, definitely take layers, and lots of warm clothes :) I’m not 100% about ice skating on the frozen lake but I’ll message Laura and a couple of the others who took the same trip and get back to you.

      Let us know if you have any other Q’s as you’re planning your trip. Always happy to help … you’ll love Jilin!

    • Hi Maddy, I have found out that there is ice skating allowed on the Frozen lake. Let me know if you have any other questions I can help with :)

  16. I’d never heard of this part of China, but it really does look magical! I’d especially like to visit Wusong Island and see everything crystallized. I’ll add it to my list of places to visit when I finally get to China.

    • The rime at Wusong Island is a miracle of nature … such a beautiful sight! Hope you do have the chance to visit Jilin on your trip to China Vicky!

      Feel free to reach out if you have any questions in the lead up to your trip :)

  17. Frequently, I spend my winter for running, but I think that I have a new destination to go. Jilin looks nice. I actually love your shared pictures. Thank for you sharing!

    • One of those destinations where it’s easy to be a photographer because the landscapes are so stunning they do most of the work themselves :D

      Hope you have the chance to visit soon!

  18. I totally wouldn’t have associated China with skiing and snowboarding – and it hadn’t even occurred to me that the winter Olympics were going to be held there! It looks like a magical part of China and I’d love to try the hot springs – I can hear the steam coming off the water into the cold night air calling me name as I type!

    • Sounds like you’ve got your first trip for 2017 covered! Snow it out in full force in Jilin until March :)

  19. wow. I honestly can not believe that winter in this beautiful

    • Stunning isn’t it! Even more beautiful in person ;) Happy travels!

  20. The city of happiness?? Whaaaaa this I gotta check out! And I have never heard of the technical term for ice frosted vegetation but I’m gonna remember it forever now after seeing those images.Rime… super cool :D

    • Glad we could introduce you to Rime! Hope you have the chance to check it out in person soon … it’s usually there until March if you find yourself with the opportunity to hit China soon :D!

  21. Rather strangely I’ve been talking about booking a ski trip to china for next Christmas. This looks amazing. Need to check out flights though as I’ve never heard of this place

    • Great minds think alike! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions in the lead up to your trip. Can happily recommend Jilin :)

  22. This looks like a winter dream! Thank you for all of the information about Jilin! I would love to visit one day.

    • Absolutely! One of the most spectacular winter destinations I’ve come across yet … hope you have the chance to travel to Jilin :)

  23. You are right when you say we don’t think of China beyond a few cities and activities. Jilin has opened a new place for entire tourism industry. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of it. Now it’s on my list!

    Frozen lake with snow covered trees… definitely a fairy tale story will emerge out of it.

    • I’m glad we could introduce you to a new destination and add Jilin to your bucketlist Nisha :)

      I’m sure you’ll absolutely love it there!

  24. We absolutely love China and really want to explore more of the country sometime soon! Jilin sounds like a great spot to visit, especially in the winter. I’d love to check out Changbai Mountain and the ice festival, and you can never go wrong with skiing and hot springs!!

    • Hope you do have the chance to explore more of China soon Jenna :) I’m sure you would love it in Jilin!

  25. It is hard to believe that those pictures are actually from China. Otherwise I would Jilin is somewhere in Scandinavia. When I visit it, I totally want to do the hotsprings: it’s the best way to escape the winter, really!

    • Isn’t it!! I was also quite surprised and amazed as I hadn’t pictured China as a beautiful winter destination either. A hidden gem, that’s for sure! Hope you have the chance to visit and enjoy the hot springs soon :)

  26. I’m not much of a winter person so I normally run to the tropics this time of year but maybe I’ll have to change my approach. With the hot springs I think I could enjoy Jilin in the winter.

    • Hot springs are a great way to retreat and enjoy the snow … might even make you fall in love with winter again :D

  27. Sign me up for the hot springs. Winter is cold but there are some great outdoor activities in the winter. Def adding Jilin to my bucket list.

    • Hot springs are such a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of winter but escape the cold :D It’s the perfect balance! Enjoy Jilin!!

  28. I’m moving to Jilin in a few months and will be there for a year, so this gives me some really great ideas for places to see and things to do! :)

    • Have an amazing time Eli! Glad we could set you up with some ideas :)

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