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China Weather in January

January is the coldest month in China. Large parts of China are at the peak of severe winter weather except locations in South China such as Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Hainan Island, and Nanning. These places never really get cold and are comfortable winter escapes for people from colder latitudes.

Snow falls in North China (Harbin, Beijing, Tianjin), and it might feel even colder still in Central China because humidity is high.

Great Wall in winterOn the Beijing Great Wall in winter

North and Northeast China — frigid

— Beijing, Datong, Hohhot, Harbin…

Snow falls sometimes in North China, and snow usually accumulates the thickest on the ground by the end of the month. But there is little snow because North China is dry.

Clothing: You'll need an extra thick coat and layers of clothing to stay warm, gloves and hat, long underwear, and water resistant shoes with good traction.

West China — frigid

— Xinjiang, Qinghai, Dunhuang, Xi’an, Tibet…

January is not a good time to travel in Xinjiang because it is simply too cold with temperatures much below freezing with heavy snow and forbidding conditions.

Oxygen levels are low in Lhasa because the weather is cold. Due to the high altitude, it feels warm when it is sunny. It snows only a little about once a month. Tourist travel might be closed during the Losar Festival.

The main ancient sites and museums in Xi'an can still be visited, but it is very cold.

Clothing: Bring your coat, gloves, and hat. Dress in layers.

Wulingyuan in winterWulingyuan, Zhangjiajie in the snow

East China — damp and cold

— Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Huangshan…

Windy, humid, damp weather drives people inside and most tourists to other places in January. Shanghai experiences an average temperatures not much above freezing.

Clothing: Coat, rain gear, and water resistant shoes.

Central — chilly

— Changsha, Wuhan, Zhangjiajie

January's weather is freezing and cold, its snows several times in the month, and ice and snow is often on the ground even in areas south of the Yangtze. Because of the high humidity it might feel even colder than Beijing to the north.

Clothing: Overcoat and layers of clothing to stay warm, gloves and hat, and water resistant shoes with good traction.

The South — pleasant cool weather

— Guilin, Nanning, Hainan, Guangzhou, Hong Kong…

South China generally has pleasant winter with plentiful sunshine, but Guilin feels cold because of high humidity although it almost never freezes. It rains 16 days of the month, but warmly dressed, you can enjoy your time at the attractions and on the river cruise.

In Hong Kong in January, the weather is pleasant and mild. January is the driest month of the year, so sightseeing is all the easier and more enjoyable under the sun.

Clothing: A thin coat or jacket and rain gear are enough.

The Southwest — cool dry days, cold nights

— Dali, Lijiang, Xishuangbanna, Kunming, Chengdu…

Many areas of Yunnan Province and Sichuan Province have pleasant winter weather with sunshine, but high altitude areas are frigid. January is comfortable and warm during the day around the Yunnan region — Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Xishuangbanna, but it drops to freezing or near freezing at night except in tropical Xishuangbanna.

Clothing: Dress in layers with a coat and head covering for the night.

Average January Weather Data for Major Tourist Cities

Press the links to see the cities' climate and local current forecast.

Cities Average High Average Low Rainy Days Precipitation
Beijing 2°C (36°F) -9°C (16°F) 2 2mm (0")
Xi’an 5°C (41°F) -4°C (25°F) 4 7mm (½")
Shanghai 8°C (46°F) 2°C (36°F) 11 76mm (3")
Hangzhou 8°C (46°F) 1°C (34°F) 12 73mm (3")
Chengdu 9°C (48°F) 3°C (37°F) 7 8mm (½")
Guilin 12°C (54°F) 5°C (41°F) 16 63mm (2½")
Kunming 15°C (59°F) 2°C (36°F) 4 16mm (½")

Why Visit China in January?

  • Except during the Spring Festival, it is the low travel season. Travel costs are lower, businesses offer bargains, and attractions are less crowded.
  • January is the best time of the year if you are fond of winter sports and winter scenery. Ski resorts in North China are at their best thanks to the severe cold.
  • Chinese New Year sometimes takes place in this month. Many cultural activities present the best time of the year to discover Chinese culture.
  • Mild weather in the south: For those taking winter vacations, south China is a pleasant escape from frosty weather. Outdoor activities and sightseeing are a delight.

Disadvantages: Cold and the Spring Festival Holiday Rush

  • It is extremely cold in North China. It is cold and damp across Central China, and parts of southern China too.
  • Spring Festival travel issues: If the Spring Festival vacation period falls in late January, there are big crowds at attractions and a glut of passengers on trains and flights across the country. So it is best to make arrangements well ahead of time. China Highlights can do this for you. Read more about the Spring Festival Travel Season Rush.

Top January Destinations

yabuliYabuli Ski Resort
  • Harbin: Harbin is recommended for its Ice and Snow Festival and nearby ski resorts. Harbin has one of China's best ski resorts called Yabuli Ski Resort.
  • Beijing: Visit historical sites. Today, there are more than 10 ski resorts you could enjoy winter sports at too. See Ski Resorts in Beijing.
  • Hainan Island seaside escapes: Once little visited by foreign tourists, the sunny weather and beaches attract foreign holiday makers. See Beaches in Hainan.
  • The Pearl River Delta: Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen have warm/mild winters.
  • Yunnan: Wintering in Yunnan Province in southwestern China is generally pleasant except for the mountain areas. Kunming, the Spring City, and the tropical rainforest of Xishuangbanna are recommended.

Check out The Best 6 Places to Visit in January.

Hong Kong Chinese New YearHong Kong Chinese New Year fireworks

Festivals Add Color to Winter

Chinese New Year and the festivals of some ethnic groups are winter highlights.

Chinese Spring Festival: This festival is China's most popular. It falls in January 1 year out of 3. Granted a week of holiday, most Chinese just want to go home. Then many travel.

Tibetan New Year Festival: Tibetan New Year, also known as Losar, is the most important festival in the Tibetan calendar. It falls in January sometimes. Read more about the Tibetan Losar Festival.

There are many festivals and events in January.

Most Popular China Tours for January

You can choose between spring-like weather or winter weather in China. You can enjoy outdoor fun such as hiking in the south or skiing in the north. Pack your bag and come with us to explore the beauty of China. Below are our suggested tours for your inspiration. Modify these tours as you wish.

If you want more suggestions and tips on a China trip, please see How to Plan Your First Trip to China for inspiration.

Weather and Things to Do in China's Cities in January

China Climate Information by Month