The start of ‘golden autumn,’ September is one of the best months to visit China, particularly Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an. Temperatures are mild and it’s dry in the North. To the West, Lhasa’s temperatures are pleasant. It’s the rainy season is Guilin and Yangshou 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, tends to be more active in September, but travelers shouldn’t hesitate to book a trip as typhoons that arrive onshore move quickly.
Crowds & Costs
China’s high season is generally from spring to late fall. With the hot and humid summer over, national parks and attractions are crowded with locals taking advantage of the comfortable weather. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls in the middle of the month and is marked by family reunions, barbecues, and eating moon cakes.
Where to Go
Journey to Qufu in Shandong province, the birthplace of Confucius to celebrate the philosopher and sage’s birthday. Travel to Chongqing and cruise the mighty Yangtze River.
Originating in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and ending 3,900-miles (6,300 km) at the East China Sea, the Yangtze River meanders through 10 provinces and nine cities, including Chongqing, Yichang, Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai. Cruising along Asia's longest river is a breathtaking multi-day journey that starts upstream at Chongqing and ends 200 miles (320 km) downstream in either Yichang or back at Chongqing.
Viewing the fall foliage in heavenly Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui province in eastern China is a must.
What to Do
Visit Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in the Sichuan province for stunning foliage, or Kanas Lake, located in Xinjiang, is also a popular place to view the seasonal colors.
September 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 of fall foliage are worth it.
You can’t visit China without cycling through its cities and countryside. An easy and unique bike trip is atop the Xi’an ancient walls. The 14th century fortification offers an a flat ride along the eight-and-a-half mile wall.
Eat savory moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Nearly every restaurant and shop has the iconic cakes shaped like the moon.
Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival is a harvest celebration that includes dining with family and friends and eating savory moon cakes. The festival typically falls in late September but is sometimes celebrated in October. One of the most popular Mid-Autumn Festivals is the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, which includes dragon dances and an elaborate parade.
Confucius Birthday. September 28 is Confucius’ birthday. China’s “First Teacher” is honored with Confucian Ceremonies, which have been held regularly since the Han dynasty and include ceremonial dances, opening temple gates, and food offerings.
Macao International Fireworks Display Contest. What’s better than fireworks? A fireworks contest. Teams from around the world compete to see who has the most illuminating and spectacular fireworks. The festival is—literally—a blast.
Traveling to China in September? 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 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 seven-day 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 short 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.