What is the best time to visit China and all its regions? From what to see during each month to where to go and what to pack for China, our destination experts share an overview.
Covering nearly 10 million sq km, China is the third-largest country in the world. Such a vast geographical expanse naturally lends itself to tremendous diversity in temperatures and weather conditions. The months of April and May (Spring) and then September and October (Fall) are generally considered the best time to travel to China – the temperatures are usually mild around this time and you can expect plenty of sunshine. While the summer months can be extremely hot and humid, winters get cold and freezing across most parts of the country.
Another important factor to consider when planning your China vacation is the Chinese public holidays. The two main holidays are the Spring Festival and the National Day – while the dates vary, based on the lunar calendar, you can expect the Spring Festival celebrations to fall between January and February, while the National Day week is usually celebrated in the first week of October. Travel becomes extremely busy in the country around this time and attractions are usually packed.
Winter is in full swing at this time, with most parts of the country experiencing cold and freezing conditions. Temperatures in Beijing average around 25°F and can drop to as low as 14°F. Hong Kong and Macau in the south are warmer than the rest of the country at this time. Due to the Spring Festival, China’s New Year celebrations, several businesses are closed for two weeks at this time and there is a huge movement of people across the country.
- Go skiing or ice-skating at a mountain resort
- Head to the beaches of Hainan Island for some fun in the sun
- The world-famous Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is held around this time
- Enjoy the festivities around the Spring Festival
Cold and freezing conditions persist across the country, though it does get a touch warmer in Beijing with temperatures averaging around 30°F. Do factor the Lunar Festival celebrations while making your travel plans.
- Take advantage of the warmer temperatures in Hong Kong and explore the diverse attractions of this cosmopolitan city
Temperatures begin to rise across the country as spring beckons. The temperatures in Beijing usually average in the low 40s but expect a great variance between day and night temperatures. With spring on the horizon, the flowers begin to make an appearance, making for a beautiful sight – like the rapeseed flowers in the Eastern Yunnan province. This is usually one of the quieter months to visit before the crowds begin to throng the country.
- Take advantage of fewer crowds and head to the Great Wall of China
- This is a good time to explore the major attractions in Beijing and Shanghai before they get busy
- This is cherry blossom season in China and the blooms make for a pretty sight, especially in the rural areas
While it is still cold in Northern China, temperatures are rising in other parts of the country. In Beijing, expect temperatures to vary between the mid-40s and high 60s with the occasional sandstorm. There is a fair amount of rain, especially in the south and central parts of the country. This is also the time the Chinese landscape is truly beautiful: the terraced rice fields are full of water, making for great photographic opportunities.
- See the Great Pandas of Chengdu or take a culinary tour
- Embark on a tour of Shangri-la (Zhongdian) with its deep roots in Tibetan history
- See the Qingming (Tomb Sweeping Day), a two-day holiday in April, when the Chinese pay tribute to their ancestors
China is beautiful in May, making it one of the best months to plan your visit. Verdant landscapes teeming with flowers and pleasant temperatures will greet you. The first week of May is a holiday in China for Labor Day and many businesses shut around this time. Make your bookings well in advance if you plan to be in the country at this time.
- Enjoy a bamboo raft cruise on the Li River in Yangshuo
- Take a walking tour of Shanghai
- Explore the beautiful countryside of Yangshuo on cycle
- Visit the Forbidden City
This is high season in China, so expect the crowds to swell across the country. This is also summertime and conditions will be hot and humid, especially towards the end of the month. Temperatures average in the mid-80s across most of the country – and even touch the mid-90s in Beijing, with the occasional shower. While the north of the country remains largely dry, expect wet conditions in the south.
- Unwind with an early morning Tai Chi class in Beijing or Shanghai
- Embark on a cycling tour of Beijing
- Enjoy the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations in Hong Kong, especially the rice dumplings!
- Enjoy the celebrations around the Dragon Boat Festival that takes place in the first week of June
Summer is in full swing across the country – be prepared for heat and humidity during your travels! Ensure you carry plenty of sunscreen and remain well hydrated at all times. Local school holidays start in July, so expect crowds at all the major attractions. Make your booking well in advance!
- Savor the diverse tastes of Chinese cuisine on an evening culinary tour of Beijing
- Go on a Yangtze River Cruise
- Attend a Thangka painting class in Shangri la
Expect heat humidity and crowds! Temperatures can cross 100°F in cities like Shanghai and Beijing. This is also monsoon season in the south of the country. This is also when typhoons can affect cities like Hong Kong on the southeast coast of the country.
- Learn how to make handmade dumplings at a local family’s home
- Hike in Yunnan province
- Go on a tour of Tibet
This is a month of transition as summer gives way to fall. This is a wonderful time to visit China – temperatures begin to drop, the crowds thin out as the school holidays end and the foliage turns red and gold, making the country a visual delight. The temperature averages in the high 60s in Beijing, and conditions are largely cool and dry. The Mid-Autumn Festival usually falls around this month.
- Take advantage of the fewer crowds and visit the Museum of the Terracotta Army in Xi’an
- Hike a remote section of the Great Wall of China in Jinshanling
- Eat savory mooncakes – a ubiquitous part of the Mid-Autumn Festival across the country!
Excellent conditions continue through this month, making it one of the best times to visit China. Temperatures average around 55°F in Beijing, and the major attractions are not as busy as in the summer months. The first week of October is Golden Week in China – celebrating Chinese National Day, which falls on October 1. Travel can busy around this time and some businesses can be closed for a week.
- Take advantage of the fewer crowds and enjoy a picnic lunch atop the Great Wall after an exhilarating hike
- Head on a Feng Shui walk in Hong Kong’s neighborhoods
- Embark on a Star Ferry cruise in Hong Kong
- Explore the historic region of Kunming
Temperatures continue to dip across the country with average day temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to the mid-50s. The autumn foliage is at its best, making this a good month to visit China if you don’t mind the growing cold.
- Explore the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in Sichuan province, drenched in stunning fall colors
- Enjoy a cultural experience in Chengdu – the Sichuan Opera
Freezing cold conditions take hold as winter sets in and the cold fronts from Siberia spread across the country. But if you don’t mind the cold, then the ice and snow across several parts of the country make for a stunning visual spectacle. Warm beach destinations like Hainan Island are popular around this time.
- Enjoy the New Year’s Eve fireworks in cities like Hong Kong
- Take advantage of the warmer temperatures in the coastal province of Guangdong and explore historical sights
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What to pack for China
What you pack on your trip to China depends on the region you plan to visit and the time of the year. Cool cotton clothes along with a hat, sunscreen and comfortable footwear are a must for the summer months. In spring and fall, do carry a few extra layers for the cooler evening and nights. Do carry appropriate raingear and ensure you carry plenty of warm clothing in the winters as there may not be central heating in some places. Other must-haves include an electrical adapter, a VPN and the WeChat app for your mobile phone.
It is important to note that without a VPN you will not be able to use apps like Whatsapp, Google, Instagram, Facebook, etc. on your mobile phone. Make sure you download a VPN in your home country before you embark on your China trip – you will find online options for both Android, as well as iOS phones. WeChat, a messaging app, is extremely popular in China, so ensure you install this on your phone as well.
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