When To Go To China
The two main factors to consider in planning when to visit China are the climate and the number of other visitors you’ll have to share key attractions with.
In terms of the weather, spring, summer and fall are the best times for a visit. While summers are hot and often wet, spring and fall see less rainfall and generally offer the clearest skies. But, in a country as big as China, if you plan to travel to more than one region, you’re bound to witness both rain and sunshine, no matter when you come.
There is much variety in China’s weather, though away from coastal and mountainous areas it could be broadly categorized as a continental climate – that is, extremely hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.
The north enjoys roughly six months of heat, but has to endure cold weather for the rest of the year, with temperatures rarely creeping above freezing in Beijing between December and March. Almost all of the rainfall in this region comes in July and August. This part of the country is also subject to dust storms during the spring and summer months, which can last days and leave everything coated with a fine layer of dust. They are exacerbated by the deforestation and desertification of the land to the north and west.
China’s northwest offers the country’s greatest extremes, from blistering 110°F in summer, to an arctic -45°F in winter. Whenever you come, you’re unlikely to see much precipitation in this extremely arid region, which is home to the deserts of the Gobi and the Taklamakan.
Central China gets exceptionally hot and steamy in the summer. The “Three Furnaces” along the Yangzi – Chongqing, Wuhan and Nanjing –are renowned for their Turkish-bath-like summers, though Shanghai is barely any less stifling. The same region gets bone-chillingly cold during the short winter, made all the more so by the damp and lack of central heating south of the Yellow River. Although Shanghai is warmed marginally by the sea, it can still feel bitter in the winter months. Winter is the driest part of the year, though all seasons see plenty of precipitation in this part of the country.
The south has something of a subtropical climate, with swelteringly hot and humid summers and comparatively mild winters that only last from January to March, though the farther you move away from the sea the colder it can get. The rainy season in the south varies according to exactly where you are, but generally falls between May and August.
Hainan Island, nestled between China and Vietnam, lies on the same latitude as Hawaii and is warm throughout the winter and roasting in summer. The southeast coast is subject to typhoons (from taifeng, meaning great wind), the Asian equivalent of hurricanes, between June and October.
Check here the current weather conditions and forecasts in China.
The tourist season for foreign visitors starts around March or April (with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau, which are mild throughout the winter) and runs until October. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can visit in winter, but be prepared for some bitter temperatures, especially in the north.
But, in a country with almost 1½ billion people, the greatest numbers of tourists are, as you might expect, Chinese, so it is their vacation times that you want to avoid (see Festivals in China).
If you have limited time, then an organized tour can help you get the most out of China, removing the hassles of booking tickets, finding accommodation and picking which of the country’s manifold attractions to include in your trip. Tours can also help get you closer to the Chinese people. Tour leaders and guides should be able to facilitate communication and private transport will enable you to get to places that may otherwise difficult to reach. For potential routes
However, the downside of tours is that you may feel shielded from the “real world” at times, they tend to be more expensive than independent travel and you might have to put up with group members, guides and even tour leaders you don’t see eye to eye with.
Possibly the best way to travel if you have money, but not time, is on a private tour where you and a few friends or family have your own guide and can tailor the itinerary to your preference.
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