With low-season prices and quietness to enjoy the sights, December in China offers both wintry and warm places to visit. China’s top 9 places to visit for tropical weather or great snow scenery in December are: 1) Harbin, 2) Lhasa, 3) Lijiang, 4) Xishuangbanna, 5) Sanya, 6) Northern Xinjiang, 7) Chengdu, 8) Beijing, and 9) Inner Mongolia.
1. Harbin — A World of Ice and Snow, Plus Skiing Fun
When winter comes, Harbin is decorated with awesome ice and snow art. “Ice City” Harbin definitely has all the elements of a great winter holiday.
The Songhua River, flowing through Harbin City is frozen for over 6 months of the year! In early December, ice pickers begin to collect huge ice blocks for the annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. Cheerful winter activities — ice sledding, hovercraft rides, snowmobiles, buggies, etc. — are set up on the frozen river for both adults and children, which no one can resist.
Walking on Central Street, you may find artists are carving smaller ice blocks into masterpieces. A taste of Madie'er ice cream is a must-do in winter.
Want a huge sculpture preview experience? Though the Harbin Ice Festival officially opens on January 5, colorfully lit, life-size ice carvings, huge snowy designs, and gorgeous snow sculptures are already viewable during the Xmas period. Be the first to see the finished sculptures!
Feel the happiness and excitement of speeding through the snow when stepping off the top of the slope into the snowy wonderland of Yabuli Ski Resort.
- 1-Day Ice and Snow Fairyland Tour
- 5-Day Harbin and China Snow Town Tour
- 7-Day Charming Northeast China Winter Tour with Yabuli Skiing
7-Day Harbin, Yabuli, and Snow Town Tour
2. Lhasa — A True Experience of the Sunlight City
Compared with other seasons, Lhasa in December is more laid back.
Pilgrims come in from near and far. Local people sit basking in the warm midday sunshine or enjoying a cup of yak butter tea and chatting in a teahouse. With no crowds, probably you will find you are the only tourist in some places. Only when you are traveling in Lhasa in winter can you can experience the most authentic life there.
December is particularly precious as a winter travel time for Tibet as the region is closed for foreign travel between January and March for Tibetan New Year.
Although Tibet transportation is usually costly, in December you may find unprecedented discounts on airfares — up to 80% off. While all entrance tickets are at low season rates, some sights are even free for entry!
In December, you won’t need to rush to appreciate the Potala Palace through a limited one-hour tour: you can peruse its antiquities at a more leisurely pace to enjoy it thoroughly.
Fall in love with the “sunlight city” — take our 5-Day Tibet Winter Tour >>>
3. Lijiang — Be Spoiled with Sunshine and a Hiking Adventure
You will be spoiled with the clear sky and warm sunshine when visiting Lijiang in December. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain receives abundant snow on its peaks — like a ‘fairy lady’ when they overlook the picturesque Black Dragon Pool Park. If Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is like beauty, then Haba Snow Mountain opposite is like a brave strong man, with a loving gaze.
So, how about a close look at these two holy snow mountains? Tiger Leaping Gorge lies in between the two mountain ranges cradling the mighty Jinsha (Yangtze) River. December is one of the best months to hike this deep gorge, enjoy the natural pure green color of the Jinsha River, and have remarkable views from the steep 28 Bends.
Our 3-Day Tiger Leaping Gorge and Stone Village Hiking Tour ensure you the best experience of adventurous hiking in Lijiang.
Mini Group (6-12 People)
4. Xishuangbanna — Tropical Rainforest, Exotic Cultures, and Volcanic Hot Springs
Traveling in Xishuangbanna is more like touring Thailand, with pleasant tropical weather, lush rainforest, juicy fruits, wild elephants, opulent royal palaces, and magnificent Buddhist temples, giving you a feeling of traveling somewhere in a Southeast Asian country, rather than in China.
Though there are no sunny beaches in Xishuangbanna, the rainforest is at its most pleasant in its cooler dry season, with incredible plants and animals to enjoy. You can also have an exclusive experience of tasting Chinese black tea (Pu’er tea) and learning about the history of the ancient Tea Horse Road.
Wander in authentic and peaceful Dai villages and visit one of their resplendent temples, Xishuangbanna in December will allow you to experience a vibrant, warm, and exotic winter.
Tips: Xishuangbanna is quite popular in December, so there can be a buy-out and higher rates on both hotel rooms and transportation. It’s best to have your trip confirmed a month before you go.
5. Sanya — Sunshine, Beaches, and Ocean Fun
Sanya is the warmest city in China in December with an average high of 27°C (81°F).
The long coastline, glorious sunshine, romantic islands, and golden shores make Sanya a favorite winter destination for travelers. Some even say that its beautiful beaches make it the "Hawaii of China".
There, you can leave your winter coat behind and snorkel in the sparkling blue ocean. Try some exciting watersports, like banana boats, water scooters, and sailing.
Sanya has about seven bays with coveted beaches to choose from. Yalong Bay is the most visited with the most beautiful beaches, clean sea, and luxurious hotels (Marriott, Sheraton, MGM, Hilton, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton…).
The Hilton Sanya Yalong Bay Resort & Spa has outstanding facilities for children. The Earthly Paradise Bird’s Nest Resort, though far from the beach, brings you an incredible rainforest experience. Alternatively, get away from the crowds at Park Hyatt Sanya Sunny Bay Resort with its own private beach, and enjoy peaceful relaxation. Want an all-inclusive experience? Then, choose Club Med at Sanya Bay.
6. Northern Xinjiang — a Fairytale World, Like in “Frozen”
The snow scenery in northern Xinjiang is definitely worth exploring.
Kanas’s winter is like a Chinese ink painting. Villages are scattered in the boundless snowscape, the morning mist rises from the streams, the crystal-clear rime hangs on the birch trees...
In Hemu Village, you will enter into a fairytale scene. The cabins deep in the snowy forest glow with warm orange light and their pointed roofs are covered with thick white snow.
7. Chengdu — an Experience of Ice and Fire
Chengdu will give you a doubly extreme experience in winter. 300 kilometers (200 miles) from Chengdu, Hailuogou is the only glacier-and-forest park in China. There you can hike on an ancient glacier, walk through the wintry forest, and soak in a hot spring hidden in a snowy valley.
Then, let hot pot spice dispel the cold and chili the chill of winter. Let cute pandas warm your heart.
8. Beijing — Enjoy a Less-Crowded Historical Trip
Winter adds a deeper sense of history to Beijing. The special silence of winter with fewer tourists will make your visits to historical sites much more peaceful and profound.
The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Summer Palace remain unmissable.
If you happen to see snowy weather (some snow always falls in December), you will appreciate the capital's graceful snow scenery, especially the awesome Great Wall starkly outlined on white ridges, and white snow on the golden glazed tiles and red wall backdrop of the Forbidden City.
Skiing is one of the most popular activities when traveling to Beijing in December. By December all Beijing's ski resorts are open. See Beijing's Top 10 Ski Resorts and Best Places to See Snow in Beijing >>>
Our 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour with Skiing in a 2022 Winter Olympics Venue offers you both the snowy winter escape and skiing fun. All our Beijing tours can be customized to make the most of winter!
9. Inner Mongolia — Snow Paradise, Nomad Culture, Naadam Festivities
Inner Mongolia is not just highly visited for its beautiful grassland vistas, but also a popular winter destination for its boundless ice and snow scenery and primitive nomadic culture.
Drive/walk through vast snowscapes, go skiing in a traditional way, and try ice fishing in a snowy paradise.
Visit the last reindeer herder’s tribe in China and get close to reindeers like Santa’s.
Visit the last remaining six families in China’s coldest village, feel their enthusiasm for their harsh lives, and find out how they combat the extreme cold.
Sleep on a traditional heated brick bed and work with local people to experience authentic Mongolian daily life.
- 5-Day Xilamuren Grassland Tour with Nomadic Life Experience
- 8-Day Hohhot–Ordos Tour with Hiking, Camping, and Culture
China in December — December Travel FAQs
To enjoy the coming Xmas and New Year holiday, and to use up your remaining vacation days, you might be struggling to decide on a December tour in China and have the following questions. Take some time to find out the FAQ answers for China travel in December before moving forward.
1. Is China worth traveling in December?
Although the weather is cold in most of China, you will find you actually have more seasonal China travel choices in December, particularly sceneries and experiences that can only be enjoyed in winter.
- It is time for you to go beyond indoor skiing. China's ski resorts will be in full swing, and Harbin's snow and ice activities fill the frozen north with joy.
- Or think about this: While your friends are wrapped up at home, you could be putting on your bikini/shorts and bathing by a sunny beach in Sanya.
- You might have already visited Beijing, but winter is different: Imagine an empty Forbidden City with snow-capped yellow roofs!
- When everyone else is hesitant to visit Lhasa in winter, you could be bathing in the warm midday sunshine and chatting with a local Tibetan. No crowds mean more time to explore the Potala Palace.
Whether you are looking for a warm escape or unique winter activities, China offers a range of choices to satisfy you, and so, it is definitely worth going traveling in China in December.
2. Is December a good time to travel to China?
December is definitely a good time to travel in China: it is an off-peak month in most parts of China when you can avoid crowds and enjoy cost-efficient travel.
Airlines and hotels are ready to offer big discounts for winter travel. Without any public holidays in mainland China, crowds can rarely be seen in popular scenic spots. You could take advantage of this and have a relaxing Christmas holiday or a year-end retreat in December.
3. What's the weather like in December in China?
December is extremely cold in northern and western parts of China with continuous sub-zero temperatures, but it’s warm indoors. When people in these areas are immersed in snow and winter fun, in tropical areas like Sanya or Xishuangbanna in the south, the weather finally cools down with a pleasant average high temperature of around 24°C (75°F).
There might be light snow in central and eastern China and more in high mountain areas of southern China, but it can be unbearably cold there with the more humid weather. There is no central heating in these areas at all! But don’t worry, air-con means it is still warm in hotels, restaurants, cafés, tourist centers, etc.
More on China Weather in December >>>
Plan Your Winter Holiday with China Highlights
If your ideal winter holiday has snow scenery and activities, see our most recommended customizable ice and snow tours:
- 7-Day Harbin, Yabuli, China Snow Town, and Jilin Tour — Charming Northeast China
- 7-Day Harbin, China Snow Town, and Changbai Mountain Tour — Wonderous Changbai Mountain
- 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour — Skiing at a 2022 Olympic Winter Games Venue
- 5-Day Chengdu and Hailuogou Tour — a Song of Ice and Fire
For those who’d prefer a warm winter escape, see our top recommended customizable warm winter tours:
- 5-Day Sanya Tour with the Best Beach — a Feast of Sea, Shore, and Sun
- 6-Day Xishuangbanna and Pu'er Tour — Escape to the Rainforest
- 7-Day Kunming, Dali and Lijiang Winter Tour — A Warm Winter Trip in Yunnan
- 8-Day Yunnan Tour of the Nu River and Tengchong — Discover Northwest Yunnan