Rain is more often than not considered an inconvenience to travelers. But in India, the monsoon winds bring relief from the heat and are the lifeblood of the agrarian communities. For the locals the rains provide a pleasant relief from the sticky humidity of summer, and for visitors looking for a different perspective and pace it can offer experiences missed by winter tourists. If you’re looking for a getaway with a difference from June through to September, here’s our guide to where to visit in India during the monsoon.
The monsoon winds blow south to north, stating late May at the bottom tip of the peninsula in Kerala and moving upwards towards Goa and Mumbai in July and further north to Delhi and west onto Kolkata. Where you choose to go will depend on whether you have a preference for staying dry during the rains or embracing the weather with the locals.
Embrace the Wet
The destination of choice for locals in the monsoon is Goa. There’s beaches, waterfalls, resorts with swimming pools, paddy fields stretching as far as the eye can see, churches, temples, old Portuguese and Jewish towns in the main city. During monsoon the scenery is lush and verdant, and it’s still fairly deserted compared with the throngs that descend on this beachside paradise between November and January.
Further south, the backwaters of Kochi and Alleppey are inviting during the monsoon. Stay in a houseboat for the best experience and live off the land, or water, as it were. It is also the perfect time to visit Periyar National Park, where even the safaris happen by boat. Heading north into Karnataka, the coffee and tea plantations in Coorg show off their natural beauty between June and September. Imagine sitting in an old-fashioned cane rocking chair on a porch, sipping freshly brewed coffee while you watch the rain sheeting down the gentle hills.
Of course it’s hard to imagine a visit to India without seeing the forts and palaces of Rajasthan. And while some parts are still hot and dry—the deserts of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer are unforgiving— the oasis city of Udaipur provides the perfect vantage point for the monsoon. Built on three lakes this beautiful town comes alive when the waters are high, sit on a rooftop and listen to the soothing staccato of rain against the expanse of water or visit the famous palaces by boat.
If you don’t want to get wet at all, then your best bet is to head to the far north. The Kashmir towns of Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg offer a cool respite, with their lofty peaks and glorious Mughal gardens. To the west Ladakh’s majestic dessert, lakes, and monasteries are also cool and dry during this time. For adventure-seekers, you can even trek, paraglide and sometimes even ski.
Still in the dry zone, you can visit the Valley of Flowers in the northern state of Uttarakhand. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is in full bloom during the monsoon, making it one of the prettiest places to visit between July and September. Alternatively have a rail or road adventure from Delhi the tiny hill towns of Manali, Dharamsala or McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh. Do yoga, breathe in the fresh air and shop at Tibetan markets. This region has a laid back beatnik feel amidst the mountains.
So, yes, the rain can hurt travel schedules but you can either embrace it or take the opportunity to explore a different side of India.