Choosing the best time to visit China and Hong Kong is important. Prospective travelers should recognize that different parts of China have widely varying seasons, and we will do our best to guide you through these.
We’ll share the best time of year to visit China and Hong Kong, as well what festivals and locations to focus on.
China is an enormous country featuring everything from jungles and deserts to snow-capped mountains, so deciding when is the best time to visit China will depend on where you want to go.
For many the best time of year to visit China is September and October, when visitors can avoid the worst of both summer and winter. The spring months of March, April and May are excellent times to travel as well, especially in the south, where winter ends early but summer hasn’t arrived yet.
Hong Kong is much simpler, as the weather is generally clear and cool from October to early December. Winters are mild and relatively dry, while summers are humid and wet, and also bring typhoons.
China’s seasons vary widely depending on the region, but there are four distinct seasons nationwide.
Monsoon winds are the primary drivers of weather in China.
The East Asian Monsoon carries warm, wet air up from the south during summer, bringing the bulk of yearly precipitation to most of the country.
During winter the Siberian anticyclone brings cold, much drier weather to the country, though temperatures vary dramatically.
The northern reaches of Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia feature a subarctic climate, while Hainan Island in the far south is tropical and the Tibetan Plateau to the west is alpine.
Overall rating: ★★★
This will depend on where you are visiting.
Northeast and far western China are still very cold at the start of spring, so you will need plenty of layers, including a winter coat.
The south, meanwhile, is warm and humid, so light clothing is recommended. By late spring the north is warmer, though you should still bring a light jacket.
Early spring is a great time to visit southern China, as the weather is warm and the monsoon hasn’t arrived yet.
Wuyuan prefecture in Jiangxi Province is known for its ancient villages which provide examples of Ming- and Qing-style architecture. This time of year the villages are ablaze with blossoming pink and white peach flowers, as well as yellow rape flowers.
Summer arrives on Hainan Island before anywhere else in China, and spring offers opportunities for visitors to hit the beach and go swimming or diving.
Be aware of the Labor Day holiday, which falls on May 1. Many businesses are closed and transportation will be busy, while popular destinations will be overrun with domestic tourists
The Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping, Festival usually falls on April 4 or 5.
During this festival people visit the burial grounds of their ancestors to offer remembrance while sweeping their tombs and offering food, tea, wine and more to their forebears.
People across the country go on family outings, and a popular activity is flying kites shaped like characters from Chinese opera.
Overall rating: ★★
Much of the country is warm and humid, so light clothing such as shirts and shorts would suffice.
Locations at higher altitudes, such as Tibet, are still cool at night so a jacket would be a good idea. Don’t forget your rain gear and a sturdy umbrella.
Summer brings out the crowds in China, as students are on holiday, but it is a great time to travel throughout the country.
Beaches in places such as Xiamen and Sanya are great for escaping the heat.
Kunming, known as the “Spring City,” offers mild year-round weather and easy access to several great destination including Lijiang, with its UNESCO-certified Old Town; and Dali, famous for its history, good weather and relaxed vibe.
Yunnan Province as a whole is worth exploring in the summer, as the weather it at its best and there are numerous areas worth exploring, such as the Stone Forest inside Shilin National Scenic Area.
Yangshuo in Guangxi Province, home to incredible limestone karst formations, is great to visit in June, as are Beijing and the region around Shanghai.
Experience the great outdoors in gorgeous regions like Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, where summers are mild and much less rain falls than in the south.
Overall rating: ★★★
Warm clothing for the northeast and northwest, as low temperatures will fall towards freezing by November. Most of the south will still be warm during the day. Bring an umbrella or rain gear just in case.
This is the best season to visit China, as the summer crowds have dispersed and cool, dry weather spreads through much of the country.
Beautiful fall foliage makes this a very colorful time to travel, especially in the region around Beijing and the Yellow Mountains in Anhui Province. Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan Province and Xinjiang are excellent autumn destinations, as are the major cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an.
Visiting the Great Wall when it is surrounded by a riot of golden and red foliage is unbeatable.
Fragrant Hills Park, located in the suburbs of Beijing, hosts the Red Leaf Festival every October, drawing visitors to the fiery autumnal leaves of the surrounding forests.
Farther south, the terraced rice fields of Longji in Guilin turn golden with the arrival of fall, creating spectacular ribbons of color throughout the region.
Fall also features the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the biggest holidays in China. Held on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Han calendar, the festival celebrates the fall harvest and features traditions such as lighting lanterns and lion dances, especially in southern China.
This public holiday gives visitors the chance to see important Chinese traditions, though keep in mind that many businesses will be closed and transportation is busy.
Overall rating: ★
Very warm clothing for the north and higher altitudes in the west. Southern areas like Hainan and Shenzen have mild winters and coats aren’t necessary.
If you can handle the cold, winter is a good time to visit China as it is the low season and prices are cheaper. Crowds are not an issue, except for the period around the Lunar New Year.
Visiting southern China during winter is a good way to experience the region while avoiding the summer heat. Xishuangbanna, Sanya, Haikou and Hong Kong all feature mild weather and beautiful outdoor scenery. This also holds true for Zhangjiajie, Guangdong Province and Yunnan’s Yuanyang and Luoping regions.
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is a major highlight of winter in China, though visitors need to bundle up.
The world’s biggest winter festival, held from late December through February, draws millions of visitors to see enormous, elaborate sculptures carved from ice. Temperatures in Harbin can plummet to -25 C (-13 F) even without wind chill, so be sure to pack sub-zero clothing.
Winter is also a great time to visit China’s natural hot springs, such as Zhongshan in Guangdong Province and Baekdu Mountain in the northeast.
The summer monsoon begins in April or May, with the first provinces to feel its effects including Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan.
From June, the rains move northward, bringing heavy rain to southern and central China. July and August are the wettest months in northern China, and by the end of October the monsoon largely departs from the mainland. The northwest isn’t impacted by the monsoon at all, while western China remains relatively dry even during the wet season.
Traveling during the monsoon season is certainly still possible, though cruises on rivers like the Yangtze may be cancelled if there is flooding.
The southeast sees by far the most rain, so outdoor activities in this region will be dependent on how willing you are to get wet.
Visiting areas like Tibet, Xian and the far north would be smart during the monsoon, as they are drier. Also keep in mind that typhoons can impact the country, especially along the southeast coast.
Typhoon season runs from May to December, though July through September is the most active period. Guangdong and Fujian Provinces are the most likely to be impacted by typhoons, but especially powerful storms can cause damage well inland.
Check weather forecasts during this time of year in order to avoid having your plans ruined by a typhoon.
Hong Kong is generally mild, though it does have distinct seasons. Winters are comfortable and generally dry, while summers are hot, humid and wet.
Overall rating: ★★
Low temperatures can still be cool, especially in early spring, so a jacket is recommended. Rain gear is a must, particularly in late spring.
On warm days a visit to one of Hong Kong’s many beaches is a great escape from the humidity.
The Hong Kong Arts Month takes place every March with an array of activities and installations held across the city.
The Birthday of the Buddha also takes place during spring, when devotees visit Buddhist temples to bathe statues of him. Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island hosts a particularly grand ceremony.
Overall rating: ★
Warm-weather clothing, including a rain jacket and umbrella.
Summer rains make it difficult to enjoy Hong Kong’s outdoor attractions, but the urban areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are well-connected via the MTR system, allowing visitors to get around while minimizing time spent outside.
A summer highlight is the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, featuring traditional dragon boat races and other exciting festivities around stunning Victoria Harbor.
Thousands of the best dragon boat racers in the world compete on the water, while non-racers can enjoy cold drinks and live entertainment at BeerFest.
Overall rating: ★★★
Comfortable clothing for daytime and a jacket for the evening, as temperatures can fall to 16 C (60 F) in the evening in December.
Autumn is a great time to take advantage of Hong Kong’s outdoor offerings, especially hiking and camping.
Lantau Island features parks, trails and beaches that create a perfect escape from the bustle of Kowloon.
The New Territories also feature a large network of hiking trails that make it hard to believe the skyline of Victoria Harbor is just a few kilometers away.
The Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, held every October, brings top-notch food, drink and entertainment to Victoria Harbor.
Hong Kong is justifiably famous for its food, and this festival gives foodies even more reason to visit.
Overall rating: ★★★
A jacket and long pants, as temperatures are mild even during the day. An umbrella just in case, especially in February.
Winter is also a great season for hiking, though it’s probably a bit too chilly for most beach-goers.
This is a busy time for shopping in Hong Kong, and malls in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island will be decked out for the holidays.
The Lunar New Year occurs in winter, usually in late January or early February.
Staying in Hong Kong during the festival is a great way to see how people celebrate this very important holiday, though keep in mind that many people travel home so transportation and business hours are impacted.
The humidity begins to increase in March as the monsoon nears, and the wet season peaks from April to June, though heavy rain be expected through September.
June has an average of almost three weeks of rainy days on average.
The monsoon tapers off sharply once October arrives.
Hong Kong is affected by typhoons every year, with impacts ranging from direct hits to slight blows. The season runs from June through October, though July, August and September are the most active months.
Typhoons can occur outside of this season, but they are rare.
If you are in Hong Kong when a typhoon hits, pay close attention to official announcements, as public transportation can be shut down and businesses will close.
The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in China and Hong Kong, and while seeing the traditional celebrations which accompany the holiday is very interesting, travel in this time period is extremely difficult.
Nearly everyone tries to visit their hometown for the holiday during a period known as Chunyun.
This creates the largest annual human migration in the world, with almost 3 billion passenger journeys recorded during the holiday in 2016.
This overloads transportation, making train, road and air travel very difficult. Hotel prices also increase during the holiday. The Mid-Autumn Festival isn’t as massive, but prices may be higher and many people travel domestically as well.
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival begins in early January and lasts a month. This is the largest ice and snow festival in the world, featuring huge ice sculptures and winter activities around frigid Harbin.
The Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, gives visitors a glimpse into the importance of ancestors in Chinese culture.
The Huangyaguan Great Wall Marathon allows participants to actually run on the Great Wall of China, one of the great wonders of the world. Around a quarter of the run takes place on the wall, and runners must climb 3,700 steps during this section of the course.
The Double Seventh Festival, also known as the Qixi Festival, is China’s Valentine’s Day. This ancient festival is based on a romantic legend involving a weaver girl and an ox herd. The festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, which occurs in August.
The Shanghai International Music Fireworks Festival takes place in late September at the city’s Century Park. Every year six fireworks companies from around the world compete to create the most incredible fireworks display, all set to the backdrop of Shanghai’s futuristic skyline.
We’d love to hear about your experiences in these amazing locations, so please share your travel stories with us!