In a country where topography varies wildly, climatic conditions are only bound to vary wildly too. Classified as a hot tropical country by many, that is a definition that holds true for most of but not all of India. Exceptions include the northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir in the north and Sikkim in the northeastern hills.
In most of India summer is hot. It begins in April and continues till the beginning of October. The heat peaks in June with temperatures in the northern plains and the west soaring above 46° C. The monsoons hit the country during this period too, beginning 1st of June when they are supposed to find the Kerala coast. Moisture laden trade winds sweep the country bringing relief to a parched northern India but devastation in the east where the rivers Brahmaputra and Ganges flood annually. Tamil Nadu in the south receives rainfall between October and December, beneficiary of the retreating monsoons.
India’s extensive coastline lies almost entirely below the Tropic of Cancer. The coast is usually warm and moist, prone to heavy rains in the monsoons and high summer temperatures. The eastern coast is vulnerable to cyclones. Winters here are mild and pleasantly sunny.
Hill Stations are the happy peculiarity that came up here when British wives and officers needed to flee the oppressive heat and malaria of the plains. Quaint towns that buzz along “mall roads”, tucked away in hills all over India, they are now weekend getaways at the height of summer for families and couples from India’s cities.
The plains in the north and even the barren countryside of Rajasthan reel under a cold wave every year in December-January. Minimum temperatures could dip below 4° C but maximum temperatures usually do not fall lower than 12° C. In the northern high altitude areas of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, and parts of Uttarakhand, it snows through the winter and even summer months are only mildly warm. The east receives rain from April to August. September to November is relatively dry and the region only has sporadic showers. There are winter rains in December and January. This abates for two months and then it’s time for the monsoon season yet again. The central plateau has similar climate to the north but the mercury does not dip as low in winter. It rains from mid-June to September.
Best time to visit India
The best time to visit India is between October and March. Temperatures in northern India are pleasant and range in the 25-10 degrees Celsius during the daytime in these months, making it pleasant for sightseeing.
Between October to March is the peak season for tourists in India as the weather is conducive and the country celebrates many colourful festivals. Dussehra is celebrated in October and is followed 20 days later by the festival of lights- Diwali. Come March, it is time for Holi: coloured powder, water fights and sweetmeats! Pretty Pushkar in Rajasthan holds Asia’s largest camel fair in November; in February it’s time for the Mardi Gras carnival in Goa.
Rajasthan is colourful and extremely pleasant with pleasant days and cold nights during this time. The winter months are also ideal for wildlife enthusiasts and this is the best time to visit wildlife parks like Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh amongst others.
The major deterrent to visiting India in summer is the oppressive heat and humidity. Temperatures in north India hit the 45 degree Celsius mark and the rains lash the west coast from Kerala to Goa and Mumbai during June and July, making humidity levels high. However, the months from March-May and September-November are prime trekking time in the Himalayas, and if you plan to concentrate on hilly areas then this is a good period in which to visit.