* Southwest China, particularly Yunnan province, has a very varied climate. The below is a general overview, but there may be variations depending on the specific areas you are visiting.
March – April: Spring is one of the best times of year to travel in Southwest China. Spring in Guangxi (Guilin, Yangshuo, Longji etc.) arrives early and is short-lived but pleasant. The temperature stays in the comfortable 20°Cs, but rainfall and humidity will increase as summer approaches. Spring in Yunnan on the other hand is longer and drier, with warm days and cool evenings from March through to May. This is the optimal time to visit much of Yunnan, with clear skies and pleasant temperatures showing the whole province off at its best. The Water Splashing Festival takes place in Xishuangbanna in April each year to mark the Dai New Year, and is an exuberant three-day long celebration. Spring in Yunnan also sees the arrival of wild flowers, including azaleas, which can be seen growing in multitudes across the province. Dali and Lijiang are good places to see the spectacular spring flower scenery.
May – August: Summer in Southwest China is long and humid. In Guangxi & Guizhou the wettest months are May and June, but July & August are the hottest, with temperatures frequently topping 30°C. This is a great time of year for river cruises and exploring the countryside, as the river levels are high and the scenery is lush and green. Wear light summer clothing and always carry an umbrella for those unexpected downpours. Dragon Boat Festival takes place in June, and Guilin is a great place to see the boat races and other festivities. Most of central and northern Yunnan, including Kunming, Dali & Lijiang, has a warm summer, with some rain but much lower humidity than other parts of Southwest China. These areas see highs of around 27°C in the hottest months, but it rarely tops 30°C. On the other hand, Southern Yunnan (for example Xishuangbanna) is tropical and has a summer climate more similar to that in Southeast Asia – hot, humid and wet. Yunnan’s mushroom season starts from June onwards. Shaxi is a great pace to learn about the wild mushrooms and even pick some of your own.
September – November: Autumn is one of the best times of year to travel in Southwest China. Guangxi & Guizhou are both drier and cooler than the summer, meaning it is the perfect time of year to do some hiking in the countryside and enjoy the scenery. Most of Yunnan is generally cooler and less humid, and Autumn sees pleasant temperatures, little rain, and clear skies. In late Autumn the days will still be quite warm but evening and night-time temperatures will drop, so bring some layers when traveling at this time of year. September & October is one of the best times to visit the rice terraces of Longji and Yuanyang, as the rice fields are spectacularly golden just before the rice is harvested. We recommend avoiding travelling to China during the first week of October. This is National Week holiday, and the trains and tourist areas can get very crowded.
December – February: Winters in Southwest China tend to be quite mild compared to the rest of China. In Guangxi & Guizhou the winter period is brief and mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 5°C. However, the high levels of humidity make it feel much colder than it is, so we recommend taking some warm layers, particularly for the evenings. Winters are quite dry, with snow extremely rare except in the mountains. In Yunnan, the main destinations of Kunming, Dali and Lijiang see sunny days and cold nights. This is not the best time of year to travel to Zhongdian and the surrounding Tibetan region, as it can get very cold at the higher altitudes. However, winter is one of the best times of year to visit Xishuangbanna and the tropical south. China is not generally thought of as a winter destination, but the mild temperatures and reduced crowds in much of Southern and Southwest China mean that this can be a fantastic time to visit. Chinese New Year takes place in late January/early February. At this time there are increased numbers of people moving around the country and transportation and hotels can get very busy. We recommend avoiding travelling to China during Chinese New Year if possible.
* Guizhou Province has a number of small local festivals taking place throughout the year, which are well worth experiencing if your visit coincides. Exact dates change from year to year, but the some of the major festivals include: the Sister’s Meal Festival, usually around April; Lusheng Festival, usually around February; and the Miao New Year, usually around October.