Best Time for Photography in China

If you are asking when the best time is for photography in China, there will be many possible answers. It will depend on the choice of destination, the seasons, and the variety of scenic features, all of which affect the final quality of the photo. In this article, we have listed some recommended destinations along with the best time for photography according to their features. For sure, it is impossible to include all the beautiful photography places in China, but hopefully this information will be useful and helpful for you in the near future.

1. Best Time for Landscape Photography in China

Landscape photography has always been the most popular photography genre that many photographers are interested in. However, landscape photography is significantly affected by the weather. Here you can choose the best time to go to the following photography destinations according to the introductions below.

1. Karst Landforms in Guilin

  • Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
  • Best Time: All year round
  • Introduction:

Guilin is located in the south of China and is famous for its unique limestone landforms. The annual average temperature of Guilin is around 19.3°C (67°F). Normally, there is no snow in winter and the monsoon season is in May and June. The rainy season is not that friendly for photographers. But, no matter what the temperature or the weather is like, the Karst mountains and the Li River are always there. Choose a good spot on high ground, and you will be amazed by the stunning panoramic view of the landscape in the Guilin area.

2. "Hallelujah Mountains" in Zhangjiajie

  • Location: Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province
  • Best Time: April to October
  • Introduction:

James Cameron was inspired by those fantasy mountains in Zhangjiajie, and then he created the "Hallelujah Mountains" in the movie Avatar. In recent years, Zhangjiajie has hosted many international competitions of extreme sports, and that has made its popularity greatly improve. Nowadays, Zhangjiajie has become one of the most popular travel destinations in China. In terms of weather, the best season for photography in Zhangjiajie should be from April to October. In winter it is quite cold and slippery in the mountains. The sea of clouds can be also seen in Zhangjiajie. Because the scenic areas are very large and the weather can be quite changeable, you would do best to choose a great spot and wait for the best chance to take some great photos.

3. Zhangye National Geopark

  • Location: Zhangye, Gansu Province
  • Best Time: June to October
  • Introduction:

Located in the northwestern part of China, the colorful Danxia landform in Zhangye National Geopark is also known as the "rainbow mountains". It was listed as one of the "six most beautiful landforms in China" by Chinese National Geography magazine in 2009. Based on the experience of many photographers, the best months to take pictures here is from June to October every year. More precisely, the best time to shoot the "Rainbow mountains" is in the afternoon, when the mountain reveals its sense of depth. And if it is just after rain, the landform will be even more colorful. Hopefully you can arrive at Zhangye National Geopark when the rain is over and the sun comes out so that you will see the most magnificent "rainbow mountains".

4. The Mudflats Photography in Xiapu

  • Location: Xiapu County, Ningde, Fujian Province
  • Best Time: April to June
  • Introduction:

Xiapu is a small coastal town located in Fujian Province in southeastern China. In recent years, because of the natural location and the special effect of the light and shadow, mudflats photography in Xiapu has become very popular among many photographers. Dotted with the colorful seaweed nets, they are known as the most beautiful mudflats in China. The period from April to June is considered to be the best time for photography in Xiapu because that is the harvesting time of the kelp. You may take photos of the busy workers taking a small boat around the laver farms. Winter is cold and there is not too much scenery to see. Summer and autumn are the typhoon seasons, and the weather can be critical sometimes.

2. Best Time for Fall Foliage Photography in China

Fall foliage photography is another popular theme for photographers. As the temperature cools down, the changing colors of the leaves can transform a mediocre location into a significant scene. However, in many parts of China, autumn is brief. In some places, there are only about two weeks to capture the best fall foliage scenes. We have listed the best time for photographing the colors of autumn at some beautiful places in China.

1. Grasslands of Inner Mongolia

  • Location: Hulun Buir Grassland or Ulan Butong Grassland, Inner Mongolia
  • Best Time: September–Early October
  • Introduction:

September to early October is the best time for photographing the warm hues of the grasslands in Inner Mongolia of China. Hulun Buir Grassland and Ulan Butong Grassland are the most beautiful places in fall. The best spots should be the junctions of the grasslands and the forests. The fall foliage photography is all about color. The massive grassland, when it is dotted with red, yellow, and orange leaves, and the blue skies, and those evergreen trees, make the picturesque landscapes look just like a painting. Besides all this, the sunrise and sunset over the grasslands can also be amazing. I personally think that sunrises could be better than sunsets photographically because, during the fall season, the temperatures in the morning are normally lower than in the late afternoon. Such temperature changes can bring some low fog or steam near the lakes and rivers, which will make the scene even more attractive. You really must go for these stunning picturesque landscapes at least once in your life.

2. Northern Part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

  • Location: Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
  • Best Time: September
  • Introduction:

The northern part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is definitely the most beautiful place in China in autumn. The landscape is large and you have to travel a long distance to get there, but all your effort is worthwhile once you successfully capture the breathtaking photos of the fall in that region.

Kanas Lake

It is located in the very northern part of Xinjiang, and is known as the most beautiful and mysterious lake in China. In China, when we are talking about Kanas Lake, the first impression must be the mysterious "monsters" in the lake. But when you arrive there, you will be surprised by the beautiful scenery. You may find many photography subjects around this "pure land" in autumn, such as the crystal clear lake water, the red foliage, the blue sky, and the snowcapped Altai Mountains. All these items make Kanas area a colorful world in September.

Hemu Village

It’s about 1.5 hours’ drive from Kanas Lake Scenic Area. The residents are mainly ethnic Tuvans and Kazakhs. The fall foliage will color the small village in September. You can walk into the birch forests and focus on the details that might be surrounding you, or climb to higher ground to take some wide-angle photos of the Hemu village area. You will forget the busy and stressful life in the big cities and yearn for the peaceful life here.

Keketuohai UNESCO Global Geopark

It was opened in 2018, and was the first geopark in Xinjiang, covering an area of 788 km2. It is located on the southern slope of the Altai Mountains, and the Irtysh River cuts through the Irtysh Grand Canyon in the Geopark. In autumn, Keketuohai is reputed as the "paradise of photographers". The Grand Canyon will be turned into warm colors in September and October. The breathtaking views of the golden birch forests, the gray rocks, blue sky, green water and snowcapped mountains are always important elements of fall foliage photography. If you like nature and fall foliage photography, you should go to capture the colors of the fall in Keketuohai UNESCO Global Geopark once in your life.

3. Bird Photography

Bird photography has become more and more popular in recent years in China. There are many birding locations in China. But what if you have limited time, and you would like to take fine photos of the birds more efficiently? You may capture photos of different birds at the following destinations if you go for these places at the right time. Here is the information for your reference.

1. Caohai Lake

  • Location: Weining Yi and Hui and Miao Autonomous County, Bijie City, Guizhou Province
  • Best Time: January – March
  • Introduction:

As the largest freshwater lake and a National Nature Reserve in Guizhou Province, Caohai Lake is reputed as the "fairyland of birds". There are over 111 kinds of birds in different seasons. Among them, the Black-necked Cranes are the rarest birds here at Caohai lake. The number of mature individuals of the Black-necked Cranes is only about 6600-6800 in the world. The Black-necked Cranes live on a few plateau areas in China's Qinghai Province, southern Tibet, western Guizhou and northern Sichuan. In the early winter every year, the Qinghai-Tibet plateau will be frozen, and the Black-necked Cranes will migrate south to Caohai Lake. The high quality lake water, lush aquatic plants, and the abundant fish and shrimp make Caohai Lake become one of the main wintering habitats for Black-necked Cranes. During January to March, large numbers of different birds will gather in Caohai Lake and the surrounding wetland area, which will attract many bird experts, bird lovers and photographers from all over the world. This is absolutely the best time for bird photography in any year.

2. Bird Island

  • Location: Qinghai Lake, Qinghai Province
  • Best Time: May – July
  • Introduction:

Bird Island is located at the west side of the largest saltwater lake in China, Qinghai Lake. It is a very well-known birding place and is one of the top-8 National Bird Reserves in China. We call it "Bird Island", because there can be over 100,000 migrant birds on the small island at the same time. Here, you may capture photos of Bar-headed geese, Pallas's gulls, Brown-necked gulls, Whooper swans and Cormorants, and so on. In spring, these birds fly from the islands of the Indian Ocean in south Asia to Bird Island of Qinghai Lake. As the temperature drops, they fly back to India, Nepal, Thailand, and Singapore in September and October.

3. Kunming

  • Location: Cuihu Lake and Dian Lake, Kunming, Yunnan Province
  • Best Time: October – March
  • Introduction:

Kunming city is the provincial capital of Yunnan Province in southwestern China. Because of the comfortable temperature and mild weather all year round, Kunming is also known as the "Spring City". A large number of Black-headed gulls fly from Lake Baikal in Siberia to Cuihu Lake and Dianchi Lake in Kunming in winter. So the best time for Black-headed gulls photography in Kunming is from October to March. If you are going there, we suggest you go for the two lakes at around 07:00am to 10:00am. That is the best time to photograph the Black-headed gulls in the daytime because normally most of the birds will fly back to their nests in the afternoon.

4. Snowscape Photography

Snowscape photography is a very seasonal and there is limited activity in China. You should go to the right destination at the right time for capturing the wonderful moment. Of course, you may go to Tibet or to the northwest of Yunnan Province, where you can see snowcapped mountains all year round. Here we have listed some seasonal snowscape photography destinations. Maybe one day you will visit these places.

1. Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival

  • Location: Harbin, Heilongjiang Province
  • Best Time: January – February
  • Introduction:

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is one of the largest ice and snow festivals in the world. The festival normally starts from 5th January and ends in late February each year. Depending on the weather, it can start earlier and stay longer. The main exhibition areas are in the Sun Island and the Ice and Snow World in Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China. There will be many intricately-designed ice and snow sculptures in the parks during the festival. No matter whether it’s daytime or nighttime, the ice and snow compositions are all amazing and stunning. You should not miss this festival if you go to Harbin during that time. As the weather is very cold (around -20°C/-4°F), you need to put on your thickest clothes and bring relevant gear for protecting your camera and lens.

2. The Yellow Mountains

  • Location: Huangshan, Anhui Province
  • Best Time: December – February
  • Introduction:

The Yellow Mountains area is one of the most popular landscape photography destinations in China. As regular travelers, the best time for visiting the Yellow Mountains should be from May to October. However, the best time for professional photographers should be in winter (November to February). Although winter is the low season of tourism in the Yellow Mountains, there will be a high possibility of seeing the impressive sunrise or sunset above the sea of clouds in the early morning or in the late afternoon. Different from the surrounding area, the Yellow Mountains area has its own independent climate. The weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable, and the temperature can be -10°C/14°F in winter. So you may need some good luck and warm jackets when you are going to visit the Yellow Mountains in winter.

3. Yuanyang Terraced Fields

  • Location: Yuanyang County, Yunnan Province
  • Best Time: Mid-December – March
  • Introduction:

Yuanyang Terraced Fields has always been a popular photography destination in China. The elegant lines, the reflections on the water in the fields, the sunrise and sunset, all make the area a "paradise" for photographers. The best time for photography in Yuanyang Terraced Fields is in winter, which is from mid-December until March in the next year. During this period, the fields are irrigated and the water makes the area more attractive. If there is a sunny day after snow, the edge of the terraced fields is clearer and more layered. You may even see the sea of clouds staying low in the valley. That is the best weather condition for your snowscape photography in Yuanyang. Coupled with the reflection and the interaction of the light and shadow, the final photos must definitely be amazing.

Besides the winter in Zhangjiajie, the grasslands in Inner Mongolia, and the snowcapped mountains in Yunnan and Tibet can also be amazing snowscape photography destinations as well.

So this is the information about the best time for photography in different parts of China. If you would like to know more about the best time for photography in other destinations, please contact our travel consultants who can answer your questions and give you more suggestions for visiting China.

By Lee Li
Travel Specialist