As the third-largest country in the world, the climate of China is as diverse as the country itself. Depending on when and where you go, you can find yourself experiencing weather that ranges from 100°F in summer months to below freezing in winter. The best time of year to travel to China depends on many factors, from the regions you’d like to visit, sights you plan to see—and how willing you are to sacrifice better weather for less-crowded venues.

Seasons & Regions in China

China’s high season is generally from spring to late fall. While the overall temperatures are mild, it’s also the most crowded time of year to travel there, and with China already being a highly-populated country, popular tourist destinations can often be congested. Conversely, you’ll find the winter season, which runs from November to March, to be less crowded, but you will also have colder temperatures and might even get snow in some regions.
 
There are myriad activities, events, and celebrations that take place throughout the year in China, which could also impact when and where you want to go. For ideas on trip planning, check out this 13-day tour that takes you to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, with visits to The Forbidden City and the legendary Terracotta Warriors. And this 4-day tour of Southwest China explores the city of Chengdu and surrounding areas, including trips to Mt. Emei and the Panda Research Base. 

China in Spring

Pandas at the Chengdu Panda Research Base, lovely in spring

Springtime in China is from March to May, with temperatures ranging from 55°F in the earlier months to nearly 80°F by the end of May. In some areas, such as the city of Harbin in Northern China, you might still catch some snow, as well as rain and wind in the southern climates. As the weather grows milder, tourist season ramps up and you can expect it to be busier in May than it would be in early March.

Spring is a great time to visit China’s southern regions, such as the cities of Chengdu or Hangzhou, where you will enjoy milder temperatures despite the occasional rainstorm. Beijing and Shanghai can also be enjoyable, even though the weather might be a bit colder, especially in the evening. You’ll find early spring crowds to be manageable, and it’s still warm enough to explore all the cities have to offer.

Spring Events

Shanghai Peach Blossom Festival (March) Held in the Nanhui District, the Peach Blossom Festival is held from March 20 – April 16 and includes folk music, cultural activities, and views of the blossoming peach trees.
 
Qingming Festival (April) The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a day of celebration in which families pay homage to their ancestors by cleaning the gravesites and making offerings. Activities include kite flying, preparing traditional foods and placing willow branches on front doors to keep evil spirits at bay.  

China in Summer

Bejing (pictured) in northern China is a cooler choice than Shanghai during summer months

China’s summer months, which run from June to August, are usually quite warm, with July being the hottest and August bringing rain and humidity. Cities such as Shanghai, Nanjing, and Hangzhou often see temperatures exceeding 100°F, while Beijing and the northern regions are a bit cooler.

If you want to get away from some of the extreme heat and humidity, you can head over to Lhasa, Tibet, where you’ll find warm and dry weather during the day, and cooler temperatures at night. Heading to the coast for some beach time is another great way to beat the heat, and cities such as Xiamen and Qingdao are known for their beautiful beaches.

Summer events

Dragon Boat Festival (June) Commemorating the poet Qu Yuan, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in several regions of China. Boats in the shape of a traditional Chinese dragon are manned by a team of rowers while a drummer sits in the front, drumming to help the rowers stay in time. Boat races can be seen in Yueyang, Hunan, Guizhou’s Quingshui river and in Hangzhou at Xixi Wetland Park.
 
Qingdao International Beer Festival (August) Sometimes referred to as “Asia’s Octoberfest”, the Qingdao Beer Festival takes place in Qingdao, part of Shandong province. This month-long event starts at the end of July and goes through August, celebrating all things beer with food, music, and of course beer.

China in Fall

Foliage along the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall  

The autumn months of September – November mark a noticeable change of seasons, with the weather becoming milder and cooler. The weather in southern China stays hot for a bit longer, but by October, it ranges from the mid 60’s to low 70’s during the day, and can drop to the 50’s at night.

Fall is a great time to see the changing leaves, a popular pastime for tourists and locals alike. Visit Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in the Sichuan province for stunning foliage, or Kansas Lake, located in Xinjiang, is also a popular place to view the seasonal colors.

Fall events

Mid-Autumn Festival (October) Celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as the Moon Festival, is considered one of China’s most important holidays. Festivities include making food offerings to the moon, eating moon cakes, and dragon and lion dances.
 
China National Day (October) Chinese National Day takes place on October 1, the start of a 7-day holiday called “Golden Week”. This is one of China’s longest public holidays and many local people travel around the country during that time.

China in Winter

Winter in Shanghai

Much of China experiences winters that are similar to the U.S., with snow in the north, and slightly warmer weather in the southern regions. If you spend time in Harbin or Beijing, you’re likely to encounter snow, ice, and temperatures that can get as low as -10°F, especially in the coldest months of January and February.

While the winter season is considered the off-season for tourists, primarily due to the cold and damp, the upside of this is being able to see all the major sights without the usual crowds. The majority of China’s popular tourist spots remain open during the winter months and as long as you dress appropriately, they can be just as enjoyable as during high season.

There are also plenty of winter activities to enjoy, such as skiing at Beijing’s Nanshan resort or Yabuli resort, which is located in Heilongjiang province and is China’s largest ski resort.

Winter events

Chinese New Year (January/February) Celebrated on the first day in the first lunar month, which usually falls in January or February, the Chinese New Year is celebrated throughout the country. Beautiful red lanterns decorate the city streets, and there are fireworks, parades and costumed performances.
 
Harbin Ice and Snow Festival (December – February) This two-month festival features a world-renowned snow sculpture competition and expo, ice lanterns at Zhaolin Park, as well as sledding, skating, and cultural exhibits