Understanding India's diverse weather, and deciding where to go, and when
13 Nov 2018
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India has three different seasons: summer, winter and monsoon. Generally speaking, the best time to visit India is between October and March. This means you'll avoid the searing heat of the summer (between March and May when temperatures can exceed 40°C in some areas), and the following heavy monsoon rains which begin in southern India and travel northwards towards the top to the country by the end of June. These rains then last for three months, from June until September.
But of course it's not quite that simple.
Different regions experience very different weather patterns, so whilst one part of the country might be out of action, others will be basking in sunshine. Here's the lowdown...
Year-round travel is possible up here in the Himalayan foothills of Shimla and Darjeeling, with the chilliest winter months being December and January, and June and July being the warmest with temperatures reaching 19°C. Shimla tends to be a little warmer throughout the year. The heavy monsoon rains affect both Shimla and Darjeeling between June and September.
The high altitude desert region of Ladakh on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau is much higher and more remote than the foothills, and has a different climate to other Himalayan areas. The best times to visit Ladakh are during early summer between May and September, when temperatures are pleasant, the snow has melted and places are accessible. The monsoon that affects the rest of the country between June and September barely touches Ladakh. Mid September to mid October is a gorgeous time to see Ladakh, when the land is full of colour, waters are receding and the first flurries of snowfall begin. Winter falls between November and March, when only hard core explorers venture into this area. The cold and snow is extreme, access is often impossible and many places are cut off.
When to visit: October, November and between February to mid-April
The most popular time to visit Northern India is Autumn to late winter when temperatures are cooler, the sun is out and the monsoon rains are just a distant memory. October and November are prime months, when vegetation is rejuvenated making the surrounding countryside lush and green. December and January are generally quite cold, and sometimes a little foggy, but with fewer tourists this is also a good time to visit. By February the weather is warmer, although not uncomfortably so, and the land becomes quite dry and dusty. Travelling in the summer months from mid April to June is discouraged as temperatures soar to often unbearable levels for those not used to the heat. Visiting the country during the monsoon months between June and September is not recommended as regular downpours can make travelling throughout India quite difficult. Plus flooding is quite frequent.
The western areas of Rajasthan, such as Jaisalmer, are quite dry with a very low level of rainfall and humidity, while the more eastern areas of the state experience a much higher level of rainfall and more humidity. During the monsoon, most of the rain falls in July and August. Central India receives a higher level of rainfall than Rajasthan, also in July, August and September. While summers are very hot, Rajasthan is a beautiful place to visit in the cooler months, from October to March.
Goa is a beautiful coastal state on the west coast of India, enjoying warm temperatures all year round. It's an ideal beach holiday destination with temperatures not normally exceeding 32°C in the summer or dropping below 24°C in the winter. Travelling here is possible during the monsoon, although be aware that it will rain, a lot. One benefit of visiting during the monsoon is cheaper hotel prices!
Southern India has a tropical climate and doesn't suffer with low temperatures during the winter months. The ideal time to visit Kerala is from December to February, when the weather is at a slightly cooler, more pleasant temperature for exploring this beautiful region. If you want to visit the country during UK school summer holidays (July - August), hotels and lodges in locations like Kerala often have reduced rates as this is monsoon season. It will rain a lot, but the temperature will still be warm. In some places in South India, the rains can last from May until October/November, making travel difficult and flooding possible. During the wet season (March - June) it can be very humid, which, coupled with high temperatures can make visiting during this time uncomfortable.