Traveling India during the monsoon can prove a wet and often frustrating experience. Mold will sprout everywhere, the sunshine between daily rains will often recreate the climate of a steam bath, and in major cities the streets will sometimes flood up to your knees. But traveling India during monsoon doesn’t have to be so gloomy.
The rains generally begin in the south around June 1st, then slowly spreads northwards over the entire country by early July. However, there are a few places around the subcontinent — Ladakh, for instance — that are spared from the rains entirely, while others — such as Rajasthan and the Deccan Plateau — receive far less rain than other parts of the county.
The monsoon can also be a great time to visit India because tourist attractions aren’t as crowded as other times of the year, airfares can be cheaper, and you’ll find bargain rates at hotels around the country.
Here are a few ideas on where to go during the monsoon in India.
Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
Often referred to as ‘Little Tibet’, the rarely-visited Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh is one of the least-populated areas in India, with an ambience more Tibetan than Indian. This gorgeous Himalayan valley is dotted with Buddhist monasteries and the occasional village over an arid, moonlike landscape. It is the perfect place to escape the crowds and explore the calmer side of India
As it pretty much never rains here (even during monsoon) Spiti is the perfect place to escape the constant downpours and dreary skies brought about by the monsoon. Additionally, given the road conditions during the region’s harsh winter, July to October is pretty much the only time you’ll be able to visit.
The Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand
The fabled Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand consists of 55 miles of high-altitude meadows chock-full of tall wildflowers and flanked by a stunning backdrop of perpetually snow-capped mountains. It is during the monsoon rains that the park’s 300+ species of wildflowers come alive, making it the perfect time to visit. But it’s not all mountains and flowers — the area is also home to many rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep.
Blanketed in snow during the rest of the year, the park is only open from May to October, with July and August being the best time to see the wildflowers in full bloom. Plan for a couple of extra days, however, as landslides and inclement monsoon weather may cause delays.
Goa is well-known for its laid-back vibes and some of India’s best stretches of sand, but during the monsoon the state takes on a different — albeit no less enjoyable — character.
Sure, the sunny sands will be missing, but Goa has its own unique monsoon charm and happens to be quite beautiful in the rain — the hordes of tourists have swarmed elsewhere and the entire state bursts with lush, freshly-watered greenery. There’s some spectacular scenery to explore in the area, vibrant monsoon festivals to attend, and plenty of good fishing during this time.
What makes travel to Goa even more attractive during the monsoon are the specials offered by five-star hotels. Luxuries that cost an arm and a leg during the peak season are much more affordable during the monsoon, and you’ll also find many coastal resorts pretty much deserted, leaving them all to you.
Periyar National Park, Kerala
Located way down in state of Kerala, Periyar National Park is South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary. The park encompasses 485 square miles and is home to bison, wild boar, sambar, langur, over 1000 elephants and around 50 tigers.
Although there are many wildlife parks in India, the cool thing about Periyar National Park is that it remains open during the monsoon. The aroma of the moist vegetation makes visiting during this time a unique experience, and you won’t have to worry sludging through muddy jungle paths as most safaris in Pariyar are carried out by boat!
Rajasthan — land of deserts, majestic forts and palaces — is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. A brief glance at what the region has to offer and it’s not hard to see why. For much of the year, however, the stifling heat has the potential of making your visit to the Land of Kings more pain than pleasure.
The monsoon months are a good time to visit Rajasthan because the temperatures are cooler, and besides: it isn’t raining all the time. Plan your trip to Rajasthan from June to September and take your pick from the rosy-pink capital of Jaipur, the fairy tale lake and palaces of Udaipur, the holy pilgrimage town of Pushkar (famous for its annual camel fair) and much more.
When the monsoon comes to India, many tourists head for the mountains — in particular to Ladakh, an arid land of high passes that was once a Buddhist kingdom.
Located in a remote corner of northern India, Ladakh escapes the monsoon rains entirely, making June to September the peak season here. Although it was only opened to foreigners in 1974, this remote land has become a popular tourist destination during the summer. The best way to escape the crowds is to head off into the mountains — on foot (There are a number of great treks in the region).
Additionally, be sure not to miss the Indus Valley town of Leh, Ladakh’s capital. Surrounded by alpine desert and hemmed in by two of the largest mountain ranges on the planet, Leh’s arid landscape is full of historic Buddhist monasteries. It is only accessible by road from around June to October, when the winter snows have melted. For the rest of the year you’ll have to fly in.
Dynamically alive and saturated with history, Tamil Nadu sits at India’s southernmost point and has a character and culture that is distinctly its own. It’s a great place to visit year-round, but the monsoon season is a particularly good time as the region stays comparably dry and the scorching heat has gone on moratorium.
Heading south from Chennai along the scenic East Coast Road, pay a visit to the Cholamandala Artist’s Village and the ruins at Mamallapuram (a World Heritage Site) before heading on to Pondicherry (Puducherry) for an elegant intermingling of French elegance and Tamil culture. As an interesting side trip, check out Auroville, an international community of people dedicated to building a universal township based on love and community — a short drive from Pondicherry.
The remote and tranquil region of Kashmir is blessed with a beautiful backdrop of rugged, snow-capped mountains and refreshing, cool summer air. Kashmir is popular with both domestic and foreign tourists, both of whom will descend by the busload on the quaint towns of the Kashmir Valley during May and June.
Traveling to the region during the monsoon is a great way to avoid these chaotic crowds. Be sure not to miss the city of Srinagar, where you can spend your days exploring the colorful and historic wooden mosques and the nights lounging aboard a houseboat on the placid Dal Lake.
Note: Be sure to check the security situation before traveling to Kashmir. It’s usually safe, but intercommunal violence can sometimes flare up.