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China Weather in December: Places to Go, Costs, and Crowds

China Weather in December: Places to Go, Costs, and Crowds

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Sep. 25, 2023

December could be a cost-effective time for a trip to China.

China is well into a freezing winter in the north and west. Snow falls there. It is a good time for snow activities and to see snow-covered landscapes.

Central China is very cold, but South China might be warm and sunny. These could be comfortable winter escapes for people in colder climates.

Read on to find out how China's December climate affects tourism and our travel suggestions.

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China Weather in December: Overview

  • Average daily temperature range: -2–7°C (28–45°F)
  • Average rainfall: 17 mm (1 in)
  • Average rainy days: 2
  • Average sunny days: 29

Weather in North China (Beijing, Xi'an, Harbin...)

In North China, the cold wind is biting and snow often covers the ground. It sometimes snows and, since it is so cold, the snow remains for a long time and accumulates. Therefore, it is a good time to view stunning snowy scenery.

Almost all of the ski resorts are open in December. Harbin's Ice and Snow World also opens at the end of December.

Clothing: You would need an extra-thick coat and layers of clothing to stay warm as well as gloves and a warm hat. Wear water-resistant shoes with good traction.

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Weather in East China (Shanghai, Hangzhou...)

East China has cool/cold, windy, humid, and damp weather in December. Shanghai usually stays above freezing, averaging 5–11°C (41–52°F). There is little chance of snow, except in the mountains, perhaps with some falling toward the end of December.

Clothing: Wear a coat, rain gear, and water-resistant shoes.

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Weather in South China (Guilin, Hong Kong...)

In major contrast to every other big city in China, Hong Kong gets ideal weather: warm, sunny, light breezes, clear skies, and little rain. Sightseeing, shopping, and outdoor activities are all the more enjoyable when it is dry and sunny.

The rest of South China generally has a pleasant winter with plentiful sunshine but Guilin feels cold because of the high humidity and mountain altitudes although it rarely freezes in the valleys.

Clothing: A thin coat or jacket and perhaps some rain gear would be adequate. In Guilin, however, wear a thicker jacket and dress in layers for comfort.

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Weather in West China (Chengdu, Tibet, Yunnan...)

Many areas of Yunnan Province and Sichuan Province have pleasant winter weather with sunshine, but high-altitude areas are frigid.

Tibet is generally quite cold in December. Some remote areas might be difficult to access due to heavy snowfall.

However, you would usually not feel too cold during the daytime in the capital city. Lhasa experiences dry and sunny weather and enjoys the reputation of being "the city of sunlight".

Clothing: Dress in layers with a coat and hat for the evenings. Wear a winter coat when in mountainous areas and Tibet.

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Top 5 Places to Visit in China in December

In December, Beijing and Harbin are recommended for their winter snow scenes and skiing experiences.

For a warmer escape for your Christmas vacation, Yunnan and Hong Kong are good choices. Chengdu could also be nice for seeing pandas as well as for food lovers.

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1. Beijing

If you visit the Great Wall in December, you are very likely to view an awesome snowy scene of the wall and the mountains covered with snow. In addition, there are fewer tourists and you might have the wall to yourself.

After the visit, you could unwind at a premium hot spring resort while indulging in a rejuvenating soak in the thermal waters.

The Forbidden City, with its red and gold architecture, and the ancient Drum and Bell towers appear even more captivating under a gentle dusting of snow.

Skiing is also one of the exciting experiences when visiting Beijing in winter. You could enjoy the thrill of skiing at Olympic-class facilities using slopes at one of China's finest ski resorts.

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2. Harbin

In late December, Harbin's Ice and Snow World opens. It's a winter amusement park with various ice-built castles illuminated by lights, along with entertainment. At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, there is also a fireworks show.

You could embark on a tiger safari in the Siberian Tiger Park. You could even purchase meat or live poultry to feed the tigers. It could be a fun experience for both adults and children.

Skiing is, of course, an essential experience in Harbin. You could enjoy an all-inclusive winter holiday at Club Med Yabuli.

The Snow Town near Harbin is also a highlight. You could see the charming snow-covered village and experience what it's like in winter in the northern countryside.

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3. Hong Kong

December in Hong Kong is a dry season month, and it generally has clear skies. This means that you have a better chance of enjoying clear vistas from Victoria Peak, including large cityscapes and the ocean in the distance.

The city comes alive with a vibrant holiday spirit with Christmas approaching. Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park offer special programs, such as Christmas shows and parades, as well as displaying decorations during the Christmas season.

There are also many Christmas markets held in Hong Kong Disneyland, Yau Tsim Mong District, Causeway Bay, and Central.

The Christmas season is also one of the prime times for shopping in Hong Kong. Shopping centers and malls host wonderful Christmas promotions and events.

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4. Yunnan

In China, where most regions are cold in winter, Yunnan is one of the few mild and sunny places to escape the cold.

The terraced rice fields in Yuanyang transform into mirrors of golden hues, reflecting the subdued winter sun. In the historic town of Lijiang, snowcapped mountains form a stunning backdrop to the traditional Naxi architecture.

You might see black-headed gulls at Erhai Lake, which have traveled all the way from northern Russia to spend their winter there. You could also take advantage of the sunny weather to ride along the edge of Erhai Lake.

You could explore Shaxi Ancient Town and make a typical handicraft of the Bai ethnicity before enjoying a moderate hike along the medieval Tea Horse Road.

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5. Chengdu

December in Chengdu is brimming with vitality. Historical and cultural districts, such as Jinli and the Wide and Narrow Alleys, are bustling and laced with the mist and aroma of hot pot.

Even in winter, pandas remain active. Their thick fur insulates them from the cold, allowing you to witness them playing in the snow, climbing trees, and munching on bamboo in outdoor enclosures.

With fewer tourists, you could have a better experience when it comes to observing pandas. You could also join in a meaningful panda volunteer program.

Chengdu also offers exciting skiing experiences. You could 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.

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Costs and Crowds in December

December is the low travel season. But some winter destinations, such as Harbin and Hainan Island, have more tourists than usual. The cost of travel to these destinations would increase accordingly.

On Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, it would be best to book a restaurant in advance. Queues at restaurants in major cities increase because many young people go out to eat and shop, counting down to greet the New Year.

If you would like to have a Christmas dinner, please let us know. Your travel advisor would provide you with some restaurant suggestions or make a reservation for you.

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