Before a trip I do read a lot about the destination I’m going. I don’t plan out an itinerary per se, as I always change my mind along the way. But, I am a planner at heart so I do put together a little list for myself and to keep my parent’s nerves at rest.
I find the best thing to do is write down popular cities and something about them, even if it’s bad. For example: “Ahmedabad doesn’t sound good, skip”. If you meet a new friend and they ask if you’d like to go to Ahmedabad with them, you can look at your cheat sheet and say no thanks.
My original path in India two years ago changed within the first two days of arriving in Bombay. (Here is my final itinerary ) It was October and I wanted to go to Goa first then work my way counter clockwise around the country. That would leave me in Himachal Pradesh in late December… which was stupid on my part. Most of the towns are completely shut down.
So, I had to fix the situation.
I literally did my trip completely backwards from how I pictured it, ending in Goa last, which is crazy because I would not have met Ben if not. I didn’t really have control over these decisions, as the weather was the deciding factor.
Typically, throughout India one would say “season time” is October-February, which is India’s “winter”. Summer in India is March through May and it’s HOT, hot hot. The third type of weather is monsoon which is May-October. There are actually two! It’s important to know when to travel to India.
Although it is not only possible to travel to most places in India off-season, and there are some perks to off-season travel, it isn’t ideal for most people. Below I explain what’s different during low season and what is season time for each area.
When is Season time in Each Area?
Best time to go is October to March, but it doesn’t really kick off until mid-November. This is a winter area, just like Goa. At other times of the year it gets too hot. No matter the season, in the afternoon the sand in the desert will burn your feet, but at night the wind from the Himalayas sweeps through and you have to put on socks to even walk on the cold sand!
Delhi & surrounding.
October to March is your best time to go to Delhi, although best avoided around January. It gets pretty cold! April and May are scorching hot.
Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu.
Monsoon starts earlier in the south of India than it does in Goa and eventually Bombay. Season time in North Goa is October-March or April, peaking in December with huge parties around New Years. In South Goa, you have less time, more like November through March.
Season in Kerala and Tamil Nadu is shorter even shorter, but along the same time frame. Once April hits in Kerala the humidity hits you like a brick. It was April 12 when I wrote this and I was in Kerala hiding inside from it the horrible stickiness and rain.
If you will be spending a week or more in Goa (which I highly suggest) then do check out my $25 e-book. The Insider’s Guide to Goa is 170-pages long and will guarantee you have the best time in Goa, meet other travels, and chill at all the coolest places. Click here to purchase. I have information on what to do off-season and in peak-season.
Season in the mountains starts in April and ends by October. It’s the exact opposite of Goa. Tourist influx peaks during May and June, but the snow is just finished melting in May.
Manali in off-season
Uttarkhand (valley of the flowers).
There is only one month that is worth visiting the Valley of the flowers: end of July. At this time the flowers will be at their best! June through September is the only time you won’t see the valley covered in snow.
I had someone tell me that if you go in the heat it is best because the animals will be out searching for water. I haven’t been to a park yet, and wanted to go in monsoon. After hearing his advice, I might wait until the rains dry up.
East Coast, Pondicherry.
There is a NE monsoon as well which hits at a different time that the SE monsoon that pummels Goa over. In November and December the East side of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and north of there will get hit pretty hard.
Darjeeling, Sikkim, Calcutta.
Calcutta sees the monsoon and gets close to flooded during May-Sept, same as Goa. You’d be best to go late September through November… but no later because it’ll be way too cold. You can also go in April and May before the next monsoon comes.
What is different during off-season?
Many guesthouses are closed. In Goa, all beach shacks are torn down every monsoon and that can include small beach huts. Even if they aren’t torn down, they aren’t open. You cannot stay on the beach in monsoon. A couple budget guesthouses stay open in Anjuna and Chapora, but most likely you’ll end up in a hotel that is over your budget, even at 50% monsoon discount.
Popular restaurants, especially those ran by foreigners are closed as they choose this time to go on vacation or renew visas. Ciao Bella, Sakana, Basilico, Villa blanche… all my favorite restaurants (I could go on and on) are closed. The owners are traveling or visiting home.
Even local restaurants sometimes close if their main clientele are foreigners because they won’t turn a profit. Actually, you have to get a special permit to stay open during monsoon if you’re by the sea.
When I was in Manali, I didn’t get to try any recommended restaurants apart from Drifter’s and Johnson’s because of off-season closures.
Baba Au Rhum, Goa
Some routes are completely shut off, for example the Rohtang pass into Leh from Manali. This caused us a huge headache when we were stranded and had to hire a care in Sarahan, as no buses would take us further north.
It is not only an inconvenience, but prevents you from seeing what you came all this way for, and in my case cost me an extra 4,000 rupees I wasn’t planning on spending on transportation. It’s no one’s fault but my own not planning my trip out! Make sure you don’t make that mistake because if the road were open… you’d for sure die trying to drive it.
Outdoor activities are limited or shut down completely due to fewer travelers to make up the group. The rafting and canyoning in Goa near Palolem closes during monsoon (although that might be due to the river being too high), and the trekking and adventure sports in Manali are hard to come by during off-season. Foreigners, mostly Aussies and Kiwis, who go on vacation at low season, run many of these sports.
If you want to learn yoga, get reiki, get massages, or learn to meditate and all those other fun mystical things, keep in mind some of the best artists and spiritual leaders in each field are away during off-season. They sometimes move their practice along the tourist path where the tourists head to next. In most cases, they do six months in the mountains and six months in Goa. Rajasthan is pretty similar in off-season as it is on season. I was there right in between the switch and loved it (October).
If you would like to become a masseuse or yoga teacher yourself, you need to make sure classes are open. Because the class might include only you, the teacher may not see it as worthwhile to teach or may increase the price to make it worthwhile.
You might not see the “best” of the town. For example, in Goa during monsoon I wouldn’t like to have any of my friends from home visit because I couldn’t show them all my favorite places. The best places. Every restaurant is closed, most clubs, there are no trance parties, no flea market, or Saturday night market! It’s gorgeous in monsoon and nice to experience, but it’s not what people come to Goa for.
Goa in monsoon, 2013
Shops move around. Maybe in season time in Goa there is a great Nepalese shop. During monsoon, that same shop will be moved to Manali or Mcleod Ganj where they will make more sales.
Because there are less travelers, you’ll be hassled a bit more to buy from vendors and possibly charged a bit more, although in the same regard because they are a little more desperate, if you negotiate with guesthouse owners you can get great deals.
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Really useful post Rachel. I had never thought to make a note of the places that don’t sound so good- but it makes total sense! Then you don’t have to spend time looking it up again later and remembering you already decided not to go there!
Yes! Sometimes it could be as simple as googling it and finding articles or photos that make you think you wouldn’t like it- so I write down why or else I might forget and think I’ll give it a go. With such short time, it’s always best to make sure you go to your ultimate faves first!
It’s crazy how places can change so much from one season to the next. Definitely a useful post for planning a trip to India!
Thanks Anna, yeah it is a wild ride traveling through India in terms of weather
Thanks for sharing this, Rachel! I certainly was NOT informed–man, I thought we had crazy weather.
haha, well in Ohio it sure is crazy too- one day frost, another a sunburn!
Glad I found this, what a useful post :) I need to start planning a trip back to India ASAP!
That’d be awesome! It’s better the second time around.
This is all also true for a lot of places in South East Asia – with lots of restaurants and shops just disappearing. I remember how perplexed I was when it was monsoon when I lived in Chiang Rai – even though it was raining I just couldn’t understand why my favourite restaurant had closed down!
I think also a lot of people just wouldn’t be able to handle spending a long time in a place where it is literally raining all day and all night. That’s a lot of water pooling in your backyard. It’s very restrictive and the humidity is a killer. I don’t think everybody could handle that.
Yeah it’s rough for sure, some times we don’t leave the house for 4 or 5 days at all. I like the peace, but some don’t. In India they don’t make enough money to stay open, but move shop up north ! Clever.
That’s so smart. I have a bad habit of not checking weather and once ended up camping in the mountains in ridiculously cold weather. Sometimes I like off-season things to avoid the crowds but you definitely make some good points about why that might not be ideal in India
Yeah, it’s fun when it’s not too extreme and if you pack to be prepared. Camping could be fun in cold weather with a really cozy sleeping bag!
Wonderful post! Rachel, you are doing a great job of touring India. Although I am an Indian, I think I need your advice to explore India!
haha, we should join up some time!
Great detailed post. Though I think even off season India can be amazing, even when it rains! :) I had no problem with lodging and activities when travelling in June/July
Awesome! yeah, most problems if any would be in south kerala and goa, but even there you can find at least something!
What an excellent post Rachel and such a good idea. We tend to forget that India is a huge country and as a result, the weather is different and facilities are rare. It would be awful if we went there on a “holiday,” and “nothing” was there, and the “circus” had moved on!
I was actually thinking of seeing a different part of India next time such as Himachal Pradesh and Calcutta. Both areas having similar times of visting is good to know rather than flying over to India and being grossly disappointed LOL!
I still haven’t been to calcutta as well! I think that’s a great idea.
Fantastic post and seriously useful to anyone thinking of visiting India! Personally I love travelling in the off season/monsoon season but I do check to see if there is anything I won’t be able to do because everyone has shut up and left!Most of the time I haven’t found too many problems though.
THanks Michael! I also love monsoon. It’s so peaceful and green.
India is such a diverse country and your article gives excellent guidance on when (and when not) to visit the different parts of the country. The shot of the Rohtang Pass is incredible as well as formidable!
Thank you David! and thanks for reading :)
Hey Rachel, Thanks for posting this! My finance and I are currently traveling on an around the world trip and are ending our trip in India (flying home from Mumbai early October). We will be in India end of September/early October. Being that North Goa will be just in the end of monsoon season what sort of state will we find the beaches in? Will shops/restaurants be opening up by then? Or will most things still be shut down? Finding conflicting information while I’m searching online.
Ooops! My fiancé and I….
The reason you’ll see conflicting info is because each year the monsoon can be so different. Last year it lasted through October and places didn’t open up until November. This year it’s been a lighter monsoon, but then maybe it hasn’t fully hit yet. It’s not the ideal time to come for sure, but if you’re around anyways you might as well. There are still things to do but I wouldn’t bank on much partying, sunbathing, or swimming.
I’ve literally spent 2 1/2 hours straight on your blog. You are fantastic and have such good pointers..really appreciate you having this! I wish you continued happy traveling! You are truly and inspiration :)
Just a question about the season/weather. My friend and I are planning to go the end of June of 2016 since that is our summer break off from school (we are teachers). We plan to spend a month there and travel all around India. I’m a little worried about the monsoon/off season. Would you not recommend going at that time? Is the monsoon season very consistent with rain? Thank you!
June in the south I don’t recommend (Goa, Kerala) the rain has been consistent since I’ve lived here for that month. It’s the best time ot bei n the mountains though!
One of my big dreams write about India, espefially at Uttarkhand Valley and Gangga river. I hope to meet you someday (I don’t know)..
Hi! I’m currently at an internet cafe in Kathmandu researching India, and have spent the last 2 hours on your site! Fantastic information, thank you!!
I’m a bit weary though…. I’m thinking of coming to India in mid-May for a month and a half…. Will I just be sitting inside watching rain? You said Himachal Pradesh would be nice in May, but the rest of the country… not so much… hmm… thoughts? Should I save India for another trip another time? Or will I still be able to enjoy if I am prepared to bear the heat?
mid may the rain wont have hit most likely. june is when it goes crazy, but may is very hot and places will be closed. still come!!
Hi Rachel! once again congrats on the blogs. never have i stumbled upon such an interesting and informative blog as i have here. im not even half way through all your posts but thought i would get in contact just to see if you can point me in the right direction really, first time traveller. one way ticket to mumbai beginning of september. like you said i really dont want to come all that way and miss things because of the weather. i did plan to travel south goa and kerala then maybe hop over to sri lanka, back into india and travel up to the norther regions and into nepal (over a 3-4 month period) to meet up with friends for NYE in thailand. but after reading your post that route not only doesnt sound like a good idea it seems to me that i would be better off with internal flights for alot of it.. can u give me and pointers as to which way i should be doing and if that is even practical. thank you
sounds like you wanna switch the order there. if that puts you in nepal / north india for nov/dec thats not good. you want to do that first then definitely be in goa nov/dec
Thank you for all your information, I am planning a trip to go to India next year. I’ will be traveling solo. Did you travel solo? My husband is a little worried about me going by myself, but it something I feel I need to do. Any advice
Well, it’s normal for him to worry :) but I travel alone all the time and have no problems… but my boyfriend does worry too!
Booked to go to goa beginning of April followed by kerala then up to deli over 2 months. Is this a disaster with the weather?
Gotta say it’s the hottest months of the year in Goa and Kerala… May is pretty torturous all over India though – last year something like 2000 people died from heat/dehydration .. rains will hit in June
I hope my trip to India will be memorable! Looking forward for the tasty food in India!
Did you actually go to Goa during monsoon, or is this written from word of mouth?
This will be my fourth year living in Goa in the monsoon.
It is a very informative post Rachel. I agree that off-season has its downside. But it also depends on each traveller’s personality. I love rain and monsoon. We loved it when we visited Ooty in monsoon. If you love lush green and fresh flora, clouds and don’t mind a little rain, some places in India you would love the best in monsoon. Try the hills of south India, Bangalore, Mysore (it mostly rains in the evening and rest of the day is mostly partially cloudy which gives a respite from clouds). Kerala is also beautiful during the monsoons for the same reasons.
Yes the monsoon in the south can be so beautiful! I stay in Goa through the monsoons (except this year leaving two months) and it’s so nice, empty and peaceful
We will be in India end of September/early October. Being that North Goa will be just in the end of monsoon season what sort of state will we find the beaches in?
Hi, I am hoping to go to India next year for just over 2 months starting in the north at the end of June and moving down to the south (ad coming back at the end of August). This is the only time I have available to go. Do you think I am making a mistake by going at this time of year? I really did have my heart set on India (it sounds AMAZING!) but would you recommend I find another country to explore? Thanks
Hi Sammi, the north will be great at that time in the mountains, and a little too hot in Delhi but manageable. As for the south in August, it depends. Monsoon is something you either love or hate! here’s a blog post to help you decide.
Hi Rachel, love your blog! I’m thinking of spending 2 weeks in India in June, where would you recommend I go? I of course want to see the Taj Majal and some other temples but would also like to do some adventurous things like hiking or take a yoga/reiki class. Is June a bad time to go? I don’t have another time really and I’m dying to get to India! So appreciate your response! Thanks!
You’ll want to go to Himachal Pradesh at that time. Maybe Manali for adventure and hiking.
Hi Rachel – loving the blog! We’re going to be visiting India in July (7th onwards) and were planning on heading South to Kerala. Given that it is the monsoon season (and we can’t be flexible on dates) any tips for where we might still be able to see the best of the South. We won’t be on a strict budget so cost is not too much of a consideration. Would love to hear what you think. Thanks, Anthony.
Hey! You might have good luck going more inland in Karnataka. I love that state and spent a month traveling there in August. If you search Karnataka on my homepage you’ll see loads of articles on it.
I just discovered your blog whilst searching for travel tips! My sister and I are planning around two weeks in August the 12th to 26th and I have no idea where to begin! It all looks so amazing. However we are worried about the monsoon season, can you give us tips, where to go, where not to go and what would you suggest to do in the short time that we have. Hope to hear from you soon. Nikki
So glad you found the blog!! Monsoon is great and you can still travel the same, just in touristy areas some places will be closed, espcially those run by expats. Goa is quite different in monsoon: read more here
Great info! I was planning on going to India for a month in March but not sure if that’s a good idea as it’s off season. Any advice appreciated?
End of september- restaurants, clubs, trance parties, flea market, Saturday night market… all closed??