Best time to visit India. You can’t generalize about anything when you travel to India. Certainly not the weather. In December you can bask on the beaches of Kerala or burn at the Taj Mahal, yet head into the mountains of Ladakh for temperatures plummeting into the minus teens. There is a monsoon from July until September, but the sun can be shining in the north. You can hike in Kerala’s the Western Ghats in winter, but head to the Himalayas and it’s skis, boots, and crampons.
India can change your perception of the seasons of the year. My friends from Eastern Europe who spent most of their life in the countries with four seasons, it was hard for them to adapt to the Indian climate and seasons initially. For instance, when they offered me to plan a trip in autumn, I was double-checking when their autumn starts.
In this post, I want to share with you more about seasons in India, what do they mean and what is the best time to visit India depending on the area or itinerary. Here are the main points of the post for your convenience:
- Best time to travel to India – introduction to Indian seasons
- Summer in India and school holidays
- India in Monsoons
- Autumn in India
- Winter in India
- When to visit Deserts in India?
- When to visit Himalaya and hill stations?
- Off-season in India
Best time to travel to India – intro to Indian seasons
Many sources on the web suggest that the tourist season in India is from November to March. That is a generalization, but if we look at the main tourist places to visit in India, it is true. Kerala, Golden Triangle, Goa, Rajasthan – are some of the most popular areas visited mainly from November to March.
If I would split India into the seasons (except mountains), they will probably be the following:
- Winter in India: November – February (pleasant in South, chilly in the North)
- Summer in India: March – June, October (hot to unbearably hot around the country – up to 45-50 C in some parts)
- Monsoon in India: June – September (less hot than summer, but very humid)
March in India is a disputed month since day temperature is getting hot during this time, but it’s still might get chilly in several states at night. In North India, June is considered summer, as monsoon arrives thereafter it hits south of the country. September is also a disputed month as some parts of the country still have monsoons during this time.
Nevertheless, if you go to Jammu and Kashmir, you will feel how winter season expands till April, then there starts a short spring, summer months are from June till August, then there is short autumn flowing into long winter.
Note, three seasons above were estimated from personal observations while living in India. If you want to be “geographically correct”, there are two seasons in the major part of India – dry season and monsoon.
Summer in India and school holidays
Indian summers typically last from March till mid-June. This is the time when winter nights are becoming warmer and the days get quite hot.
April and May are usually considered as low-season for foreigners as it gets uncomfortably hot. Meanwhile, this is one of the most popular travel seasons in India. It is vacation time in schools in the bigger part of the country, so families are traveling all around the country.
Summer in India is the time of hill stations. While North Indians plan Himalaya, some South Indians go to the Western Ghats. This means popular hill stations will be traffic-jammed and crowded, so be ready for that!
Also Read: Mahabaleshwar – a strawberry town in the Western Ghats
Visiting India in Autumn
The bigger part of India doesn’t understand Autumn due to the tropical nature of the climate. Nevertheless, if you are looking for fall foliage with rich warm colors head to Himalaya. I strongly recommend checking out Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.
Though there are other cities in North India that have autumn (think of Chandigarh, north districts of Uttarakhand), these are rather exceptions. The richest autumn colors are further north.
Monsoon season in India
Monsoon brings heat relief after extended and hot summers. There are two monsoon seasons in India. “Wait, what?” The major part of India experiences the southwest monsoon. It starts in Kerala at the beginning of June and gradually moves towards the North. Delhi usually gets hit by the end of June, Himalaya gets monsoons in the beginning by the 1st-2nd week of July.
Three-four weeks before the actual monsoon there is a pre-monsoon season (mainly in the south). Occasional rains increase in frequency and bring a strong downpour at the beginning of the season. There is also a northeast monsoon that hits mainly Tamil Nadu during the months of October – December. In monsoons, the weather becomes very humid. In some areas, the clothes don’t really get dry. In some places, there is this sticky feeling on the skin, even after 10 showers a day.
Travel in India during monsoons
There are travelers asking me if they can visit India during the monsoons. Of course! There are so many people who have vacation constraints and can take off only in summer.
Nevertheless, you have to be ready that monsoon is not a drizzling rain. It is a strong torrential downpour with occasional storms. It means that it might rain all day long, every day at the beginning of the season. Your plans will highly depend on your luck and the Rain schedule (I feel you Dehradun with your constant showers).
It means, sometimes transport can get delayed or canceled, there might be landslides in the hill areas and inundation in the coastal side.
Nevertheless, if you visit India during monsoons, nature will look greener, the air becomes fresher. Cities with the highest air pollution get blue patches of the sky and these are immediately Instagrammed by everyone!
If you are looking to escape monsoons in India, head to Ladakh. Because of the mountainous range, there is no concept of monsoons as it is in the rest of India. They do get eventual storms and rains, but these can happen anytime not only in the summer season.
In some parts of India, you will not feel winter at all. As one Kerala localite told me: “In coastal Kerala, we have three seasons: hot, very hot and monsoon”.
Read also: Amazing beaches in Kerala for your next trip
Winter is the best time to visit South India. Tamil Nadu, Coastal Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, some states in the west and east – Goa, Maharashtra, Telangana. These are the states where you want to travel from December to February when North Indian nights are quite chilly. Outside of these months, these states are getting really hot during the day-time.
Winter is very harsh in Himalaya and gets uncomfortably cold in North India and hill stations. For instance, taking a morning shower even in Delhi in January is close to extreme.
When to visit Deserts in India?
There are two deserts in India – the Thar Desert in Rajasthan and Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. They remain hot during day time throughout the year. Nevertheless, in winter nights the temperatures can drop as low as +5 degrees.
Read also: How to choose a desert safari in Thar?
I recommend visiting the deserts in India from December to February. In addition to this, check-out famous festivals. There is an annual festival (Rann Utsav) in Kutch held from November to February. Also, there are a few camel fairs in Rajasthan. The biggest and most famous is in Pushkar in November.
During these times you can learn more about the culture of these states, attend some of the local performances, and see some of the finest works in arts & crafts.
When to visit Himalaya and hill stations in India?
The best months to go to lower Himalaya are from September to November and April to June. Upper Himalaya (e.g. Ladakh) is better to visit from May to September since it is a high altitude area that doesn’t really have the monsoon.
Read also: How to plan a trip to Nubra Valley in Ladakh?
Unless you are planning for skiing in Gulmarg or doing some winter-specific treks (e.g. Chandar), I recommend avoiding Himalaya during winter months. If you are game for colder temperatures in winters, try hill stations in the South in Nilgiris or the Western Ghats. They also require really warm sweaters for sleeping, but day temperatures are manageable.
Read also: Munnar in Winter – tea and spices in the Western Ghats
There are some hill areas with the high season during monsoons: Valley of Flowers, Kaas Plateau, Dzukou Valley. All these places blossom during the rainy season, that’s why they look especially beautiful in July – August.
India in off-season
There are numerous advantages and disadvantages of traveling during the off-season in India. That basically means going to the mountains in winters and to the beach destinations in summers. I understand it sounds perfectly logical for you if you belong to a four-season country. Nevertheless, mountains in India are freezing cold in winters as there is no central heating, beaches are often inundated during hard monsoons in summers.
While you will definitely get better rates and deals (sometimes up to 50% off), some guesthouses will be closed, there will be less touristy activities in general and some roads will be blocked due to weather conditions. At the same time, you will get to see India the way it is – without tourist gloss and souvenirs.
I hope this post gave you a better understanding of the areas and seasons in India. If you have any other tips or still wondering when to go to India for certain experiences, don’t hesitate to drop a comment or get in touch!
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