In 2023, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 29th (Saturday). China's public holiday is September 29th and 30th.
When is the Mid-Autumn Festival?
The dates are based on the lunar calendar, and it falls either in September or October. When the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday falls within the National Day vacation period, as it does in about one out of five years, the whole holiday period generally is a day or two longer.
Dates for 2023: The official public holidays are Friday, September 29th to Saturday, September 30th.
1) Ride the Western Silk Road for Exotic Scenery and Culture
Silk Road touring: Going way out to the western province of Xinjiang means leaving touring crowds behind. Eastern places such as Xi'an, Dunhuang, and Turpan will be crowded. The further west you go towards Kashgar (喀什地区, Kāshí Dìqū), the less the tourist crowding. The Central Asian people themselves usually don't celebrate the festival. There is a unique cultural blend, ancient places, and high altitude scenery around Kashgar to enjoy in quiet and relaxation.
Shopping: Kashgar is a crossroads for trade between the Central Asian states, the Subcontinent, and China. You can bargain in the bazaars for a variety of products from the whole region.
Great mountain scenery is to be seen in the western Xinjiang natural parks such as Lake Karakuli. The parks in eastern Xianjiang will be crowded. It is still warm enough for biking on the Karakoram Highway near Kashgar. It could be a great high altitude scenic adventure, and the road isn't crowded.
Desert scenery and ancient sites: The Taklamakan Desert is the world's second largest, and it is dotted with ancient ruins such as Mallikurwatur outside of Hetian. Shache is a Uyghur town in an oasis.
Fly direct to Kasghar from Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing or fly to Urumqi and then to Kashgar to avoid crowded trains and buses. We recommend the Taklamakhan Desert Highway Adventure. From Kashgar, riding to Shache takes 3 hours and riding to Hetian takes 10 hours.
2) Tour the Uncrowded Countryside of Inner Mongolia
Hohhot (呼和浩特, Hūhéhàotè) is the capital of Inner Mongolia, and it is an ideal starting point for touring the countryside. The Mongolians in the countryside retain some of their culture. With them, you could enjoy horseback riding, touring, and camping out in a yurt.
Though there are a lot of Chinese tourists, there are comparatively less than in most tourist areas at the start of September or October. Many of the residents return home or go on vacation during the holidays, and this will help to make your trip quieter. Let us help you plan such a countryside trip.
Food: Mongolian meat and diary dishes are a tourist favorite.
The Naadam Grassland Festival is the premier Mongolian sports event. The grassland festival usually takes place over six weeks in the summer. Sometimes it coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The airport is an hour outside of Hohhot. Flying is better than taking the crowded trains.
3) Visit the Less Visited Great Wall Sections
Most tourists by far go to only two sections of wall near Beijing called Badaling and Mutianyu, but Jinshanling and Huanghua Cheng are uncrowded alternatives, and if you wish for perhaps some solitude and rough hiking on unrestored sections of the wall, we recommend Jiankou or Zhuangdaokou.
Jiankou has crumbling and steep wall climbs, ladders, and is covered with brush. Zhuangdaokou has lake views and groups can camp there. You may not be able to gain access to all parts of these due to legal restrictions.
Jinshanling and Huanghua Cheng are mostly restored, but they are tougher to walk on than the most popular sections. There are less tourist facilities available.
When to go to avoid crowds?
You can use a little strategy to time your visit. Weekends and holidays are to be avoided. The earlier in the morning you can get there, the better your experience. More on Great Wall Visits>>
Private drivers are faster and more convenient
We recommend that you avoid all public transportation during the festival period. Our private drivers know how to navigate their way around better, so you'll arrive quickly and comfortably, and then they'll bring you back. This allows you the freedom to be there after other visitors take the public transportation or commercial vehicles back and enjoy a quiet afternoon and evening. Our guides can help recommend which section you'd most appreciate as well.
4) Rest on the Beaches in Beihai
Beihai (北海, Běihǎi) is still off the radar for Chinese tourists who would rather go to Hainan or Yunnan, so you'll enjoy fewer crowds at the beaches.
The beaches are generally cleaner than in most of China, and the tourism industry is less developed. By driving out of the city for about 15 minutes, you'll find cleaner and quieter natural beaches.
We recommend that you take a flight there if possible. Flights to Beihai Fucheng Airport originate mainly from Shanghai Pudong, Guilin, Guiyang, Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing and Kunming.
5) See the Mud Flats of Xiapu
Xiapu (霞浦 /sshyaa-poo/) isn't a place to relax on sandy beaches. But many tourists like this coastal fishing town for the culture and seafood restaurants and for photography.
You'll see the locals out repairing nets or collecting edibles when the tide goes out and can walk around their community, meet the people, and see how everyday Chinese live.
Guide/translator: It would be a good idea to have along an experienced guide who can translate for you and who knows the kinds of places that may interest you.
Xiapu is about 150 km (100 mi) north of Fuzhou in Ningde Prefecture. Wenzhou is 2.5 hours away, and Xiamen is a 5 hour drive by automobile. Public transport is difficult during the holidays, but our agency can provide a driver and/or guide as you wish. Also, this rural area doesn't have as many of the four-wheeled taxis or city buses as the cities. So it is another reason to have a private vehicle you can use.
Bullet train: D-class trains from Shanghai arrive there in five and a half or six hours. D-class trains from Wenzhou arrive in about an hour.
6) Find Solitude in Manzhouli
Manzhouli (满洲里, Mǎnzhōulǐ) is off the beaten track. Relatively few foreign tourists except Russians visit, and it is off the beaten track of Chinese tour groups. So this is why it is a good place to go to an exotic location without crowds. You'll find Mongolian culture, lots of Russians working and shopping, Russian souvenirs, and some scenic places to visit while it is still nice and warm enough in September or early October.
Russian shopping area: Crowds of Russians shop for Chinese and foreign-made products in the many malls and markets, and you'll find Russian products to buy such as souvenirs, dolls, and furs.
Weather: The average maximum daytime temperatures in September average about 16°C (60°F), and there is usually 8 hours of bright sunshine each day with little rainfall. So the weather's great for being outdoors or shopping during the day, but at night it might freeze by the end of September.
Manzhouli Airport is about 9 kilometers from the downtown area. There are flights to Beijing, Harbin and Hohhot. We recommend that you take a flight since travel by train is not only long but more crowded during the holidays. Visiting Manzhouli might be nice along with Hohhot since both places in Inner Mongolia allow you to experience a contrast of scenery and culture.
Tips on How To Travel During the Mid-Autumn Festival
To Avoid Crowded Transport ...
We recommend air travel wherever possible, and avoid the trains and roads. In the last several years, the travel crush has gotten worse as people frantically try to get to their destinations. Book your flight tickets early, and try to arrange as much of your travel itinerary as possible beforehand to avoid upsets that spoil the fun of traveling.
Large crowds in transit everywhere flood the transportation system. Transport returns more to normal after the big return to work rush.
For more uncrowded places at this time, see How to Escape Golden Week Crowds>>
Tips for Your Trip in China
- Some indoor attractions remain closed.
- Some hotels have not yet opened or are not allowed to receive foreigners.
- Many attractions have a requirement to make an appointment before your visit or purchase tickets in advance.
- Most attractions also have a daily limit on the number of people permitted to enter (fewer people enable a better experience).
- It is required that everyone wears a mask during their visit.
- Some routes at outdoor attractions are only partially opened.
- You may be required to scan QR code when going in and out of public places such as supermarkets and some attractions.
- Hard-shell suitcases or waterproof bags are recommended as your check-in luggage may be sprayed with disinfectant in transit.
- Always pay attention to the epidemic situation of your location and destination.
- Choose services that can be changed or canceled at any time.
- Be prepared to make changes to your itinerary and travel plans.
Want to share the Mid-Autumn Festival story with your family? The 3-minute video below will show you all about it.