Best time to visit China

temperature & rainfall

The best time to visit China is not easily surmised: like ours, their seasons are defined, but they’re a big country with a climate that varies from region to region. You can travel year-round, but you must be prepared for what the seasons might throw at you – the south is subtropical with sweltering summers, the north bears the brunt of harsh winters and central China takes a bit of both. You can travel around more comfortably in spring and autumn; a handy rule of thumb is to travel from south to north in spring and from north to south in summer.

When to visit China & when not to

a month by month guide

Winters in China’s north and northeast fall between November and December and March and April respectively and are extremely cold with temperatures falling to -40°C.

On the flipside, Hong Kong is stiflingly hot and humid from April to September with temperatures climbing to 38°C. This is also the rainy season with typhoons like to hit between July, August and September. Not a good combo.

Chinese New Year is celebrated across the country in late January or early February and is an amazing celebration of fireworks, lanterns, decorative red scrolls, gifts and feasting with the family. It can be busy, but that only adds to the party atmosphere.

China’s ‘Golden Week’, or National Day Vacation is held from 29th September to 10th October and everyone in the country – that’s 1.4 billion people – has this week off. Most travel to domestic cities causing logistical chaos. Avoid it, unless of course your idea of fun is getting caught in a confusion of camera straps.

Labor Day Vacation in China is three days - 1st May to 3rd May - and this period plus two days either side should be avoided; huge crowds, high travel costs, long queues and overcrowded transport are just a few frustrating side effects.

China in June starts to warm up considerably, and though it can be quite rainy, plant life is vibrant, river levels are high, and the Longji rice terraces are irrigated, with the water creating shimmering, mirror-like surfaces.

Post-National Day Vacation, mid to late October is a delightful month, with mild temperatures, little rain and lush, colourful foliage.

Best time to visit China recommends

Olly Pemberton from our supplier, Exodus, shares his opinion on when is the best time to visit China: “Spring is a great time to visit China because it’s off-season for local tourists and the temperature is warmer; in the wintertime Beijing can get very, very cold with temperatures dropping to -20oC. If you want to visit the Great Wall, for example, it gets covered in snow in December, which may make it a photographer’s dream, but also makes it quite dangerous to walk on. I think the height of summer is best avoided because temperatures can soar and likewise the beginning of October is ‘Golden Week’, which is when the whole of the country is on vacation and it’s a nightmare to get around. I was there during that time and visited the Forbidden Palace in Beijing and I literally could not move for people; it’s easy to forget that China is huge and a lot of the Chinese had never been to Beijing, so we were all tourists together.”

Festivals & events in China

Our cultural pick from the Chinese calendar

Did you know about...?

Duanwu Jie or The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional Taoist celebration held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (sometime in May or June). Dragon boat races in long canoes painted with bright colours and powered by up to 80 rowers take center stage, their crew fuelled by Zongzi, filled and steamed glutinous rice balls, and Xiong Huang, a herby rice wine with protective powers.
Photo credits: [Autumn topbox: Christopher] [Olly Pemberton quote: Ronald Tagra] [Dragon boat: Aquan76]

Written by Polly Humphris
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