Monsoons in India: The Guide to Rainy Season Travel
For those who don't like crowds, a good way to avoid them in India is to visit in the monsoon season (June to September). Hearing this, you may be wondering:
Isn't the monsoon season a terrible time to travel?
The answer to this question is maybe. While the monsoons make certain areas of the country bad for travel, other parts are barely affected and are a great place to go. Some beautiful monsoon destinations include Ladakh, Rajasthan, Kerala, and Himachal Pradesh.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the monsoons in India including what you can expect, how they will affect your travel plans, the best places to go, and what to pack.Rain at Qutb Minar in Delhi
India During the Rainy Season
The most important thing to know about the monsoon season in India is that while it does rain a lot, travel is still possible and is often quite enjoyable. Find out the Best Time to visit India.
One of the reasons that travel is possible during this time is that the monsoon doesn't happen all at once.
The first monsoon downpour can last for days, but then the rains start to slow and only happen for a few hours every day. Unlike other countries, in India, the rain is a little unpredictable. It could happen in the morning, afternoon, or night each day and there are some days where it may not rain at all.
The best way to know if it will rain while traveling is to pay attention to how much humidity is in the air. If it is very humid out, it is likely that it will rain.
It is also important to know that the rains affect each part of the country differently. While South and Central India get hit with a lot of rain, certain areas in North India experience much less.
What are Monsoons?
A monsoon is a period of humidity and rain that is caused by a change in the direction of the wind. In India, the wind normally travels from the northwest carrying dry air to other parts of the country.
When the monsoon hits, the wind changes direction and instead carries the humid air from the Indian ocean all over the country where it rises and causes rain.
India is actually affected by two different monsoons, the first monsoon affects the majority of the country. This is called the southwest monsoon and it starts in June near Kerala then slowly spreads across the rest of the country. The southwest monsoon typically lasts from June to September.
While most westerners tend to view the monsoons as scary events that stop travel and cause many problems, that is not how they are viewed in India. India is a dry country and the monsoons are necessary for agriculture and the survival of wildlife.
Monsoons are often eagerly waited for in India and when they hit, you can expect to see children out dancing in the rain and celebrating the arrival of life-giving water.
Monsoons in the Golden Triangle
These three cities are located in North India near the Thar Desert and while they still receive rain, they get less rain than many other parts of the country.
All three cities experience the most rainfall in July and August with average monthly rainfall around 200mm (7.9 inches). In June, all three experience around 50mm (2 inches) of rain and in September around 100mm (4 inches).Hawa Mahal after rain
Out of the three, Jaipur is the driest city due to being the closest to the Thar Desert.
Monsoons in the Far Northern States
The far northwestern states of India include places like Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh and receive the least rain in all of India.
In fact, the monsoon season is often the best time to visit the northwestern Himalayan regions because they experience comfortable temperatures with clear skies.
Ladakh's town of Leh is one of the most popular spots to visit in this region. The wettest month in Leh is August with an average of 31mm (1.2 inches) of rainfall. Leh also experiences great temperatures at this with highs around 25°C (77°F).
The monsoon season is the perfect time to go hiking or camping in the far northern states of India.
Monsoons in Central India
Besides South India, the monsoons typically hit Central India the hardest. Mumbai experiences tons of rain during the monsoon season with an average of 885mm (34 inches) falling in July and 620mm (24 inches) in August.
Goa is also hit hard with around 795mm (31 inches) of rain in June and 540mm (21 inches) in July. The waters around Goa get quite choppy with large waves and strong currents at this time and are not good for swimming.
Kolkata is located on India's east coast doesn't get as much rain as Goa and Mumbai but experiences and steady flow of around 300mm (12 inches) per month from June to September. Kolkata is located in the lowlands of West Bengal and is susceptible to flooding.
Monsoons in South India
South India is unique because it experiences two monsoons. Kerala and Karnataka get hit the hardest during the southwest monsoon which starts in June and ends in September.
The wettest month in Kerala is June when the state has close to 750mm (30 inches) of rain. Karnataka has very different rainfall depending on where you visit in the state, but the wettest month is often July.
The South Indian state of Tamil Nadu usually experiences good weather from June to September and is missed by the southwest monsoon.
South India's second monsoon is the northeast monsoon which affects all states in South India and hits Tamil Nadu the hardest.
Traveling India During the Rainy Season
While traveling to India during the rainy season is more than possible, there are a few good things to know about this time of year.
First of all, the rains may interfere with your travel plans so it's a good idea to add a few extra days to your trip to India.
If you want to go to India to have a great beach vacation or see the tigers at the national parks then this is a bad time to visit. During the monsoons, the oceans are often unsafe with unpredictable currents. Also, most national parks are closed.
If you travel to a city that gets heavy rains like Mumbai or Goa, you will need to spend a lot of time in your hotel. The rains rarely last all day, so once they clear up you can take your opportunity to head out and see some of the area's main attractions.
Rainy Season Benefits
Although there are some disadvantages to visiting India during the rainy season there are plenty of advantages as well.
1. Avoid the Tourists: The monsoon season often scares away other travelers so you will be able to enjoy India's busiest monuments like the Taj Mahal without the crowds. The monuments also look gorgeous once they have been washed clean by the rain.
2. Affordable Prices: India is a much more affordable place to visit during the rainy season. Not only will airfare be cheaper, but the prices of hotels and resorts can be up to 50% lower this time of year. This means that you can stay in a nice heritage hotel or palace hotel without breaking the bank.
3. More Authenticity: Because there are fewer tourists during this time, the travelers who do go have the opportunity to experience a more authentic India. In the rainy season, it will be easier to connect with locals and there will be fewer scammers at major tourist sites.
4. Green Nature: India is normally a very dry place with brown grasslands and dusty cities. This all changes during the rainy season. The vegetation turns a lush green, the dust is brought to the ground by the rains, and there are waterfalls and lakes in the forests.
4 Best Places to Go During the Monsoons in India
It is possible to visit most of India during the monsoon season as long as you don't mind the rain.
If you DO mind the rain, then there are also some parts of India that are not affected by the monsoons.
Below we have listed the best places to visit in India during the rainy season. These destinations either have less rain than the rest of the country or have specific activities that are best done this time of year.
Ladakh is a mountainous region of the far northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and is famous for its unique Buddhist culture, incredible scenery, and hiking opportunities.
Because Ladakh is surrounded by the Himalayas and Karakoram mountain ranges it is almost entirely protected from the monsoons. In fact, June to October is the best time to visit Ladakh because it has the best weather and the passages are not blocked by snow.
In Ladakh, you can relax while taking in the mountain views in dry weather with blue skies. One of our favorite places in Ladakh is Leh with its rustic old town, Buddhist monasteries, and nearby trails.
Rajasthan is affected by the monsoons but because this state is located in the middle of the Thar Desert, its dry and arid landscape receives much less rain than other parts of India.
The top cities to visit in Rajasthan are Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur. Here you can explore princely palaces, magnificent forts, and ancient markets.
Rain only happens in short bursts during the monsoons in Rajasthan, but if you want to escape the rain completely you can head to Mount Abu. Mount Abu is the only hill station in Rajasthan. Because of its higher elevation, the mountain experiences beautiful clear skies even when the rest of the state is getting rain.
At Mount Abu, travelers can trek up Guru Shikhar, the tallest peak in the Aravalli Range, explore the Jain Dilwara Temple, or head to Sunset Point for great evening views.
Kerala does get heavy rains during the monsoon season but if you don't mind getting a little wet, this South Indian state is a great place to be. Kerala is one of the most sought-out monsoon destinations in India due to the great prices and packages that are offered on their high-quality retreats.
If you want to learn more about natural medicine, you can spend your time at an Ayurveda retreat. Traditional Ayurvedic medicine is often said to work better during monsoons because the atmosphere helps open up the body's pores.
Kerala is also a great place to go during the rainy season for those who are interested in more affordable yoga retreats.
While most national parks in India close during the monsoons, Kerala's Periyar National Park stays open offering visitors the chance to explore lush green tropical jungles. The state also has one of its biggest festivals, Onam, at this time.
For cooler temperatures and better weather head to Munnar, Kerala’s lush green hill station that is covered in tea and spice plantations.
4. Spiti Valley
Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh is a great place to go for people who want the mountain scenery of Ladakh but also want to get off-the-beaten-track. Spiti Valley is located just south of Ladakh and borders Tibet to the east.
Like Ladakh, this valley is protected by the surrounding mountains and not affected by the summer monsoons. The best time to visit Spiti Valley is from May to October when the weather is comfortable and the roads are clear.
In Spiti Valley, visitors can go on incredible treks whether they last for just a few hours or for many days. Travelers can also take a yak safari, volunteer in remote villages, visit the Tabo Monastery, or just relax in a mountain town with views of the surrounding jagged peaks.
What to Pack When Traveling in India
Enjoying your time in India during the monsoon season is much easier if you come prepared. Because most westerners don't have experience with Indian monsoons, it can be difficult to know what to bring.
Check out our monsoon season in India packing list below to make sure you bring the necessities. Read more about Complete India Packing Guide.
Clothes and Footwear:
- Rubber sandals/ shoes: You'll want shoes that are sturdy and made of long-lasting waterproof material like rubber to protect your feet. Don't bring flip flops or shoes that do not have a backstrap because they may not stay on your feet when wet and slippery.
- Quick-dry pants and shirts
- Thin light rain jacket: It may rain anytime so you'll want some easy protection from the water. A light rain jacket will be more comfortable in the hot and humid weather.
- Long-sleeved shirts: When it's not raining, the sun will be very hot. It's important to protect your skin and avoid sunburns.
- Shorter pants: Heavy downpours may cause temporary flooding and the last thing you'll want are pants that drag on the ground.
- Insect repellent: Mosquitoes are bad during the rainy season and are sometimes infected with malaria or dengue fever.
- Sunblock: It is easy to get a bad sunburn at this time because when it's not raining, the sun is shining hot and bright.
- Waterproof backpack: This is important in order to protect your essentials from the rain.
- Waterproof cases: Besides the bag, you might want to be extra safe and bring plastic cases for all electronics and important documents like your passport and visa.
- First-aid kit: Especially make sure to bring disinfectant creams and bandages. If you get cut, it will be important to use disinfectant to protect it from bacteria that can grow in standing water.
Rainy Season Travel and Safety Tips
Traveling during the rainy season is another beast. To make sure that you know what to expect, check out the travel and safety tips below.
- Pay close attention to weather reports so that you know when it will rain and what areas of the country to avoid due to flooding.
- Make sure to give yourself some extra travel time if going by train or bus. Road conditions can change quickly so it is important to build in extra time to reach your destination. This also applies to travel within a city.
- Be vigilant about water cleanliness and food safety. Food hygiene is sometimes bad in India and can get worse during the rainy season. Never drink water that hasn't come from a sealed bottle and avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables as they may have been washed in tap water.
- Avoid coastal areas of the country if possible as the ocean is often unsafe during monsoons. Coastal areas are also more at risk of tropical storms and typhoons.
- Avoid the lowland areas of the country like West Bengal and Odisha because they are at risk of extreme flooding.
- Certain mountainous regions in the northeastern part of the country can have landslides. Make sure to pay attention to weather reports if traveling to this area.
Still haven't decided which month to visit India? The following links will help you make the decision
Visit India with Asia Highlights
Traveling during the monsoon season is a great opportunity but can be tricky to plan. If you would like to visit India at this time but don’t know where to start, go ahead and reach out to one of our travel experts for advice. At Asia Highlights, we specialize in creating private tours that have been tailor-made to fit the goals of each individual client.