India is a land of contrasts — from snowy peaks to pristine beaches, from sweltering summers to freezing winters. This also means that it offers something for the visitor all the year around. For the international traveler it means that they need to know where and when they are planning to go. For the domestic travelled, it means that there is somewhere to escape, no matter what the month of the year!
There are many ways of doing this. Broadly speaking, the mountains are great in the summers when the plains get sweltering hot. Similarly, its the beaches where you head for when the north goes freezing. But, that would be simplifying it! So, we have broken up this itinerary for the best places to visit India according to where you want to go.
To the mountains: India has the world’s most amazing mountain ranges, including the Himalayan range. This is where most Indians escape to during the summers, that is, March-May. You can opt for the mighty Himalayan range. The foothills, including Shimla, Manali and Darjeeling have distinct seasons. But as you go up, the temperature is distinctly low the whole year.
Keep in mind that in mid-June the magnificent region of Ladakh opens up. So, if you are planning to visit this arid, cold desert region, make your plans post-June. But why limit the mountains only during summers? Some would argue that the stunning mountains are best visited when they are covered in all their snowy beauty. You can opt to visit the higher peaks like Srinagar and Kanchenjunga in Dec-January and celebrate a white Christmas, New year!
Moving southwards, the Western range that stretch front the West to the South forms a year-round destination. This range has some of the world’s most varied biodiversity. There are also a number of pretty hill stations and some of India’s best forest reserves. But, if you are planning a hike, avoid the region during monsoon season in July and August.
By the beach: Who does not like to escape to the beach? With a 7,500 kilometre long coastline, India has many stunning beaches. These include the beaches of Kovalam, Goa, Ganpatiphule, Havelock and Puducherry. The beaches are best visited during the latter part of the year, from October to May. In summers — from May to June — it can get hot and sweaty at times. But avoid during the monsoons — from June (Kerala) to September. The heavy rains mean that the beaches will be inaccessible.
Watch the spectacle: India is best known for the pomp and majesty of its festivals. If you want to witness these in the first person, the best time to visit India should tally with the festival calendar! Keep in mind that the religious festivals follow a different calendar, which is different from the Roman calendar. This means that the dates are not fixed. One must check the precise dates before making plans. Some of these festivals are:
– Holi: This festival of colours is truly unique. The vibrant festival sees people playing with gulaal (powdered colours) with everyone joining in with enthusiasm. The festival marks the end of winters, usually falling in March.
– Diwali: The festival of lights is India’s most well-known festival. From rural India to urban places — homes, markets and offices — are decorated with lamps and string lights. There is an air of festivity that welcomes all. Diwali usually falls in October.
– Onam: Kerala’s biggest festival, Onam is a 10 day long festival with interesting cultural performances and mouth-watering food. The highlight, though, is the Vallamkali or the Snake Boat Race on Pampa River. Onam falls in September.
– Durga puja: Witness the entire city of Kolkata turn into a carnival of festivities, food, art and spirituality. Food stalls, lightings, magnificent pandals and streets full of people celebrating the festival makes it the best time to visit Kolkata. It usually falls in the month of October.
– Pushkar camel fair: For an exotic festival that is one of a kind, visit the camel fair in Pushkar, Rajasthan. This five day event with camels, colourful turbans and moustachioed men starts with an adrenaline pumping camel race, lasting five days. The festival is usually held in end October or early November.