The best time to visit India

Updated: 19th December 2019

Taj Mahal in Agra - India best time to visit - On The Go Tours
Visit the Taj Mahal during the cooler winter months for clearer skies

Seasons and Weather

Generally speaking, the weather in India can be divided into three seasons – summer, winter and monsoon. The coolest and driest time of the year to visit is between October and February, which is regarded as the winter season and seen by many as the best time to visit India. During this time temperatures are cool and dry, ideal conditions for taking in the highlights and hidden gems of India. Temperatures will always be warmer in the south, with comfortable coastal beach weather.

Following winter is the summer season, which is hot and dry, lasting from March through to May, when temperatures reach their peak. During this time the thermometer can be intensely warm in the central and southern reaches of the country, making it an excellent time to head to the north and higher altitudes of the Himalayas, and the lofty hill stations of Shimla and Darjeeling.

May signals the start of the monsoon season, which begins in Kerala on the south-western coast, bringing with it regular downpours interspersed with sunny hot intervals that gradually work their way up the country. It is very humid during this time of year and the days are punctuated by intermittent rainfall. At the height of monsoon season there can be flooding in some lowland regions and most national parks close during this time (excluding Periyar, which remains open). An advantage of travelling during the monsoon season though, is that the scenery transforms into an oasis of green forests and rushing rivers, offering some of the most beautiful landscapes to be found anywhere in the world - perfect for cruising the Kerala Backwaters!

Come November and December, the rains begin to ease and temperatures are cool enough for sightseeing, but warm enough for relaxing on the beach. December marks the beginning of peak season, when the crowds begin to arrive, so November is a good bet for a more relaxed holiday.

Thinking of visiting India? Download a copy of our Indian Subcontinent brochure for inspiration.

Upcoming events

To help plan your visit to India here's an overview of the next year's festivals and events.

2020:

June 30th-July 1st - Hemis Festival (Leh)

2021:

January 14th-15th - International Kite Festival (Ahmedabad)
January TBC - Bikaner Camel Festival (Bikaner)
February TBC - Jaisalmer Desert Festival (Jaisalmer)
March 28th-29th - Holi Festival of Colour (countrywide)
March 29th-31st - Hola Mohalla (Anandpur Sahib)
July TBC - Hemis Festival (Leh)

There's also a number of national holidays in India and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

Best Time to Visit By Region

As such a vast country with an incredibly diverse landscape, it should not come as a surprise that the climate can differ too from region to region. As a general rule however, the climate in the north of India is cooler, central India is hot and dry, and the south is hot and humid. Read on for more information about the weather patterns across India.

When is the best time to visit Rajasthan & the Golden Triangle?

The state of Rajasthan and the popular touring route of India's Golden Triangle experience a desert-like climate with dry, hot summers with very high temperatures. This means the cooler winter months of November to March are the ideal time to visit, though December and January can get particularly cold. Check out our guide on visiting Rajasthan for more detailed info.

When is the best time to visit Goa?

Goa is India's most popular beach destination and travellers come here seeking sunshine, clear skies and warm temperatures. And if that's what you're after, the best time to visit Goa is mid-November to mid-February when the weather conditions are ideal for sun-lounging and swimming. It's also popular with visitors thanks to a number of colourful festivals and Christmas/New Year celebrations that take place during this period.

When is the best time to visit Kerala?

The state of Kerala draws travellers looking to cruise the lush backwaters, go wildlife spotting in national parks and spend a few days relaxing on golden sands. December to February is considered the best time to visit, when the skies are clear, temperatures cooler but still warm, and humidity bearable. Perfect for relaxing on the beach or heading out to explore!

Don't write off the monsoon season from June to November though! Although much wetter, the scenery comes alive with rushing waterfalls at their fullest, forests a vibrant green and fewer tourists, meaning you can explore at a slower pace. An added bonus is it is likely to be much cheaper in this quieter season! For more information see our guide to visiting Kerala.

When is the best time to visit the Himalayas?

The Himalayas incorporate a large area of northern India and climatic conditions vary with the altitude. In the scenic foothills where you'll find Darjeeling in the east and Shimla in the west, it's possible to travel year-round. However, once you reach over 1,500 metres in altitude it's best to avoid travel between December and February when temperatures plummet and roads are closed due to the snow. Generally speaking the best time to visit India's Himalayas are March to June and September to November.

When is the best time to visit South India?

The weather in southern India is largely determined by monsoon patterns. It's a tropical region with temperatures that hover somewhere between moderate and high with humidity and incessant rain. To avoid the worst of it, visit between December and March when the weather is mostly pleasant.

Best Places to Visit in India by Month

Know when you're travelling to India but not sure where best to go? Check out our guide on where to go when in India to help plan that perfect holiday whatever month you're visiting.

Climate | Delhi


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °F454857687982817975645246
Temp Max °F70758897106102979393938473
Rainfall (mm)2318138137418017311710310

Climate | Darjeeling, West Bengal


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °F151423303741393623103
Temp Max °F343439455054545552464137
Rainfall (mm)488160218242409751723441483914

Climate | Mumbai, Maharashtra


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °F666672758179757575757370
Temp Max °F828286909190848484909088
Rainfall (mm)33301848561734026464133

Climate | Kolkata, West Bengal


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °F555970757779797975756455
Temp Max °F818493979791909090908479
Rainfall (mm)10313643140297325252114114205

Climate | Kochi, Kerala


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °F737579797975757575757573
Temp Max °F909091919086848486888890
Rainfall (mm)1718197218448435227419028210529
Camel Festival India

Festivals and Events

Unsurprising for a country with such religious, cultural and natural diversity, India is host to a variety of colourful festivals throughout the year whether it's in the scorching deserts of Rajasthan or the streets of Goa. Here's our guide to some of the best of these festivals.

What is Holi Festival?

Celebrating the arrival of spring and new beginnings, India's Holi festival is its most colourful festival and its most popular with visitors. In fact, a number of countries across the world now hold their own Holi celebrations with coloured water and powder thrown at others dressed in white and bonfires lit the night before.

What is Diwali?

Families come together all across India to celebrate Diwali Festival of Light and the triumph of light over dark, good over evil. Small diyas (lamps) are lit and placed outside homes with firework displays at night. Over the course of five days various prayers and rituals are performed and it's a wonderful time to check into a guesthouse to share the festivities with local Indian families.

What is the Jaisalmer Desert Festival?

The beautiful fort city of Jaisalmer hosts a desert festival with events including camel racing, turban tying, and the longest mustache competition. Held towards the end of January or in the first few weeks of February, the quirky festival is a great option for first-time visitors to Rajasthan with its emphasis on local culture and heritage.

What is the Sankranti Kite Festival?

A Hindu festival celebrated across India, Makar Sankranti as it is officially known is one of the country's most popular events. Around the 14th January each year, people everywhere mark the transition of the sun into the zodiacal sign of Makara (Capricorn) with a focus on kite flying. The skies are filled with kites known as patangs with entertaining kite fights - the aim of the game is to chop down other kites and be the last one flying. To the delight of children in the crowds, those kites unlucky enough to be hit are then their's for the taking. The city of Ahmedabad marks the festival with particular aplomb in the form of the International Kite Festival when a dazzling flock of kites are flown in the air from dawn to dusk.

What is the Bikaner Camel Festival?

This annual event includes a range of colourful camel performances from races to dance displays, all designed to pay homage to the 'ships of the desert'. As well as this visitors can expect to see swirling human dancers, fire performers and a dazzling fireworks display. The festival is held in Bikaner in late January each year.

What is Hola Mohalla?

Usually taking place a day after the Hindu festival of Holi, this three-day Sikh festival is an occasion for Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles with dramatic mock martial arts battles (or Gatka as they are more commonly known), daring displays of weaponry, archery and wrestling. The Hola Mohalla festival is held in the town of Anandpur Sahib in March each year.

What is the Hemis Festival?

The annual Hemis Festival is held in the Buddhist monastery of Hemis in the state of Ladakh to honour the 8th-century Indian Buddhist master, Padmasambhava. During the festival ceremonial items are placed around the monastery, the courtyard fills with pilgrims and traditional music and dance performances are held. The festival highlight is the gathering of the lamas around the central flagpole performing the mystic mask dances (Chams) and sacred plays.

What is Ganesh Chaturthi?

Running for 11 days between August and September each year, the Ganesh Chaturthi Hindu festival honours the elephant-headed god Ganesh with numerous images of Ganesh made and paraded through the streets and installed in temporary shrines. At the end of the festival, the clay idols are immersed and dissolved in a nearby lakes and ponds.

What is Durga Puja?

Celebrating the Mother Goddess and warrior Goddess Durga's victory over an evil demon, Durga Puja honours the divine feminine energy with great pandals — decorated stages that exhibit statues of the goddess Durga. Live music accompanies the colourful art works and at the end of the festival the statues are paraded through the streets to be immersed in local rivers. Durga Puja is celebrated in West Bengal, particularly in the city of Kolkata over the course of four days.

What is the Pushkar Camel Fair?

Held each November the Pushkar Camel Fair is a unique spectacle with thousands of camels bought and sold, alongside horses and cattle. As part of the fair camel races are held along with longest moustache competitions, bridal competitions and various dance performances. In recent years a cricket game between a local team and random foreign visitors has also featured. If you want to experience the Pushkar Camel Fair this year, check out our 10th November departure of our Passage to India group tour.

See Also

For more handy information on India to assist with your holiday planning, check out the following:

Best Places to Visit - see our recommended top spots in India
Tourist Visas - the lowdown on visa regulations for India
Top Travel Tips - information on money, health and food in India plus more
Where to Go When - the best destinations in India by month
Traveller Reviews - see what our passengers say about our India tours
Travel Operators for Tigers - learn more about the work we do for tigers in India
The Golden Triangle - visiting Delhi, Agra and Jaipur
Visiting Rajasthan - our guide to India's largest state
Visiting Kerala - everything you need to know about Kerala
Tiger Safaris - where to see a tiger in the wild
Holi Festival FAQ - where to go, tips, safety and more
Diwali Festival FAQ - all your frequently asked questions answered
India Video Lounge - incredible India beautifully captured on film