Planning ahead for grand adventures in China
More than 8,700 miles of coastline hems in the natural and manmade wonders of China, enfolding mountains, deserts and grasslands interwoven with rivers and lakes. With such varied terrain, there's more than one "best" time to visit China.
Finding the best time to visit China
Peak travel season in China runs from May through August, but that doesn't mean that's the best time to go. Ditch the tourist crowds by traveling to China in the shoulder seasons. By March, the cold northern regions have thawed from winter's chill, and summer monsoons don't arrive until May, making this one of the best times to travel throughout the country. Monsoons dwindle in September and end in October. Winter doesn't set in until December, so grab the November window to travel during autumn months.
Head to the Great Wall of China during spring and summer when weather is mild and crowds are minimal. Go during the week and avoid holidays, as citizens love visiting the wall on their days off.
Tourist seasons in China
China's high seasons coincide with university vacations and national holidays in addition to tourist travel. Winter high season runs from January through February, and summer busy months cover June through September. Holidays that bring crowds include days around Labor Day, which is May 1 in China and National Day, October 1. Spring Festival falls between late January and mid-February. A three-day celebration in the middle of the week allows workers to combine their time off for a 7-day vacation during these three prime vacation weeks known as the "Golden Weeks." Besides travel crowds and higher hotel prices, expect banks, government offices and many other businesses to close during the holidays.
Weather in China
Like most of the world, China experiences four basic seasons. Check the climate conditions for each city on your itinerary before traveling to make sure you pack the right clothing.
Autumn: If it's the best weather you're after, autumn is the most comfortable of the year. Temperatures range from 50 to 72 degrees F throughout the country, and rain tapers off.
Although spring and autumn are the best seasons for weather and fewer crowds in Beijing, the best time to go is during September. This is the only month of the year when ancient paintings at the Beijing Palace Museum are on display because of the mild temperature and low humidity.
Spring temperatures are similar to autumn at 50 to 72 degrees throughout the country. Prepare for lingering winter blasts in some regions by dressing in layers to adapt from wintry morning chill to the hot noonday sun.
Summer runs from June through August. Discover (or not) why Chongqing, Nanchang, Tianjin and Wuhan are called the four furnaces. Temps can top 93 degrees F in August, but it's not a dry heat: With 73 percent humidity, it feels more like 114 degrees. Head somewhere far inland, like Urumqi, to find relief with temps in the mid-70s and humidity that's just 40 percent.
Winter: Don't rule it out. Although Urumqi and Harbin can dip to nearly 20 below on a cold day, winter festivals take the chill off. Check out the Harbin Winter Ice Lantern Festival that runs from December through February, for example. Marvel at thousands of ice sculptures including large size renditions of the Great Wall of China and palace buildings.
Pack for a range of weather if traveling China's Golden Route. Visiting Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Guilin is tantamount to visiting Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami and Atlanta.