The Nomad's Guide to Working with India's Seasons
India’s nomad and expat community has had a system in place for years now; a birdlike migration pattern, flowing up and down the expansive nation as the seasons change. “When will monsoon start” is a preoccupation on all news channels across the country and much conversation amongst locals, with papers and magazines making predictions, but no one really knows until the day the heavens open up down south. Kerala is the first to get the rains, usually in early July, and monsoons then make their way up the country.
Monsoon isn’t all bad—it brings relief from the extremely hot months of May and June that most of the country experiences - and there are some corners of the nation where it's lighter and less prohibitive. But generally nomads avoid it as the unpredictable downpours can cause hiccups in your day, especially if you rely on WiFi and electricity as storms can bring power cuts with them. Some towns and cities also experience flash floods during this time, so if you decide to stay put through the rainy season, be prepared to hunker down.
Extreme heat is another element you’ll need to have on your radar. Rajasthan can experience the highest temperatures on the planet in June, with its capital Jaipur having an average of 110°F, let alone when a heatwave hits. The answer for many travelers is to head to the Himalayas, with the northwestern state of Himachal Pradesh being a popular solution, where the air is of course much much cooler, being at a higher altitude. People tend to flock to Dharamshala or Manali, but there’s endless wonderful towns and villages to explore in India’s mountains.
Here’s a breakdown of where to head and when to head there, to get the best of India’s beautiful, varied climates.
Goa and Kerala
When to go: Late October to late January.
It is always pretty humid in South India’s star state, Kerala and world infamous Goa. Forget hair gel and make-up if you wear it, because it will all melt away. But once you adapt to the balmy atmosphere, be prepared to be wowed by the most beautiful settings in the country. Lush green forests back on to the rolling sands that line the Western coast. The jury is still out as to whether Goa or Kerala has the best beaches in India—there are devotees in both camps—but everyone will agree that living in these heavenly lands throughout the rainy season is tough. No one will judge you for heading to the mountains when the April summer heat sets in, letting the monsoon heavy months of July, August and September pass before you return…and you’ll want to return.
When to go: November to April.
Rajasthan’s capital city, Jaipur is near the eastern edge of the Thar Desert so sandstorms occasionally whip through The Pink City and summer gets very hot; 110°F on an average June day and heat waves that reach the highest temperatures on the planet. So needless to say, winter is the best time to live in this gorgeous, metropolis with enjoyable temperatures between November and March that give you the ideal climate for exploring, living and working here. If you do brave the summer months, monsoon season is pretty manageable in Jaipur, which has solid infrastructure, so you’re far less likely to experience power cuts or internet outages. The MG Road does occasionally flood but not for long. Rajasthan is also one of the best places in India to experience Holi (March) and Diwali (October), the two biggest festivals of the year, so aim to be in the Jaipur area around then.
When to go: Anytime is good for working, but February and March for sightseeing.
Delhi is an incredible city to live and work in, any time of year. The WiFi is infallible, the coworking spaces sizable, and air-conditioning plentiful, so you can easily coexist with the extremes of the capital’s climates and make the most of the incredible food scene and nightlife. If you’re up for the challenge, bear in mind it does get very hot in summer (April to July) with averages of 90°F before the monsoon months of July, August, and September. Then ready yourself for the cold conditions of winter (December to January) when frost and ice isn’t unheard of. Whenever you go, it’s always worth giving yourself a month or two in this ancient city, letting the magic of millennia unfold for you.
When to go: February to June, but the monsoon season in August is manageable here too.
Rishikesh is actually a pretty small city, made up of lots of towns that nestle the divine and world famous River Ganges. It’s in quite a remote corner of northern India, surrounded by forests and mountains to the north, so don’t expect the modern and high-tech comforts of Delhi or Bangalore, but what it lacks in technology it makes up for in personality. The River Ganges practically glows with aquamarine water in the winter and spring months of November through April. It gets chilly but it’s a stunning time of year. Monsoon season is pretty manageable in Rishikesh, with much lighter storms than in the south, but no matter what season of year, your electricity and WiFii does drop from time to time so get a small generator and hotspot if you depend on it.
When to go: March to June or October.
Beloved by Indian travelers and international visitors alike, there is something truly special about India’s Himalayan mountain state. The vastness of the snow capped mountains never gets old, even when you live in a hillside town and see them daily. The air is fresh, crisp, and, for most months of the year, completely clear. People flock to the mountains, usually heading to Dharamshala or Manali, in the spring and summer months of March to June. It’s a fun place to spend the monsoon season too, but landslides are frequent, so pick your city and stick to it on the off-chance you get holed up there for weeks. WiFi can be unreliable up there too so bring your hotspot or buy a local SIM card packed with data. By November you’ll be ready for the beaches again and packing up to head to Goa or Kerala with the rest of us.
Lucie Grace is a British freelance writer, based in Chiang Mai. She lived in India throughout 2020 and 2021 and misses it daily. You can read her bylines in The Daily Beast, Fodor’s, The Independent and The Times.
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