Top 10 Winter Travel Destinations in China
China - A Winter Wonderland Destination
Exotic, enticing, and filled with unique experiences, China beckons the traveler to immerse in a variety of activities and adventures in wintertime. You can take your pick depending upon your weather preference, from snow-filled and bone-chilling temperatures in the north to the more temperate conditions in the south of China. But no matter where you spend your vacation, winter brings one of the most dazzling and significant festivals of the country, celebrated with fireworks, lighting of lanterns, gift-giving and food fiestas - the Chinese Lunar New Year - to the decorated streets of cities, towns, and villages of China.
Noteworthy Information A Word of Caution
Be prepared for very large crowds if you plan to travel at the Chinese New Year. It is a 15-day event of which 7-8 are public holidays. Millions of Chinese travel domestically and locally during the first half to be with family. Road and rail transit systems are packed to the hilt and it is unwise to plan travel as a tourist within China during this time. Restaurants and shops have limited hours. Make all your bookings well in advance. This is, however, a good time to visit Beijing as the absence of local crowds gives you a leisurely experience of the Forbidden City and other tourist attractions of Beijing.
Top 10 Winter Travel Destinations in China
To travel is to enhance one's life experience and witness a cultural smorgasbord of lifestyle and traditions. Chinese history is rich with ancient gems of philosophical thinking such as Taoism and Confucianism and has evolved through a period of 5000 years to modern day China. Its society's fabric has been woven from yarn that has been spun through five stages - primitive, slave, feudal, semi-feudal, semi-colonial and socialist.
Now emerging as one of the most progressive countries of the East, China offers tourists a chance to uncover the mysteries and treasures of this ancient and increasingly flourishing land. All the way from the very north to the south of this vast country, winter tours China is an exhilarating and varied experience.
1 - Beijing's Winter Charms
Besides the fact that Beijing opens the door to China's formidable history and is a cultural center reflecting the many nuances of Chinese heritage and the center stage of its political and economic scene, it is also a city that brings you to a fascinating China winter tour. In addition, it is during winter that Beijing's Temple Fairs come to life. These are an exponent of Chinese culture expressed through cultural heritage projects, performance arts, wrestling, judo, chess, lion dances and much more.
Chinese Lantern Festival Prepare to be dazzled in this wondrous city in February, concluding the Chinese New Year (Starts on Feb. 10th, 2024) festivities, by the brilliance of colorful lanterns and ice sculptures that attract multitudes of tourists. The sub-zero temperatures in which the Lantern Festival is celebrated does not deter families, young and old, from enjoying this breathtaking event. Recommended as part of China winter tour.
Chinese Lantern Festival(Yuanxiao Festival in Chinese)
Lantern festivals are celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese New year and concludes the New Year festivities. Every house and street is decorated with red lanterns onto which riddles are hung to be solved for prizes. Eating of rice flour dumplings known as yuanxiao is a major part of this tradition. Fireworks mark the end of the festivities.
A Walk Along the Snow Covered Mutianyu Great Wall:
limb atop this quiet, far-from-the-madding crowd section of the Great Wall for a walk back in time through history when the watchtowers were used to guard the capital. Overlooking densely forested surroundings, the Mutianyu Wall gives you a choice of climbing 4000 steps, a chairlift, or a gondola for ascent and descent.
Besides the winter festivals and nearby skiing resorts, Beijing offers the tourist numerous sightseeing options and places to visit. Discover "Forbidden City" - the imperial palace complex that houses 980 buildings in the very heart of Beijing and has been the seat of political and ceremonial power since about 1420, While visiting the Forbidden City in some winter days, you'll have the opportunity to admire the stunning snowy landscapes, particularly at the Meridian Gate Square and the Southeast Corner Tower when looking out from Donghuamen street.
Take a stroll through a hutong -- a neighborhood or traditional courtyard formed by narrow alleys or streets -- found commonly in Beijing at one time. Enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine, and have a nightcap at the Legation Quarter.
Teatime, of course, is good anytime in Beijing, or any other part of China. There are at least 170 teahouses in Beijing serving traditional or modern tea, and often stage performances for entertainment.
Best time to visit Beijing: With long and hot summer, dry and cold winter, spring (April, May) and autumn (Sep., Oct.) is the most comfortable time to visit Beijing. There are a few considerations to bear in mind when planning a trip to this capital city. During peak travel time (summer holidays) and national public holidays domestic travelers tend to flock into Beijing in tens of thousands. We highly suggest you avoid if possible or prepare to be crowded.
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2 - Skiing Down the Snow-clad Mountains - Yabuli Ski Resort
Another one of the top 10 winter activities in China is to bundle up warmly and explore the fabulous ski slopes in the northern part of the country. Many expats from the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States have discovered the joys of skiing in this region.
From the Alshan Ski Resort in the far northeast of China to the renowned Yabuli Ski Resort near Harbin, as well as the Huaibei and Nanshan Ski Resorts in the Beijing region, and the Xilling Ski Resort in Chengdu, you'll find a plethora of ski options. Various China ski holiday packages to families and groups, offering top-notch lodging, dining, skiing, and winter activities. Yabuli, in particular, stands out as one of the finest ski resorts, setting itself apart with its exceptional class and facilities.
Yabuli Ski Resort is not a single resort but comprises over 10 small ski resorts situated across three mountains, with altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 1,374 meters (3,280–4,508 ft). Of all these resorts, the Sun Mountain Ski Resort, home to China's first Club Med, stands out as the most popular due to its welcoming trails and modern facilities.
The Yabuli Sun Mountain Ski Resort has been the training venue for many Chinese professional ski teams and the venue of the 1996 Asian Winter Games. Averaging 100 cm. (39 in.) of snowfall on the peaks during the winter - from November through April or even early summer - this mountain range assures skiers a quality ski experience. With trails suited to all levels, from beginner to the advanced, the resort equals the best anywhere.
Basic Facts on Yabuli Ski Resort:
Features: the oldest, largest, and finest ski resort in China, also China's first Club Med.
Location: Located 1½ hours by train or 3 hours by car from Harbin.
Skiing season: Runs from mid-November to late March.
Vertical drop: Impressive 918 meters (3,012 feet).
Trails: The resort boasts 49 trails, including 7 for beginners, 25 for intermediate skiers, 10 for advanced, and 7 for experts.
Facilities: Equipped with high-speed heated gondolas, chairlifts, and magic carpets.
Snowboarding: The resort was the host of the 2016 Snowboarding World Championships.
Ski-in, ski-out: Yes, offering convenient access to the slopes.
Suitable for: All skill levels, with a particular appeal to experienced skiers.
Open: Operating hours are from 8 am to 10 pm.
Recommended as part of China winter tour. Don't forget to capture these slopes on camera!
Best time to visit: Winter for skiing.
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3 - The Mystique of Mount Emei
Shrouded in mist and clouds, the towering peaks of Mount Emei, known as one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains, captivate visitors with their enchanting beauty and profound Buddhist significance. Rising to an elevation of 3,099 meters (10,167 feet), Mount Emei is a UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled in China's Sichuan Province, about 2 hours drive from Chengdu. For the Chinese, Mount Emei, or Emei Shan, holds deep spiritual significance and is considered a place for enlightenment, known as a bodhimanda. The name "Emei Shan" translates to "delicate eyebrow mountain," and much like the graceful arch of a maiden's brow, it elegantly features two peaks facing each other. Within the embrace of this mountain, you'll discover numerous monasteries and temples that bear witness to the spiritual legacy brought to China by Buddhism.
Beyond admiring the ethereal beauty of these mountains, you can luxuriate in the therapeutic benefits of natural mineral-rich hot springs, for which Mount Emei is renowned.
Winter at Mount Emei provides a wonderful opportunity to witness the pristine beauty of snow-covered peaks and forests. At Leidongping, you can engage in skiing activities and unwind with a relaxing soak in the hot springs at the foot of the mountain.
Best Time to Visit Mount Emei: The best time to visit Mount Emei is from spring to autumn, especially from April to October, as these months provide favorable conditions for hiking. April to May is the prime time to witness the vibrant azalea blossoms, while October is ideal for admiring the stunning foliage on the mountains. Please be aware that during the summer months, particularly from July to August, Mount Emei experiences quite rainy days, and the weather can change very frequently.
Explore the enchanting world of Mount Emei with one of our specialized Mount Emei tours.
4 - Tibet in Winter - Have an unique culturel experience in Lhasa
Tibet stands out as one of the most captivating winter travel destinations in China, which many might not expect. From November to February, the region can become extremely cold, with temperatures dropping well below freezing. While some attractions in the Far West may be inaccessible during this time, the capital city, Lhasa, and central Tibet, including places like Yarlung Valley and Shigatse, offer a unique cultural experience. Visitors can witness nomad families shopping and participating in rituals at monasteries. Additionally, the cost of Tibet tours is notably lower during the winter months due to the reduced number of tourists.
At an average altitude of 4,500 meters (14,763 feet), the Tibetan plateau is the highest in the world. Ironically, snow is not as prevalent in Tibet as one would believe, even though it is called "The Land of Snows".
In fact, January and February can be a particularly interesting time to visit Lhasa, the capital city, for the New Year Celebration, also known as Losar. Tradition abounds during this 15-day festival with loads of special dishes prepared for the event washed down with Tibetan barley wine and rituals performed at ancient monasteries.
A large number of Tibetans are nomadic with nearly 40% of the population on the move. To witness the pastoral life of these unique people, drokpas, as they are known, is to admire the resilience and adaptability they possess, as they move with their yaks and families throughout the year. During the winter months, the nomads flock to Lhasa which gives travelers a great opportunity to mingle with these wonderful people and participate in their cultural traditions.
Best time to visit Tibet: The best time to visit Tibet is from April to November. The best months to travel to Tibet are May, June, September, and October. During these months, the weather is warm and sunny with clear blue skies. Also, they are less crowded compared to the busy months of July and August. If you're adventurous enough to embrace the cold, winter in Lhasa offers a unique luster, festive celebrations, and the presence of nomadic communities.
Explore our Tibet winter tour options.
5 - Harbin's Mesmerizing Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is one of the top winter experiences that you shouldn't miss if you're planning a trip to China during the winter season and want to immerse yourself in the world of ice and snow. This annual festival typically begins in late December and continues for approximately two months, concluding in late February when the ice melts.
A visit to Harbin during the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival transports you to a world of breathtaking ice sculptures and a sparkling winter festival. These magnificent sculptures are crafted from blocks of ice harvested from the Songhua River and then beautifully illuminated with colorful lights. While ice and snow sculptures are scattered throughout Harbin city, there are three main venues hosting distinct exhibitions to celebrate the festival.
- Harbin Ice and Snow World — A Colorful "Ice Disneyland"
This area is open in the afternoon and at night, showcasing illuminated full-size buildings constructed from blocks of ice, typically 2–3 feet thick and sourced directly from the Songhua River. The park typically opens from late December to late February. In 1999, the first Ice and Snow World was opened to the public to celebrate the millennium. Each year, the park is reconstructed with newly designed ice buildings and snow and ice sculptures. In recent years, the park has expanded to cover an area as large as 800 meters (80 hectares).
The best time to enter the Ice and Snow World is around 3 pm to appreciate the transparent and shining ice sculptures in the daytime, soon followed by the dazzling colors and light effects at night. It is advisable to spend no more than 4 hours inside the Ice World since temperatures are well below freezing, especially after sunset.
- Sun Island — Explore the Art of Snow Sculpting
Situated on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city, this recreational area features an expo of enormous snow sculptures, which are created by artists from all over the world.
Best time to visit Sun Island: It is open from 8 am to 5 pm, and a full visit typically takes 2–3 hours. Unlike the more famous ice sculptures, the snow sculptures are not illuminated at night and are best viewed in daylight.
-Zhaolin Park — Small but Lovely Ice Lanterns
Zhaolin Park in the city center is an ice world that is favored by young children. The ice lantern sculptures are primarily created by college students or young ice sculpture enthusiasts. The park showcases over 300 exquisite ice sculptures, including internally-illuminated ice lanterns, enchanting figures, and beloved animals that appeal to children.
There are enjoyable activities for kids to partake in, such as small ice slides. You may also come across un-carved ice blocks within the park, which are used for family competitions. If you are traveling with little ones, consider joining in for some fun. Unlike the other two venues, which charge a relatively high entrance fee of 280–330 yuan per person, Zhaolin Park offers free admission. The park is typically open from 9 am to 9 pm.
In addition to these exhibitions, a variety of winter activities take place during the festival, such as Yabuli alpine skiing and winter swimming in the Songhua River.
To avoid large crowds of local people, it's advisable to avoid visiting during the New Year holiday (December 31st to January 2nd) and the Chinese Spring Festival (starting from February 9th to 15th).
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6 - Behold "The Loveliest Mountain of China" - Mount Huangshan
Mount Huangshan, often referred to as Yellow Mountain and known as "The Loveliest Mountain of China," has been a captivating wonder that has inspired countless poets, artists, writers, and photographers throughout Chinese history. It is an incredible destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in the stunning natural beauty and unique landscapes of China.
Situated in the eastern part of China's Anhui Province, Mount Huangshan is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, including jagged granite peaks, ancient pine trees, hot springs, and a captivating sea of clouds. Notably, its odd-shaped and ancient pine trees, such as the "Welcoming Pine," are emblematic of its enduring charm. With its distinctive meteorological conditions, Mount Huangshan often shrouds its peaks in a mesmerizing "sea of clouds." These natural wonders, coupled with hot springs for relaxation, cultural heritage sites, hiking opportunities, and enchanting sunrise and sunset views, make Huangshan a destination like no other. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts travelers from around the globe to experience its unique splendor and historical significance
A Winter trip to Mount Huangshan offers a remarkable and captivating experience. The mountain undergoes a stunning transformation as it becomes blanketed in snow, creating a landscape of extraordinary beauty. The ancient pine trees are adorned with frost and snow, adding a touch of enchantment to the scenery. What sets this season apart is the tranquility it offers, with fewer tourists allowing for a more peaceful exploration of the mountain's natural wonders.
As the sun rises, Mount Huangshan reveals its true magic, often above a sea of clouds, making it an unforgettable spectacle for early risers. The frozen hot springs, amidst the cold, provide a unique and soothing experience. Hiking along snow-covered trails and capturing the picturesque landscapes is a joy for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers alike.
In winter, Mount Huangshan showcases a distinctive and ethereal beauty, offering a perspective entirely different from other seasons. It's an ideal destination for those seeking a quieter, colder, and utterly enchanting adventure in the midst of this winter wonderland.
Highly recommended for: Photography
The best time to visit Mount Huangshan is typically during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). During these seasons, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, making it ideal for hiking and enjoying the breathtaking landscapes. Avoiding peak summer (June to August) is advisable due to high temperatures, heavy crowds, and occasional rainfall. Winters (December to February) can be extremely cold, but the snow-covered landscape can offer a unique and serene experience for those who don't mind the chill.
Plan your winter Huangshan Tour with one of our expert travel advisors.
7 - Zhangjiajie National Forest, Hunan, China
Zhangjiajie National Park, located at Hunan Province in China, is a mesmerizing natural wonderland renowned for its towering sandstone pillars, lush forests, and deep ravines. This UNESCO World Heritage Site served as inspiration for the fantastical landscapes in the movie "Avatar." Visitors are treated to a surreal and ethereal experience as they explore narrow canyons, precarious walkways, and glass skywalks that offer breathtaking views of the dramatic scenery. The park is a testament to the power of erosion and nature's artistry, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking awe-inspiring and otherworldly landscapes. With its relatively mild temperatures throughout the year, Zhangjiajie is a destination worth exploring even during the winter months.
Zhangjiajie National Park in winter is a tranquil and enchanting experience. The snow-covered sandstone pillars and serene forests create a surreal, otherworldly landscape. With fewer visitors, you can appreciate the park's beauty in peace. The clear winter skies offer stunning vistas, and hiking trails are open for exploration and photography. You can also immerse yourself in local culture and savor winter dishes. In a nutshell, winter at Zhangjiajie National Park provides a unique, serene, and visually captivating adventure.
Highly recommended for: Photography
Best time to visit : The best time to visit Zhangjiajie is generally during the spring and autumn seasons. Spring (March to May) brings pleasant weather, blooming flowers, and lush green landscapes. Autumn (September to November) offers mild temperatures and stunning foliage, making it ideal for outdoor adventures and enjoying the natural beauty of the region. While summer (June to August) can be a bit hot and somewhat crowded, it's a good time for those who enjoy the vibrancy of the season and can handle the higher temperatures. Winter (December to February) can be quite cold, but it offers a unique and serene experience, with snow-covered landscapes and fewer tourists.
Check out our Zhangjiajie tour packages.
8 - Cascading Ice Waterfalls in Jiuzhaigou National Park
Jiuzhaigou National Park, a breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site located in northern Sichuan, about 400km away from Chengdu, is a natural wonderland celebrated for its crystal-clear, colorful lakes, multi-tiered waterfalls, and snow-capped peaks. This pristine and serene valley showcases the perfect harmony of nature, with lush forests and unique wildlife enhancing its charm. Visitors are treated to a visually stunning and tranquil escape in Jiuzhaigou, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking natural beauty and a peaceful respite. Jiuzhaigou is renowned for its natural beauty throughout the year!
A winter trip to Jiuzhaigou offers a serene and visually captivating experience. The snow-capped landscape transforms this already stunning destination into a winter wonderland, blanketing the iconic lakes, waterfalls, and lush forests in pristine white. What makes this season truly special is the tranquility it brings, with fewer tourists allowing you to immerse yourself in the park's natural beauty without the crowds.
The lakes maintain their remarkable clarity, offering mesmerizing reflections of the snow-covered peaks and vibrant forests, creating a picture-perfect setting for photography and contemplation. Many of the waterfalls freeze into intricate ice sculptures, adding to the park's enchanting charm.
A winter trip to Jiuzhaigou promises a peaceful and visually captivating escape, allowing you to witness the destination's iconic beauty in a new and serene light, making it a truly memorable and unique winter adventure. Plan your Jiuzhaigou tour right now!
The best time to visit Jiuzhaigou is generally during the autumn months, from September to November. During this period, the weather is mild, and the vibrant foliage in the valley's forests creates a stunning and picturesque backdrop, making it an ideal time for sightseeing and outdoor activities. Spring (March to May) is also a good time to visit, with blooming flowers and the rejuvenation of the natural scenery. However, it can be a bit chillier during this season. Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season, with pleasant temperatures, but it can be crowded. Winter (December to February) offers a unique and serene experience with snow-covered landscapes, but it can be quite cold.
9- Heading into Southwest China -Yunnan
Yunnan, a province in southwest China, shares its borders with Tibet, Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi provinces, as well as Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. This region is renowned for its diverse ethnic minority communities, breathtaking natural scenery, and a rich cultural heritage. Notable attractions in Yunnan include the Stone Forest, Dali old town, Three Pagodas, the ancient town of Lijiang, and the Tibetan-influenced Shangri-la, and more.
The best time to visit Yunnan is generally throughout the year, as it offers mild temperatures even during the winter months. Summers can be cooler depending on the specific region within the province, making Yunnan an appealing destination year-round for travelers seeking a blend of cultural richness and natural beauty.
With fewer tourists compared to the peak tourist season, you can explore Yunnan with more peace and tranquility, savoring the natural beauty and cultural richness.
- A Photographer's Dream: Yuanyang Rice Terraces
The terraced rice fields of Yuanyang, brimming with lush, vibrant colors, have a history dating back 2,500 years to the arrival of the Hani people. These terraces are at their most captivating during sunrise and sunset, when their luminous beauty truly shines.
Interesting Fact: The Hani People
The Hani are an extraordinary ethnic minority renowned for their simplicity, honesty, and strong work ethic, traits that have enabled them to uphold their language and customs for centuries. They have a rich tradition of rice cultivation on the slopes of the Ailao Mountains in Yunnan Province.
Best Time to Visit Yuanyang Rice Terraces: The ideal time to visit is between December and March, as this is when you can witness the mesmerizing sight of the light-reflecting irrigated fields in their full glory.
- A Rich Tapestry of Color - Dongchuan Red Lands
Capturing the vibrant hues of Dongchuan Red Land is a photographer's dream and a true treasure of China. Tucked away in the Yunnan Province, this hidden gem lies 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Kunming, perched at an altitude of 1800-2600 meters above sea level. The unique, mineral-rich soil, particularly abundant in iron and copper, infuses this rural landscape with colors that are unparalleled anywhere else on Earth.
Dongchuan Red Land is not just a hidden gem but also one of the top recommended experiences in China. For photography enthusiasts, the best times to visit are during May-June and September-December each year. The latter period, in particular, is harvest time for potatoes, buckwheat, and rapeseed crops, creating a captivating blend of red and gold hues. The changing leaves of the poplar trees add an extra layer of drama to this already stunning landscape.Start Your Winter Yunnan Exploration with Us - Your Interest and Our Expert Knowledge Perfect Together!
10 - Bask in the Sun on Sanya Beach
If, after experiencing the enchanting winter landscapes, ice waterfalls, and visits to monasteries in Tibet, you yearn for some sun, Sanya Beach awaits you in the southernmost city of China on Hainan Island. The Hainan Province boasts a tropical climate and abundant resources, making it a well-developed region with resorts offering all the amenities needed for families and groups. The best time to visit Sanya is generally from November through April. During this period, the climate is more pleasant, and you can enjoy the tropical beauty of this southernmost city in China without the risk of typhoons that can occur from May to October. While June is the hottest month in Sanya.
WindhorseTour offers guided Sanya tour pacakages, hotel booking and ground transportation at your request. Talk to our travel experts to plan your delightful winter tour to Sanya.
The winter season in China offers a unique opportunity for travelers. With fewer tourists, it allows for a deeper understanding of the lives of ordinary Chinese people as they journey home to reunite with their families, often braving long distances. This grand national migration is followed by vibrant Chinese new year festive celebrations, showcasing China's rich cultural heritage that transcends its modern complexities. Furthermore, winter provides a chance to explore the country's natural wonders away from the bustling crowds, creating unforgettable experiences and memories. WindhorseTour extends an invitation to immerse yourself in the warmth of Chinese family gatherings and connect with the pulse of 1.4 billion people on the planet. This unique experience can truly be appreciated during the winter season.
Come on and Start Your Winter Tour Today!
Read Helen's Interview on ChinaScratched
Helen was recently interviewed by Christine Surlien of ChinaScratched about Winter Travel In China. Having lived and traveled in China, Christine's insight that she shares on ChinaScratched is a very wonderful resources for families and travelers looking to embrace local Chinese culture.