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Home China Travel Guide How to Plan a Winter Trip to China 2023/2024

How to Plan a Winter Trip to China 2023/2024

If you’re considering a winter getaway, China beckons with a tapestry of experiences and cultural wonders that come to life under a blanket of snow. Planning a winter tour to China allows you to embrace a season of festivity, natural beauty, and enchanting traditions. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential aspects of your winter adventure, from understanding why winter is the perfect time to visit China to delving into the weather conditions, must-see attractions, ideal trip duration, and the captivating festivals that make this season truly exceptional. So, let’s embark on your journey to discover the magic of China in winter.


Why Visit China in Winter

If you’re contemplating a visit to China, don’t overlook the charms of winter. Here are some compelling reasons to consider experiencing this remarkable country during the colder months:

  • Serenity and Savings: Winter is the quiet season for tourism in China, which means you can relish its iconic attractions minus the typical hustle and bustle. Forget about long lines and overcrowded spots. Moreover, you’ll find more affordable accommodations and flight options, allowing you to maximize your savings.
  • Scenic Beauty and Vibrant Festivals: Winter unveils a different side of China, especially in the northern regions where you can feast your eyes on snow-covered mountains, frozen lakes, and exquisite ice sculptures. It’s also the season for some of China’s most celebrated festivals, like the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, and the spectacular Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.
  • Deep Dive into Culture and History: Winter provides an ideal opportunity to delve into China’s rich culture and history, which span thousands of years. You can explore awe-inspiring ancient heritage sites like the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and the Forbidden City. Plus, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in the diverse customs, cuisine, arts, and crafts of different regions and ethnic groups.

Related reading: 7 Reasons to Visit China in Winter


What’s the Weather Like in China in Winter

China’s winter weather exhibits significant diversity, largely contingent on the region you choose to explore. China’s climate can be categorized into five distinct types, ranging from tropical monsoon to alpine cold. As a general rule, the northern areas experience chilly and arid conditions, while the southern regions tend to be more temperate and humid.

In Beijing, for instance, you can anticipate an average low temperature of -9°C during January. Meanwhile, the southern coastal city of Sanya offers a much milder experience with an average high temperature of 27°C in the same month.

Winter officially spans from December to February across most of China, although some southern locales experience shorter, more moderate winters. Moreover, precipitation levels decrease as you journey from the southeastern areas to the northwest.

If you’re seeking a winter wonderland with snow and ice activities, cities like Harbin and other northern destinations beckon. On the other hand, if you long for the warmth of the sun and sandy beaches, consider a visit to Sanya or other southern coastal cities.

The winter temperature in popular winter destinations in China:

Destination Winter Temperature Range Recommended Clothing
Harbin -24°C to -9°C Down jacket, woolen hat, gloves, scarf, boots
Beijing -8°C to 5°C Coat, sweater, jeans, thermal underwear, shoes
Xian -4°C to 8°C Jacket, sweater, jeans, shoes
Huangshan -10°C to 5°C Down jacket, woolen hat, gloves, scarf, hiking boots
Mount Emei -6°C to 10°C Down jacket, woolen hat, gloves, scarf, hiking boots
Sanya 18°C to 27°C T-shirt, shorts, sandals, sunglasses


Top Things to Do in China in Winter

When winter blankets China, the country transforms into a magical wonderland with an array of captivating activities and destinations. Here’s a curated list of top experiences to savor during this enchanting season:

  • Harbin Ice and Snow Festival: Head to Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China, and witness the world’s grandest ice and snow festival. From late December to late February, be amazed by breathtaking ice sculptures, snow carvings, luminous ice lanterns, and thrilling ice slides. Dive into the excitement with skiing, skating, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.
  • Lijiang and Kunming’s Sunshine: In the southwest of Yunnan Province, discover the delightful destinations of Lijiang and Kunming. These regions offer a mild and sunny winter experience adorned with colorful flowers and lush greenery. Immerse yourself in the rich ethnic culture, explore ancient towns, and marvel at natural wonders like Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Stone Forest, and Dianchi Lake.
  • Snow-Capped Great Wall: The iconic Great Wall of China takes on a serene majesty when blanketed in snow. Escape the crowds and hike along less-traveled sections like Mutianyu, Jinshanling, or Simatai. Enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  • Buddhist Temples in Snow: In the heart of Sichuan Province, Mount Emei stands as one of China’s sacred Buddhist mountains. Explore the ancient temples on the mountain, including Baoguo Temple, Wannian Temple, and Qingyin Pavilion, and be enchanted by their tranquility and their harmony with the winter landscape.
  • The Bund’s Architectural Extravaganza: Along the Huangpu River in Shanghai, stroll the Bund, a waterfront promenade graced with a fascinating collection of historical buildings showcasing diverse architectural styles from different countries and eras. Witness the stunning contrast between the old and the new, and enjoy the dazzling night view of the skyscrapers across the river.
  • Snowy Splendor of Yellow Mountain: Venture to Anhui Province in eastern China to witness the beauty of Yellow Mountain, renowned for its four wonders: peculiar peaks, ancient pines, the sea of clouds, and hot springs. Winter unveils a mesmerizing view of snow-draped peaks and pine trees, while hot springs provide a blissful escape from the chill.
  • China Snow Town’s Fairy-Tale Charm: Nestled in Heilongjiang Province in the northeast, China Snow Town is a real-life fairy-tale village. It’s blanketed in snow for over seven months a year and offers an opportunity to experience northeastern culture, cuisine, and local life. Have a blast with a variety of snow activities amid its snowy, mountainous surroundings.
  • Skiing at Yabuli Ski Resort: Located in Heilongjiang Province, Yabuli Ski Resort is the largest and best ski resort in China. It has hosted prestigious international and national winter sports events and offers a range of ski slopes suitable for different skill levels. The resort is well-equipped with ski lifts, cable cars, hotels, and restaurants, making it a perfect winter destination for snow sports enthusiasts.

Related reading: Top 10 Places to Visit in China in Winter


How Many Days to Plan for a Winter Trip to China

The question of how many days to spend on a winter excursion to China doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all answer. It hinges on your inclinations, budget, and the experiences you’re seeking. Nevertheless, we can offer some recommendations based on well-loved winter destinations and activities in China.

Harbin’s Frosty Delights (3-4 days): If you’re yearning for the enchanting world of ice and snow festivals, intricate sculptures, and icy adventures in Harbin, consider dedicating a minimum of 3 to 4 days to fully immerse yourself. While there, don’t miss the chance to explore the nearby China Snow Town, a picturesque snow-covered wonderland that boasts both stunning landscapes and rich local culture.

Changbai Mountain’s Natural Grandeur (3-4 days): To appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of Changbai Mountain, one of China’s top 10 scenic mountains, you’d want to set aside an additional 3 to 4 days. This magnificent destination offers a range of activities, from hiking and skiing to soothing hot springs and serene ice fishing. Revel in the sight of frozen waterfalls and lakes that make this place truly exceptional.

Of course, China has an abundance of other winter attractions and activities, such as skiing in Beijing, marveling at the rime in Jilin, exploring ancient towns in Yunnan, or partaking in Spring Festival celebrations across various cities. You have the flexibility to choose the ones that best align with your interests and the time you have at your disposal.

In general, we’d recommend allocating a minimum of 7 to 10 days for your winter journey in China. This timeframe allows you to savor the highlights, partake in local culture, and fully relish your chosen experiences. However, remember that your itinerary can be tailored to your desires and requirements.

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Popular Festivals in China in Winter

These winter festivals in China provide an opportunity to immerse yourself in the country’s rich cultural tapestry and create lasting memories of this enchanting season. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of these joyous and significant celebrations.

Below are some of the most popular winter festivals that you won’t want to miss:

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival): The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, stands as the most significant and exhilarating festival in China. Celebrated with immense enthusiasm, it typically falls between late January and mid-February. It marks a time of family reunions, grand feasts, and dazzling displays of fireworks, all to welcome the coming year with open hearts.

Lantern Festival: Following the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival takes center stage on the 15th day of the first lunar month. This captivating celebration is marked by the illumination of lanterns that light up the night sky. People also engage in riddle-solving and indulge in sweet glutinous rice balls, making it a delightful and auspicious event.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival: Every year, the city of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province hosts one of the world’s largest and most magnificent ice and snow festivals. This breathtaking event showcases a mesmerizing array of ice sculptures, snow creations, and intricate ice lanterns. It’s also a playground for various winter activities that promise endless fun and wonder.

Yunnan Torch Festival: Celebrated by the Yi ethnic minority group in Yunnan Province, the Yunnan Torch Festival unfolds on the 24th or 25th day of the sixth lunar month. It’s a time when torches are set ablaze to ward off evil spirits. This unique festival offers a glimpse into the rich cultural diversity of China and the customs of its ethnic communities.

Labrang Monlam Prayer Festival: Nestled in Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province, this grand Buddhist festival ranks among the largest in China. Devotees gather to chant prayers, engage in deep meditation, and participate in various religious activities. It’s a tranquil and spiritually enriching experience that allows visitors to connect with the spiritual heritage of the country.

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