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A very different carnival destination.

While we mostly associate carnival with beaches in the Canary Islands and Brazil or sophistication in Venice, if you’re looking for something different and slightly wacky, how about an arctic version? With temperatures hovering around zero in Alaska, the BP World Ice Art Championships kick in in February and continue into March. This ice sculpting event is Fairbank’s way of celebrating winter carnival, a tradition that began in 1934 when thrones were made for the festival's king and queen by pouring water over wooden frames that froze, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Nowadays, this is no small affair. The event draws around 70 teams of carvers from all over the world who use power saws, hammers and chisels to transform massive 5-ton ice blocks from local ponds into works of great beauty. The competition takes place within the stunning wooded ‘ice park’ along the banks of the Chena River which runs through Fairbanks. Carvers are allowed between 60 and 110 hours, depending on the event, to complete their true masterpieces, but the resulting sculptures remain and are magical, mystical and surreal, with backlights filtering through the ice, bringing the pieces to life and making them appear to move.

There are flights to Fairbanks from Seattle and a number of other US cities. Not only can you experience a mystical carnival but between late September and April you can also view the Northern Lights.

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