April showers bring May flowers, making China a kaleidoscope of colors in May. Temperatures and crowds increase, particularly the first week in May, a week-long workers’ holiday. May is a wonderful time to visit virtually every part of the country, from Xinjiang to the Great Wall to Hong Kong before the sweltering summer weather arrives.

Weather

Temperatures continue to increase as spring transitions to summer. It’s the end of the rainy season in Guilin and Yangshuo in southwest China. Lhasa’s temperatures are pleasant.

Parts of China, including Beijing, are prone to sandstorms from the Gobi Desert. The storms aren’t frequent but when they do occur, it’s not uncommon to see a light dusting of sand on virtually everything during a sandstorm.

The weather is pleasant in Shanghai and Xi’an even though spring rain showers start to pop up with more frequency. it’s monsoon season in southern China. Typhoon season, which most often affects Hong Kong, Macau, and cities along the southeast coast of mainland China like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, begins in May, but typhoon activity is most active from July to September so travelers should worry about traveling in May.

Crowds & Costs

China’s high season is generally from spring to late fall. The first week of May is Labor Day holiday, one of three “Golden Week” holidays in China in which many businesses close for a week of rest and relaxation. Trains and buses are filled with workers headed home and national parks and sights are packed with locals taking advantage of the warmer weather to indulge in sightseeing. Transportation can cost more as the demand for train, plane and bus tickets is high. It’s best to avoid traveling during the first week of May.

Where to Go

It’s a great time to see the giant pandas in Chengdu, see the Giant Buddha of Leshan, and indulge in fiery, mouth-numbing Sichuan fare. It’s also an ideal time to travel to Chongqing and cruise the mighty Yangtze River before the cruise season really gets going.

Nanjing, China’s capital during the Ming dynasty in east-central China is also a big draw this time of year thanks to its pleasant weather and few crowds.

What to Do

May is a beautiful time to hike the Great Wall. To avoid the crowds and see the ‘wild wall,’ head to Huanghuacheng north of Beijing. A portion of the wall here in submerged in water. While the hike may be steep and strenuous in some spots, the picture-perfect views are worth it.

Stroll through Beijing’s imperial gardens like Beihai Park, which dates to the 10th century, and Yuanmingyuan, which was commissioned to resemble Versailles.

Travelers can’t visit China without cycling through its cities and countryside. An easy and unique bike trip is atop the Xi’an's ancient walls. The 14th-century fortification offers a flat ride along the eight-and-a-half mile wall.

May Events

Great Wall Marathon. The 26.2-mile (42.195 km) run is arguably one of the most challenging in the world as runners run and climb 5,164 steps along the Great Wall on the outskirts of Beijing.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival. The Taoist ceremony is held every May on the Buddha’s birthday on Cheung Chau, a small fishing village in Hong Kong. A highlight of the event is revelers racing up bamboo towers to get sweet buns.

Traveling to China in May? Check out these great itineraries.

Best of China - 13 Days. This tour includes a visit to the Chengdu panda research station, an excursion to Yangshuo, a hike on the Great Wall, and a trip to see the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an. 

Discover Tibet - 6 Days. Adventure to the “roof of the world” on this trip that includes exploring Lhasa and Shigatze’s monasteries and most iconic sights, including the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple. 

Chengdu City & Pandas - 4 Days. Make the most of a four-day trip with visits to the Giant Panda Breeding Center, Leshan Giant Buddha, and Mount Emei.

Chinese Cycling Tour - 10 Days. This 10-day bike tour meanders through nine picturesque cities. 

Highlights from Shanghai to Beijing - 12 Days. From a Shanghai city tour to Beijing’s Forbidden City and the Great Wall to Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors, this tour offers a great overview to China’s top sites. 

Beijing to Hong Kong Grand Tour - 12 Days. A mix of ancient and modern, this 12-day 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’s Ancient Capitals & Yangtze River Cruise - 13 Days. This comprehensive tour includes visits to the ancient capitals of Beijing, Luoyang, and Xi’an plus a stop in Shanghai to explore sights like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors, Shaolin Temple, the Bund plus a three-day Yangtze River cruise. 

Discover Tibet’s Cities - 7 Days. This trip includes visits to the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery, and Barkhor Market in Lhasa and the temples and monasteries of Shigatse and Gyantse. 

Highlights of Lhasa - 4 Days. Visit the Tibetan capital’s most sacred sites on this four-day journey to Lhasa. 

Tibet: Train Journey & Everest Base Camp - 11 Days. This tour combines a quick tour of Beijing with ride on the world’s highest railway and a comprehensive Tibetan tour that includes visits to the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Norbulingka, Sera Monastery, and Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, the temples and monasteries of Shigatse and Gyantse, and Everest Base Camp in Tingri. 

More Helpful Info

China in April
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China Travel Insights
China Tours & Itineraries