Summer in China can be summed in two words: hot and wet.
There’s no getting around it, so be prepared to sweat and drink a lot of water. It’s pretty hot most places in summer though, isn’t it? So heat and humidity shouldn't be too shocking.
From mid-May through mid-July, the rainy season kicks in across southern and eastern China. The rains are nicknamed the plum rains (梅雨 meiyu, or “may yoo” in Mandarin) for the season when the fruit ripens. Frankly, during those weeks, it feels as if nothing can grow but mold. But don’t be downtrodden; bring rain gear and you’ll be fine. Northern China doesn’t have the same precipitation pattern so make your itinerary include Beijing and Xi’an if you’re worried about getting too wet. After the rains end, you’re likely to seek shade from the scorching sun and blue skies that govern the later part of the summer.
There’s a lot to do in the summer months and some great festivals to try to catch as well. The summer months are the perfect time to tour Tibet as the weather is the mildest and most of the festivals take place in July and August. Visit beach cities like Qingdao and Xiamen to catch some rays, or head all the way down to Hainan to really cook on the white sand beaches of the island. If you’re hanging out in any of the big cities, Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai all have great outdoor venues and you’ll find many places to sit in the shade and drink tea - or something stronger - and relax.
Beach: If it’s beach-time you’re after, try one of these destinations for sand and sun:
- Xiamen, formerly known as Amoy, is a relaxing smallish city directly across from Taiwan that has great beaches, long stretches of the promenade, nice seafood restaurants, and a laid-back atmosphere.
- Qingdao, most famous for its beer, is another smaller Chinese city with famous beaches and plenty of places to soak up the sun.
- Sanya, a city on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, is the mecca for serious beach-seekers. Full of top international five-star beach resorts, you can take your pick and have a classy beach holiday. (Be sure not to miss the matching his & her Hawaiian outfits available in all the hotel shops...)
Nature: If you’re looking to see some nature and mountain landscapes then these are perfect choices:
- Tibet enjoys its best weather in summer months and there's not a better time to go in order to catch great festivals.
- Jiuzhaigou is a famous national park and reserve in Sichuan Province. Many ethnic Tibetans live there so it's culturally interesting but the reason to go is the scenery. Full of pristine forests and clear lakes, if you're coming from a big city you'll be relieved to see that there is some amazing nature left in China.
- Mount Song & Shaolin Temple is a great destination if you want to combine a little history and religion with your nature walk.
- Four Buddhist Holy Mountains draw thousands of tourists and climbers every summer. If you're really ambitious, perhaps you could make it to all four?
- The Great Wall just has no match in China. No, it's not off the beaten path. Yes, you'll probably be there with hundreds of other tourists. But it's famous for a reason. Don't miss it if you're near Beijing.
Green: If you don't have time to head too far out, some Chinese cities have plenty of green, many have gardens which are famous:
- Visit any Chinese park
- Suzhou's famous gardens
- Hangzhou and the West Lake or Moganshan.
- The Giant Panda Breeding Base in Chengdu offers lots of green bamboo and giant cuddly animals.
Shanghai: In Shanghai, these are great summer activities:
- Eat al fresco at some of Shanghai's greatest restaurants.
- Grab your comfy shoes and go on a walking tour in the following areas:
- Fuxing Road
- Honkou and the Old Jewish Quarter
- Shaoxing and Taikang Roads
- Go on a relaxing Huang Pu River cruise to take in the Bund sights without exerting too much energy. (Did I mention it'll be hot in summer?)
- And when in Shanghai, it's also great to take a short trip to a nearby water town.
Beijing: And in Beijing, any of these activities are great for summertime.
- Qingdao International Beer Festival
- Shoton Festival in Tibet
Qi Xi, Night of Sevens (Chinese Valentine’s Day) is not an official holiday, but a traditional celebration usually falling in August.
Chinese kids are off from school between early July and the end of August.