Top 10 things to do in China as a winter travel destination


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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.


Top To Things To Do During Winter Travel In China

Noteworthy Information A Word of Caution

Be prepared for very large crowds if you plan to travel at the Chinese New Year. The New Year date for 2014 is January 31st. It is a 15-day event of which 3 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. 

Winter Travel Destinations of 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

Photo of the Chinese Buddhist Art Capital Museum in Beijing
Photo of the Chinese Buddhist Art Capital Museum in Beijing
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.

Best time to visit: There are a few considerations to bear in mind when planning a trip to this capital city. During peak travel time and national holidays domestic travelers tend to flock into Beijing in tens of thousands.

Chinese Lantern Festival Prepare to be dazzled in this wondrous city in February, concluding the Chinese New Year festivities, by the brilliance of colorful lanterns and ice sculptures that attract multitudes of tourists. The sub-zero temperatures in which the Yuanxiao Festival is celebrated does not deter families, young and old, from enjoying this breathtaking event. Recommended as part of China winter tour.

Yuanxiao - Chinese Lantern Festival 

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 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.

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing

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: With its short spring season and long and hot summer, autumn is the most comfortable time to visit Beijing.

2 - Skiing Down the Snow-clad Mountains

Another of the top 10 things to do in China is to bundle up warm and explore the fabulous ski slopes of the north of China where many ex-pats from the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States have discovered the joys of skiing in this part of the world.

From the Alshan Ski Resort in the very northeast along with Yabuli, Huaibei and Nanshan in the Beijing region, and the Xilling Ski Resort in Chengdu, the ski offerings are plentiful. Holiday packages for families and groups provide the best in lodging, dining, skiing and winter action. Yabuli is one of the finest ski resorts and sets itself apart in class and facilities.

The Yabuli Sun Mountain 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.

Recommended as part of China winter tour. Don't forget to capture these slopes on camera!

Recommended for photography. Best time to visit: Winter for skiing.

3 - The Mystique of Mount Emei

Cloaked in mist and clouds, the lofty peaks, known as the Four sacred Buddhist Mountains, inspire visitors to marvel at nature's power to cast a spell over us. At an elevation of 3,099 meters (10,167 feet) Mount Emei is the highest peak and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Sichuan Province of China.

For the Chinese, Mount Emei, or Emei Shan, is the place for enlightenment, or bodhimanda. The name Emei Shan means "delicate eyebrow mountain", and like the brow of a beautiful maiden, gracefully rises in the shape of two peaks facing each other. Ensconced within this mountain are numerous monasteries and temples, highlighting the spiritualism that arrived with Buddhism to China.

Besides admiring the ethereal magnificence of the mountains, you can soak in the luxurious goodness of natural minerals in the pure, unspoiled hot springs Mount Emei is so well-known for.

Best time to visit: While winter lends the pristine beauty of pure snow-capped peaks to Mount Emei, spring and autumn bring the rich colors of blossoms to cover the mountainsides under clear sunny skies. Summers are often rainy and days typically cloudy.

4 - Tibet - "The Roof of the World"

Traveling west of Chengdu, our journey takes us to the mysterious, stunning and fascinating region of Tibet. Among winter travel destinations, Tibet ranks as one of the most stupendous.

Photo of Tibet in winter - the roof of the world.
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: The warmest and most picturesque time to visit is from May to October. If you are brave enough to weather the cold, winter brings luster, festivals, and nomads to Lhasa.

5 - Harbin's Mesmerizing Ice Festival

A journey to Harbin takes you into a world of spectacular ice sculptures and a glittering winter festival. Blocks of ice are lifted from the Songhua River to create these masterpieces which are then illuminated with colorful lights. Indeed, one has to be prepared for the bitterly cold temperatures with layers of clothing to prevent frostbite.

This winter travel China attraction is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in China if you can endure the cold. The amazing blend of sophisticated technology and artistry of construction is on display from about mid-December to end of February.

Recommended as one of the top things to do in china.

Best time to visit: The Harbin Ice Festival is held annually beginning on January 5 and lasts for one month - a real winter travel China experience.

Start Your Winter Exloration with Us - Your Interest and Our Expert Knowledge Perfect Together!

6 - Behold "The Loveliest Mountain of China" - Mount Huangshan

Inspiring poets, artists, writers and photographers, Mount Huangshan soars majestically through clouds into the sky with its granite peaks and amazing beauty. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the Anhui Province of the eastern region of China and is surrounded by valleys, canyons, stone pillars, unusual rock formations, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs. 

Huangshan in Anhui - China

Also known as "Yellow Mountain", it has influenced Chinese art and literature for centuries.

Recommended as one of the best things to do in china.

Highly recommended for: Photography

Best time to visit: September, October and the winter months are good for visiting this area. Winters are chilly, but not too cold.

7 - Zhangjiajie National Forest, Hunan, China

Uplifting to the spirit, the Zhangjiajie National Forest, south and west of Huangshan, is a wonderland of hiking trails, staggeringly beautiful mountains, and sparkling brooks set in utter serenity. Offering year-round appeal with its relatively moderate temperatures, Zhangjiajie is worth exploring even in the winter months.

Highly recommended for: Photography

Best time to visit : All four seasons.

8 - Cascading Ice Waterfalls of Jiuzhaigou

Ice waterfall of Jiuzhaigou National Park
Approximately 400 km south of Chengdu, in the Valley of Nine Villages in the Sichuan Province, is held the annual Ice Waterfall Festival, in the month of January. Dropping temperatures turn the cascading waterfalls into sculptures of ice. This new attraction of Jiuzhaigou makes the beautiful region, brimming with dense and colorful foliage the rest of the year, worth a visit even during wintertime.Plan your Jiuzhaigou travel right now!

Best time to visit: The Autumn months of September and October are the most popualar time to enjoy the loveliness of Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, not just the iridescence of its pearly waterfalls. 

9- Heading into Southwest China

Yunnan is your gateway to discovering many attractions of the region. Lying south of the Sichuan Province, Yunnan's famous treasures include Stone Forest, Dianchi Lake, Three Pagodas, Dali, the old town of Lijiang, just to name a few.

Best time to visit: Generally mild temperatures throughout the year, including the winter months. Summers tend to be cooler, depending upon the region within the province.

Start Your Winter Exloration with Us - Your Interest and Our Expert Knowledge Perfect Together!

10 - A Photographer's Fantasy - Yuanyang and Dongchuan

Yuanyang's terraced rice fields in lush colors of fertility date back 2,500 years to the times of the Hani people who arrived there. The luminous beauty of these terraces is best seen under the rising and setting sun. 

Interesting Fact: The Hani

Interesting Fact: The Hani are simple, honest, and hardworking folk who have preserved their language and customs through the centuries. They cultivated rice along the slopes of the Ailao mountains of the Yunnan Province. 

Yuanyang's rice terrace in Winter
Best time to visit: Between December and March to view the light-reflecting irrigated fields.

A Rich Tapestry of Color - Dongchuan Red Lands

Capturing the vivid hues of these Red Lands is every photographer's dream and China's treasure chest contains these incredibly dramatic landscape forms and colors.

A secret gem of the Yunnan Province, Dongchuan Red Land is located 250 km. (155 mi.) northeast of Kunming, with an altitude of 1800-2600 meters above sea level. The mineral-rich soil, particularly in iron and copper, gives this rural land the intensity of colors like nowhere else on earth.

Recommended as one of the top things to do in China.

Highly recommended for photography: May-June and September-December each year; the latter being harvest time for potatoes, buckwheat, and rapeseed crops. The changing leaves of the poplar trees add further drama to the red and gold landscape.

11 - Bask in the Sun on Sanya Beach

If, after the winter enchantment, ice waterfalls, visits to monasteries in the heavenly mountains of the north and central regions of China, you long for a soak in the sun, Sanya Beach brings you to the southernmost city of the Chinese island in the Hainan Province. With its tropical climate and rich resources, the Hainan Province is a well-developed part of the region. Resorts feature all amenities for families and groups.

Best time to visit: The hottest month is June. There are occasional typhoons from May to October. Being tropical, temperatures do not go to extremes. November through April are recommended for travel to Sanya.

All four seasons are suitable for travel to China and it is worthy of being one of the winter travel destinations of the world.

Modernization and urbanization have taken their tolls in China, making its long - lasting traditions increasingly harder to catch a glimpse of.

Generally speaking, winter attracts less tourists (both domestic and abroad). This leaves it an ideal time for you to observe more of ordinary Chinese people’s lives, as they travel from all around the country to get back to their families, even if they have to cross seven rivers and oceans. The grand national migration will be followed by exotic oriental festive celebrations, on which occasion China flavor really overrides its modern chaos.

What’s more is that you can explore its natural wonderland away from the meddling crowd in winter and make unmatched memories. WindhorseTour invites you to immerse yourself into the charming Chinese with their family around, and feel the pulse of 1.4 billion people on the planet. Only in winter!

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.


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