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How to Plan a Summer Trip to China

How to Plan a Summer Trip to China

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Jan. 29, 2024

China is a vast country with a rich culture, breathtaking scenery, and delicious cuisine. Summer is a popular season to visit China, as the weather is warm/hot and many attractions are at their most vibrant.

However, planning a summer trip to China can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. In this guide, we'll provide you with tips on how to plan a memorable summer trip to China.

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What's the Weather Like in China in Summer?

The Forbidden City, BeijingThe Forbidden City

Summer in China lasts from June to August (longer in the south), and the weather can vary greatly depending on the region you're visiting.

Northern China (Beijing, Xi'an) is hot and dry. The average daily high temperature in summer is around 32°C (90°F).

Most attractions in northern cities are historical and cultural, which are less affected by weather conditions. Almost all indoor visits are air-conditioned.

Southern China (Shanghai, Guangzhou, Guilin) is hot and humid. The average daily high temperature in summer is around 34°C (93°F).

Summer is very suitable for visiting gardens, mountains, rivers, and lakes and outdoor activities in the south. The occasional rainfall wouldn't affect your trip too much.

In some plateau or mountainous areas, such as Tibet, daytime temperatures average a comfortable 20°C (68°F).

June is a relatively cool month, about 2°C (3°F) cooler than July and August. June is recommended if you want to avoid the heat and encounter fewer tourists.

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Recommended Places to Visit in China in Summer

Here are several recommended destinations that offer a blend of cultural, historical, and natural wonders…

Beijing

The Great WallA night visit to the Great Wall

Beijing is China's must-visit city, known for its imperial history and architecture, no matter what the season, and especially for first timers.

Beijing's summer is moderately wet and hot. But almost all the indoor attractions like the museums in the Forbidden City are air-conditioned. Heat won't be a big problem for a summer visit.

The warm weather is good for a visit to the mountainous Great Wall. We suggest a sunset or night visit to avoid the heat of the day and the crowds. For a sunset visit, we can also arrange a picnic for you.

Xi'an

Xi'an is the best city for getting to know China's traditional culture.

The main attraction in Xi'an is the Terracotta Warriors. It won't be affected by the weather. For a special-interest activity, we can arrange the hands-on experience of making your own terracotta warrior in a cool and quiet workshop.

If you want to avoid the heat, a night tour of the city is recommended. We will arrange a fun and culturally-rich evening tour, where you can see the bustling nightlife in Xi'an, with food, street performances, and antique architecture, which would take you back to the medieval Xi'an of over a thousand years ago.

Shanghai

The BundThe night view of the Bund

As one of China's top gateway cities, Shanghai is another place to visit no matter what season you come to China.

Shanghai is a place where century-old history meets modernity. The Bund is the best place to experience such a contrast.

We would like to enable you to enter historical buildings along the Bund and tell you the stories behind them. This would allow you to get to know Shanghai in a more in-depth way, and that without getting caught in the sun.

A cruise on the Huangpu River to see the skyscrapers to also a good way to learn about Shanghai. In summer, we recommend a night cruise for a cooler feeling and charming night views.

Guilin

Guilin is best for seeing Chinese countryside views and experiencing the vitality of summer.

Yangshuo, a town near Guilin has plenty of cool outdoor activities for summer, especially for families with kids like discovering a cool and authentic karst cave and having fun on an SUP on a picturesque river.

If you are interested in local countryside life, take a local farmer's taxi to a market in a small town.

Chengdu

Pandas, Chengdu

The biggest draw in Chengdu is the cute giant pandas. Pandas are "afraid" of heat. If you want to see pandas playing outdoors, try to go around 8 to 9 am. They will probably go indoors to rest in their air-conditioned rooms after 10 am.

We have access to giant panda volunteer programs that allow you to see pandas closer. You wouldn't have to line up at the right time to watch them. You could make panda cakes, watch pandas being fed, and clean their enclosures.

Yunnan

Erhai Lake, YunnanErhai Lake

If you want to find a place to escape the heat, then Yunnan is a good choice. Yunnan's summers are cool and beautiful.

Yunnan enjoys stunning scenery like the sparkling Erhai Lake, majestic Jade Dragon Mountain, and one of the deepest gorges in the world — Tiger Leaping Gorge. Yunnan is also a great place to learn about minority cultures.

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Tibet

TibetThe Potala Palace

Summer is the best time to visit Tibet for its nicest weather and stunning scenery. The warm summer air has a higher oxygen content than in other seasons.

Journey to Everest Base Camp and witness the starry sky and the morning sunshine on the world's highest peak. It must be on many people's bucket lists, as well as seeing the Potala Palace and various temples and discovering the religious significance and stories behind them.

If you are interested in Tibetan festivals, visit Tibet in August when the Shoton Festival, Nagqu Horse Racing Festival, and Ganden Thangka Festival are held.

If you want to learn about Tibetan folk customs and their life, we can arrange a local Tibetan family visit. You could also participate in their daily farming.

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More Options

In addition to the popular destinations above, there are more cool and unique city choices, such as the mountain destination Zhangjiajie, the Hulunbeir Grassland of Inner Mongolia, the off-the-beaten destinations like the Great Northwest area (Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, etc), and the less-crowded western and northern Sichuan.

All our itineraries can be personalized for your/your family's travel goals, available travel days and dates, and other requirements. If you have a general list, we could help you realize it better and give you more professional advice. Just contact us.

Suggested Summer Itineraries

For first-timers, Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai are the basic classic combination. If you want to have more China experience, we've given you their combos with featured cities for different interests.

All our sample schedules can be adjusted based on your group size, trip duration and dates, and other needs.

1. If You Prefer Outdoor Activities

GuilinOutdoor activities in Guilin

Besides the basic Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai elements, Guilin is recommended for outdoor lovers.

Guilin is suggested for its rich summer activity selection and relaxing vibe. Guilin offers many interesting outdoor activities like biking, caving, and many water activities.

You may need to set aside 11–14 days for this trip. When it comes to scheduling, especially when traveling with children, we recommend a flexible schedule.

To avoid the heat, block out the afternoon or schedule activities after 4 pm, like a sunset or night visit to the Great Wall.

Here is the sample itinerary:

  • Days 1–3: Beijing sightseeing with all the must-see attractions and a special sunset visit to the Great Wall with a family picnic time.
  • Days 4–5: Xi'an sightseeing with the Terracotta Army, a foodie tour, and a night walking tour.
  • Days 6–9: Guilin with a Li River cruise and some interesting activities like caving, trying Chinese landscape painting, and SUP on a scenic river.
  • Days 10–12: Shanghai with a visit to the Bund, a home visit and cooking experience, and some free time.
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2. If You Are Looking for a Panda Tour

Panda volunteer programmePanda volunteer program

Chengdu should definitely be included in addition to Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai if you are panda lovers. We also recommend a Yangtze River cruise from nearby Chongqing — a good way to avoid summer heat while enjoying China's natural views.

Here is the suggested itinerary, which takes about 2 weeks:

  • Days 1–4: Beijing arrival and exploration with must-sees including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
  • Days 5–6: Xi'an sightseeing with a visit to the Terracotta Army and clay-warrior-making experience
  • Days 7–8: Chengdu panda tour with a keeper program — make panda cakes, see pandas being fed at a close distance, and clean their enclosures.
  • Days 9–11: Yangtze River cruise with excursions
  • Days 12–13: Shanghai exploration with a visit to the Bund and some free time.

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3. If You Want to Avoid Heat

If you want to enjoy nice and cool weather conditions on your summer trip, Yunnan is definitely the best choice to combine with Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai.

For a Yunnan trip, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La are the four popular destinations.

Here is the itinerary:

  • Days 1–4: Beijing arrival and exploration with must-sees including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
  • Days 5–6: Xi'an sightseeing with a visit to the Terracotta Army and clay-warrior-making experience
  • Days 7–8: Kunming with a less-crowded Naigu Stone Forest exploration
  • Days 9–10: Dali. Visit a local village to discover the daily life of the Bai people, dye a handkerchief, and taste the home-cooked local cuisine.
  • Day 11: Lijiang. Visit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and a Naxi family to learn about the mysterious Naxi culture.
  • Day 12–14: Shangri-La. Visit a local Tibetan family, experience a Tibetan ceremony of blessing, learn to paint a thangka ('sacred tapestry'), enjoy a starry night with a bonfire on the grassland...
  • Days 15–16: Shanghai exploration with a visit to the Bund and some free time.

See more on How Long to Spend in China: Itineraries from 1 Week to 1 Month

Tibet is also a good destination for cool weather, as well as plateau scenery and mysterious Tibetan culture. If you are interested in Tibet, see our 2-Week Beautiful China with the Holy Tibet Tour.

Costs for a Summer Trip to China

Summer is the peak travel season for most of China. The price of hotels and airfares can go up by 50 to 100%. Other prices are relatively stable.

For a private tour, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5-star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport. Kids under 10 get 30 to 50 percent off.

Hotels and flights to popular destinations will be in great demand during the summer vacation. If you are planning a trip to China during this period, we suggest booking 6 months in advance.

Crowding on a Summer Trip to China

China's schools' summer holidays usually encompass the months of July and August. So, crowds are expected, especially in popular destinations.

If you have a flexible schedule, a smarter choice is to travel in June, when there are fewer tourists and China's summer vacations haven't started.

We'll also help you avoid crowds as much as possible, arranging VIP passage to avoid queuing, choosing less-crowded times of the day, etc. Our guide would also arrange a less crowded travel route for you, e.g. taking you on a hidden route when visiting the Forbidden City.

We also have tours to many off-the-beaten-track destinations, like the Silk Road, northern Sichuan, and Inner Mongolia. If you are interested in these destinations or you have other interests, just contact us. Our tours are personalized.

Recommended Summer Tours to China

Our private tours are designed to be the most convenient and fulfilling option for your trip to China. We would create an itinerary according to your flight times, interests, and any other requirements.

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