Winter In China

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

Winter in China is between November and March with the three coldest months being December, January and February. China is so large it’s hard to really provide a ballpark figure on the winter temperatures. Northern place like Harbin can reach -25℃ (-13℉) whereas the sunny island of Hainan offers locals and visitors a reprieve from the winter weather in mainland China with temperatures of around 22℃ (71.6℉).

Although most visitors prefer to visit China in autumn and spring, winter is a magical time to travel. With snowfall guaranteed in many locations, iconic landmarks receive a dollop of extra charm. These things to do in winter in China will help you plan your dream vacation, but it is always advisable to compare your intended dates with major holidays in China. Chinese Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the year. According to the Chinese transportation authority, nearly three billion journeys are believed to be made over the Lunar New Year period! Ideally if you are visiting the top tourist’s sites you don’t want to be doing it with this many people. The Lunar New Year holiday is usually the end of January or the start of February but be sure to check for the specific dates and avoid this time.

Winter In China

Top Tours

20 Things To Do In China In Winter

1- Marvel At The Harbin International Ice And Snow Festival

winter in china harbin snow sculptures
See the ice sculptures in Harbin in China in winter.

Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province in northeast China.

Now, if you don’t like the cold weather, it may be better to visit Hainan (another place on this list) because Harbin is cold…very cold!

In winter average monthly temperatures are between -25℃ (-13℉) to 3℃ (37.4℉).

So, if you are making the commitment to go to the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, it’s best to be prepared.


The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is an annual event starting in late December until late February.

The opening ceremony is usually around the start of January.

If you visit around Christmas time you can watch the sculptures being carved as the crew work on finishing up in time for the official opening.

There are a plethora of ice sculptures to see at the festival and they are mighty impressive.

Climb ice bridges, gaze at towers, turrets and tunnels.

It really is like exploring a small city built entirely out of ice, with ice trains, an ice restaurant and even an ice bar.

Be sure to visit both during the day and at night because the entire place lights up in the evening.

Recommended tour: Private City Tour of Harbin

2- Hit The Slopes At Yabuli Ski Resort In Heilongjiang Province

Group Of People Playing In The Snow In Ski Resort
Visiting a ski resort is one of the fun things to do in winter in China.

Another excellent winter activity to enjoy in Heilongjiang province is skiing.

Yabuli Ski Resort has some of the best skiing and snowboarding slopes in China.

If you do want to ski in this part of China, chances are you will be visiting Harbin as this ski resort is a three-hour drive from Harbin.

For foreigners visiting the area, get a train from Harbin Railway Station to Yabuli Railway Station or Yabuli West Railway Station.

Depending on which train you get it can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 5 hours to reach Yabuli Railway Station.

From there you can take a taxi to the mountains.

There are 21 miles (35 km) of slopes suitable for all levels from beginners to advanced.

54% of trail runs are intermediate level.

11 chairlifts transport skiers to elevations of 457 (1499 ft) and 1,375m (4511 ft).

3- Go Ice Biking On Shichahai And Houhai Lakes In Beijing

Many people visiting China will choose to go to a few of the famous cities and sites around the country.

The chances are if you are visiting China that you won’t miss out on going to Beijing.

People visiting Beijing between December and February will need to prepare for highs of 5°C (41°F) and lows of -8°C (17°F).

There comes a time in Beijing around late December where many of the lakes will freeze over and become safe to ice skate and ice bike on! You’ve probably been ice skating, but have you ever been ice biking?

Houhai and Shichahai Lakes are two places where you can try the novel activity of ice biking.

Picture one wheeled bikes with skates and then picture tons of people enjoying themselves on the ice.

It’s all the fun of skating but without falling!

4- Gaze At The Stunning Scenery Of Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park

Heavy Snow in China
A picturesque scene in winter in China.

Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a World Biosphere Reserve in northern Sichuan Province around 260 miles (420 km) from Chengdu.

It may be that you’ve never heard of this national park because it’s not as famous as other places like Zhangjiajie and the Huangshan Mountains.

It’s incredibly beautiful and in winter it turns into a magical winter wonderland.

There are beautiful lakes, lined with frosted trees, snow-capped peaks, and frozen waterfalls.

You can go hiking and if you are extremely lucky you may be in with a chance of spotting a giant panda in the wild! The population is only around 20 so don’t get your hopes up but keep an eye out.

Pandas, unlike other bears, do not hibernate in winter!

5- Explore The Beautiful Views Of Lijiang

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain In Lijiang, Yunnan, China
Explore the stunning views around Lijiang during winter in China.

Lijiang is in the northwestern part of Yunnan Province.

You’ve probably heard of Tiger Leaping Gorge well it’s only around an hour from Lijiang so you can tick both places off your winter China bucket list.

Lijiang is at an elevation of 2,400 metres (7874 ft).

It’s an extremely picturesque city with the old town dating back to the Ming dynasty.

Snow-capped mountains in the background, traditional pointy shaped rooftops, picturesque bridges, and a charming river make it all the more enjoyable to visit.

For more things to do in China read:

6- Spend A Cosy Night In An Overnight Spa

Everyone loves a spa trip but there’s something amazing about China’s spas.

They have these 24-hour spas where you can check in and stay the night.

It isn’t like a hotel with a spa where you stay in the spa.

There are usually these incredibly comfortable and large reclining chairs to sit or sleep in as well as the massage beds.

You can select several services, eat at their little café area, and even sit back and watch TV or a movie on their humungous flat screen.

The best thing about these spas is the price.

Even for an overnight stay the cost is a fraction of price it would be in Europe or North America.

You will walk away feeling as light as a feather, refreshed, and relaxed with money to spend on other activities.

7- Tuck Into Amazing Hot Pot

china winter food
Warm up with hearty food and hotpots in winter in China.

If you don’t speak Chinese, sometimes ordering food can be daunting in China but the experience at Hai Di Lao is unmatched.

If you want to enjoy hot pot with unparalleled service, then this is the restaurant to be at.

There is a plethora of incredible hot pot dishes to order as well as different soups to try.

There are also some awesome surprises.

Watch out for the enthusiastic noodle man!

Simply order noodles and Mr Noodle Man will come to your table and whip and swirl your noodles around his head in an epic show.

It is also not unusual to see a robot or two moving around the restaurant.

Hai Di Lao is also well known for its hospitality.

Your drink will never be empty and when you arrive you will be showered with snacks!

You can find Hai Di Lao across China, especially in Sichuan and Hunan provinces.

8- Ogle At The Potala Palace In Lhasa, Tibet

Landmarks Of The Potala Palace In Lhasa Tibet
Ogle at the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, when you travel to China in winter.

The Potala Palace is incomprehensibly large, and it’s situated in Lhasa in the autonomous region of Tibet in southwest China.

This large and impressive palace sits atop Red Mountain which stands at 130 metres (424 ft) above the Lhasa River Valley.

The palace was once the seat of the Tibetan government and the primary residence of the Dalai Lama.

From the mid 18th century, it was used as a winter palace.

From your origin destination you will want to arrive at Lhasa Railway Station and then take the bus to the palace.

Recommended tour: Private 3-Night Lhasa Trip

9- Appreciate Chinese History At The Forbidden City And The Temple Of Heaven

Temples Of The Forbidden City In Beijing China
Appreciate Chinese History at the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven during a winter holiday in China

The Forbidden City is one of the most famous sites in China and it is at the center of the Imperial City in Beijing’s Dongcheng Central.

The Forbidden City can be found within 2.1 miles (3.5 km) of citadel walls.

Around 16 million people visit the Forbidden City each year.

The city was home to two ruling dynasties from 1406 to 1924.

After visiting the Forbidden City you’ve got to check out the Temple of Heaven.

It’s around a 25-minute drive south of the walled city but much of the architecture is similar.

Beijing does get cold in winter.

Between December and February it’s anywhere from 5° (41°F) to -8° (17°F) so be sure to bring your warm clothes, gloves and a hat!

Recommended tours:

10- See The Panda’s In Chengdu

China’s national animal is of course the giant panda.

Pandas are synonymous with the country and there’s only one place to go if you want to be able to see them… Chengdu!

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, around 6 miles (10 km) northeast of the city center.

From Chengdu city center you can take the Panda Bus to the center, which is home to nearly 120 giant pandas and 76 red pandas.

The aim of the center is to increase panda numbers.

The pandas are usually more active during the morning so it’s best to visit them.

The park opens around 8am when it’s also feeding time.

The pandas do eat in the late afternoon but spent most of the afternoon sleeping.

It is also best to visit the center during the week when there are less people.

Recommended tour: Chengdu: Giant Panda Research Base & Leshan Buddha Day Tour

11- Admire The Avatar Mountains In Zhangjiajie

Have you ever watched the Avatar movies?

Well, those floating rocky stacks of Pandora may be fantasy, but it’s based on the very real landscapes at Zhangjiajie.

Zhangjiajie is in Hunan Province in southern China.

The park was China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It may not be the easiest place in China to get to, but it is well worth a visit.

It’s best to head to the capital of Hunan, Changsha by high-speed train and then take a slow sleeper train to Zhangjiajie.

While there you can go hiking, take cable car rides and gaze at the wonderful views.

In winter there will be less people and the potential for snow-capped peaks.

You will also see the mountain area referred to as the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.

Within the area there are five places you must visit: Tianzi Mountain, Dingxiangrong, Yuanjiajie, Yangjiajie and Zhangjiajie National Park.

Recommended tours:

12- Walk Around Fenghuang Ancient Water Town

If you decide on going to Zhangjiajie then you should also visit Fenghuang Phoenix Ancient Water Town.

While they are still 194 km apart (120 miles) for China that’s close!

There are several water towns across China, and they are really fascinating to visit.

Fenghuang Ancient Town is around 300 years old and was built in 1704.

While here you can understand the local culture, eat delicious food, and see what a traditional Chinese town used to look like.

Check out the Phoenix Hong Bridge, go boating along the Tuojiang River, visit the ancient city museum and see many former residents of notable Chinese people.

13- Be Mesmerised By Snowy Trees At Rime Island In Jilin

Hands In Winter Gloves Playing In The Snow
Playing in the snow in winter in China.

Rime Island (also known as Jilin Wusong Island) transforms into a majestic wonderland in winter.

The island is in a small Manchu town north of Jilin City in Jilin Province.

The island is situated on the Songhua River.

Dense trees line the riverbanks and when the snow falls, and the sky is blue the reflections in the water are stunning.

Keep an eye out for local wildlife and be sure to bring your camera!

14- Take In The Famous Sites In The Ancient Capital Of China – Xi An

Xi An is the capital of Shaanxi Province and was the Ancient Capital of China during the Qin dynasty and 12 other dynasties.

Between December and February average temperatures are between 9°C (32°F) and lows of -4°C (24.8°F).

So, it is cold but it’s not too bad.

There are so many amazing things to do in Xi An including visiting the site of the Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses, which is often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Walking around the ancient walled city is very impressive, with a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new buildings.

If you want to try some incredible food, then head to the Muslim Quarter.

There’s a rich Islamic culture in the area and you can get an array of divine dishes, from soup dumplings to pita bread and lamp soup.

Recommended tours:

15- Walk Along The Snowy Great Wall In Beijing

Great Wall of China
Walking along the Great Wall of China in winter is an experience you won’t forget.

Ask anyone to name a famous site in China and they will probably say the Great Wall of China.

The total length of the Great Wall of China is 13,171 miles (21,196 km).

The wall starts from Shanhai Pass on the east coast to the Jiayu Pass in Gansu Province.

Parts of the wall were built as early as the 7th century BC and parts have been restored for people’s enjoyment.

There are a variety of sections that you can check out if you are visiting Beijing.

If you want to see the wall in its restored glory, then it’s best to head to Mutianyu around 45 miles (73 km) from Beijing.

There are watchtowers and plenty of parts to hike along.

If you love hiking head to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall.

There is a popular hiking route from Jinshanling to Simatai with half of the wall restored and half in its original state.

The Great Wall of China is a bucket list item you cannot miss, and the views are just as beautiful in winter, with the chance of fewer people!

Recommended tour: Mutianyu Great Wall: Multi-Departure Bus Tour with Options

16- Try Some Of China’s Winter Sweet Treats

Traditional Chinese Hard Caramel Coated
Try sweet treats during the winter solstice festival in China.

China is perhaps better known for its savoury food, spices, and tea but in winter you will find several intriguing, sweet treats to tuck into.

It doesn’t matter where you are in China but when winter comes you can get these sweet snacks just about anywhere.

First up there’s “Bīng táng hú lú”, one of those unapologetically sugary snacks.

It’s hawthorn fruit on a stick that has been coated in sugar.

It’s fruity, sugary, crunchy, juicy, and delicious!

Another yummy winter snack found across China is “Tāng yuan” (glutinous rice balls).

If you visit during Chinese New Year, then chances are you will find these rice balls covered in rice flour.

How about some warm roasted chestnuts (tang chǎo lì zi).

Roasted chestnuts are a common winter street food across the country.

They are roasted in a sweet syrup and it’s mesmerising to watch the big machines that keep them stirring and roasting evenly.

17- Soak Up The Sun In Sanya, Hainan

China's Hainan Island Tropical Coastal Scenery
Soaking up the sun in Hainan is one of the winter holiday traditions in China.

Hainan is an island in southern China and around a 1-hour 20-minute flight from Hong Kong.

This beautiful sunny island is the perfect reprieve from China’s colder winter weather.

Sanya is at the southern end of the island and it’s a wonderful place to vacation where winter temperatures range from lows of 18°C (64.4°F) to 26°C (78.8°F).

There are a plethora of things to do on the island from sunbathing on Sanya Bay Beach to the trendy surfing capital of China HouHai.

As many Chinese people look to escape the winter weather in favour of summer sun be warned that during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday (around January/February time) Hainan can get busy; it’s therefore better to visit outside this holiday period.

18- Keep Warm At The Changbai Mountain Hot Spring In Jilin Province

Another of the best places to visit in Jilin Province is the Changbai Mountain Hot Spring.

The hot spring is beside the Changbai Mountain Scenic Area North Gate.

It is a volcanic spring fed by Julong Spring.

As well as wandering around the hot spring you can immerse yourself in the hot waters and relax.

It might be an unbearable thought to strip to your swimming gear but as soon as you plunge into the hot water you will never want to leave.

19- Enjoy The Mix Of Old And New In Shanghai

National Roof Roofing In China
Enjoy the old and new in Shanghai in winter.

Whether it’s summer, spring, fall or winter, Shanghai is an unmissable destination in China.

While it does get cold in Shanghai (average temperatures of around 5°C (41°F) with strong winds in winter) put on your warm clothes and head out to explore.

There is a myriad of incredible things to do in Shanghai including visiting the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Yu Garden, Jing’an Temple, Nanjinglu Street and not to mention The Bund (the place where you can see that infamous Shanghai skyline view).

Recommended tour: Shanghai: 8-Hour Private City Tour

20- Take Countless Photos At The Grandeur Of The Huangshan Mountains

Huangshan Mountains
Take photos of the Huangshan Mountains in China in winter.

Outside of China most people refer to the Huangshan Mountains as the Yellow Mountains.

That’s because the literal translation from Chinese to English is Yellow Mountains.

You will find the Huangshan Mountains in Anhui Province in eastern China.

If you are visiting places like Beijing, then it’s around a two-hour flight or 6 hour train from the capital to Huangshan City (the nearest place to the mountains).

Though many people visit in late spring and fall, winter is also an interesting time of year to visit the Huangshan Mountains.

There are some incredible scenic areas to enjoy.

Xihai Grand Canyon, Turtle Mountain (Aoyu), Lotus Peak, and Shixin Peak are areas you must visit.

You will need to come well prepared for visiting the mountains in winter.

Be sure to pack good hiking boots and plenty of layers.

Recommended tour: From Huangshan City: Half Day Tour to Hongcun Village

21- Have A Frozen Visit To Inner Mongolia

Manzhouli in inner mongolia
Another cold place to visit in China during winter is Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia.

Admire picturesque snow-covered Russian architecture in Manzhouli in the Inner Mongolia region of China in winter.

The autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China is in the northern part of the country, on the borders of Mongolia and Russia.

As the city is near the Russian border, you’ll see lots of Russian influences in a storybook setting in winter.

Spend some time at Matryoshka Doll Square, where Matryoshka dolls (Russian nesting dolls) add a splash of colour to the winter landscape.

Another unique thing to do here is to explore Mongolian nomadic culture by visiting a yurt, taste the food and listen to Mongolian throat singing.

china winter roads
Winter roads in China can get icy!

Plan Your Trip

best car rental

Rent A Car – Find the best car rental rates at Discover Cars. They compare car hire companies to provide you with the best deal right now.

Find A Hotel – If you’re curious about this article and are looking for somewhere to stay, take a look at these amazing hotels.

Previous articleWinter in South Korea
Next articleWhat Is New Hampshire Known For?
Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!