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How to Plan a Winter Travel in China: Places to Go & Weather

How to Plan a Winter Travel in China: Places to Go & Weather

Written by Ruby ZhaoUpdated Dec. 16, 2022

Winter (December to February) is a cost-effective and less-crowded time to explore China. China has multiple winter attractions/activities.

Use this page to plan your winter holiday. Our winter travel guide includes:

Top 8 China Winter Destinations

Below is a list of China's prime winter destinations, from snow-covered landscape in North China to warm and fascinating subtropical South China.

1. Harbin - Ice and Snow Festival, Skiing

The Ice and Snow Festival is undoubtedly Harbin's most famous attraction. The official opening ceremony is usually on January 5th each year, but the biggest venue Harbin Ice and Snow World is open from December 17th, 2022. The festival will last for around 2 months from late December to February. During the festival, Harbin is changed into a world of ice sculptures.

Fanciful and elaborate ice and snow sculptures in the shapes of animals, plants, buildings or motifs taken from legends sparkle in the frigid air in three main venues.

  • Harbin Ice and Snow World — a colorful "Ice Disneyland"
  • Sun Island — snow sculpture exposition
  • Zhaolin Park — small but Lovely Ice Lanterns

Check One-Day Harbin Ice and Snow Fairyland Tour for a cost-effective itinerary with less crowds. 

Winter trips to Harbin often include the Siberian Tiger Park and nearby Yabuli Ski Resort (Club Med Yabuli) (3 hours' drive from Harbin), and a trip to see the enchanting rime scenery of Changbaishan.

Get inspiration from 7-Day Harbin, China Snow Town, and Changbai Mountain Tour or 6-Day Harbin Ice Festival and Yabuli Club Med Tour. Both could be tailor made to meet your interests and schedule. 

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

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

Winter is the most beautiful season at Mt. Changbaishan. It is considered a ski paradise and one of the best areas to enjoy snow scenery in China.The forest sea of ​​Mt. Changbaishan is white with snow and rime. The white waves of hot spring steam rise and fall in the wind and crystallize on the trees.

The Jilin Wanda Changbaishan International Ski Resort is extremely family-friendly with great winter activities, children's fun, and festive spirit. 

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! 

Contact us if you are planning a trip to Mt. Changbaishan. It is around 30 minutes by free shuttle bus ride from Changbaishan Airport or 7 hours by car from Harbin. 

Recommended Tour7-Day Harbin, China Snow Town, and Changbai Mountain Tour

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

Beijing Greatwall Winter Scenery The Great Wall of China covered in snow

Lakes, canals, and fountains are frequently frozen solid. Ice skating is very popular at the lakes in Beijing's parks. There are even bicycles designed to be ridden on the ice.

The nearby sections of the Great Wall remain open to visitors during the wintertime. You can enjoy climbing the Great Wall and viewing the winter landscape in peace without the crowds. (Read more on How to Visit the Great Wall of China)

There are various cultural activities held in the temples and parks of Beijing during the Chinese New Year holiday usually from late January to early February. This is the best time of the year to experience Chinese culture.

From Beijing, you can go to Zhangjiakou with 3 hours' drive to experience skiing in one of the 2022 Winter Olympics competition clusters. Read more on 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour with Skiing in a 2022 Winter Olympics Venue

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4. Northern Xinjiang — Boundless Snowscapes, Primal Natural Ecology

Fairytale World - KanasFairytale World - Kanas

Glittering rime hanging on the groves of birch trees, snow-covered glacial lakes, endless snowy vistas, and cabins deep in the snowy forests — that is winter in northern Xinjiang.

  • Travel to Kanas to see a pure white world. Villages are scattered in the boundless snowscapes, the morning mist rises from the streams…
  • Walk into a fairytale scene in Hemu Village, where grey birch forests are set against the silvery snow-capped mountains, and the cabins are scattered about glowing with a warm orange light.
  • Lying on China’s border with Kazakhstan, Baihaba Village holds primal natural ecology and ancient traditional culture. Snow adds to the mystery of the peaceful village.

Contact us to create a wonderful winter escape. 

5. Yunnan - Clear Skies, Diverse Landscapes, Minority Culture...

Visit Yunnan in WinterVisit Yunnan in Winter

With its diverse minority culture, awesome natural scenery, and pleasant weather, Yunnan is without doubt one of the most tempting travel destinations in winter in China. The average daytime temperature is around 25℃ and there is little rain.

If you're looking for a sweet escape from the hectic city life in this coming Christmas holiday, Yunnan is definitely a smart choice, especially if you're a family group with little kids. Be spoiled with sunshine.

Popular winter destinations in Yunnan include Dali, Lijiang, Xishuangbanna, and Tengchong.

Recommended Tours:

6. Sanya - Sunshine, Beaches, and Ocean Fun

SanyaHave fun in Sanya with your family

If you want a trip away from the cold in China's winter, Sanya is ideal. It's the warmest place in China in winter. The temperature remains the same between December and February, and it swings from 22 °C (71.6 °F) to 28 °C (82.4 °F).

Reward yourself with a relaxing vacation: the long coastline, glorious sunshine, romantic islands, and golden shores. Some even say that Sanya's beautiful beaches make it the "Hawaii of China".

  • You can have fun in the sea and on the beaches.
  • Try some exciting watersports, like banana boating, water scootering, surfing, and sailing.
  • Fly over the forest by zipline and discover a tropical forest.
  • Shop for duty-free commodities.

Recommended Tours

7. Inner Mongolia — Snow Paradise, Nomad Culture

Inner MongoliaFeed the Reindeer and Experience Nomadic Life in Inner Mongolia

With transport becoming more convenient, Inner Mongolia has become another popular winter destination, known for its boundless ice and snow scenery and primitive nomadic culture.

  • Drive/walk through vast snowscapes, go skiing in the 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 remaining six families in China’s coldest village, feel their enthusiasm for their harsh lives, and find out how they fight against the extreme coldness.
  • Sleep on a traditional heated brick bed and work with local people to experience authentic Mongolian daily life.

You can take flight to Hulunbuir Dongshan International Airport (HLD). From Shanghai, the flight takes about 5½ hours with one stopover in between. From Beijing, there are direct flights available, which take about 2½ hours. Book your Christmas trip now (in October) to enjoy a great flight deal (CNY1500-2000 for round trip from Shanghai or CNY1000-1500 for round trip from Beijing).

6–12 days are enough to enjoy the main highlights. Contact us for a unique Inner Mongolia snow feast, custom-designed for you.

8. Tibet - Sunshine, Potala Palace, Plateau Scenery....

Visit Potala PalaceVisit Lhasa in Winter

Don't be surprised if I say that Tibet is also a good choice for a comparatively warm holiday. Tibet's winter (November to February) does not feel cold in the daytime! Especially in Lhasa (the 'sunlight city'), although the average daily high temperature is around 5°C (41°F), it is usually sunny, dry, and comfortable outside during the day.

Winter is Tibetan people's leisure time when local people make a pilgrimage trip to Lhasa from their various Tibet regions. Walk on Barkhor Street, and you will find devout Tibetans prostrating themselves on the ground after every few steps in worship. 

Traveling to Tibet in winter is a great money-saver, as hotel and flight/train ticket prices will be at their most reasonable. 

Read more on 5-Day Tibet Winter Tour

How is the Weather in Winter in China?

China is a vast country, and the weather in winter varies greatly from north to south, east to west. If you like it drier and not hot, winter might be preferable for you, as it is the driest time of the year all over China, particularly in the north, where a few snow flurries is all you’ll get.

Below we summarize China's winter weather by region.

Northeast and Southwest China: Harbin, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang...

Travel to Inner Mongolia in winterMake water fireworks in Inner Mongolia - see hot water crystalize in mid-air

Winters in northeastern and southwest China are long, frozen, and snowy. The province of Heilongjiang borders Russia and its capital, Harbin, is called 'Ice City'. January temperatures average -12°C (10°F) during the day, and plummet at night.

Recommended tour:

North China: Beijing, Xi'an, Pingyao...

Forbidden CityForbidden City in Beijing in snow

The capital Beijing typifies northern China winter weather (including e.g. Xi'an). Beijing experiences very cold, but usually dry, long winters. Winter begins in early November and extends into March. Average temperatures are below freezing, but frequent sunny days are perfect for sightseeing.

Recommended tour: 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour with Skiing in a 2022 Olympic Winter Games Venue

Central China: Shanghai, Huangshan, Chengdu...

Giant PandasGiant Pandas in the snow

The cities in central China experience milder weather than Beijing. The winter season is from December to February. Winters are moist, but there is little snow and days are overcast.

Temperatures usually stay above freezing, but will feel colder due to humidity. This is typical of central/southern China winter weather.

You can enjoy popular southern attractions in the wintertime, as long as you pack plenty of warm clothing.

Recommended tour: 5-Day Chengdu and Bipenggou Tour: Pandas & Skiing!

South China and Southeast Coast: Yunnan, Sanya, Hong Kong, Guangzhou...

Visit Yunnan in WinterDali in Yunnan province has very comfortable winter weather.

China’s far south and southeast coast fall within the tropics and these places don’t really experience a winter. "Winter" temperatures are quite mild, even warm. (Guilin and Guizhou are exceptions, the temperature of which is similar like that in Shanghai, cold and humid.)

In fact going in the “winter” would be better time to visit these places for you if you don’t relish enduring the sweltering summer heat.

Visit Xishuangbanna for minorities and rain forest, Sanya and Haikou for tropical island scenery and beaches, and the thriving Pearl River cities of Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.

Recommended Tours:

How to Pack for China Winter Travel

You're suggested to check the weather and packing tips for each of your China destinations before you depart. Generally speaking, for the north, such as Beijing, heavy overcoats etc. are needed; but for the southeast coast, like Guangzhou, a light coat is enough. See our China Weather pages.

Beijing Weather in January

Our Most Popular China Winter Tours

Our most recommended customizable ice and snow tours:

Our top recommended customizable warm winter tours:

See more China Winter Holiday Tours or contact us if you have any questions or requirements to design a tour.

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