When is the best time to visit China?
The best time to visit China is during the Spring or Autumn as the country experiences warm and dry weather during this period. However, from the rugged mountain interior of Emei Shan to the glittering coastal city of Shanghai, China is home to a diverse range of landscapes and the best time to visit can depend entirely on which parts of the country you’ll be travelling to and what each month of the year promises.
When is the best time to visit China's south?
If you’re visiting Guilin, Yangshuo, Hong Kong, Longji, Guangzhou or Shenzhen then you’re in China’s south. Generally speaking, late autumn (September, October and November) is a great time to visit the south of China as the weather is mild, and rain is rarer than in the humid summer months. We’re talking 20°C (68°F) days so they're perfect for getting active in the gorgeous countryside without overheating or feeling too uncomfortable.
The later you go in the season, the fewer tourists you’ll be sharing the streets with. If you can handle slightly chilly mornings and nights, November is still tolerable weather-wise, but the bulk of the holiday crowd has cleared out making you feel as though you have China's southern regions all to yourself.
What’s the best time to visit the Chinese interior?
When we say ‘Chinese interior’ we’re referring to both inland and northern destinations like Xi’an, Turpar, Zhangye, Beijing, the Great Wall, Mt Qingcheng, Chengdu and Changping. So, if you prefer to travel when the weather is warm, late spring and early summer might be the best time for you to visit the interior of the country. During May and June, temperatures hover around 23°C (73°F) but the dust storms that plague early spring have normally settled down.
Keep in mind that mountain regions like Emei Shan will likely be about 5°C (41°F) cooler than the rest of the interior.
What’s the best time to visit China’s coast?
The coastal weather patterns of China apply not only to waterfront destinations like Shanghai but also to places like Xitang, Guangshou and Kaiping. Monsoons hit the coast hard during late spring and early summer, causing heavy rainfall so keep that in mind when planning your trip. However, the situation isn’t quite so dire outside of these few months.
Early spring, late summer, autumn and early winter are all great times to travel the coast. If you don’t mind rugging up, try for November or December, when crowds are thin but the temperature is still a manageable 9°C (48°F).
Best for: skiing, snowboarding, Harbin ice festival and other snow-related activities
January tends to be the coldest month in China with temperatures dropping to a freezing -9°C (16°F) in some regions, especially in the north. To make the most of this cold and often snowy weather, ski resorts are definitely the places to be with Beijing and Harbin proving to be the most popular.
Best for: the Lantern festival, blossoming flowers and Chinese New Year celebrations
February in China is usually filled with lots of happiness and celebrations as the Chinese New Year falls in late January/early February (the dates change each year) so there's lots of buzz in the big cities of Shanghai and Beijing. It's also still fairly cold and snowy weather-wise so skiing and other snow-related activities are still possible in ski resorts around the country.
Best for: blossoming flowers and visiting ‘South of the Yangtze River' cities such as Guilin, Shanghai and Yangzhou
Everything from flowers to animals are starting to come out of hibernation in March as it's officially the first month of spring. This means temperatures are getting warmer and the sun is staying out for longer giving you plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors.
Best for: hiking, cycling and walking through gardens
Spring scenery is well and truly out in full force so be prepared for flowering trees and greenery wherever you go. Temperatures are also starting to get warmer sitting at around 20°C (68°F) on average but the month is known to bring some rainfall so make sure you pack your wet weather clothing.
Best for: kayaking, local markets and sightseeing
May is the last month of spring in China so be prepared for temperatures to warm up and for the weather to be at its peak. May is the best month for getting outside and exploring as much natural scenery as possible so consider going for a hike, kayaking on lakes and doing day trips to different provinces.
Best for: the Dragon Boat Festival, summer solstice celebrations and snacking on street food
Summer is finally here in June (but so are the crowds) so expect popular spots and iconic landmarks to be packed with other travellers. Accommodation and internal flight prices will also be higher than usual, while availability will be at its lowest so make sure you book your trip well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Notable events in China in June include the Dragon Boat Festival and the summer solstice where participants eat lots of noodles and carry out 'earth worship' rituals.
Best for: cruising along the Yangtze River, chasing waterfalls and the Fishing festival
The weather in summer can get very hot and very wet with high humidity levels but there are ways that you can escape the heat. Sticking to coastal regions will undoubtedly cool you down and participating in activities such as river cruising or waterfall sightseeing won't make you too uncomfortable when temperatures pass 30°C (86°F).
Best for: laying out on the beaches of Qingdao, Xiamen or Dalian, exploring big cities like Beijing and Shanghai and water-based activities
While July is technically the hottest month in China, August can still reach temperatures of around 32°C (90°F) so regardless of how you want to spend your time (either inside or outside), it's best to drink plenty of water and keep up your hydration levels. Staying in coastal regions and hanging out at popular beaches are some good ways to beat the heat but there's also plenty to do in bustling cities - think water parks, river cruises, and rooftop bars overflowing with fruity and refreshing cocktails.
Best for: the Mid-Autumn festival, iconic attractions and visiting the terraced fields in Yuanyang
There's guaranteed to be fewer crowds as summer turns to autumn in September so visiting popular attractions such as the Great Wall of China and the Temple of Heaven just outside of Beijing during this time is a good idea. There are also a few festivals celebrated in September (Mid-Autumn festival and Moon Cake festival just to name a few) so be prepared to revel with the locals and participate in cultural traditions.
Best for: photography, exploring natural landscapes and camping
Autumn has well and truly arrived in October with colourful oranges and reds taking over various Chinese landscapes. Temperatures are starting to come down in preparation for winter so being outside is more enjoyable than during the peak of summer - make the most of this before it gets too cold by exploring and camping in national parks.
Best for: wandering ancient cities, bird watching and trekking through national parks
Make the most of the changing colours (and cooler weather) by spending as much time outside as possible whether that's by wandering through provinces such as Yunnan or by trekking through national parks like Jiuzhaigou National Park and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.
Best for: checking out museums, winter solstice celebrations and Christmas markets
Everyone's pretty much preparing for Christmas and New Year's celebrations in December so there'll be lots of festive cheer going around. Snow also starts to fall in some regions from December onwards so many travellers head for the ski resorts to participate in skiing and snowboarding activities. Bathing in hot springs also becomes more popular during this time, as well as checking out frozen landscapes such as the ones in Chengdu and Mt. Changbaishan.
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