Tiger, India

Best time to visit India

India is such a large country that it is not possible to name a single best time to visit as regards climate. It is much easier to say when not to travel, and that is generally from June to September with its extreme heat and monsoon rains. Also bear in mind that it's not always just about climate. There are festivals to consider, or specifically good times for wildlife, or perhaps you really want to see the Himalayas clothed in snow.

Hot and cold and everything in between

Weather is an important factor when planning your holiday to India as it can affect where you can go and what you can do. Our climate guide will help you. You'll also find suggestions below about good times to see certain wildlife and cultural events.

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Tea-picker in India © GQMarks

India's seasons

India’s varied weather can be helpfully explained by splitting the country into seasons as shown below, although there are further variations based on geographical locations which should also be borne in mind.

A tiger cooling off © GQMarks

March to May

By March temperatures are rising after the winter months and as well as being more pleasant this is a god time to observe wildlife when grasses die down increasing visibility. The heat increases into April and May, reaching up to 40°c in northern areas for days at a time. Higher altitude areas including hill stations provide relatively cool retreats.

Monsoon season, India © GQMARKS

June to September

These months are very hot and humid, too much so for most travellers. The main monsoon is underway in the southwest and sweeps northwards through central India reaching the north in July. Most national parks are closed at this time. India’s southeast remains mostly dry in these months.

Offering of marigolds, India © gq

October & November

The end of the monsoon marks the re-opening of wildlife parks with viewing enhanced as the tall grasses recede. This is a time to observe festivals including Diwali and a good time for enjoying the culture of India. The states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka in the southeast, largely dry until now, get most of their annual rainfall in the ‘winter’ monsoon in October and November.

Elephant in Kaziranga National Park, India © AGMarks

December to February

Wildlife viewing is excellent with less vegetation to impede sightings though temperatures are cooling and can be chilly in early morning and late afternoon. December and January are the coldest months. There is heavy snow in the hills and mountains of the far north of the country, daytime temperatures in the north rarely exceed 10°c, so this a good time for those who dislike the heat. Winter is warm in the south, with days usually above 20°c making this a favourite time to visit this region.

India's weather by region

If you want to find out how different destinations fare year-round read on. We’ve divided the country into five regions to make this as simple and straightforward as possible.

Periyar, India © PCook

The north

The north, which includes the popular destinations of Rajasthan, Amritsar, Varanasi, Shimla and the capital, Delhi, are increasingly warm from March reaching high temperatures in June. The monsoon arrives around July and last till September and temperature remain high, conditions most visitors prefer to avoid. The tourist season resumes in October and peaks in the next few months. Temperatures are cooler than per-monsoon so this is a good time for those who don’t like intense heat.

Wild elephant in Nagarhole, India © ARouth,Shutterstock

The northeast

Meghalaya can be visited at any time of year other than the monsoon months of May to September, which drench India’s already wettest region. Due to its altitude it rarely reaches 30°c, so heat is never an issue. It is a similar story for Assam, best visited from October to April with warm, sunny days and only moderate rain the norm. February and March are good for seeing one-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park.

A tiger in the woods, Tadoba, India © Shutterstock

The central reserves

You should head to the wildlife reserves of central India, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench and Satpura, to spot tigers and other wildlife between March and June when the grass is relatively short and sightings good, although you should expect high temperatures. The monsoon is best avoided and many parks close, re-opening in November, the profuse vegetation giving the reserves a wilderness feel. December to February tend to be cooler than March to June which many people find more comfortable.

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, India © LKohnen,Shutterstock

The south

There is little variation in temperature year-round, it is always warm or hot. Rainfall, however, has an impact and it is advisable to avoid the monsoon. In the southwest this occurs from June to September and in the southeast between October and December, albeit with less force. Outside of these months you can expect temperatures up to 30°c or more by the coast though ocean breezes can help it feel cooler. The heat and humidity increase into May which some may find too intense for sightseeing but beaches and backwater cruises are popular.

Khola Beach, Goa, India © Shutterstock

The west

Goa is best visited in the dry season, October to May, when daytime temperatures are usually between 20 and 30°c, with March to May the hottest months. Rains arrive around mid-May, peaking in July and ending by October. During the monsoon there are frequent downpours and storms. Gir National Park in Gujarat, home to the Asiatic lion, is best visited from December to May although April and May might be too hot for some. It closes for the monsoon from mid-June to mid-October.

When to see . . .

. . . specific wildlife or exciting cultural events in India

The colours of Holi, India © MKlyoshev,Shutterstock

Holi

This colourful Hindu festival of spring is celebrated in March. Watch out for the brightly-coloured powder thrown everywhere!

Snow leopard, India © Shutterstock

Snow Leopards

You have to brave the cold to see these handsome cats. The Himalayas in January to March are your best bet. (See our Guide to Big Cat Safaris).

Bateshwar temples, India © PCook

Bateshwar Fair

In October/November each year, the amazing, ancient village of Bateshwar holds a famous animal fair.

A tiger in water, India © Shutterstock

Tigers

Your best chance of seeing tigers comes in the hottest, driest times of the year from about February to May. (See our Guide to Big Cat Safaris).

Lights at Diwali, India © Pikoso,Shutterstock

Diwali

The 5-day Festival of Lights celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good and light over evil and darkness. It's held all around the world about mid-October to mid-November.

Pushkar camel fair, India © GQMarks

Pushkar Camel Fair

India's largest annual livestock fair is held mid-October to early-November. Expect large crowds, lots of colour and noise. This is becoming more tourist-focused than it ever was.

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