Choosing a time to tour the Silk Road depends on which section of the long route you are focusing on. The Silk Road goes through several provinces, regions and climate zones including the Xi’an, Gansu and Xinjiang Provinces in the west. If you want the short answer then the best time to travel the Silk Road is in May or October. The summer can be very hot and the winter very cold. With about 20 different ethnic cultures along the Silk Road you can also plan your visit so that it coincides with one of the colorful local festivals.
The Chinese, Han and Manchu celebrate most of the same festivals but with some differences. Many of the cultures along the Silk Road are Islamic and so they share many of the same festival like Kaizhai Festival and the Guerbang Festival. The Mongolians also have some festivals worth seeing like the Mongolian Nadam festival and the Kazak Nawurezi Festival. The Tibetans celebrate the Dafozhanyang Festival and the Tatar Saban Festival among others.
Ideal Time to Visit the Silk Road by Province and City
Xi’an and Gansu Provinces can be visited year round.
Xi’an City experiences four distinct seasons, spring is warm, summer is wet, autumn is cool and rainy and winter is dry and cold. Visit in April, May, June, July or September.
Dunhuang city is best visited from May to October as the humid city temperatures are at their mildest.
Visit Turpan along the Silk Road in autumn when the markets are full of fresh fruit, the days are warm and the nights are cool.
Xinjiang is best visited from May to early October as the weather is mild.
Urumqi city has a short spring and autumn with an overall arid and dry climate. The best time to visit is July, August or September. From May to October you can see some beautiful flowers and taste the fresh local fruit.
Xining city is great from May to September; it has a dry, windy spring and long cold winter.
Yinchuan city has a general continental climate with little rainfall and lots of sunshine. May to October is a good time to visit this city.
Shaanxi Province has a continental monsoon climate although the province has a wide latitude so there are a number of climate zones.
Qinling Province has very cold temperatures in January, hot temperatures in July and mild temperatures other times of the year.
Ningxia Province can be freezing in winter and January in particular while summer temperatures can reach 39°C and winter -39°C.
Lanzhou city is inland and has a semi-arid continental monsoon climate. The best time to visit Lanzhou is from May to October for the best weather.
Ideal Time to Visit the Silk Road by Season
April – A good time to visit the first section of the Silk Road starting at Xi’an.
May – The temperatures are around 15°C on average and the scenery can be magnificent. The mountain tops are still tipped with snow but the expansive plains are already showing signs of brilliant green and wildflowers.
June-September – This is a great time to experience the harvest activities in rural areas along the Silk Road.
October – Another great time to visit when the snow has temperatures are cool yet not sweltering or freezing.
Deciding When to Visit the Silk Road
The two factors to consider when deciding when to visit the Silk Road are weather and festivals.
Also read: Visit Yunnan Province