Home India Travel GuideDiwali 2020 Travel Guide

Diwali 2020 Travel Guide

Diwali, or Deepavali, is one of the largest Hindu holidays of the year and is the celebration of the victory of good over evil and light over dark. Diwali is celebrated every year for 5 days in late October or November and is full of beautiful lights, candles, gifts, and desserts.

A great way to learn more about Indian culture is to experience one of the country's most important holidays. On this page, we've put together all the essential information about when to go, how to celebrate, where to celebrate, and all the practical advice you need for planning your Diwali trip to India.

While we hope that the worldwide COVID-19 situation will improve by November, make sure to keep up to date on all travel advisories concerning India before embarking on your journey.

Diwali diyas, Guide to Diwali in India

Why go to India for Diwali

  • Diwali is known as the Hindu New Year and is one of the largest and most widely celebrated holidays in the country. 
  • Diwali is a great time to be in India because the markets come alive as they are decorated with lights and people flock to them buy gifts for one another or purchase gold and silver for luck.
  • The clay Diwali diyas or lanterns make for incredible photos as they sit outside homes and line streets to ward off the darkness.
  • On the main day of the festival, Indians dress up in their most beautiful traditional clothing giving travelers the chance to see the many colorful and elegant styles of India and even try some for themselves.

Diwali Dates and When to Go

Like most Indian holidays, the date of Diwali changes every year according to the Hindu calendar which is based on both solar and lunar cycles. The main day of Diwali celebrations falls on the night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Kartika and therefore usually takes in late October or November.

This year, the main day of Diwali will fall on November 14th. The holiday will be celebrated from November 12th to November 16th. 

We recommend spending at least 7-10 days in India during the celebrations. This way, you can experience the holiday while giving yourself enough time to see the main attractions like the Taj Mahal in Agra and Red Fort in Delhi.

How to Celebrate Diwali

Diwali celebrations Diwali guide
Family dressed in new clothes lighting sparklers and firecrackers on the day of Diwali.

The first day of Diwali (Dhanteras) is often celebrated by deep cleaning the home to welcome the goddess Lakshmi and buying gold and silver items to bring good fortune. The second day (Choti Diwali) is celebrated by decorating homes with lights and performing rituals.

The third day of celebrations is the main day of Diwali when people get together with their families, eat large meals, exchange gifts, wear their best traditional clothing, and perform rituals to honor Goddess Lakshmi.

After day three, celebrations begin to wind down and the fourth day (Padwa) is dedicated to celebrating the love between husbands and wives, while the fifth day (Bhai Duj) is for celebrating the bond between siblings and cousins.

Learn more about how Diwali is celebrated in India.

How to Celebrate Diwali as a Traveler 

Diwali is a very family-focused holiday and most Indians perform the religious rituals in their own homes with their loved ones. Because of this, it can be hard for travelers to decide how best to experience the celebrations.

Don't worry, there are plenty of great ways to experience Diwali as a traveler. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Get a local guide to take you to the Diwali markets where you can watch the holiday shopping chaos as you explore the decorated streets, learn about Diwali traditions, and of course buy some things that catch your eye.
  • Stay with an Indian family to get an up-close experience of the holiday traditions and rituals. At a homestay, you can be as involved in the holiday as you want whether that is participating in rituals and wearing traditional clothing or observing everything from afar.
  • Experience Diwali rituals and activities by staying in a heritage hotel. Many heritage hotels, especially in Rajasthan, hold Diwali activities for guests over the holidays.
  • Head outside to watch the fireworks and see the children having fun with firecrackers in the streets.
  • Try the delicious Indian sweets that are sold all over during Diwali such as gujiya, laddoo, barfi, and more.

Where to Celebrate Diwali

Diwali market lights, Jaipur
Lights at a Diwali market in Jaipur.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus all across India so no matter where you go during the holiday, you will be able to experience the beautiful celebrations and rituals. There are some cities that go above and beyond the rest with how they celebrate the festival and these places are often great destinations for travelers. 

The best place to spend Diwali to understand more about the religious and cultural side of the festival is Varanasi. This holy Hindu city is incredible during the celebrations with its streets and stairs leading to the Ganges lined with diyas making for picturesque views. 

Jaipur is the best place to visit for beautiful views of an entire city lit up with electric lights for the holiday. Most of Jaipur's markets and homes in the old areas of the city are beautifully decorated with colorful string lights. You can get sweeping views of the lights and colors of the city below from the impressive Nahargarh Fort.

For a different type of Diwali, we recommend heading to Kolkata where Kali Puja is celebrated on the main day of the festival. Instead of celebrating Lakshmi on this day, Kolkata celebrates Kali, the goddess of destruction, with large statues of the fearsome goddess erected in pandals all around the city.

Get more ideas on the best places to spend Diwali in India.

Diwali Tips

Traveling in India can already be an intense and chaotic experience, but when Diwali comes along things can get even more crowded and confusing. Here are some tips about traveling in India during Diwali to help you have the most enjoyable holiday experience.

  • During the holiday fireworks and firecrackers are likely to be lit by locals throughout the night and at random times during the day. If you are a light sleeper, make sure to bring a pair of earplugs with you to ensure you are woken up too much by the explosions.
  • Children often celebrate by running through the streets armed with firecrackers and flaming sparklers. When you are walking through the city stay vigilant and make sure not to get accidentally burnt.
  • Diwali markets are often hectic and busy and it is important to guard your belongings in case of pickpockets. 
  • Because there are many domestic tourists at this time, accommodation and transportation can get crowded. Always make sure to book your hotels and travel well in advance.
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