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China Winter Travel Guide (Places to Go, Activities, Suggestions)

Winter is a cost-effective and less-crowded time to explore China. China has multiple winter attractions.

It has some fun and well-equipped ski resorts, beautiful wintry scenic areas, and places in south China that have mild weather all year round.

Some special winter festivals also add spice to the cool winter such as Harbin Ice and Snow Festival and the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).

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Use this page to plan your winter holiday. Our winter travel guide includes:

Top China Winter Destinations

Below is a list of China's prime winter destinations, from snow-covered landscape in North China to warm and fascinating subtropical South China.

1. Harbin — International Ice and Snow Festival

harbin ice and snow worldHarbin Ice and Snow Festival

The Ice and Snow Festival is undoubtedly Harbin's most famous attraction, held from January 5th to the end of February. During the festival, Harbin is changed into a world of ice sculptures.

Fanciful and elaborate ice sculptures in the shapes of animals, plants, buildings or motifs taken from legends sparkle in the frigid air in the Ice-Snow World and Zhaolin Park

Sun Island hosts a Snow Sculpture Exposition and is the location of the largest indoor ice and snow art museum.

Winter trips to Harbin often include the Siberian Tiger Park and nearby Yabuli Ski Resort, and a trip to see the enchanting rime scenery of Jilin.

Recommended Tours

2. Beijing — Winter Scenery and Spring Festival

beijing greatwall winter scenery The Great Wall of China covered in snow

Lakes, canals, and fountains are frequently frozen solid. Ice skating is very popular at the lakes in Beijing's parks. There are even bicycles designed to be ridden on the ice.

The nearby sections of the Great Wall remain open to visitors during the wintertime. Tourists enjoy climbing the Great Wall and viewing the winter landscape in peace without the crowds.

There are various cultural activities held in the temples and parks of Beijing during the Chinese New Year holiday usually from late January to early February. This is best time of the year to experience Chinese culture.

See more Beijing Winter Travel.

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3. Changbai Mountain — an Extraordinary Winter Resort

changbai mountain Changbai Mountain Resort

Winter is the most beautiful season at Changbai Mountain. The forest sea of ​​Changbai Mountain is white with snow and rime. The white waves of hot spring steam rise and fall in the wind and crystallize on the trees.

When Heavenly Lake, highest volcanic lake in China, is frozen and covered with snow, the azure sky contrasts with the white crater and dark crags. A beautiful ice waterfall hangs over a cliff of more than a thousand meters. Contact us if you are planning a trip to Mt. Changbai.

  • At Mt. Changbai, you can relax in a wonderful hot spring resort.
  • Enjoy the highest summit in Northeast China and abundant snow activities including skiing, sledding, winter rafting, and snowmobiling.

Recommended Tour

4. Northern Xinjiang — Boundless Snowscapes

Glittering rime hanging on the groves of birch trees, snow-covered glacial lakes, endless snowy vistas, and cabins deep in the snowy forests — that is winter in northern Xinjiang.

  • Travel to Kanas to see a pure white world. Villages are scattered in the boundless snowscapes, the morning mist rises from the streams…
  • Walk into a fairytale scene in Hemu Village, where grey birch forests are set against the silvery snow-capped mountains, and the cabins are scattered about glowing with a warm orange light.
  • Lying on China’s border with Kazakhstan, Baihaba Village holds primal natural ecology and ancient traditional culture. Snow adds to the mystery of the peaceful village.

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5. Yunnan — Mild/Warm Winter

xishuangbanna Tropical scenery in Xishuangbanna in winter

Yunnan is without doubt one of the most tempting travel destinations in China. Its varied landscapes, with terrain ranging from tropical rainforest to snow-capped peaks, never fails to allure even the most fastidious travelers. Winter travelers are fond of Yunnan because of its mild weather. 

Popular winter destinations in Yunnan include Dali, Lijiang, Xishuangbanna, and Tengchong.

Recommended Tours

 6-day Xishuangbanna tour

6. Sanya — for Leisurely Tropical Holidays

If you want a trip away from the cold in China's winter, Sanya is ideal. It's the warmest place in China in winter.

  • You can have fun in the sea and on the beaches.
  • Try some exciting watersports, like banana boating, water scootering, surfing, and sailing.
  • Fly over the forest by zipline and discover a tropical forest.
  • Shop for duty-free commodities.

Recommended Tours

6-day Sanya Wanning tour

7. Inner Mongolia — Snow Paradise, Nomad Culture, Naadam Festivities

reindeer in Inner Mongolia Get close to reindeers like Santa’s in Inner Mongolia.

With transport becoming more convenient, Inner Mongolia has become another popular winter destination, known for its boundless ice and snow scenery and primitive nomadic culture.

  • Drive/walk through vast snowscapes, go skiing in the traditional way, and try ice fishing in a snowy paradise.
  • Visit the last reindeer herder’s tribe in China and get close to reindeers like Santa’s.
  • Visit the remaining six families in China’s coldest village, feel their enthusiasm for their harsh lives, and find out how they fight against the extreme coldness.
  • Sleep on a traditional heated brick bed and work with local people to experience authentic Mongolian daily life.
  • Attend a winter Naadam (Ice and Snow Naadam) — experience horse riding on a snowfield, camel riding, Mongolian wrestling, archery, and more. In 2020, the Ice and Snow Naadam will held from December 23rd to 26th in Hulunbuir.

You can take flight to Hulunbuir Dongshan International Airport (HLD). From Shanghai, you can transit in Hohhot. From Beijing, there are direct flights available, which take about 2½ hours.

Based on your travel interests, 6–12 days are enough to enjoy the main highlights. Contact us for a unique Inner Mongolia snow feast, custom-designed for you.

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Top China Winter Activities

China offers some interesting and special activities in winter from natural sightseeing to romantic or ethic festivals. You can also choose winter destinations based on activities that interest you.

Appreciating Winter Scenery

yellow mountain winter The Yellow Mountains in winter

If you come from a region where it rarely snows, China’s beautiful snow scenery would be particularly worth seeing. If you want to take in some characteristically Chinese mountain scenery in the snow, then we recommend safer, more-developed locations, such as:

Recommended Tours

Skiing

skiing

Winter travelers to China are increasingly opting for China's ski resorts as an alternative diversion. Northeast China ski resorts and the ski resorts around Beijing (which are being improved markedly for the 2022 Winter Olympics) are the most popular among winter travelers. Recommended ski resorts include:

  • Yabuli Ski Resort — best ski resort in China
  • Nanshan Ski Resort — largest ski resort close to Beijing
  • Zhangjiakou Genting Ski Resort — a 2020 Winter Olympics venue
  • Bipenggou Ski Resort — the most beautiful ski resort near Chengdu

Recommended Tours

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Enjoying Colorful Winter Festivals

Harbin’s Ice Festival is world's biggest ice and snow sculpture event. It's a must for those who love walking in a winter wonderland.

The Miao and Dong minority peoples hold their own traditional celebrations in Guizhou to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Colorful dress, folk performances and interesting activities can be seen during January or February.

Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival in China. There are many cultural activities such as temple fairs, dragon dances, and lion dances in in some cities’ streets.

Naadam is one of the most important festivals in Inner Mongolia. You might have heard that it is held every summer around August. But did you know that there is a winter Naadam (Ice and Snow Naadam) as well?

In 2020, the Ice and Snow Naadam will held from December 23rd to 26th in Hulunbuir. During the festival, travelers can experience horse riding on a snowfield, camel riding, Mongolian wrestling, archery, and more. It is a good opportunity to feel how the local ethnics love their lands and enjoy their life.

Recommended Tours

Eating Winter Food

HotpotHotpot

Chinese people like to eat hotpot in winter, as eating hotpot can warm the body and improve circulation. Also eating hotpot is a great way to socialize. People gather around the pot, chatting, eating, drinking, and having fun.

Hotpot meals are especially favored in winter when outside activities like leisurely walks and sitting around in the parks are not so pleasant because of the cold weather. Chengdu is the best place to eat a hot pot.

Recommended Tour

5-day Chengdu Hailuogou tour

Winter Weather in China — It May Not Be What You Expect!

China is a vast country, and the weather in winter varies greatly from north to south, east to west. Below we summarize China's winter weather by region.

In Summary — Cooler (Cold) Weather with Much Less Rain

If you like it drier and not hot, winter might be preferable for you, as it is the driest time of the year all over China, particularly in the north, where a few snow flurries is all you’ll get.

Northeast China (the Extreme North)

rime scenery in northeast ChinaRime scenery in Jilin, Northeast China

Winters in northeastern China are long, frozen, and snowy. The province of Heilongjiang borders Russia and its capital, Harbin, is called 'Ice City'. January temperatures average -12°C (10°F) during the day, and plummet at night.

North China

Beijing experiences very cold, but usually dry, long winters. Winter begins in early November and extends into March. Average temperatures are below freezing, but frequent sunny days are perfect for sightseeing. The capital typifies northern China winter weather (including e.g. Xi'an).

Winter in Central/Southern China

Shanghai experiences milder weather than Beijing. The winter season is from December to February. Winters are moist, but there is little snow and days are overcast.

Temperatures usually stay above freezing, but will feel colder due to humidity. This is typical of central/southern China winter weather.

Tourists can enjoy popular southern attractions in the wintertime, as long as they pack plenty of warm clothing, and reserve heated hotel rooms. Few hotels south of the Yangtze turn on heating in the winter!

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Tropical China (the Extreme South)

daliDali in Yunnan province has very comfortable winter weather.

China’s far south falls within the tropics and these places don’t really experience a winter. "Winter" temperatures are quite mild, even warm

In fact going in the “winter” would be better time to visit these places for you if you don’t relish enduring the sweltering summer heat.

Visit Xishuangbanna for minorities and rain forest, Sanya and Haikou for tropical island scenery and beaches, and the thriving Pearl River cities of Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.

Recommended Tours

 7-day Kunming Dali Lijiang tour

Benefits for a China Winter Tour — Fewer Crowds, Lower Prices

China's low season is when tourism/travel in China is at an annual low. Prices are reduced to encourage off-season travel spending. It begins in November and ends in March (excluding Chinese New Year, when it seems that the whole nation is traveling).

Visiting China during the low season may be just the thing for you. Far less tourist crowding, cheaper hotels and flights, winter scenery and activities, and a cool (cold), dry (drier) climate may interest you.

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Fewer Crowds

Normally, there are fewer travelers as most Chinese don't travel during this time for various reasons. You will have more space and time to enjoy your trip to the full.

Most of the most popular destinations in China (the Great Wall, Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guilin, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Xiamen...) are still very accessible in the low season, but without the seething crowds of Chinese tour groups!

3-day Xiamen Tulou tour

Great Price on Hotels and Airlines

Fewer travelers means most hotels and airlines offer great deals to attract customers; some airlines even offer 80% off flights. Attractions and resorts often sell low-season entrance tickets.

If you believe in the saying, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”, then China is yours for a bargain in the low season. The colder weather is a trade-off against lower prices for hotels, transport, and even gate tickets.

How to Pack for China Winter Travel

Our travel specialists suggest you check the weather and packing tips for each of your China destinations before you depart. Generally speaking, for the north, such as Beijing, heavy overcoats etc. are needed; but for the southeast coast, like Guangzhou, a light coat is enough. See our China Weather pages.

beijing weather in january

Our Most Popular China Winter Tours

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Our most recommended customizable ice and snow tours:

Our top recommended customizable warm winter tours:

See more China Winter Holiday Tours or contact us if you have any questions or requirements to design a tour.

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