FAQ - What time is the best for traveling in China? - China Circulation Travel Service

What time is the best for traveling in China?

Generally, the best time to visit most of China is the early Summer and Fall. But if you want to visit the Ice Festival in the North, January is the best.

When's the best time to visit Europe? North America? Latin America? Like them, China's such a vast and diverse place that you're sure to find great things to do and amazing places to be no matter when or where you go. For example, if you don't like Beijing in January, hop on a plane to the beaches of Sanya, semi-tropical Guangzhou, the jungles of southern Yunnan or temperate Hong Kong. Or make the best of the cold by hitting the ski slopes in Sichuan or Heilongjiang and visiting the famous Harbin Ice Festival. With so much variation, it's best to get a clear idea of where you want to go in China and plan accordingly. Check out our growing list of destination overviews for information specific to where you want to go.

That said, there are indeed high and low seasons. If your itinerary takes you north, whether you're following the Silk Road or delving into imperial history in Beijing and Xi'an, you'd be best off in fall or spring, when it's not too hot and not too cold and skies are at their clearest. If you're headed to Tibet, late summer and early fall are best. Yunnan's Kunming, known as the "City of Eternal Spring," is, as advertised, pleasant year round. If you have a thing against crowds, China's packed eastern provinces may not be your cup of tea at any time of year, but you'll definitely want to steer clear of the two Golden Weeks, when Chinese travel en masse, cramming into planes and trains (and driving prices up). The Golden Weeks take place during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), which varies depending on the Chinese lunar calendar and following the October 1st National Day holiday.

Though climate varies locally, there are major cycles that govern the weather over much of China. In the east and south, the cyclical monsoon system dominates, pushing hot wet air over land in late spring and early summer, kicking out a handful of dangerous typhoons later in the summer and making for chilly and damp winters, with fall enjoying the clearest and driest weather. On the other hand, the northern plains are swept by Siberian cold fronts in winter and can experience scorching summers. The mountains of the southwest, including the mighty Tibetan plateau, keep southern moisture from the Gobi area and the dry grasslands from Xinjiang to Inner Mongolia, leading to hot dry summers and uncomfortably cold winters. If you're traveling a significant distance or staying through the turn of seasons, you'll want to be prepared for nearly anything.

Mother Nature can be nasty to China, whether it's perennially flooding river valleys or dust storms scouring Beijing. When the country's infamous industrial pollution is added to the picture, you can expect a few days in major cities where you'll likely want to hit a museum, catch a movie or otherwise hide out from the smog. However, China is showing signs of beginning to clean up its environmental act—especially with the 2008 Beijing Olympics on deck (see the Q&A on "losing face") and in response to accelerating global warming—but it can still be a rough place to catch your breath. If you have asthma or other respiratory conditions, we recommend bringing extra medication along, just in case. See our Q&A on Health & Safety for more on coping with the less-than-healthful byproducts of China's industrial explosion.


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