The best time to visit China

Great Wall in autumn - China Best Time to Visit - On The Go Tours
Autumn decorates landscapes with fiery hues of red and orange

Seasons

Being such a vast country the climate in China is extremely varied and does go from one extreme to the other. Winter (November to February) can be a bone chilling affair with temperatures in the high north of the country like Harbin for example regularly dropping well below zero – which is great for the popular Harbin Ice Festival which occurs in January. Further south in Beijing it is still a cold winter but not as extreme as further north. Naturally the further south you go the warmer it gets and winter in Shanghai is actually quite bearable. Winter is naturally a time when most tourist attractions are at their quietest, however the annual Chinese New Year celebrations (varies but can be any time between January and March) will see hotels and transportation being stretched to their capacity.

Spring (March – May) and Autumn (September – October) attract similar climates and are often regarded as the best times to visit China. The country begins to bloom in colour with Spring seeing floral explosions in the countryside and in Autumn russet hues take over the trees surrounding the Great Wall and also in some of the major cities. However like Chinese New Year it is advisable to avoid May holiday (beginning of May) and National Day (first week in October) as once again hotels and transport will be hiked in price and very busy plus the popular attractions will be flooded with local Chinese tourists.

Summer (June – August) sees the country basking in high temperatures and long warm days. It is also when a lot of the rain comes. However be prepared for a lot of crowds to descend on the popular tourist attractions – this is when China’s children are on holiday and families and groups from the four corners of the country flock in 1000s to see the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Terracotta warriors etc. Despite the hot temperatures it is still a great time to go as long as you are prepared with light clothing, lots of water and a trusty Chinese fan to help keep you cool!

Climate | Beijing

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C-10-8-1713182120146-2-8
Temp Max °C14112127313130262093
Rainfall (mm)4581735782431415816113

Climate | Shanghai

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C1141015192323191472
Temp Max °C8813192528323228231712
Rainfall (mm)4858849494180147142130715136
Harbin Ice Festival sculptures - China best time to visit - On The Go Tours
The Harbin Ice Festival is a highlight on China's events calendar

Festivals

China celebrates a number of festivals throughout the year and such festivals are a great time to visit - the mood is one of fun and special foods will be prepared and events held. However, at these times of year the demand for services such as hotel rooms and train tickets is at its highest so it can make travel more difficult.

Harbin Ice Festival

Visit north-east China in the depths of winter to see the spectacular ice sculptures of the annual Harbin Ice Festival with our special festival tour. It's now on the of the world's biggest winter festivals and will fall between December 21st 2016 and February 1st 2017.

Chinese New Year

Celebrated on the 15th day of the first calendar month in the Chinese lunar year, on this day the country comes alive with celebrations ranging from dragon dances to firework displays. It's an especially colourful time to visit China as families in the cities and rural towns mark the beginning of the new year with lanterns decorating the streets. In 2017 Chinese New Year falls on the Saturday 28th January.

Peach Blossom Festival

Spring is a lovely time to visit China with pleasant weather and the vivid colours of flowers decorating the landscape. A good place to enjoy this is in Shanghai's Nanhui District between March and April when the Peach Blossom Festival is celebrated, oddly enough, with pig races, acrobats and folk musicians. In Suzhou a similar festival (without the pigs) is held early in the year, between February and March.

Tomb Sweeping Day

In April China celebrates Tomb Sweeping Day or Qingming Festival as it is known locally. In early April families will visit and clean the tombs of their ancestors, showing their respect. It's also a time to celebrate spring and kite flying is a popular past-time during this three day public holiday with a variety of tasty treats shared.

Dragon Boat Festival

With a history of more than 2,000 years the Dragon Boat Festival has resulted in many traditions, chief among them the racing of human-powered wooden watercraft with dragon designs. Sticky rice dumplings are eaten and wine consumed to commemorate the great patriot Qu Yuan.

Double Seventh Festival

The Chinese celebrate their version of Valentine's Day on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar - hence the name. It's a particularly romantic time to visit with couples exchanging flowers and gifts.

Mid Autumn Festival

The Mid Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, which usually falls in late September or early October. It's also known as Moon Cake Festival for the sweet cakes that are eaten in place of the sacrifices the ancient emperors would have made to the moon.

Chongyang Festival

On 28th October 2017 the Chongyang Festival will be celebrated to mark the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, a lucky number for the Chinese. Traditional customs include drinking chrysanthemum wine, eating cakes and climbing mountains.

Events

A number of sporting events are being held in China in 2017 including the Chinese leg of the Formula One World Championship held at Shanghai International Circuit in early April 2017. For culture vultures the Shanghai International Film Festival is a good time to visit with some 1,000 films from all over the world screened over the course of a week in June.

2017 Calendar

To help plan your 2017 visit to China, here's an overview of the year's festivals and events.

December 21st 2016 - February 1st 2017 - Harbin Ice Festival (Harbin)
January 28th - Chinese New Year (countrywide)
March - April (dates TBC) - Peach Blossom Festival (Shanghai)
April 4th - Tomb Sweeping Day (countrywide)
April 9th - Formula One World Championship (Shanghai)
May 30th - Dragon Boat Festival (countrywide)
June (dates TBC) - Shanghai International Film Festival (Shanghai)
August 28th - Double Seventh Festival (countrywide)
October 4th - Mid Autumn Festival (countrywide)
October 28th - Chongyang Festival (countrywide)

There's also a number of national holidays in China and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

Tourist Site Closures

Due to an outbreak of flu the Shaanxi Wild Life Breeding & Protection Centre is still closed and at present there are no confirmed dates as to when it may reopen. If you are looking to visit China specifically to see pandas then we recommend including Chengdu on your itinerary for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, which is currently open.

See Also

For further information to help plan your trip to China, see the following:

Best Places to Visit - our favourite spots in China to include on your visit
Tourist Visas - know what visa you need prior to travel
Top Travel Tips - covering everything from money to health, food to shopping
Traveller Reviews - see what our passengers think of our China tours
Visiting the Great Wall - a handy article on this incredible man-made feat with everything you need to plan the perfect trip

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