From the largest ice and snow festival in the world to the stunning beaches of Hainan, China is home to some of the most exciting winter destinations in the world. Fortunately, the winter months of November through February are also the best time to travel to China. Because it is the off season, you can typically find great bargains on airlines and hotels as well as on package deals. Plus, many of China's famous attractions tend to be less crowded during the winter.
If you decide, however, to travel during the Thanksgiving or the Christmas holiday periods, be prepared to book your flights and rooms early as these are popular times to travel to China. This is also true for the Chinese New Year, which is one of the country's most important holidays.
The City of Harbin hosts a spectacular snow and ice festival, which is the largest in the world. At this festival, you'll find stunning sculptures and elaborate buildings carved from ice -- some featuring slides for guests to enjoy. The month-long festival is officially held from January to February. However, work actually begins on the displays and exhibits in mid-December. Temperatures are -- not surprisingly -- very cold, with an average daily winter temperature of 23 degrees F.
Winter is one of the best times to visit Beijing's many tourist attractions as crowds are down and some of the attractions, such as its temples, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, look especially enchanting when adorned with a dusting of snow. In addition, you can engage in a number of winter sports in Beijing, including ice skating and skiing. On average, the daily average temperature during the winter is below 43 degrees F.
This city, which is the capital of the Shaanxi province, is most famous for its underground army of Terracotta warriors and horses. The life-size clay statues were crafted more than 2,000 years ago and were buried with Qin Shihuang, China's first emperor. Xian is also home to a number of other popular attractions, including the seven-story-tall, 1,300-year-old Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the 600-year-old City Wall of Xian. Xian's average daily winter temperature is 48 degrees F, so it can be chilly, but not unbearable.
If you prefer to spend your winter vacation basking in the warm sun on a gold-sand beach, then tropical Hainan Island is the destination for you. This island, which is located in the South China Sea, is also popular with travelers seeking spa and holistic vacations. Hainan is home to 34 different hot springs and many of its resorts feature full-service luxury spas and offer yoga and Tai Chi classes for their guests. On average, temperatures during the winter are a very comfortable and relatively dry 80 degrees F.
When compared to cities in northern China, Hong Kong enjoys relatively mild winter weather -- with a daily average temperature of 69 degrees F -- and very little rain, which makes this season an excellent time to visit such attractions as Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park or to visit the bustling Temple Street Night Market. In addition, Hong Kong offers numerous events during the winter, including a colorful Chinese New Year Parade as well as spectacular fireworks displays on the second day of the Chinese New Year and also at midnight on December 31st.
In northern China, it is recommended to dress in several layers. If it is very cold, you may need long underwear, pants, a shirt and a heavy jacket.
Hainan is a tropical island, so pack a bathing suit, short-sleeved shirts and shorts or dresses.
Harbin Snow and Ice Festival Flickr Photo Courtesy of La Priz