by Sudha Mathew
“What is the best time to visit India?”This is something that I am asked a lot by friends and clients who are planning an India holiday. It is also a popular question on Quora. This is my take on this knotty question.
India is the seventh largest country in the world with 3,166,414 sq. km and a coastline of 7,517 km. With a wide diversity in geographical conditions, there is no one answer to the best time to visit India. A good example is this one. It pours buckets in Kerala and Karnataka in the monsoon that starts in June while their neighbor Tamil Nadu has its rainy season in October and November. That’s why why first time travelers to India find it difficult to sift through the tons of information and tips on the web. So it makes sense to break this up by the calendar.
Broadly speaking the “season” in India is from October to February as most destinations are at their best with pleasant weather and many festivals. This is also when rates are higher and hotel reservations are hard to come by. If you are looking to avoid high rates, you could plan to visit India in the shoulder season of September or March.
Regions to visit from October to March In India
1. North India covering Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh. This is the most popular time to visit the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Taj Mahal and Rajasthan.
The temperature range at this time is 5 C – 25 C.
2. South India covering Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and the gorgeous islands of Lakshwadeep and Andaman Nicobar. Tamil Nadu is an anomaly in South India as it is affected by the North East monsoon also called reverse monsoon. So it gets rains from October to early December. The best time to visit Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry is mid December to March.
The temperature range at this time in South India is 20 C - 30 C.
3. North East India covering Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. The North East states of India are rapidly gaining popularity as tourist destinations. I like this page with all the essential information in one place.
The temperature range at this time is 4 C – 20 C.
4. West India covering Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. These three states are very different from each other in terms of scenic beauty and culture except for their weather, which is similar.
The temperature range at this time is 15 C – 30 C.
But what if you can’t make it in the best season to visit India? Luckily, there are still many choices open to you.
Regions to visit from April to June
Hill stations across India, Kashmir
The temperature starts to rise in March. It can be uncomfortably warm in most of India except in the hills from April to mid June. This is the right time to visit the quaint towns in the hills such as Shimla, Manali, Ooty, Kodaikanal, Coonoor, Munnar and many more. These settlements established by the British as summer retreats are known as “hill stations”, a uniquely colonial term. During April to June, the days are pleasant with mild sunshine and cool evenings. Kashmir is also at its best during this season with flowers in full bloom.
Temperature range is 14 C – 30 C.
Regions to visit from June to September
Ladakh, Himalayas and Valley of Flowers in Uttaranchal
When rains lash most of India, pack your bags to visit Ladakh. Clear skies, sunny weather and beautiful views will be your reward. For trekkers, this is the time to head to the Himalayas and the sensationally beautiful Valley of Flowers, a high altitude flower carpeted Himalayan valley. Temperature range is 5 C – 28 C so the day will be sunny and the nights cold.
Visiting India for a specific activity rather than exploring a destination is another way of deciding the best time to travel to India.
Wildlife and tiger spotting – April to May
One of the biggest attractions of India is its wildlife and in particular, the tiger. While most travelers usually avoid the hot summer months when temperatures go over 35C, wildlife enthusiasts plan their holidays at this time. When water sources deep within the forest dry up, wildlife is forced to coming to the large waterholes to drink and the chances of spotting the tiger, rhino and even birds is better. You could bookmark this informative article on the best places to spot tigers.
Festivals of India – across the year
Other big attractions for travelers are Indian festivals with their pomp, chaos, colours and rituals. Onam in Kerala, Durga Puja in Bengal, Hornbill festival in Nagaland, Holi and Diwali across North India and Pushkar mela in Rajasthan are major tourist magnets. Plan much ahead if you want to find good accommodation during these festivals that are spread across the year. This calendar gives the dates for Indian festivals in 2013.
Traveling in the monsoon – June to early August
Ayurveda treatment in Kerala
While most travelers shy away from visiting India in the monsoon, there is one group that times their visit to coincide with the rains in Kerala. Traditional Ayurveda practitioners say that the rainy season is the best time for rejuvenation treatments. One of the most authentic and rigorous Ayurveda rejuvenation centres is Kalari Kovilakom in Kerala.
Monsoon holidays in Kerala and Goa
And even if you are not in need of Ayurvedic treatment, why not travel to Kerala or Goa in the monsoon to experience one of the world’s most awe inspiring natural spectacles? Peaceful sightseeing, no crowds, quiet hotels with attentive service and lush green scenery make this a good time for enjoying a holiday at the lowest rates in the year.
What to avoid
From May to July, it is best to avoid most of North India as the temperature can cross 50 C. Most people stay indoors during the day. It cools down at night but can be uncomfortable without air conditioning.
Additional resources for planning travel to India
I hope this article on the best time to visit India helped you in getting a grasp of the different seasons and how to plan your holiday to India based on weather, region or activity. I’m leaving you with a ready reckoner on the best time to travel to India.
I’d be happy to help if you need advice on planning an India trip. Feel free to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Old French map of India – Steve Jurvetson
Little monks in Sikkim – Sukanto Debnath
Mobor Beach in Goa – Kumaravel
Tiger spotting in India – Tarique Sani
Festival of Holi – Lotus Carroll
Kerala monsoon – Vinoth Chandar
Other images are my own.