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January is the middle of the winter and low tourist season in China, so expect bitterly cold weather, especially in the north. Things get warmer as you head to the far south. Since this is not the peak tourist season, you’ll get good deals on hotels in most places. But shopping can get expensive around the Chinese New Year, so keep this in mind if you plan to travel to China in January. This is also the best month to see the ice festival in the northeast city of Harbin, admire the snow-covered landscape of Jiuzhaigou National Park in southwestern China, and soak in the warmth of the sun in Hainan Island in China’s southernmost tip.

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China Weather in January

A traditional roof in China in January during snowfall.
It is still winter in January in China, but the temperatures are more forgiving in the south of the country.

Vast swathes of China in January are freezing cold. January is dry, and the skies above Beijing are usually clear, though the capital may be snowed in. It’s uncomfortably cold for cruises on the Yangtze River. The weather in Hong Kong and Macao is comparatively pleasant. In Beijing, the average temperature for the night is -8°C (18°F) while the daytime average is 2°C (36°F). In Harbin, the average temperatures range from -13°C (9°F) to -24°C (-11°F). Chengdu sees an average high of 10°C (50°F) and a low of 3°C (37°F).

Weather in China in January - Rainfall and Temperatures

  Avg Daily (°C) Avg Nightly (°C) Avg Daily (°F) Avg Nightly (°F) Avg Rainfall (mm)
West China (Ürümqi) -7 -17 19 1 10
North China (Beijing) 2 -8 36 18 3
East China (Shanghai) 8 2 46 36 74
South China (Shenzhen) 20 13 68 55 26

Why Visit China in January

A dragon ice sculpture in Harbin in China in January.
You will be just in time to see the ice festival in Harbin in January.
The Gate of Supreme Harmony during a bright day,
All gates in the Forbidden City are decorated with a nine-by-nine array of golden door nails, except for the East Glorious Gate, which has only eight rows.

It may be cold in January, but China is a large country, and the weather varies. Here is why you should consider a trip to China in January.

  • Fewer crowds and better rates: Foreign tourists avoid China in the peak of winter. This means fewer crowds and cheaper hotels. The average price per person for accommodation in Beijing is around USD 40, but January rates are lower. The exceptions are places like Hainan Island, where prices can spike in winter due to a surge in domestic tourists.
  • Winter sports: This is the season to go snowboarding in Nanshan or skiing in Heilongjiang province. Also, look out for ice skating opportunities in Beijing’s frozen lakes, such as the Weiming Lake (the lake without a name) at Peking University and Qianhai Lake.
  • Hot springs: Beat the cold by taking a delightful dip in a hot spring. Popular ones include Huaqing Hot Springs in Xi'an City and Donghai Hot Springs in Jiangsu Province. Want to make it even more special? Then, relax in a warm pool with a soothing pot of hot Chinese tea.
  • Festive season: In China, holidays in January don’t get bigger than the Chinese New Year when the entire country is on the move. This 15-day festival, also called the Spring Festival, usually falls in January or February, based on the lunar calendar. Another spectacular event in January is the month-long Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, where sculptors from across the world display their stunning creations made from ice. One of the most beautiful festivals in winter is the International Rime Ice and Snow Festival in Jilin. Rime is condensed vapor or ice crystals that settle over trees, creating a magical effect.

Where to go and what to do

River flowing in between two rocky cliffs at Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Legend has it that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point which is about 25-meters-wide, hence the name 'Tiger Leaping Gorge'.

Seeing the remarkable Great Wall after it has snowed is a memorable experience during a tour in Beijing in January. Also, check out the Ice Lantern Festival at Longqing Gorge, where you can admire fantastic dragons, temples, and castles handmade from ice, along with fireworks displays and dance performances.

Yunnan Province, home to more than 11,000 hectares of rice-terraced fields, does not see extreme cold weather and is an excellent destination for January. Besides enjoying the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets on the fields of Yuanyang, you can visit Xishuangbanna, where wild elephants still roam in tropical rainforests, and hike in Yunnan’s Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the most popular winter trekking tours in China.

While calling Sanya the ‘Hawaii Of China’ might be pushing things, this coastal area in the far south of China on Hainan Island is fast becoming popular among international tourists, and January is a good time to visit it. Relax at Sanya’s crescent-shaped Houhai Beach or the scenic Yalong Bay beach. Walk on a glass bridge at Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone, and see adorable macaques at Nanwan Monkey Island, a protected nature reserve in Hainan.

Need Help Planning a Trip to China in January?

Visiting China in January is like throwing the travel rule book out of the elegant window of a traditional Chinese bamboo house. But that’s what makes it such a fascinating experience. You get to witness a wintery landscape, enjoy fairytale festivals, discover picturesque islands, see stunning terraced vistas, and much more. Contact our local travel experts to craft a customized trip to China.

Published by Tim Green, updated on March 7, 2024

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