Traveling Asia in summer is enjoyable, as always, but many destinations will be dealing with heat, humidity, and monsoon rain.
Most places in Asia are hot and wet during summer unless you head to milder climates at higher elevations. Urban heat in big capital cities can become oppressive.
Just as monsoon rains move in to keep much of Southeast Asia green, the dry season begins in destinations around Malaysia and Indonesia. Bali gets busy. Countries in East Asia such as China and Japan really heat up in the summer!
Bali in Summer
Bali, already one of the busiest destinations in Southeast Asia, hits full capacity in the summer months. June, July, and August are typically the driest months for the island. They are also peak winter for people in the Southern Hemisphere who grab cheap flights to Bali from Australia to warm up.
Fortunately, Bali is just one of a multitude of interesting islands in Indonesia. You can still enjoy the beautiful summer weather and escape some of the busyness by heading to some of Bali's nearby neighbors such as Nusa Lembongan or Lombok.
Thailand in Summer
The summer season in Thailand brings rain which helps to cool things down a bit after the scorching heat in April and May.
The air quality greatly improves in northern destinations such as Chiang Mai and Pai where seasonal agriculture fires create choking haze and unhealthy pollution.
Despite summer traditionally being a low season in Thailand, some islands such as Koh Tao and Koh Phangan actually get busier as young backpackers on summer break come to party. Islands such as Koh Lanta dramatically slow down for the season as storms move in; many businesses shutter until October. Neighboring Koh Phi Phi stays open for parties.
Expect monsoon showers in Bangkok and throughout Thailand in the summer. But don’t despair: traveling during the monsoon season in Thailand does have some advantages!
Traveling Southeast Asia in Summer
Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam also receive plenty of rain in the summer months. Although traveling during the low season is still certainly enjoyable, showers can put a damper on outdoor plans such as exploring Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
In theory, the farther south that you move in Southeast Asia during the summer, the better weather you’ll find. But of course, Mother Nature is always unpredictable.
Kuala Lumpur experiences heavy afternoon showers no matter the season, however, the months of June, July, and August are usually the driest. Singapore has a similar climate.
The dry-and-busy seasons begin in the summer for Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands and Pulau Tioman — as well as Indonesia’s Gili Islands. Although the rainforest receives plenty of rain throughout the year, summertime is the best time to visit Malaysian Borneo to see orangutans and enjoy rainforest trekking.
China in Summer
To say that things heat up in Beijing during the summer is an understatement.
Apocalyptic pollution traps urban humidity inside of the city, making the air thick and wet. Travelers are better off visiting greener places where the air is fresher.
Regions such as Yunnan in the south will be experiencing a heavy rainy season until around the end of July. Summer is an excellent time to visit fringe places such as Tibet with notoriously cooler climates.
India in Summer
India’s summer actually runs from March to May, with temperatures consistently well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, pollution in places such as New Delhi is suffocating.
Around June, the southwest monsoon moves in to blanket most of the country with rain and clean things up a bit. Conditions during the monsoon season can be challenging for travel, however, you’ll still find some great places to visit.
Escape the oppressive heat and rain by heading north toward the Himalayas! Consider Himachal Pradesh, Spiti, Ladak, Leh, and Manali for some higher elevation adventure.
Big Asian Festivals in the Summer
A handful of big events, holidays, and festivals happen in summer. Don't get caught by surprise or narrowly miss the fun!
- Gawai Dayak: Dayak is the collective name given to over 200 indigenous tribes found in Sarawak, Borneo, and neighboring Kalimantan. Gawai Dayak is a two-day festival held on May 31 in Sarawak, Borneo, celebrating their cultures.
- Obon Festivals in Japan: Obon — one of the most important Japanese traditions — celebrates the returning of ancestors’ spirits to their homes. Although dates vary from region to region, Obon is typically observed in August. Many Japanese people take time from work to travel and honor their ancestors’ memories.
- Rainforest World Music Festival: Set in the beautiful Sarawak Cultural Village outside of Kuching in Malaysian Borneo, the Rainforest World Music Festival is one of the biggest cultural demonstrations in Southeast Asia, and it's fun! Cultural workshops and events permeate the afternoons before bands from all over the world take the stage in the evenings. Getting to Borneo from Kuala Lumpur is easy with cheap flights.