Best Places to Visit in China by Month
Have you always dreamed of visiting China but are not sure where or when to go? The country is huge, so careful planning is required to make sure you don't miss anything. Luckily for you, we've put together a guide to show you the best places to visit in China for each month of the year, helping to make planning your trip that bit easier.
As the coldest month in China, it’s no surprise that January’s main offerings are related to snow and ice. If you're into winter sports, you can check out the ski resorts in the north of China, particularly around Jilin, Harbin and Beijing. Beijing will be cold in January, but the snow-covered Forbidden City and the Badaling section of the Great Wall are well-worth seeing.
Other highlights at this time of year include the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. Lasting throughout the month, this event draws sculptors from across the world to carve remarkable creations from the ice. These are then lit up with colourful lights and it’s a spectacular sight to wander through and admire.
The shopping season is also still going strong in Hong Kong, with sales lasting until Chinese New Year in late January or early February. This is the best time to visit the city for shopping, with plenty of bargains up for grabs in the shops and markets. It’s worth noting that January is in the low season, so you can expect all of China’s top attractions and sights to be much quieter outside of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
For all but the far north of China, February is the last month of winter. Chinese New Year tends to fall in this month and visitors will see the country filled with red lanterns and celebrations. One of the best places to experience the festivities is in the capital Beijing, although be aware that public transport can be fairly chaotic as many Chinese travel to be with their families.
February is also the perfect month to appreciate China’s flowers. Yellow rape flowers are in full bloom in February and March, with thousands of travellers and photographers heading to Luoping to get a shot of the seas of yellow buds. Covering an area of over 100-square-kilometres, it’s truly a sight to behold.
Plum blossoms are also out in February and these iconic red and pink flowers have featured in many Chinese ink masterpieces. They’re best seen in the city of Suzhou, which boasts beautiful classical gardens, pretty waterways and traditional architecture. Similarly to January, February sees less crowded attractions and lower prices as it is a quieter time to travel.
March sees the first signs of spring in China and the milder weather of the south makes this a good time to visit cities such as Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Yangzhou. Spring flowers have appeared and, as the rainy season doesn’t normally begin until April, you’ll only have a small amount of drizzle to contend with.
However, the weather at this time is known for being quite changeable. Therefore, it’s recommended to take advantage of China’s indoor activities during this month. Take some time to explore the Forbidden City in Beijing, which is not only the largest palace in China but also a huge museum. Alternatively, visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Terracotta Warriors, which were lost to the world for over 2,000 years until their chance discovery in 1974.
As March doesn’t have any national holidays, being sandwiched between Chinese New Year and the short spring holidays, this is a quiet time to travel. You’ll find the country’s top attractions to be much quieter than usual, with the chance of getting a section of the Great Wall all to yourself.
Considered one of the best months for travelling in China, April offers warmer temperatures and pretty springtime scenery. In the north, its an ideal time for exploring cities such as Beijing and Xi’an to soak up the sights. Daily rainfall and drizzle can affect parts of the centre and south of China, however there is often sunshine between showers.
This is a great month to take advantage of all the fantastic outdoor activities China has to offer. Either walk along the Great Wall or hike the beautiful Mount Huangshan, otherwise known as the Yellow Mountain, which turns a new shade of green in April. The Three Gorges area is also great to visit, being neither too hot nor too cold, and you can enjoy a scenic cruise along the Li River near Guilin to marvel at the extraordinary karst landscape.
In fact, the entire Yangshuo county is perfect for exploring in April. Visitors can spend time cycling on the country footpaths and experience the pastoral side to China. As April is outside of school holiday periods in China you can also expect fewer domestic tourists and crowds.
May sees great swathes of China burst into a vibrant green. Temperatures are pleasant, and the summer humidity is yet to set in, making this a great time to travel around China. Similarly to April, May is an ideal month for outdoor activities including walking along the Great Wall, with the lush greenery making vistas even more beautiful. It’s also the perfect time to cruise along the Li River and cycle through the spectacular countryside of Yangshuo.
Early summer is also the time for planting rice, and this leads to even more special scenery at the Longji Rice Terraces of Guilin. As the terraces are fully irrigated, they have an almost mirror-like appearance when the sunshine reflects on them. The tiered fields therefore make for spectacular photography, particularly when shrouded by mist.
When it comes to China’s cities, May is also a good time for exploring Beijing and Xi'an. And if you’re looking to see the country’s national animal, then take a trip to Chengdu, known as China’s panda capital, before the rains arrive in June.
June sees the start of summer in China, with temperatures and humidity rising, though not quite as stifling as in July and August. It’s also one of the wettest months of the year for many areas, particularly in south and central China. However, June is known as the month to visit areas famous for their flowers. For example, summer sees the West Lake of Hangzhou become covered with beautiful lotus flowers, green lotus leaves and water lilies. Perfect for enjoying on a cruise across the waters or simply relaxing on the east bank and watching the sunset.
Likewise, this is a great time to head to Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region of northwest China. June sees this province blanketed by lavender and other colourful flowers. Far from the hustle and bustle of China’s larger cities, you can relax and enjoy the spectacular grasslands. June is also still a great time for climbing Mount Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountain, as the weather is relatively cool and the landscape lush and green. And it’s still not quite peak season as China’s schools are yet to break for summer.
Ranked as the hottest month in China, July sees hot and dry weather in the north and hot and humid weather in the south. However, there are still some great destinations to visit in July, particularly when it comes to natural landscapes. A cruise on the Yangtze River is one of the best summer options in China, as you can admire the surrounding green peaks and sheer cliffs from the water.
Although temperatures are high in the west of China, the climate is dry and cooler in the mountainous areas. For example, conditions in the Yunnan province are great for hiking and the landscape is blooming. Other top destinations in this province include the cities of Dali, set on the shores of Erhai Lake, and Lijiang, which boasts a UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Old Town.
If you’d like to escape the humidity of the south, this can also be a good time to visit the Silk Road, running from Xi’an to Kashgar. This ancient trade route stretches through some incredibly scenic and cultural places. Although be aware that July is the peak travel season for Chinese residents, so be sure to book any accommodation and tours in advance.
China continues to feel the fierce summer heat in August, particularly in areas south of the Yangtze River such as Shanghai and Nanjing. However, there are still some great destinations to enjoy and where you can go to escape the higher temperatures. The picturesque countryside of Guilin and Yangshuo are pleasant places to relax, where you can take a bamboo boat rafting down the Yulong River. Along its banks you’ll find hotels with swimming pools, offering the perfect opportunity for a cooling dip.
UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Mount Emei is also well worth visiting in August. As one of China’s four most famous Buddhist mountains, it boasts breathtaking scenery and diverse flora and fauna with over 2,000 species of wildlife. In summer, the mountain’s vegetation is dense, lush and green, and it offers a refreshing escape from the higher temperatures of the plains below. Similarly to July, August falls within China’s peak tourist season as students are out of school. Remember to book ahead and be aware that many of China’s top attractions will be crowded.
Offering welcome relief from the high summer temperatures, September marks the start of autumn in China. The weather is still warm without being stifling, making this one of the best months to travel to China. Summer holidays have also finished and now is the time to discover Beijing and its surrounding attractions such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City. This is also a great time to explore Shanghai.
If you’re looking to hike Mount Huangshan, the autumn air has added a cool mystery to the Yellow Mountains and it’s much easier to come across seas of clouds and beautiful sunrises. The later in the month you visit, the more likely you are to see the landscape take on its autumnal colours.
This is also the month for visiting China’s pandas in Chengdu. September is birthing month for mother bears, meaning young cubs can often be seen at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding at this time. China’s Mid-Autumn Festival tends to fall in September too and sampling traditional Moon Cake is a must.
October is a wonderful month for travelling in China, with little rain, mild temperatures and beautiful autumnal foliage. Top destinations such as Beijing, Guilin, Shanghai, Xi’an and the Yellow Mountains are all delightful to visit, as well as the ancient city of Pingyao and springs of Jinan.
This is also the best time to visit Jiuzhaigou, a nature reserve with dreamlike scenery consisting of waterfalls, blue pools, snowcapped mountains and verdant forests. Autumn brings cooler temperatures to Jiuzhaigou, making it much more comfortable to explore, and during October the scenery is at its most spectacular and colourful.
Huanglong National Park is also noted for its epic autumnal landscape. Magnificent snowy mountains loom over the colourful travertine lakes and ponds that give the park its fame. Referred to as a ‘Fairy Land on Earth', Huanglong’s scenery needs to be seen to be believed.
November also offers brilliant autumnal foliage across China and daytimes are cool and crisp with typically clear blue skies. There’s also potential for the first snow to start falling in the north of the country. Situated in central China, Luoyang is a great destination to visit in November. This ancient city is packed with history and is also in very close proximity to the famous Longmen Grottoes. Set on both sides of the Yi River, this carving masterpiece contains almost 110,000 Buddhist statues and took over 400 years to complete.
If you’re looking to spend some time in China’s cities, then Guangzhou in the south of the country is also the place to go in November with pleasant temperatures and little rain. Celebrated as the ‘Flower City’, you’ll find blooms in Guangzhou all year round and nearby scenic spots include the beautiful Baiyun Mountain.
December is the middle of winter, with cold temperatures found throughout China. But in the north, this means time to enjoy some of the winter sports on offer, with several ski resorts located around the city of Harbin. Although the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival doesn’t officially begin until January, Harbin is already getting in the mood for the celebrations and other activities include winter swims in the Songhua River, ice skating and sledging.
In contrast, southern China experiences more mild temperatures and this is the perfect time for visiting Hong Kong. Humidity is low and there’s little rainfall, making this a great time to sightsee and marvel at the city’s gleaming skyscrapers. Hong Kong is arguably one of the best shopping destinations in all of the Far East, and December sees almost all the city’s stores hold their winter sales. The perfect place to do your Christmas shopping.
For further information to help plan your trip to China, see the following:
Best Time to Visit - climate and seasons in China
Best Places to Visit - destinations you can't miss
Tourist Visas - know what visa you need prior to travel
Top Travel Tips - covering everything from money to health and food to shopping
Traveller Reviews - see what our passengers think of our China tours
Visiting the Great Wall - everything you need to know
Visiting Pandas - where to see China's iconic pandas
Video Lounge - captivating China caught on camera