The best time to visit China

Updated: 11th May 2021

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

China at a Glance: Best Time to Visit

Recommended time to visit: China's sheer size makes this a hard question to answer. As a general rule spring from March - May and Autumn from September - November offer the best weather, warm and dry.

Less popular time to visit: Southern China has a sub-tropical climate, so the summer months from June - August tend to be extremely warm, with regular monsoons. But these months are best for visiting northern China and Tibet, with pleasant temperatures and the landscape looking stunning. The winter months tend to be colder, but with fewer crowds and lower prices, it is an attractive time to travel.

Exciting time to visit: Every December the Harbin Ice Festival takes place in the northern city of Harbin. With great ice sculptures and other amazing attractions, it is a brilliant time to visit the country.

Best time to visit pandas: If you wish to see the giant pandas at Chengdu then September - June are the best months to visit. In summer, the pandas tend to spend more time in their air-conditioned rooms sleeping, so you are likely to see less clumsy panda action than if you visit in the cooler months.

Anything to be aware of?: The annual Chinese new year takes place between January and March. Locals and travellers alike flock to the cities and hotels and transportation services tend to fill up, so plan accordingly.

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What's winter like 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.

What are spring and autumn like 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.

What's summer like 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.

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
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.

When is the 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.

When is the 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.

When is the 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.

When is the 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.

When is the 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.

When is the 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.

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

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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.

What happens on 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.

What is the 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.

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