Spring is one of the best times to visit China.
Traveling in spring can help you recover from the long, cold winter, and is the best season to explore without the crowds that come with summer.
When I travel in spring, I find it transformative to explore when the scenery around me is going through a period of rebirth.
The more affordable prices also tend to be a big draw for me as well.
So, here’s my guide to traveling in spring in China and how you can make the most of it.
What’s spring in China like?
Spring in China runs from March until May, but this can vary from one area to another.
For example, in the south, the end and start of spring are earlier and the season tends to be shorter than usual.
By contrast, in the north of China, winter tends to stick around longer, and spring starts later and is often quite short.
Obviously, the average temperature is gradually warming in spring, with temperatures between 50°F and 72°F (10-22°C).
Rainfall starts increasing during this season and it can be quite windy. In northern China, you may experience the occasional sandstorm.
Just to give you an idea of how different the weather can be across China, let’s take a look at two cities.
Spring temperatures in Harbin can go down to a bone-freezing temperature of 14°F (–10°C). While in Chongqing, it’s not uncommon for the temperature to go up to a scorching 93°F (34°C) especially in early spring.
Spring temperatures in China
Here’s a closer look at the average temperatures you can expect in different parts of China.
|Beijing (north)||35 to 54 F / 2 to 12 C||49 to 69 F / 9 to 21 C||59 to 80 F / 15 to 27 C|
|Shanghai (east)||45 to 56 F / 7 to 13 C||54 to 66 F / 12 to 19 C||63 to 75 F / 17 to 24 C|
|Guangzhou (south)||61 to 72 F / 16 to 22 C||69 to 79 F / 21 to 26 C||75 to 85 F / 24 to 29 C|
|Chongqing (west)||54 to 65 F / 12 to 18 C||62 to 74 F / 17 to 23 C||69 to 80 F / 21 to 27 C|
As you can see, temperatures are generally ideal for traveling, particularly in April and May.
Just be mindful that it will be fairly humid in the south of China, in cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Guilin.
Spring Festival in China
Towards the end of winter, everyone in China celebrates Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival.
This 7-day holiday is the grandest and most colorful festival in China and the new year celebrations last around 14 days, with the climax on Lunar New Year’s Eve.
The actual dates of this festival change every year because they’re based on the lunar calendar.
So, if you want to see the fireworks, red lanterns, banquets with delicious food, and colorful parades that mark this holiday, then make sure you check the dates before you book your trip.
If you really want to get into the spirit, you can also attract some good luck by wearing red and giving out red packets during the festival.
Just be warned: this is the time of year when domestic travel peaks as Chinese people return to their hometown to visit loved ones.
So, not only is it harder to find train and plane tickets to move around the country, hotels are more expensive and tourist attractions are even more crowded (if they’re open).
Other festivals in the Chinese spring
While Chinese New Year is the most popular and most well-known festival in China in spring, there are other smaller, provincial ones.
If you love your festivals, then you’ll have a good time going to:
- Sisters’ Meal Festival in Guizhou Province
- Water Splashing Festival, celebrated by the Dai people of Xishuangbanna
- March Street Festival in the town of Dali.
These three places are all in southern China.
The pitfalls of spring travel in China
There aren’t any major drawbacks to traveling in China in spring.
The only thing that might make your trip difficult is Spring Festival, as mentioned above. During this two-week period, it might seem as if the whole country is crowding the train stations and airports.
To avoid this, make sure you arrive early in the city where you want to enjoy Chinese New Year and then stay there. Otherwise, just arrive once the festival is over, which will mean better weather as Spring Festival is really at the end of winter.
There are also two other holidays celebrated in springtime: Qingming Festival and Labor Day.
Check the Chinese holiday dates before you book anything. If you happen to be in the country at the time, expect even bigger crowds at tourist attractions.
That’s just part of the festivities!
What to pack for spring travel in China
The weather in spring in China can be very changeable, so I would suggest that you pack layers to help keep you warm, cool, and dry in every situation.
Your exact packing list will depend on what areas you’re visiting and the exact timing of your travel plans, but here’s a general idea of what you should carry with you:
- Sunscreen, particularly if you’re going to be in the south where it gets warmer very quickly
- Thin jacket and thin sweaters
- T-shirts, shorts and long pants
- Comfortable, waterproof shoes
- Rain gear such as an umbrella or raincoat.
I recommend you refer to The Helpful Panda’s packing list so you don’t forget anything.
The best places to travel in China in spring
If it’s your first time traveling in China, then of course you should see the bigger, most popular cities.
Whether you’re climbing the Great Wall of China and enjoying the cherry blossoms in Beijing, marveling at the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, or wandering the Bund in Shanghai, it’s the perfect time to do these things when the weather is warm and mild.
So, make sure you check out big cities like:
- Shanghai for comfortable weather and famous sites surrounded by greenery
- Hong Kong for the most amazing New Year’s festival ever
- Beijing for the Great Wall and Forbidden City surrounded by plum blossoms
- Xi’an to see sites like Qinglong Temple, Huashan Mountain and the Xi’an Botanical Garden decorated in the colors of spring
- Chengdu for temperate weather, pandas, and fresh picked tea at the local tea houses
And once you’ve seen all that you want to see in these cities, it’s time to explore some lesser-known destinations that are at their best in spring, such as:
Huangshan, also known as the Yellow Mountains, is one of the most beautiful sites in all of China.
And spring is the absolute best time to see these stunning mountains dotted with colorful blossoms in full bloom.
You should also take the time to visit some of the ancient villages in this area, as they’re surrounded by endless meadows of brightly colored flowers in spring.
Plus, small villages have some of the most authentic and delicious Chinese dishes around!
Located in east-central China, Luoyang is one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization and in spring, it’s particularly famous for its peonies. This is the national flower of China and are plentiful in Luoyang.
And while you’re there, make sure you check out the Longmen Grottoes, located south of the city on the banks of the Yi River. The history of the grottoes goes back around 3,000 years and the whole area is replete with ancient relics.
Danba Tibetan Villages
You probably haven’t heard of the Danba Tibetan Villages.
Located in southern China in Danba County, the villages are often described as the most beautiful in China and are a popular site for photographers.
The villages are set in a valley between snow-capped mountains and feature massive stone towers alongside whitewashed houses and lush countryside.
In spring, you’ll get the chance to see these lovely villages set against meadows of flowering white pear blossoms.
Spring is all about gardens and some of the best gardens in all of China are in Suzhou.
Most of the gardens are in the traditional Chinese style yet there are gardens in the city to suit all tastes.
If you’re short on time, then make sure you see the Humble Administrator’s Garden, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Lingering Garden, built during the Ming Dynasty.
You should also take the chance to explore Zhouzhuang Water Town. It’s only a short trip from Suzhou and is one of the best water towns in China.
You can even take a ride in a gondola where the oarsperson will sing you a traditional song for a few yuan.
Spring in Tibet offers the contrast of melting snow and fields of peach blossoms in the Nyingchi Valley.
You’ll enjoy this combination set against the sounds of chanting and the unique culture and religion that Tibet is famous for.
There are also far fewer tourists in Tibet at this time, which makes the natural landscapes and religious sites seem even more sacred and mysterious.
Hangzhou is known as ‘Heaven on earth’ and it’s truly beautiful in any season. But in spring, that beauty goes up a few notches.
You can enjoy picking tea leaves at Longjing Village and strolling beneath the Sakura and peach flowers with warm weather, a few showers, and the stunning West Lake as your backdrop.
Hakka Earthen Buildings
Located in southern China in Fujian province the Hakka Earthen buildings are special constructs built by China’s ancient people to support their communal lifestyles.
They’re a well-preserved remnant of the past and look their best when embraced by greenery in spring.
I’m always fascinated by historical sites when I travel, and this was one of my favorites. After seeing them, I fully understand why the buildings were mistaken for missile ramps by American officials in the 1970s!
Psst! A quick travel tip
Are you heading to China soon to experience the spring weather?
If you want to use Wi-Fi in China, you won’t be able to survive without a virtual private network (VPN) on your phone.
The Chinese internet is censored, and without a VPN all of your favorite sites and apps (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, Google, etc) are banned.
Just remember to download the VPN before you arrive as VPN sales are blocked in China.
The takeaway: tips for traveling in China in spring
If you love mild temperatures and flower season, then spring is the best time to travel to China.
My photos of China in spring are some of my favorites. There’s just something about seeing China’s best natural landscapes with the flowers in full bloom that makes the whole experience surreal.
If you have limited time in China in spring, then I recommend putting Suzhou at the top of your travel list. I never knew that I loved exploring gardens while traveling until I spent time in Suzhou.
Now I look for lovely gardens in every location I visit.
I hope you liked my article about Chinese springtime. I’ve also written one about the best things to do in Xiamen (where the Hakka Earthen Buildings are) if you want to keep exploring this incredible country.
Discover every Chinese season
I’ve written about all the different seasons in China:
Main image credit: Supplied by Mike Cairnduff. Average temperature figures courtesy of Weather Spark.
FAQ about spring in China
When is spring in China?
It’s the same as in Europe and the US: March, April and May.
When is Spring Festival in China?
It’s at the end of winter / start of spring, according to the lunar calendar. So, the actual date changes each year. It’s celebrated in January or February.
What is ‘China spring city’?
This is a name given to Kunming, a large city in Yunnan province in China’s southwest. Kunming has pleasant weather all year round, which is why it’s often referred to as Spring City.
How do you say spring in Chinese?
It’s chūntiān or 春天 in Chinese characters.