Winters in northern China, including Beijing, are brutally cold thanks to cold fronts that Siberia that bring below-freezing temperatures and bone-chilling winds. Winters are generally dry, but snow is possible. It’s cool, but not cold, in Guilin and Yangshuo in southwest China.
Typhoon season, which most often affects Hong Kong, Macau, and cities along the southeast coast of mainland China like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, ends in December. Typhoon activity is not as common this time of year as typhoons occur more often from July to September, so travelers should feel confident booking trips along the coast.
Crowds & Costs
Winter is less crowded, mainly due to colder temperatures (some regions might even get snow). It’s before the lunar new year, so travel volume is light as locals prepare to travel before the new year in January or February, when the world’s largest movement of people takes place. It is peak season on Hainan Island in southern China, its sandy beaches are a sun-drenched and warm respite from the winter.
Where to Go
It may be cold, but hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan province in southwest China is a lovely winter trip.
Waterfalls are spectacular any time of year, but the Yellow River’s Hukou Falls turn to ice in winter, making it a frozen wonderland.
The most famous ice festival is in Harbin, a charming northeastern town with Russian-influenced architecture, opens this month.
After a tour of northern China, escape the frigid temperatures and go to sunny Sanya to sunbathe on Hainan Island’s beaches.
What to Do
Take advantage of any snow and go snowboarding in Nanshan or skiing at one of the many resorts in Heilongjiang province.
Ice skating on some of Beijing’s frozen lakes, including the ‘No Name Lake’ at Beijing University, Qianhai Lake, the lake in Zhongshan Park, is also popular.
Warm up from the cold by taking a dip in the hot springs at one of many hot spring resorts on the outskirts of Beijing or indulging in steamy hotpot and Chinese tea.
Visit a fortune teller in Hong Kong to see what the new year might bring. It’s also an extraordinary time to visit temples to watch the faithful make offerings and pray for future health, wealth, and happiness.
Longhua Temple Bell Ringing Ceremony. Lining up to strike the bell at Longhua Temple is a New Year’s Eve tradition in Shanghai. The massive bell is rung to bring good luck and usher in the new year. Lion and dragon dancing add to the revelry on December 31.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks. One of the most dazzling fireworks displays in the world takes place in Hong Kong. During the elaborate night-time show, hundreds of colorful fireworks crackle and pop over iconic Hong Kong Harbor.
Traveling to China in December? Check out these great itineraries.
Beijing to Hong Kong Grand Tour - 12 Days. A mix of ancient and modern, this tour includes stops at Beijing’s Forbidden City, Great Wall, and Summer Palace, Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors, a three-day Yangtze River cruise, and a couple of days in Hong Kong.
China Golden Triangle Tour - 8 Days. Visit a trio of China’s most popular cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and XI’an during this tour that includes visits to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall in Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, and the Bund in Shanghai.
China’s Highlights - 11 Days. Visit Beijing, Xi’an. Guilin, and Shanghai on this 11-day tour of China’s most famous places, from the Great Wall to the Bund.