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The Top 9 Places to Visit in China in December

Written by Sunny XieUpdated Aug. 28, 2023

With low-season prices, quietness at the sights, and a wide variety of activities to enjoy from north to south, traveling in China in December offers great Christmas and New Year holiday experiences for you and your family.

China's northern and central areas can usually provide you with a snowy Christmas, while Yunnan and Sanya in the south have warm tropical weather. Don't be surprised if I say that Lhasa in Tibet is also a good choice for a comparatively warm holiday. Lhasa is called the 'sunlight city': its daytime highs of around 8°C in December feel much warmer.

The following 9 top places have been hand-picked for the upcoming 2024 festive season. They are all family-friendly, providing fun for both adults and kids.

Places to Visit in China in December

Have a snowy Christmas in:

  • Harbin: Ice and Snow Festival, skiing, hot springs...
  • Mt. Changbaishan: snow, skiing, frozen Heavenly Lake
  • Inner Mongolia: reindeer, nomadic life, BBQ in the snowy forest...
  • Chengdu: hot pots, snacks, pandas, glacial valleys...
  • Beijing: skiing, hot springs, the Great Wall...
  • Northern Xinjiang: snow skiing, minority culture, vast landscapes...

Have a warm Christmas in:

  • Yunnan: clear skies, diverse landscapes, minority culture...
  • Sanya: sunny beaches, resorts with pools, sea foods...
  • Lhasa: sunshine, Potala Palace, plateau scenery....

1. Beijing - Great Wall, Skiing, Hot Springs...

Forbidden CitySnow-capped Forbidden City

The special silence of winter with fewer tourists in Beijing 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 for families 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 >>>

Gubei Water Town (1 hour from Nanshan Ski Resort or 2 hours from Beijing) should not missed if you dream of spectacular night views of the Great Wall, are curious about traditional Beijingese folk customs, and like to enjoy hot tubs in winter.

All our Beijing tours can be customized to make the most of winter!

Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family's best-rated service across trusted platforms.

2. Harbin - A World of Ice and Snow

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

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!

All-inclusive Yabuli Ski Resortis just 3 hours by car from Harbin. 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.

RecommendedTours for Harbin and Surrounding Areas:

3. Mt. Changbaishan - Snow, Skiing, Frozen Heavenly Lake

Mt. ChangbaishanRafting on a hot spring river at the foot of Changbai Mountain

Changbaishan (长白山) means "Forever-White Mountain", and its top is covered with snow all the year round. It is located Located in Jilin Province at the border of China and North Korea.At 42° north (the perfect latitude for ice and snow, similar to Switzerland), Changbaishan is considered a ski paradise and one of the best areas to enjoy snow scenery in China.

In Changbaishan, besides the exciting skiing activities, the fairytale snow theme parks, the frozen Heavely Lake, the tallest volcanic waterfall, and the relaxing hot springs, you can also try rafting on a hot spring river at the foot of Changbai Mountain when the air temperature is -30°C (-22°F). Be the coolest one in your WeChat Moments!

Changbaishan is the only place in China offering raft rides on a hot spring river with gorgeous rime on both sides (and then only when the weather is fine in the morning). The water temperature is kept between 6 and 8°C (43–46°F) in winter, and it never freezes. Don't be afraid of getting wet. The water will freeze immediately after falling on the rubber boat!

4. Inner Mongolia - Feed the Reindeer and Experience Nomadic Life


Inner Mongolia is not just highly visited for its beautiful grassland vistas. It is also a popular winter destination known for its boundless ice and snow scenery and primitive nomadic culture.

Traveling to Inner Mongolia in winter will no doubt refresh your senses and provide a beautiful contrast to hectic city life.

  • Experience horse riding, snowmobile riding, and ice fishing in the vast snow prairies.
  • 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.
RecommendedTour for Inner Mongolia:

5. Chengdu - a Mix of Ice and Fire

Giant PandasGiant Pandas in the snow

If you're seeking for a holiday that combines sightseeing and a skiing experience, fine food and giant pandas, then Chengdu is highly recommended for you.

You can taste real Sichuan food and learn how to cook authentic Sichuan cuisine in Chengdu. You can also enjoy the fun of skiing in beautiful Bipenggou National Park (3½ hours away by car), and soak in a natural mineral hot spring in a snowy wonderland.

On the way from Chengdu to Bipenggou, don't miss encountering the adorable giant pandas in Dujiangyan Panda Base, where a Panda Keeper Program is currently available. Booking in advance is required.

6. Northern Xinjiang - a Fairytale World

Fairytale World - KanasFairytale World - Kanas

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... (How to Plan a Trip to Kanas)

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.

One factor to note is that all flights from Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou must stop first in Urumqi after a 4–5-hour journey. Two nights are suggested in Urumqi to take in its exotic Muslim folk culture. From Urumqi to Kanas, it takes less than 1½ hours. A comparatively long journey to Northern Xinjiang will reward your family with an awesome other-worldly experience.

RecommendedXinjiang Tours:

7. Yunnan — Be Spoiled with Sunshine

Lijiang Ancient TownLijiang Ancient Town

With clear skies prevailing above Erhai Lake in Dali, warm winter sunshine in the ancient town of Lijiang, the pristine and holy land of Shangri-La, and exotic tropical rainforest in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan has become a top destination for China expats, especially family groups.

Would you like an adventure? Take a 2–3-day hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest gorges in the world. December is one of the best months to hike it, when you can 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 will ensure you the best experience of adventurous hiking in Lijiang.

8. Sanya — Sunshine, Beaches, and Ocean Fun

Enjoy the sunny beach in Sanya.Enjoy the sunny beach in Sanya.

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 recommended one for couples and families as it has the most beautiful beaches, cleaner seas, and high-standard hotels. 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. (Sanya Travel Guide: How to Select Your Beach and Hotel)

RecommendedSanya Beach Tours:

9. Lhasa - Sunshine, Potala Palace, Plateau Scenery...

Visit Potala PalaceVisit Lhasa in Winter

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.

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!

Fall in love with the "sunlight city" — take our 5-Day Tibet Winter Tour. Other popular Tibet tours for inspiration:

China in December — December Travel FAQs

Snow-capped yellow roofs and red walls in the Forbidden City.Snow-capped yellow roofs and red walls in the Forbidden City.

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 Chinese mainland, 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 >>>

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