When to go to India – broken down for you
Answering the question when to go to India depends on what you want to get out of your travels and what you want to experience? This will dictate when and where you go. I have met countless backpackers who decide to turn up with no guidebook and what seems like absolutely no information what’s so ever. Their plan is just to go where ever other people say is good.
While it is a romantic ideal to see where the wind takes you, it is not realistic if you want value for money. You will inevitable backtrack and often find yourself in the right place at the wrong time. I think it is overwhelmingly beneficial to have some kind of plan in place.
That is why I am here. I want to help my readers make an informed choice, and I aim to help you enjoy your dream trip to this beautiful country. Lord knows I have made a whole lot of mistakes and put myself in dangerous situations unnecessarily to learn what I know now. I want to share my experience with you, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. This can only be a good thing because after all, it is better to learn from someone else’s mistakes if you can right?
Unlike in most countries, it is not as simple as saying this is the summer, and this is the winter as many weather patterns govern your end choices of when you will want to visit. If you were to come to the tiny island of England (the place where I call home.) It would be easy to say come between June and August when we enjoy our short summer. In the same light, I could say the worst time to visit England is between October and February when the long wet winters are happening. That is straight forward and quite conclusive whereas there is no such easy answer to when to visit India.
India is a vast country and as tempting as it is to board a plane and just to start your travels I implore you to resist that urge. At least not without some consideration first, because for you to get the best you can from your time and money, it is Important to visit when the conditions are just right.
So when is the best time to go to India? This is a fundamentally vital question to ask yourselves. I hope my post will help you reach your decision. Now I will discuss month by month the pros and cons of visiting at that time.
January in India.
It’s cool throughout the country, and the far north of the country is just plain cold. The passes are frozen and Flying in and out will be your only option. But this is prime time for the Thar desert, and the camels that ferry tourists into the wilderness are certainly earning there keep as hundreds of tourists make this journey every day. If you are planning to embark on an overnight camel safari, make sure you wrap up warm at night as it can get bitterly cold.
It is a pleasant time to visit most of the country and the high season for foreign tourists is in full swing. While all the amenities will be open to you, the downside is prices are high, and you don’t have much room to bargain for a bed. In the popular tourist areas, I would recommend paying the extra and booking online and yes when you book through a company like Booking.com it costs more than if you were to walk in with no luggage.
February in India.
February is the best time to take on the Chader ice trek in the far north. Temperatures have been cold enough for long enough for the ice on the river to be thick enough to take a humans weight. The walk follows the frozen Zanskar river, and as far as I can tell, it is incredibly scenic. I must forwarn you. This is probably the most dangerous trek imaginable, and accidents are frequent. The situation is not helped by global warming as the ice is getting thinner year by year.
For an insight as to what that is like on the route, the BBC made a documentary series called the human planet. They covered the Chader ice trek as local people use it as a route to get supplies or take their children to school. This two minute behind the scenes footage shows what it was like to be a cameraman on that trek.
It is also the best time to go a look for the elusive snow leopard in the Spiti valley. Even the Leopards think its too cold and venture down from there lofty homes to a more agreeable climate.
However, the temperatures here should not be underestimated. The nights frequently plummet to below minus twenty. To put that into perspective your freezer in your home functions at around minus eighteen. The journey into the Spiti valley is long and at this time of year poses some significant risks. Much of the rest of the country is still experiencing a tourist boom prices are high and can still be hard to find a room in popular places like Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala.
March in India.
Its beginning to warm up now and the greenery is receding. Prices drop as there are fewer travellers, both domestic and foreign. March is the start of the prime season for national parks as it becomes much easier to spot wildlife. Many backpackers now flock to the coasts, and this is the best month to visit the Andaman Islands. The waters are calm, and it is hot, but not yet baking hot.
The rains would have started in the northeast already, and the colourful festival of Holi is in this month. It marks the beginning of spring and devotes celebrate by throwing coloured water over anyone in sight. Wear old clothes if you are going out during this time as the dyes never come off.
April in India.
It is the best time to visit upper Bengal, but much of the rest of the country is experiencing extreme heat. The thermostat is never really dipping below forty degrees in the day. This is now an excellent time for visiting national parks as there is not much greenery left at all and You now will have a bit of bargaining room when negotiating for a safari.
For example, during my visit to Ranthambore national park, I was able to make my own way to the booking office and pay for my own seats as the jeeps don’t fill up.
It is simply not possible in the high season as you will have no choice but to pay a middle man to organise it for you. Independent travellers will not be excepted at the ticket office, or at least they will tell you all the jeeps are full even if they are not. There is a lot of money changing hands in the peak season in national parks, so visiting in the summer is by far the best option. You can see more wildlife, and you can save some money at the same time, what more can you ask for?
The cost of accommodation starts coming down outside the hill stations. If you are visiting the states of Odisha or Chhattisgarh this for me is the best time as it has the most serious problem in the country for outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever. At this time mosquitoes are at their fewest.
May in India.
It is now baking across the country. The high mountains of the north are beginning to become accessible. The local people have sown their crop of barley adding a splash of colour to the lunar landscapes of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh. May is a great month to start your trip to these states as there is still snow on the slopes, but the roads will be clear. Although the high mountain passes will still be closed and that means you either have to wait for a few weeks for them to open or fly in and out.
The Indian Mango season is in full swing and not to be missed. Try one, and you will understand what I mean. Even if you are not in Goa and you cant get your hands on the world-famous Alphonso varieties, there are so many to choose from. You will not regret it trust me! When they are in season, I gorge myself on a kilo a day and would eat more if my stomach would let me.
The humidity is starting to build, and much of India waits in anticipation for the monsoon to arrive. It gets really sweaty at this time, and it can be very uncomfortable. I have found it is a good idea to keep dry as much as possible to prevent fungal infections on the skin.
June in India.
Now is a good time for trekking in the Himalaya, the passes are finally open, and the skies are clearing. It is also the Indian holidays, so domestic tourism is up making beds hard to find in the more refreshing destinations. The rains are very heavy in the northeast at this point, but central India is baking and still waiting for the rains that should have arrived in the south already.
But outside of the Himalaya, any backpacker has the upper hand when booking accommodation. Many national parks are closing now for the monsoon and won’t reopen again till October.
If your intended journey involves you going to one of the counties wild spaces make sure it will even be open. The good news of cause is not all national parks close for the monsoon.
It is also the best month for observing massive numbers of fireflies in Maharashtra, and when I say massive, I really mean it as millions of the little creatures rush to breed before the oncoming storms. June is also the month for lightning across much of the country. I am mentioning it as they can become very intimidating indeed.
Bear in mind that the seasons don’t run like clockwork. Sometimes the monsoon can fail altogether. I have been in the country for one of those years, and it spells disaster for both the people and the wildlife.
July in India.
In the north, it is the prime time for trekking, and it is the peak time for western tourists up there. That means the main routes become crowded and beds in budget guesthouses tend to fill up fast. If all goes to plan much of the rest of the country are enjoying the much-needed rains; however, flooding is frequent at this time, and weather can become extreme without warning.
Most foreign tourists are in the north at this point. If you decide to visit the northeast at this time, get ready to get very wet, and you can safely bet Majuli island will be massively flooded. For those people who want to visit Cherrapungee (the wettest place on record), this is undoubtedly the best month to feel the full effect with several metres falling so bring your umbrella.
August in India.
After the harvest season in the far north of the country, the splash of colour will be lost and once again become a barren grey landscape. The proper season is coming to a close although trekking is still possible until September. The rest of the country is drenched, but the upside is it is very lush and photogenic across the mainland. Tourist numbers are way down, so that means those who do stay will get to enjoy the country without the crowds.
September in India.
For me, this is the trickiest month to travel in as there is nothing specific that’s a good time to visit. The rains are slowly stopping, but it is still hot and muggy. Again the routes you will travel on will be mostly empty, so the lack of tourists is undoubtedly a bonus. During this time mosquito, bourne disease can bloom, so it is a good idea to cover up and wear repellent, although this is true throughout the whole monsoon, to be honest.
October in India.
The start of the tourist season and the temperatures begin to come down. The waterfalls and lakes look spectacular as they will be bulging at the seams from all that water. The national parks are opening, but the passes in the north of the country have closed for the year. The mighty Pushkar camel fair is held in October or November. It is the worlds largest livestock market and would be spectacular to witness. October is the best month for photography in much of India as there are clear skies that provide excellent lighting and everything is green.
November in India.
It is an enjoyable time to visit, it is quite cool now, and tourism is increasing, but in the far north it has all be ceased. Tamil Nadu and Kerala will be experiencing a smaller second wave of showers. Diwali falls between November and October and is an extended celebration, culminating in loud music and fireworks on an epic scale. This does notably affect air quality, particularly in big cities.
December in India.
This is the prime time for visitors in India and for an excellent reason. The temperature is glorious, the national parks are open, and the scenery is lush a beautiful. However, that means it is the most expensive time to travel just about everywhere, and it can be hard even to find a place to sleep in the most popular areas. To put that in perspective, I have been to Jaisalmer many times, but when I visited in December I was unable to find a bed in any hotel no matter how much I was prepared to pay! With all those hotels, I still had to sleep in someone’s house. Fortunately, I have friends there.
If you will be in India for Christmas and you want it to feel like Christmas, head to Darjeeling. Here the locals put up Christmas decorations and sing carols. It is quite cold, and you can even get a Christmas dinner for the full effect.
There are many domestic tourists during this time, and they tend to offer more money for the same bed than most backpackers. It certainly plays its part with how much you spend in the main tourist hubs and something to consider when working out your budget. It is a beautiful time to be in the northeast barring the high mountains. The water level is low and in places like Meghalaya (for those people going to visit the root bridges) the rivers become still and crystal clear, making everything so photogenic.
In summary of my post When to go to India
We invest a lot into planning the perfect trip away, and I think it would be a shame to hamper our own plans by turning up at the wrong time. For this reason, it pays to give this question some careful consideration. If you are away for an extended period, try to break your journey up into manageable sized chunks and interlink them, so they marry as best you can to maximise your experience.
For the vast portion of the year, there is somewhere on the subcontinent that will make an excellent time to visit. If you do decide to go during a time of adverse weather, and sometimes it is necessary depending on what you are looking for, make sure you pack appropriately.
I hope you have enjoyed my post and if you can think of anyway, I can provide a better service or can think of anything you want me to write about just leave your comments in the box provided. I am always here to answer your questions, so please feel free to ask away and until next time my fellow intrepid travellers’ happy planning.
Follow me on social media 🙂