Best Time to Travel to China

Rape Flowers in Wuyuan Rape flowers in Wuyuan in March in Central China's Jiangxi Province

China is a big country, and there is no simple answer to the question "When is the best time to visit China?" There are a number of best times to go to China depending on your answers to these questions:

  • Where in China do you want to go?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Do you like it hot or cold, or somewhere in between, or are you not bothered?
  • Do you like it wet or dry, or are you not bothered?
  • Do you want to take advantage of low season discounts?
  • Do you want to see one of China's festivals or seasonal attractions?
  • Do you want to avoid tourist crowds and crowded transportation?

Best time to travel to China

October — "the best time", most say

Longji Terraced Fields in FallLongji Terraced Fields in Fall

The most popularly recommended time to go to China is early autumn (October).

The weather is optimal: Most of China has warm/mild temperatures, and the summer rains have stopped (apart from around Hong Kong and Sanya) so it's relatively dry. The summer heat has gone. The major Chinese attractions in Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Guilin, Hong Kong, Chengdu, etc. are all at a comfortable time to visit.

It is relatively quiet at tourist attractions for most of the month, as the summer holiday travel crowds have gone. But avoid the first week of October (Chinese National Day Holiday) when attractions, transport, and hotels are packed with Chinese tourists and prices go up considerably.

October is an expensive month to travel, but may be cheaper than July and August.

Fall hues appear, giving many areas added appeal. If you are fond of autumn colors, October is definitely a best month to come to China. Continue to read best places to see fall colors in China., and top places to visit in October in China.

Late Spring (April to May) — comfortable, but rainy

Li River, rainy seasonLi River in rainy season

The No. 2 time to go to China is probably April and May when flowers are in bloom, and temperatures are warming up, but not yet too hot.

In late spring temperatures are optimal with all of China getting into the 20s centigrade (the 70s Fahrenheit), except the extreme northwest and northeast. While the North of China (Beijing, Xi'an) is still dry, the summer rains have already began in the South, though not yet at their peak, with dampness guaranteed and storms possible. This could actually enhance the view in the form of mountain mists in mountainous areas like Guilin and the Yellow Mountains.

Not too crowded: April and May are at the beginning of China's peak travel season. China's summer travel peak is yet to come. It is still relatively quiet at attractions.

But avoid the Labor Day holiday week (May 1 – 7), as attractions, transport, and hotels are packed with Chinese tourists and prices go up considerably.

Travel prices are moderate: cheaper than June to October, but dearer than the lower season from November to March.

Ethnic festivals in Guizhou (south China) are concentrated in April and May, such as the Sisters' Meal Festival. If you are interested in Miao and Dong ethic culture, this is a good time to visit.

Continue to read: Travel to China in Spring, Why and Top Things to Do.

September — lingering heat in the South, comfortable in the North

September is probably the No. 3 time to go to China. It has many of the benefits of October, but with more heat and rain. Some still find this month a little too hot. In September you are likely to be able to experience China's Mid-Autumn Festival (85% of years have a September Mid-Autumn), China's second largest festival with lots of tradition and customs associated with it. Continue to read Top Places to Visit in September in China.

Summer (June–August) — The Busiest, Hottest Time

Hottest Weather: June, July and August are the peak of China's hot summer heat. It is quite normal for daytime temperatures to reach 35+°C (95+°F) in all but the Northeast and mountainous areas. Sunshine and warmth certainly make for good holiday weather, though some might find it too hot.

the badaling great wall The Badaling Great Wall sees huge crowds in July and August

Busiest Travel Time: Students are off in July and August, and every attraction in the country is packed with Chinese travel groups. Hotels are in huge demand. Flight and train tickets are hard to get. Arrange all things well in advance if you plan to travel during this period. This is the most expensive travel time.

The best time to visit China's remote areas: Tibet, the Northwest, Inner Mongolia, and mountainous areas are best-visited in the summer (or late spring/ early autumn) when the weather is not bitterly cold and possibly dangerous.

The Monsoon and Typhoons

The summer rains are also a factor that may affect your trip. Cruises may be halted if the Li River or the Yangtze is in flood, flights may be delayed by typhoons, and any outdoor activity may be rendered less enjoyable by a downpour.

The monsoon is generally greater in intensity the further southeast (or up in the mountains) you go. Hong Kong has the most rainfall, and in Xi'an, and further north and west, the summer rains are hardly worth mentioning. Also read: Top 5 Places you Should Not Miss in Summer.

City Rainy Months
Guilin Early monsoon, peaks early June
Shanghai Rain peaks late June, high amounts in July and August
Xi'an Moderate rains peak in July
Beijing Rains peak in late July, mostly in July and August
Chengdu Like Beijing, but with more rain
Hong Kong Monsoon peaks in August; typhoons add to very high rainfall from May to September
Sanya Rains peak in September and continue for longest (May–October), but half the quantity of Hong Kong's

The Low Season — less popular, but cheaper

Lijiang Ancient Town in low travel seasonA quiet street in Lijiang Ancient Town

China's low travel season is from November to (early) March. In the low season, thought the weather is colder, you can save money on hotels, flights, and entry tickets, and you can avoid the crowds. See more on How to Save on a China Trip.

Early Spring (around March)

March is favored for visiting North China over late autumn as it is warmer and rainfall isn't really a factor. However, in southern China spring can be uncomfortably damp. This is the time for seeing spring flowers in China, though some flowers come earlier in the warmer south. See China Spring Travel.

November (late autumn)

November is the best time to see fall colors across China. See China in Fall. For travelling to the south of China late autumn is better than early spring as it is drier, and there are still some warm days.

Winter (December to February)

harbin ice and snow festivalA huge ice sculpture displayed during the Harbin Ice Festival.

Go in winter for wintry scenery, winter sports, the cheapest low season prices and no tourist crowds. Generally the best times to visit China's top attractions are in line with the above order, with the exception of winter attractions like Harbin's Ice and Snow Festival and China's ski resorts.

Exceptions to wintry conditions and good places to go in China's winter are Hainan Island and its beach resorts like Sanya, and other places that fall just within the tropics like the Hong area, which enjoy mild winters. The tropical rainforest of southernmost Yunnan could be comfortably visited.

Avoid the Chinese New Year period — the exception to low winter prices. Transport is over-capacity for up to two weeks before and after, and hotels raise prices.

The Worst Times to Go to China

For more on bad times to go, including particularly national holidays, see Dates to Avoid When Planning a China Tour.

Major Traditional and Ethnic Festivals Guide

If you are after China's traditional and ethnic culture, and are fond of colorful local pageantry, you will want to see China's major traditional and ethnic festivals. Click the links for more on China's most popular festivals.

Festival Date Where
Harbin Ice Festival Jan. 5 to Feb. 5 Harbin, Heilongjiang
Chinese New Year Feb. 7–22, 2016 All over China
The Lantern Festival Feb. 22, 2016 All over China
Lusheng Festival Mar. 23–25, 2016 Kaili in Guizhou
Water Splashing Festival Apr. 13, 2015 Xishuangbanna in Yunnan
Sisters' Meals Festival May 3-5, 2015 Kaili in Guizhou
Dragon Boat Festival June 20, 2015 Rivers in S. China
Nagqu Horse Racing Festival Aug. 10, 2015 Nagqu in Tibet
Shoton Festival Aug. 14, 2015 Tibetan areas
Mid-Autumn Festival Sep. 27, 2015 All over China

Let Us Help You Plan Your China Trip

Holding a panda

Our travel advisors are very glad to give you suggestions and guidance for your trip planning. They can tailor-make your trip according to the time you prefer, special interests, and requirements. Let us help you now. Or you can have a look at our most popular China tours:

Or you can read our suggestions on How to Plan a First Trip to China.