To enjoy Asia in winter, the key is unsurprisingly to head south to Southeast Asia for warmer temperatures and beautiful weather!
Most of East Asia (e.g., China, Korea, Japan, etc) will be dealing with cold temperatures and snow, meanwhile the busy seasons will just be gaining momentum in Thailand, Vietnam, and other warm places.
Chinese New Year, usually in January or February, is one of the largest events in the world; you’ll enjoy it no matter where in Asia you happen to be!
India in Winter
With the primary monsoon ending sometime around October, India begins to enjoy sunshine and bigger numbers of travelers. The exception is North India where snow will blanket the Himalayas and shut down mountain passes. Skiing season will begin in Manali.
Winter is a great time to get to Rajasthan — India’s desert state — to experience a camel safari. The beaches in the south, Goa in particular, get busy in December for the annual Christmas celebration there.
China and Japan in Winter
Both countries are obviously large, so you’ll still manage to find a few southern points with good weather in the winter. But for the most part, expect wind, snow, and miserable cold in most areas.
Southeast Asia in Winter
While their neighbors north are freezing, most of Southeast Asia will be basking in the sun. Winter is the perfect time to visit Thailand and other destinations before heat and humidity climb to unbearable levels in the spring.
Points farther south such as Indonesia will be dealing with rain during the winter.
Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, top destinations in Vietnam, will still be cold in the winter. January is the best month to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Sri Lanka in Winter
Sri Lanka, despite being a small island, is unique in the way that it experiences two distinct monsoon seasons. Winter is the best time to see whales and visit the popular beaches in the south such as Unawatuna.
Traveling During the Low Monsoon
Even the slow seasons in places such as Bali can be enjoyed during the winter months. Unless a tropical storm system is nearby, monsoon rains don’t typically last all day, and there will be far less tourists crowding the beaches.
Asian Festivals in Winter
Asia has plenty of exciting winter festivals. Thaipusam in India and the King of Thailand’s Birthday are both interesting cultural events. Japan, despite the cold, will be celebrating the Emperor’s Birthday and the Setsubun bean-throwing festival.
Christmas has caught on in Asia, even in places that didn’t celebrate before. Countries such as Korea celebrate the holiday with enthusiasm; streets and buildings are decorated with lights. A large Christmas celebration takes place in Goa, India, each year, and Christmas is a really big deal in the Philippines — Asia’s predominantly Roman Catholic country. No matter the religion in an area, there’s a good chance that Christmas will be celebrated in some form, or at least observed as a special day.
Chinese New Year
The dates for Chinese New year change, but the affect it has on Asia does not. Chinese New Year is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in the world. And although celebrations are certainly exciting, the massive migrations of people traveling to enjoy the holiday or going home to see family certainly bog down transportation.
Accommodation prices often skyrocket during Chinese New Year as Chinese travelers head as far as Lake Toba in Sumatra to enjoy holiday time.
New Year’s Eve
Even countries that celebrate Chinese New Year (or Tet in Vietnam) may still observe December 31 as New Year’s Eve. Large numbers of Western travelers are often on the move to warm, social destinations such as Koh Phangan in Thailand to party and celebrate.