The best time to visit China

Updated: 10th July 2018

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, it is possible to travel China year-round. However there are four main seasons that travellers should be prepared to deal with.

Winter in China

November to February is China’s winter and this can be a particularly bone-chilling affair. Temperatures in the high north of the country like Harbin for example regularly drop well below zero – which is great for the popular Harbin Ice Festival in January.

Naturally, the further south you go the warmer it gets. Although southern winters aren’t as extreme as in the north, they are still cold. Winter is also the time when most tourist attractions are at their quietest. However, the annual Chinese New Year celebrations (timings vary between January and March) see hotels and transportation stretched to their capacity.

Spring and Autumn in China

Spring, from March to May, and autumn, from September to 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.

Similarly to 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 in China

Summer, lasting from June to 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 to see the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Terracotta warriors and other top sights.

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.

Best Time to Visit China
MAP HIGHLIGHTING THE BEST TIME TO VISIT CHINA BY REGION

Best Time to Visit by Region

Stretching over 5,000 kilometres, China is a huge country. This means that the best time to visit will vary according to where you want to go. Here we take a look at the climate of some of China's most popular destinations.

Best time to visit Beijing

Beijing is best visited during spring, from March to May, and autumn, lasting from September to October. These seasons bring temperate weather and colourful scenery, contrasting against the sweltering heat of summer and potential for snow in winter.

Steer clear of Beijing during public holidays such as the May holiday and National Day in October. These celebrations see millions of domestic tourists descend on Beijing’s top attractions.

Best time to visit Shanghai

October and November are best for visiting Shanghai, offering comfortable temperatures without the crowds and rains of the summer season. Spring, from March to May, is also a great time to explore the city, provided you avoid public holidays.

The colder temperatures of winter make city sightseeing far less enjoyable in Shanghai. Also be aware that as Shanghai is one of China’s business hubs, hotel rates tend to be lower during the weekends.

Best time to visit Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a subtropical climate influenced by the monsoon. Whereas winters are mild and relatively dry, summers are hot, humid and wet – with the threat of thunderstorms and typhoons. October to early December is considered best for visiting, with pleasant and sunny weather making for good sightseeing and hiking in the area.

Shoppers should head to Hong Kong during its two sales seasons. Winter sales last from December to February and summer sales run from July to September.

Best time to visit Xi'an

In general, Xi’an has a temperate and continental monsoon climate. Winter tends to be colder and dry, with summer bringing heat and rain. Spring, from March to May and autumn, from September to October, are considered the best times to visit with cool temperatures and sunny days.

Those visiting during spring and autumn will want to avoid public holidays such as Labor Day in May and National Day during the first week of October, as these dates see attractions crowded with domestic tourists.

Best time to visit Guilin

With its subtropical monsoon climate, Guilin is suitable for travelling year-round. It experiences high humidity throughout its four seasons, with rains arriving in early summer from May to June.

April to October is the most popular time to visit Guilin thanks to the warmer temperatures. However it's recommended to visit during the spring months of March and April or autumn, from September to November, when you will have warm temperatures without the rains.

Best time to visit Harbin

Harbin has a continental monsoon climate, observing long, freezing winters and short but warm summers. The transitional seasons of spring and autumn are very short, with temperatures rapidly changing.

The best time to visit Harbin is during winter from December to February. Although the weather is very cold, this is the best time to enjoy Harbin’s snow sports and activities such as skiing. This period also sees Harbin’s annual International Ice and Snow Festival which is well worth a visit.

Beijing Climate

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

Shanghai Climate

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 kicks off each year in December and runs through until February.

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.

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

The Chongyang Festival marks 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 between 13th-15th April 2018.

Golden Week in China is the name given to a semi-annual 7-day national holiday. It's a popular time for the Chinese to travel and so transport and accommodation services are in high demand and popular sites like the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors are extremely busy. Please bear this in mind when planning your holiday. In 2018 Golden Week takes place between 2nd-7th October.

2018 Calendar

To help plan your 2018 visit to China, here's an overview of the year's festivals and events.

February 16th - Chinese New Year (countrywide)
March 20th - April 16th - Peach Blossom Festival (Shanghai)
April 5th - Tomb Sweeping Day (countrywide)
April 12th-15th - Formula One World Championship (Shanghai)
June 16th-18th - Dragon Boat Festival (countrywide)
June 16th-25th - Shanghai International Film Festival (Shanghai)
August 17th - Double Seventh Festival (countrywide)
September 24th - Mid Autumn Festival (countrywide)
October 17th - Chongyang Festival (countrywide)
December 20th - 28th February - Harbin Ice Festival (Harbin)

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
Visiting Pandas - where to see China's iconic pandas
Video Lounge - captivating China caught on camera