January 2021… the start of a year we’re all hoping will be a lot less crazy than the one before. So, how to make the most of being in China in January when even temperatures in the southern-most provinces couldn’t be described as ‘hot’?
After everything that 2020 has thrown at us, our New Year’s Resolution is definitely going to be “embrace every opportunity we can.” And that’s exactly what we recommend if you’re in China in January. We’ve found the destinations across the Middle Kingdom that are most spectacular in the cold, and we plan to wrap up warm, grab our cameras, and explore.
Here are some of our favorite destinations when traveling in China in January:
China in January: Harbin
Harbin is a serious bucket-list destination. Yes, it is true that it sometimes gets so cold that your eyelashes freeze, but isn’t this part of the experience? Each year, ice is hauled from the frozen Songhua River in Harbin by over 10,000 workers to create the festival, and sculptures (including a full-sized steam train) are built to reach heights of 46m.
Technically, the 37th annual Harbin Ice Festival is scheduled to start on January 5th, but there will be a soft opening prior to this if you’re hoping to visit over the January 1st national holiday. Just make sure you give us a call to check that you won’t be arriving too early.
- Exploring Harbin’s Russian heritage on Lao Daowai
- Gazing up in awe at Ice and Snow World, the world’s largest ice and snow festival
- Discovering the traditions and history of northeastern China, and trying local mouthwatering steamed dumplings
China in January: Zhangjiajie
Home to the towering sandstone pillars that inspired the mythical world of Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar, Zhangjiajie is another ‘must-visit’. If you’ve not been and it’s not on your China wish-list, now is the time to add it. Winter is our favorite time of year to visit, when the crowds stay away and, if you’re lucky, snow will dust the landscape.
- Walking over the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge (if you dare!)
- Dining on steaming-hot Hunan cuisine
- Taking the family photos for next year’s Christmas card. Your background won’t get much better than this
China in January: Pingyao
Snow-covered Pingyao is another wintery image that gets fixed in our minds at this time of year for all the right reasons. Normally a pretty touristy destination, in winter all the tourists clear out, giving you a chance to really appreciate the history of this immaculately preserved Han Dynasty merchant town and meet the people that call it home. Pingyao is charming throughout the year for different reasons, but visiting in winter holds a special place in our hearts.
- Walking down China’s ancient “Wall Street” with no one else around
- Taking a Shanxi knife-cut noodle-making class
- Visiting Wang’s Residence, the largest folk residence cluster in China
China in January: Shanghai
As with every national holiday, prices for traveling over the national holiday on January 1st won’t be cheap. But, if you’re craving a New Year’s Eve that blows away all those 2020 cobwebs in style, we don’t think you can go wrong spending a night on the town in Shanghai.
- Dining at one of the city’s Michelin-starred Bund-side restaurants
- Exploring the city on foot with our friends over at Culture Shock. Even if you live in Shanghai, we can guarantee that you’ll learn something new
- Celebrating New Year’s Eve on the Bund
China in January: Xishuangbanna
Xishuangbanna is staying on our list for the second month in a row because for us, if you are missing a slice of southeast Asia, nothing beats this southern prefecture. Bordering Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand, head into the jungles south of the southern clouds that hug the Mekong as it makes its way out of the mountains. Banna remains, as it always has been, a hidden enclave, tucked away in the greenery of southern China. The perfect retreat from winter in the north.
- Meeting the descendants of the first tea cultivators
- Looking out for the 100 wild elephants that call Wild Elephant Valley home
- Drinking Pu’er tea at its source
Find more inspiration with our winter brochure
Our series of winter recommendations are offered as small group tours that connect you with like-minded travelers for an adventure and cultural discovery like no other. They can also be fully customized into a private journey to meet the needs of every traveler.
Whether you choose a group or private journey in China this January, here’s what we always promise:
- Your health and safety are our number one priorities. If we need to, we’ll alter your itinerary as we go along and will keep you fully in the loop about any travel restrictions that might be in place in the destinations we’re visiting
- You’ll work with a dedicated travel designer to customize a journey that’s just right for you. They’ll do the hard work for you so the only thing you have to worry about is enjoying the ride
- All our guides are local to a destination, and they will treat you as friends, not tourists. They’re not here to recite facts from a tourist textbook, they want to share their personal stories and to help you experience a place like a local