Climate plays a key factor in deciding when to visit India. Keep in mind that climatic conditions in the far north are distinctly different to those of the extreme south.
Generally, India’s climate is defined by three seasons – the hot, the wet (monsoon) and the cool, each of which can vary in duration from north to south. The most pleasant time to visit most places is during the cooler period: November to around mid-February.
The heat starts to build up on India’s northern plains from around February, and by April or May it really hots up, peaking in June. In central India temperatures of 45°C and above are commonplace. South India also becomes uncomfortably hot during this time.
Late in May the first signs of the monsoon are visible in some areas – high humidity, electrical storms, short rainstorms and dust storms that turn day into night. The hot season is the time to abandon the plains and head for the cooler hills, and this is when hill stations are at their best (and busiest).
When the monsoon finally arrives the rain comes in steadily, generally starting around 1 June in the extreme south and sweeping north to cover the whole country by early July. The main monsoon comes from the southwest, but the southeast coast (and southern Kerala) is largely affected by the short and surprisingly wet northeast monsoon, which brings rain from around October to early December.
Things don’t really cool down: at first hot, dry and dusty weather is simply replaced by hot, humid and muddy conditions. It doesn’t rain all day, but it generally rains every day. Followed by the sun this creates a fatiguing steam bath environment.
Around October the monsoon ends for most of the country. This is when India sees most tourists – however, it’s too late to visit Ladakh (May to October is the optimum period). During October and November it’s generally not too hot and not too cool (although October can still be hot and/or humid in some regions). In the thick of winter (around mid-December to mid-January), Delhi and other northern cities can become astonishingly cold, especially at night – and it’s bone-chilling in the far north. In the far south the temperatures become comfortably warm during this period.
It’s worth checking the dates of particular festivals – you may be attracted or repelled by the chaos (and jacked-up prices) that attend them. There are virtually no festivals in May/June. The wedding season falls between November and March, when you’re likely to see at least one lively procession through the streets.
Climate in India varies greatly, from the arid deserts of Rajasthan to the cool highlands of Assam, allegedly the wettest place on earth. But basically India has a three-season year – the hot, the wet and the cool. The heat starts to build up on the northern plains around February and by April it becomes unbearable – expect 35-45°C (95-113°F) days in most places. The first signs of the monsoon appear in May, with high humidity, short rainstorms and violent electrical storms.
The monsoon rains begin around 1 June in the extreme south and sweep north to cover the whole country by early July. The monsoon doesn’t really cool things off, but it’s a great relief – especially to farmers. The main monsoon comes from the southwest, but the southeastern coast is affected by the short and surprisingly wet northeastern monsoon, which brings rain from mid-October to the end of December. The main monsoon ends around October, and India’s northern cities become crisp at night in December. In the far south, where it never gets cool, the temperatures are comfortably warm rather than hot.