Best Time to Visit - 16 min read

Best Time to Visit China (Experience Local Traditions & Festivals)

Jillian Marinovic

Jillian Marinovic, Updated October 4, 2022

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China is a popular travel destination with its ancient history and impressive wonders. If you’re looking for new sights and stimulating experiences, China is the place to visit. It’s a country vastly different from other parts of the world, just waiting to be discovered.

The best time to visit China is from April to May and October to November. Temperatures are pleasant in the mid-70s, making it a perfect time for outdoor activities. During these months, you can find many hotels for under $50 per night. Travelers can save up to 30% on flights at this time compared to the high season.  

There’s no shortage of attractions in China, which has 3,000 years of history to share. You can experience the country’s monumental treasures, food and tea culture, traditional festivals, and more. Visiting China is sure to leave you completely satisfied.

Worst Time to Visit China

Because China is so large, there’s no absolute worst time to visit. Different regions have varying climates and seasons, so no matter when you visit, you’ll be able to soak up every ounce of China’s culture. However, China is the most crowded during festivals and holidays.

To avoid crowds, you shouldn’t visit during Chinese Labor Day (May 1 – 3rd) or the Chinese National Day Holiday (October 1 – 7th). Hotel rates rise by 30 to 40%, and fully book up during these times.

You may also want to avoid traveling in January, China’s coldest month. Temperatures average below freezing, around -36ºF. There’s little snow as China’s winter season is dry. Short daylight hours and frigid temperatures make it difficult to do any outdoor activities.

What is the Cheapest Time of the Year to go to China?

Winter is the cheapest time to fly to China. You can book a round-trip flight for as low as $420 from December to February. You can maximize your savings by booking your flight four months ahead of time.

There are little to no tourists during the winter, and you can save nearly 50% on hotel accommodations. Once you arrive, traveling to different cities is cheapest by train. Train tickets are up to 75% cheaper than an airplane. If you travel overnight, you save the cost of a hotel room too.

May and November are also cheaper times to visit China. The average nightly price for a hotel room is $106 on weeknights and $109 on weekends.

Related Read: 35 Mandarin Chinese Words and Phrases to Learn Before Traveling to China

What Time of the Year has the Best Weather in China?

China’s weather is most comfortable from April to May when temperatures average in the high 60s. The spring is beautiful, with China’s iconic lotus flowers in full bloom. It’s the perfect time for outdoor exploration and activities.

Besides spring, autumn has pleasant weather conditions with even less rain than spring. Many travelers visit China during this time because of the gorgeous fall colors. From September to November, you can see the height of harvest time at the Beijing Fragrant Hills Park.

June to August are the hottest months, with temperatures reaching 90 ºF. These months are the rainiest, and some cities see as much as 45 inches per month. Yet despite the heat and rain, the summertime remains the season with the most to do.

January: Start the New Year in a State of Zen in Hong Kong

January in Hong Kong is a great time to visit plenty of peaceful locations. Lantau Enlightenment is the ideal afternoon tour on Lantau Island. Your tour will begin on the shores of Cheung Sa and a walk through the fishing village of Tai O. The tour’s highlight is seeing the largest seated Buddha statue in the world at Po Lin Monastery.

For more of a thrill, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is an exciting experience for the whole family. It’s the largest amusement park and oceanarium in the world. There are over 80 rides and attractions. It’s also home to red pandas, giant salamanders, and penguins.

End your evenings with a stroll through the Temple Street Night Market. It’s the best tourist market in Hong Kong. You can sample eclectic foods and find bargains on clothing and home goods.

  • Jumbo Floating Restaurant
  • Aberdeen Harbor
  • Hong Kong’s Ocean Park
  • Lantau Island

Related Read: Best Time To Visit Bhutan

February: Fall in Love with the Charm of Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and fast-paced city. It has modern skyscrapers mixed with buildings from its colonial period. You can get around easily and quickly by using the city’s metro system. There are many attractions to occupy your time in this dynamic metropolis.

Don’t miss the chance to experience what it would feel like to live during one of the Chinese dynasties. Transport back in time by spending the day in the ancient water village of Zhujiajio. Its old buildings, alleyways, temples, and street food may charm you even more than the big city.

With average temperatures in the 40s, you will want to warm up by eating Shanghai’s traditional dish – xiao long bao. The meal consists of dumplings and a bowl of hot soup. The best place to try it is Din Tai Fung, the restaurant that made the dish famous in the first place.

  • Zhujiajio
  • Din Tai Fung
  • M1nt
  • Xintiandi
  • Shikumen Museum

March: Discover the Natural Beauty of Xishuangbanna

If you travel to Xishuangbanna, you will feel like you are in Thailand. This city has tropical weather, lush rainforests, wild elephants, and royal palaces. With winter coming to an end, you can wander in the peaceful Dai villages and learn about the Tea Horse Road’s ancient history.

You can take a tour along the Tea Horse Road, one of China’s most ancient trade routes dating back to the 6thcentury. It is the longest trade road in the world at 10,000 km in length. You can visit the Menghai Market in Xishuangbanna, a real-life embodiment of Tea Horse Road.

Add a visit to Nannuo Mountain to your list to dive into China’s tea culture. The mountains are home to ancient tea trees, and the descendants of the first tea cultivators live here. Walk on the dirt paths to see tea bushes, bamboo shoots, and yellow wildflowers.

If you want to see exotic animals, Wild Elephant Valley is also located in Xishuangbanna. About 130 wild elephants live in this scenic area of Sanchahe Forest Park. Besides watching the elephants, you can also visit the butterfly park, snake park, orchid garden, and bainiao garden.

One of the neatest parts of the Sanchahe Forest Park is the 2063-meter-long cableway that brings visitors into the rainforest. Walk across suspension bridges and through tree houses built above the forest’s canopy.

  • Tea Horse Road
  • Menghai Market
  • Nannuo Mountain
  • Sideng Square

April: Experience the Overwhelming Majesty of Beijing

Beijing is one of the world’s greatest cities to explore. It has a magnificent past with many historical and natural sites that set world records. Its most prominent attractions include the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace.

The Great Wall winds through China’s mountains for 21,196 kilometers long. You can view different wall sections in 15 of China’s provinces, but Beijing is one of the most accessible points. You can follow a guide on a hike up to Zhengbei Tower.

After seeing the Great Wall of China, you must visit the Forbidden City. It features the impressive palace complex that belonged to the Ming and Qing dynasties. You can learn the glorious history of the palace, which is the world’s largest imperial palace.

The Palace Museum hosts 14 million visitors per year. The museum’s exhibits showcase over 5,000 years of Chinese history and culture. Collections include ceramics, calligraphy, ancient books, and historical documents.

  • Beihhai Park
  • The Temple of Heaven
  • The Forbidden City
  • National Centre for the Performing Arts
  • Beijing Ancient Observatory

May: Marvel at the Terracotta Army Monument in Xi’an

As the former capital of China, Xi’an offers travelers a view into the country’s archaeological history. Famous architectural sites include the Bell Tower and Drum Tower. There are also places of natural beauty, like Mount Huashan and Huaqing Hot Springs.

Visiting Xi’an wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Terracotta Army. Known as the “Terracotta Warriors and Horses,” the monumental site contains a collection of more than 8,000 life-size warrior figures.

This manufactured marvel remained buried for almost 2,000 years and was rediscovered in 1974. The Terracotta Army was built to defend former Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. The collection has been declared an eighth wonder of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Muslim Street Market
  • Ancient City Wall
  • Bell Tower
  • Mount Huashan

June: See the Best Summer Scenery in Guilin

China’s summer temperatures can reach the high 90s. Summer is the perfect season to visit one of China’s cooler destinations like Guilin. Take a relaxing cruise on the Li River. The calm river weaves through mountains, folk villages, and ancient towns.

The cruise will take you from Guilin City to Yangshuo. Once in Yangshuo, you can bike through the countryside. Water activities on the Yulong River in Yangshuo include stand-up paddleboards and bamboo rafting.

A scenic tour of Guilin is only complete with a tour of Longji Terraced Fields. Acres of tiered fields reach up hundreds of meters into the mountains. Zhuang and Yao minority villagers live here. Travelers can taste local specialty foods and join in on ethnic festivals.

  • Li River Cruise
  • Yangshuo
  • Longji Terraced Fields
  • Old Zhuang Rice Terraces

July: Interact with China’s Giant Pandas in Chengdu

July is just as hot as June in China, but there are still some top places to visit without it being too hot. You can see giant pandas up close in Chengdu. Some of Chengdu’s giant pandas live in Jiuzhai Valley, which has cooler weather than other Chinese cities during summer.

Chengdu Panda Base is an open park with the largest number of captive pandas in China. There are 120 giant pandas and 76 red pandas. You can learn about why giant pandas are endangered and how you can protect them at the Giant Panda Story Cinema.

Participate in the 2-day Wolong Panda Volunteer Program at the Wolong National Nature Reserve. You will go on a safari in the backyard of the giant pandas. Not only will you enjoy the beauty of the pandas’ habitat, you will also get to meet and interact with some of them.

  • Chengdu Panda Base
  • Wolong National Nature Reserve
  • Lugu Lake
  • Gannan Pure Land Tour

August: Trek China’s Vast Grasslands in Inner Mongolia

August is the best time for horse riding and trekking in Inner Mongolia’s vast grasslands. The grass is lush and tallest in the summer months. This beautiful, unusual area was once home to the Mongol empire.

You can see Mongolian yurts in some places. While you’re in the grasslands, make sure to attend the Naadam Grassland Festival. Enjoy Mongol sporting competitions and experience traditional celebrations with Mongolian folk songs and dances.

At the festival, you can try authentic Mongolian food to get a true taste of Inner Mongolia. Some must-try dishes are hand-stripped mutton, milk tea, and kumis.

  • Inner Mongolia
  • Naadam Grassland Festival
  • Mausoleum of Genghis Khan
  • Populus Euphratica Forest Scenic Spot

September: End the Summer Season on the Dalian Shores

Dalian is a famous summer resort located on the Liaodong Peninsula. Surrounded by the sea, It’s the perfect place to cool down and play in the water. September is the prime time for sea fishing and eating seafood, and there’s no place better to do both than Dalian.

The Golden Pebble Beach National Resort area has fresh seawater air and spacious beaches. The most splendid views are along the eastern peninsula’s coastline. You can find the Longevous Rock here. It’s the largest sediment rock in the world and formed 600,000 years ago.

You can also visit Dalian’s Xinghai Square, which is the largest square in Asia. Dalian Shell Museum is located in the square and features the largest number of shell exhibits in all of Asia. The Dalian International Fashion Show is also held at the square every September.

  • Dalian International Fashion Festival
  • Dalian Shell Museum
  • Xinghai Square
  • Golden Pebble Beach National Resort

October: Best Time to See China’s Autumnal Foliage

Autumn is just beginning to settle in during October. The season boasts comfortable temperatures that average in the high 60s, and the summer crowds start to dwindle. October is the best time to see the autumnal foliage in China.

October is the best time to take a cruise on the Yangtze River. It’s the third longest river on earth and stretches 3950 miles. The river has some of the most inspiring scenery. It’s spectacular to see the red maple trees and yellow Gingko trees that line the river.

Suzhou is another autumn travel destination. The province is home to classical gardens built as early as the 14thcentury. You must see the grove of 400 red maples that are in front of the Tianping Mountains.

  • Yangtze River
  • Suzhou
  • Tianping Mountains
  • Jiuzhaigou County

November: Best Time to Visit China’s Coastal Cities and Islands

November begins the winter season in China. The average temperatures range from 37 to 55℉. Yunnan is one of the best provinces to travel to during November. This city is called the “Southern Colorful Clouds” because of its varying natural landscapes.

Fifty-two minority groups live in Yunnan amongst the mountains, ancient old towns, caves, and lakes. If you’re looking for adventure, hike the world’s deepest gorge at Yunnan, Tiger Leaping Gorge.

If you want to escape the beginning of winter, head down to Xiamen, one of China’s coastal cities. You can take a ferry ride from Xiamen to Gulangyu Island for the perfect day trip. Attractions include Shuzhuang Garden, Piano Museum, and Riguang Mountain.

  • Yunnan
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Gulangyu Island
  • Shuzhuang Garden
  • Piano Museum

December: Get in the Holiday Spirit at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Many travelers avoid China in the winter for fear of it being too cold. Despite the temperatures, there are many places worth seeing in December. And it is low tourist season, so you won’t have to compete with crowds.

December is one of the most inexpensive months to travel in. You can find many hotel rooms for as low as $35 per night. You can also book round-trip flights for $400.

Harbin is one of China’s prettiest cities to visit in the winter with its ice and snow art. Nicknamed “Ice City,” Harbin has all the elements of a fantastic winter holiday. Locals and visitors ice skate on the Songhua River, which is frozen for over six months of the year.

Don’t miss out on the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, where you can see life-size ice carvings and sculptures. You can also go ice sledding and ride snowmobiles at the festival. At night, the sculptures light up to make it feel like you’re walking through a winter wonderland.

  • Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
  • Zhongyang Pedestrian Street
  • Volga Manor
  • Baliwan Forest Park

Best Time to Go to China to Avoid Crowds

If you want to avoid crowds, travel to China between November and February. Winter is China’s low tourist season. However, China’s coastal cities can be busy as travelers try to escape the cold.

The most useful tip is to avoid traveling during China’s three primary holidays. Chinese New Year is the most crowded holiday. Hotels can cost you 48% more during this time. Tourists also flood the country for Labor Day in May and National Day in October.

For savvy travelers, mid-February to April is the best time to go to China. You’ll have a more temperate climate with average temperatures in the mid-60s.

What is the Best Time to Visit the Great Wall of China?

If you’re planning to visit the Great Wall of China, you’re probably wondering when the best time to visit is. If the weather is your primary concern, the best time to visit is April to early June. The weather is warm, and the crowds aren’t overwhelming.

Beijing and the Great Wall are beautiful at this time of year. If you visit in early April, you’ll need to pack some warm clothes. It can be chilly and windy on the wall.

The Great Wall of China is open seven days a week and is least crowded on the weekdays. There tend to be long lines on the weekend. It’s best to arrive when the wall first opens at 7:30 a.m.

Which Sections of the Great Wall are Best to Visit?

The Great Wall of China extends for 6,000 miles through several of China’s provinces. It may be challenging to choose which section will be best to visit. To help you decide, you’ll want to consider the hiking difficulty, time of year, and the crowds.

Beijing has eight different sections. The Mutianyu section is popular because it’s close to Beijing’s center. The hike isn’t strenuous, and you can ride the toboggan slide to get back down the wall.

The Jinshanling Section is also enjoyable with its stunning mountain views. It’s farther from Beijing’s center, but there are no crowds. It’s nice to enjoy this piece of China’s history in peace.

What is the Best Time to Visit Festivals in China?

China’s largest and most popular festival is the Chinese New Year. The festival lasts for 15 days and includes a range of festive activities. From lion and dragon dances to temple fairs and flower markets, you can experience China’s most colorful holiday from January to February.

The Chinese Lantern Festival in February is one of the most enjoyable festivals for tourists. On the night of the festival, streets are filled with colorful lanterns. Many people write riddles on the lanterns. There are also firework displays.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a public holiday that occurs annually in May or June. The festival features organized races between dragon boats. Races take place in the bays of Hong Kong and the lakes near Beijing.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Mooncake Festival, takes place in September or October for three days. It’s a reunion time for families in China, just like Thanksgiving. People celebrate with dinners, moon worship, eating mooncakes, and lighting paper lanterns.

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