Winter (December to February) is mostly a cost-effective and less-crowded time to explore China. China has multiple winter attractions/activities:
- Fun and well-equipped ski resorts
- Beautiful wintry scenic areas
- Huge winter festivals such as Harbin Ice and Snow Festival and the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), adding excitement to the cool-to-freezing winter.
In this guide, we'll provide you with tips on how to plan the best winter trip to China for you.
- The Top 6 China Winter Destinations
- What’s the Weather Like in Winter in China
- Suggested Winter Itineraries
The Top 6 China Winter Destinations
Below is a list of China's prime winter destinations, from snow-covered landscapes to splendid winter festivals and activities.
1. Beijing — the Great Wall, Skiing, Chinese New Year Celebrations
In Beijing’s winter, you can enjoy climbing the Great Wall and viewing its mountainous winter landscape in peace without the crowds.
It is also a good time to see how Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year. You can experience the festival atmosphere, enjoy interesting outdoor activities, and taste the best local food. See a 6-Day Beijing Chinese New Year Tour.
If you want to ski, we can take you to an Olympic Winter Games venue to enjoy the fun and world-class facilities. Read more on 6-Day Beijing Winter Tour with Skiing in a Winter Olympics Venue.
2. Harbin — Ice and Snow Festival, Skiing
If you want to see stunning snow scenery and have a fun/romantic Christmas or New Year with your children or your significant other, then don't miss the Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin.
The Ice and Snow Festival is undoubtedly Harbin's most famous attraction in winter. 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.
Yabuli Ski Resort, not far from Harbin, is one of the best in China. If you especially like snow scenery, then you could go on an extended tour to Changbai Mountain, where you can see the beautiful rime and try rafting on a hot spring river.
3. Huangshan — Snowy Mountains, Hot Spring
The Yellow Mountains (Huangshan) is one of the most famous mountain areas in China. Its snow-capped mountains and rime-covered trees are the perfect winter scene. If you love nature and photography, then Huangshan is a great destination for a winter trip.
A cozy hot spring experience could be a treat in winter, especially after climbing the mountain. There is a wonderful hot spring at the foot of the Yellow Mountains where you can get relaxed and refreshed.
4. Chengdu — Pandas, Hot Pot, Skiing
You shouldn’t miss Chengdu if you love pandas. In winter, you can still see active pandas playing in their playground as they’re not at all “afraid” of cold.
If you want to get closer to them and their habitat, we recommend our one-day panda volunteer program where you can clean their bedrooms, watch them being fed, and make their food.
If you are foodie, having a hot pot on a cold winter day is definitely a great experience.
Bipenggou National Park, a hidden winter resort near Chengdu, is recommended if you want to see snowy scenery, enjoy skiing, and soak in hot springs.
5. Xi’an — The Terracotta Warriors
No matter what the season, Xi'an is a must for first-time visitors to China. It is the ancient capital of China, where the first emperor of China established his capital. The famous Terracotta Warriors are his mausoleum.
You can also visit a cave dwelling, a type of local residential house, to see how Xi’an cave-dwellers manage to stay warm in winter and cool in summer.
If you are lucky enough to get a snowy day, you will see a stunning Xi’an in snow, especially from the Old City Wall, which will take you back a thousand years to medieval China.
For More Ideas
China is a vast country. Besides the destinations listed above, there are still many places to go. If you like mild weather or want a beach holiday, Yunnan or Sanya could be your choice.
If you want a more unique snow and festival experience, then you can visit northern Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.
Our service is personalized. You can tell us your interests and requirements and we will make a tour plan for you. You can also refer to our suggested itineraries below. All our tours can be adjusted based on your needs. Just contact us.
What’s the Weather Like in Winter in China
December to February is winter in China. Generally, January is the coldest month. If you want to enjoy snow scenery and snow activities, traveling in January and February are usually best.
If you want not-so-cold weather, then come in December. There are also fewer visitors in early December.
Winter in most parts of China is cold, but mostly sunny and drier. There are some differences between the north and the south.
North China is mostly close to 0°C (32°F) or below with snow. As a result, most of China's excellent natural ski resorts are in the north, like in Beijing and Harbin.
The temperature in most parts of southern China is around 5–10°C (41-50°F) with a much lower chance of snow. Further south, Guilin and Guangdong often see mild weather around 15°C (59°F).
Southernmost Hainan Island is a good place to enjoy sunshine and beaches in winter. It is very warm and the temperature stays around 20°C (68°F) in winter. Yunnan, in southwest China, also has a warm winter climate in its tropical south, but it’s mild to cold depending on the altitude further north.
Suggested Winter Itineraries
No matter what season you come to China, Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai are a must visit trio for first-timers. In addition to these cities, we also recommend some special winter cities for you in the itineraries below.
1. The (Winter) Itinerary for First-Timers
This is a classic China itinerary that you may want to refer to if it is your first time to visit China.
This 10‒11-day itinerary visits Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, and Shanghai. You would not only see top China attractions like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, and the Bund, but also visit Guilin, where you would see in southern China's relatively mild winter and could see and experience idyllic rural scenery and lifestyles.
If you happen to be visiting during Chinese New Year, we could also arrange celebration experiences for you, like going to a New Year Fair and watching folk art performances.
Here is the suggested itinerary:
- Days 1‒3: Beijing (the Great Wall with a night tour, the Forbidden City…)
- Days 4‒5: Xi’an (the Terracotta Warriors, a food tour…)
- Days 6‒8: Guilin (a river cruise, countryside life experience, ethnic minority culture)
- Days 9‒11: Shanghai (the Bund, free time to explore)
If you are interested in this itinerary, you can see more details on our 11-Day Beijing – Xi'an – Guilin/Yangshuo – Shanghai Tour.
If you want to ski, you could stay in Beijing for one or two more days, and we would arrange a great ski resort for you. Just contact us.
98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+
I had an amazing two trips on the Great Wall and the Forbidden City with the guide Ivy during my stay in China. She was very helpful and answered all of our questions with an enthusiastic approach. I have nothing to say but to highly recommend the trips they offer on the Great Wall hiking/camping and also the in-depth Forbidden City tour! Thank you Ivy and China Highlights.more
May 2023, Serhat Altay
Amazing First Time to Beijing with China Highlights
Tom, my private tour guide was there when I landed and accompanied me all the way through to sending me off at the airport after check-in at the end of my trip. Zhao the driver, who also did all the driving during my trip, was calm, confident and knowledgeable in taking us around. Both Tom and Zhao were punctual too. The Great Wall of China Hike I wanted to do started in a very remote, unrestored part of the wall. This would not had been possible without Tom problem solving many issues we had on the way up and I could not have done this on my own a a foreigner. It was well worth the effort and probably the highlight of my trip.The remainder of the tour around Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Kingdom and The Temple of Heaven was paired with a detailed commentary by Tom of which I learnt a lot.more
May 2023, Munsie
Beijing - city of surprises
A fantastic guide was waiting for us - Jack, who told all the stories with passion and commitment. He also fulfilled those wishes that were not in the plan. I highly recommend visiting Beijing with this guide.more
May 2023, Joanna i Piotr Kuzebscy
Liu Yuan was a superb guide and a lot…
Liu Yuan was a superb guide and a lot of fun to spend time with during my first visit to Beijing. It was a wonderful intensive three days.more
May 2023, Pam S.
Great weather and a good trip out with Lily!
Many thanks to my guide Lily for customising the trip to make it as efficient and enjoyable as possible. She arranged to start an hour earlier to beat the crowd and I got to enjoy the Great Wall before the crowd streamed in and while the weather was cool. I requested to switch the next attraction to visit from Temple of Heaven to Ming Tomb and she not only accommodated the prompt request, but made all the necessary arrangements even before the trip coordinator managed to reply! Kudos! Our driver was jovial and friendly, always on top of traffic conditions and took detours to beat slow moving traffic. Hassle free day and I wouldn’t have been able to cover the two attractions so easily and comfortably without them!more
May 2023, Meibao
This was our first time traveling to Beijing
This was our first time traveling to China, so we really wanted to experience some of the major historical sights of Beijing together with a tour guide. Our itinerary was very carefully planned out according to our interests and tailored to our needs. First, we went camping on the Great Wall and hiked from Jiankou to Mutianyu, and the next day we got an in-depth tour of the Forbidden City as well as a tour of the Temple of Heaven and a taiji experience in the gardens. Our tour guide, Ivy, was truly wonderful in preparing and organizing our personalized itinerary. She is very friendly and knowledgeable, and she was always able and willing to answer all of our questions. Ivy provided us with a truly amazing first visit to China and I would warmly recommend China Highlights for everyone who wishes to travel to China and I would especially recommend Ivy as a tour guide for your trips!more
May 2023, Annalina Wheeler
Tom is the BEST tour guide EVER!
Just had the most AMAZING tour with Tom. He was beyond knowledgeable, so generous with his time and made me feel so at ease which was super important as I am travelling by myself. Thank you Tom for the best day-you have totally made my China trip a fabulous experience, one I will never forget!more
May 2023, SHARRYN HINCHLIFFFE
Superb service and wonderful time in Beijing
Superb service from Jack who were with us for 4 wonderful days in Beijing. Jack was clearly knowledgeable about the history and able to deliver insight information to us about places. He was also kind and accommodating to my mother who has bad knees. Both China Highlights and Jack were flexible about the itinerary to ensure that we enjoy the best of Beijing. We'll definitely use China Highlights' services again for our next trip to China.more
May 2023, Chani
First time booking a trip with China Highlights and was fortunate to have Sunny as my private tour guide. We went to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall, then arrived and walked around Gubei Water Town, and then visited the Simatai portion of the Great Wall at night. Was a very enjoyable trip as we were able to see a night time drone show in the sky, ride a private boat through the canals of the Gubei Water Town, and eat a delicious lunch at a local restaurant along the way. Sunny is super knowledgeable when it comes to the history of the Great Wall and took the time to explain various interesting facts and stories which made the trip very meaningful. The driver we had was also a very nice man who was always on time and eager to help. Was an unforgettable experience and would highly recommend Sunny and China Highlights :)more
May 2023, Allen C
Tour to the great wall from the airport
My guide Tom was ver kind and knowlegable, he explained everything to me about the great wall and even went out of his way to help me the next day at Bejings downtown! amazing service!!! thank you so much Tom!more
May 2023, Fer Villasefior
Great tour, fantastic guide!
This tour was fantastic! I loved hearing about the history of the Forbidden City and admiring the views at the Great Wall. William was a fantastic tour guide. We were a group of families with several young children, and he was very accommodating and flexible with timing and arrangements. I totally recommend this tour and William as a guide!more
May 2023, Ryan Corless
Four excellent sightseeing days in Beijing
We had wonderful four days in Beijing. The entire trip was tailored exactly to our wishes. From experiencing local food, to exploring the major sites of the city up to hiking the great wall of China. Additionally, we had two amazing guides Ina and Fan taking care of all the tickets and coordination required. Also, they could not only tell us everything about the sights we visited and give us an insight to local customs and traditions, but they did so in perfect German. The chauffeur service from Mr Chang was also excellent, getting us from A to B without any hazzle. The past couple of days were one of the most carefree trips we have had so far.more
May 2023, Katha
Great tour from William
Great tour organized by China highlights, our tour guide was William - his knowledge was impressive, his English was great and he was always on time. We did the four day tour including the wall and forbidden city - would definitely recommend to anyone looking for an English tour guide.more
Apr 2023, Lawrence
Beijing 2 day private tour
The tour itself was great, private driver to and from, my guide Ivy was great English speaking guide. She was very knowledgeable and passionate about her country. Was a great time exploring the Great Wall of china and then my second day did a city tour (forbidden city, hutong tour, summer palace). Felt extremely safe, and was confident having an English guide. Thank you china highlights. (Provide them what you want and they’ll make it happen). Prices are reasonable as I looked at a few places but for private tour, my own schedule, and confidence of getting around safely you can’t go wrong.more
Apr 2023, Mark
Everything was to the vest standard, the history all very well explained by the Tour Guide in Beijing, Ivy. Really enjoyed it, and appreciated the time.more
Apr 2023, Jonathan
Amazing Beijing Experience
I had an amazing time in Beijing and glad Tom was my tour guide. He went above and beyond and I’m truly grateful. Tom did all that he could to ensure my stay in Beijing for two days was pleasant and thanks to him, I say that it was. The driver was also nice and courteous, I called him Jon. The company is blessed to have a good tour guide like Tom on their team so if you are planning to come down to Beijing, make sure you ask for Tom. Thank you Christy and Kimmy for replying all my emails with questions that I had.more
Apr 2023, Pedro V
We had a great experience with China Highlights and Roger was highly efficient and helpful planning our itinerary exactly how we needed.more
Apr 2023, Brenda Sarmanho
Excellent service and tour guide!!
Excellent service and communication from the travel agent Roger Li and amazing tour and experience of Great Wall of China from our tour guide Amber. Highly recommended!more
Apr 2023, Evangelos Athanasopoulos
Maggie was such a tremendous help for…
Maggie was such a tremendous help for our recent Beijing trip. Very prompt and helpful in helping us plan and adjust/amend to our requests.more
Apr 2023, Hi
We travelled first to Beijing for a few days before moving on to Wuhan for the wedding and then for a few days in Guilin along with my son and daughter in law. It was a great trip and all went smothly with the help of the guides we had along the way. William in Beijing and Jenny in Guilin were excellent. Chas in HK was also very helpful in getting us to the right place and the right time to fly home.more
Apr 2023, Alan Harris
2. If You Prefer Snow Festivals and Activities
This itinerary is very suitable for those who are fond of snow scenery and want to attend a splendid snow festival.
Simply add Harbin into the itinerary with Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. Harbin’s Ice and Snow Festival is definitely the grandest winter festival for travelers anywhere — a great place to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
You could also have a close encounter with many endangered Siberian tigers and enjoy a fun skiing vacation.
It would take about 13‒14 days. Here is the itinerary:
- Days 1‒3: Beijing (the Great Wall with a night tour, the Forbidden City…)
- Days 4‒8: Harbin (Ice and Snow Festival, Siberian tigers, ski…)
- Days 9‒11: Xi’an (the Terracotta Warrior, food tour…)
- Days 12‒14: Shanghai (the Bund, free time for exploration)
All our tours are customized. Our travel consultants would create your trip based on your needs, interests, group size, and travel time. Just contact us.
Start planning your tailor-made tour now. Your 1:1 travel consultant will reply within 1 working day.
3. A Winter China Tour with Pandas
If you want to see pandas, then this itinerary is suitable for you.
Besides Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi 'an, Chengdu is added in, the hometown of pandas. You can take part in a volunteer program to take care of pandas, cleaning their bedrooms, making their food, and watching them be fed.
In Chengdu, you can also experience Chinese food culture in a group of people sitting around hot pot — a lively and warm activity.
If you want to ski or enjoy hot springs, Bipenggou, near Chengdu, is a great choice with natural ski resorts and spectacular snow scenes.
- Days 1‒5: Beijing sightseeing with tai chi classes and a hutong family visit
- Days 6‒7: Xi’an sightseeing with hands-on experiences like making clay warriors and making dumplings
- Days 8‒10: Chengdu with a panda volunteer program and a food tour (if you want to ski at Bipenggou, you would need two more days. Just contact us.)
- Days 11‒13: Shanghai sightseeing with a Disneyland day
You can check more details on our 13-Day Chinese Language and Culture Immersion Tour.
98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+
Fantastic Chengdu family visit
We explored wonderful Chengdu and surroundings in 4 days. City tour in a relaxed way with delicious local snacks, really nice! Spectacular new dinosaur museum, Dujiangyan (combined Panda and dam in one outing, very recommendable), Leshan Buddha. All above super cool with the kids (ours are 7 and 4). Emei Shan impressive, maybe a little long driving to explore it and watch out for the hotels there, not all are nice and in the town itself there is nothing. But we were blessed with perfect weather on the top and perfect views. Eating hot pot is spectacular in Chengdu, but watch out how spicy it can be. Michael is just a perfect tour guide! He speaks super fluent German and has a very relaxed and competent style of explaining, which made the whole tour so nice. We love Chengdu and will definitely come back!more
Apr 2023, Stefan P
Giant Pandas - Giant Buddha - Mount Emei
We had a wonderful 3 days in Chengdu area,visiting the Panda breeding Center, Leshan Giant Buddha and hiking at Mount Emei.We have been travelling several times with Chinahighlights and everything was well organised as usual. Our guide Michael (fluent in English and German) was great showing us the beauty of Sichuan. We can highly recommend travelling with him and Chinahighlights.more
Mar 2023, steffenwet
Two amazing tours
Both tours were led by excellent guides who knew a lot about everywhere we went, and were very helpful and friendly. The agent was equally helpful and quick in responding to questions which was ,especially in covid restrictions time, extremely convenient.more
Jul 2022, Elizabeth
Panda Keeper for a Day at Dujianyan Sichuan
This is was the second time that we had signed up for the program Panda Keeper for a Day, this time at the Dujianyan Panda Base, about 1 hour drive away from Chengdu. Great experience again. We will surely do it once again.more
Mar 2022, Thomas
Amazing Tibet experience in Sichuan
Henry was an informative guide who went out of his way to ensure positive experiences. Mr Wu was not only a safe and attentive driver on sometimes rough roads but also a great photographer, capturing shots of us as we toured. Henry went out of his way to talk to anyone around to help bring the place alive through stories so we had the opportunity to meet so many locals, real people, and hear about their lives. Another highlight was the opportunity to climb a 1000 year old watchtower in Danba and meet the local family who managed it. Truly magical. Henry was also a consummate foodie who provided us with great local food recommendations along the way.more
Jul 2021, Deborah J
Amazing visit to panda bases in Chengdu and Woolong
Jason was terrific; he understood our interests in pandas and he made our outings very enjoyable. We plan to return to Chengdu to visit pandas and will be asking for Jason again.more
Dec 2019, victoriadH3461ED
We have just completed the Chengdu leg of our trip to China organised by Robert Hui at China Highlights. Our Guide for the 2 Day trip was Daisy Du who made us feel very welcome and helped us check in and ensured our rooms were satisfactory then gave us directions of where to go for the best food. The next day Daisy took us straight to the Giant Panda Breeding and Research centre. It was fantastic to see the Pandas so close. It’s a little sad that they are in captivity but it is essential to increase the breeding rate and so save these wonderful animals from extinction. We saw Pandas of all ages and sizes including a tiny little baby that was only 36 day old. After an extremely tasty lunch picked for us by Daisy she then took us into the people’s park and showed us the tea houses and dating area where parents can advertise their single ‘30 something’ children to potential partners. The day ended with a wander around Jinli Old Street where you can buy anything from food to souvenirs to furniture. We have had the best time in Chengdu helped no end by the friendly, helpfulness of our guide Daisy who knew all the best places to go and sights to see. Thank you Daisy, a great time was had by all. ---jayne_Stu Halifax, United Kingdommore
Nov 2019, jayne_Stu
Wonderful Chengdu tour with Jason
With other two friends I have visited Chengdu in September 2018 and our tour guide was Jason, who has been really amazing with us.He had the smart idea to bring us to the Pandas reserve very early in order to avoid the crowds, even if we were visiting Chengdu right during the Chinese national holidays.After the Pandas reserve, we visited the tea park and the city centre, where Jason could give us a lot of information about Chengdu. Jason gave us also very nice suggestions about places to visit in the evenings during our free time. Totally recommended!!! ---Vittorio C Berlin, Germanymore
Nov 2019, Vittorio C
Cecelia is your guide in Chengdu
We had a great time in Chengdu seeing the pandas and other excursions. Cecelia, our guide, picked us up with a bag of fruit and a wealth of knowledge. She took great care of us, got us through lines quickly and brought us to great restaurants. We even took a cooking class. Highly recommend her. --Robert D,Seattle, Washington, USmore
Oct 2019, Robert D
Chengdu and Wolong Panda base with Aaron
Aaron picked us up from the airport and drove us straight to the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center. We had a very enjoyable time touring the Research Center with Aaron. Even though he has probably been to the research center many times he seemed just as excited to see them as we were. Especially the babies! The next morning we headed to the Wolong Panda Base with a stop at the 2008 Earthquake memorial site. We had a great lunch in the small town of Gengda and then went on a hike in the Dengsheng Gorge with a local guide. The next day we did the panda keeper program which entailed cleaning cages (inside and out), feeding pandas, making panda cakes, watching a film about the program and walking around the base looking at the many pandas. After the program we drove back to Chengdu. While we were working Aaron took some great pictures of us cleaning and feeding the pandas. The next morning tour guide Snow took us to the train station. Aaron was such fun to be around, he spoke English wonderfully and gave us great info about the pandas. ---Cougfan Auburn, Washington, USmore
Oct 2019, Cougfan
Panda keeper program
Had a wonderful time on the panda keeper program which we booked through China Highlights. We generally avoid doing organised tours whenever possible as we prefer to do our own thing. Cecilia was our guide for the day and quickly made us feel at ease in her company she was interesting, knowledgeable and enthusiastic everything you want in a guide. The whole day was great and Cecilia certainly enhanced the experience, she took lots of photos for us throughout the day which was brilliant as it’s difficult getting photos together, she also provided us with buckwheat tea and biscuits which was a lovely touch. A big thank you to Cecilia. --Maria & Peter Foulgermore
Sep 2019, Mariafoulger
During this whole trip, at anytime , if we need to modify our schedule or activities, Aaron and the driver can accommodate. They are friendly, knowledgeable, good communicator, flexible, and dedicated to making sure our needs are met. Aaron, thanks for making this an unforgettable trip for us! --Venture114992more
4. If You’re Looking for a Unique Winter Experience
Here are some itinerary ideas for if you’re seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations, unique winter scenery and experiences, or a warm winter holiday:
- 6-Day Hulunbuir Winter Tour with Reindeer Experience
- 8-Day North Xinjiang Tour with Kanas
- 7-Day Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang Winter Tour
- 5-Day Sanya Tour with the Best Beach
Costs for a Winter Trip to China
Winter is a relatively cost-effective time to travel, except for holiday times like around Christmas and New Year and Chinese New year. During these holidays, the prices of air tickets and hotels will increase greatly.
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.
If you are planning a trip to China, please book it at least 3 to 6 months in advance. We offer a free cancellation policy: you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to three weeks before departure. (See more details.)
Crowding on a Winter Trip to China
Winter is the off-season for tourism, when crowding is generally not an issue in China. However, there are a few holidays in winter in China, when there are crowds of Chinese tourists at attractions.
Christmas is not an official holiday in China, so there are not many tourists in December. There will be crowds during the New Year's Day holiday on January 1–3.
Chinese New Year falls in late January or early-to-mid-February. Train stations and airports see huge increases in traffic for weeks before and after. But there are usually not many tourists at scenic spots, because most Chinese people get together at home during this holiday.
Tour China with Us
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. Just contact us.