The main monsoon season in India runs from June to September and the question on everyone’s lips is always, “What's it really like and is travel still possible?” This is very understandable as the thought of rain and floods is enough to put a dampener on any holiday. However, the good news is that you don’t have to let the monsoon ruin your travel plans, and travel can even be advantageous during this time.
Here's all you need to know about India during the monsoon, as well as where to travel to avoid the rain.
What Causes the Monsoon in India
The monsoon is caused by differing temperature trends over the land and ocean. In India, the southwest summer monsoon is attracted by a low pressure area that's caused by the extreme heat of the Thar Desert and adjoining areas, during summer. During the monsoon, the wind direction reverses. Moisture-laden winds from the Indian Ocean come to fill up the void, but because they can't pass through the Himalaya region, they're forced to rise. The gain in altitude of the clouds results in a drop in temperature, bringing about rain.
When the southwest monsoon reaches India, it splits into two parts around the mountainous region of the Western Ghats in south-central India. One part moves northwards over the Arabian Sea and up the coastal side of the Western Ghats.
The other flows over the Bay of Bengal, up through Assam, and hits the Eastern Himalaya range.
What can be Expected During the Monsoon in India
The southwest monsoon reaches the coast of the southern state of Kerala around June 1. It usually arrives in Mumbai approximately 10 days later, reaches Delhi by the end of June, and covers the rest of India by mid-July.
Every year, the date of the monsoon's arrival is the subject of much speculation. Despite numerous predictions by the meteorological department, it's rare that anyone gets it right though!
- Want to chase the monsoon in India? Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, on the southernmost tip of India, receives the first rainfall. Stay in a hotel facing the ocean and watch the storm roll in. Nearby Kovalam, in Kerala, is also an excellent place to experience the monsoon's energetic arrival. See these 10 Best Kovalam Hotels for All Budgets.
The monsoon doesn't appear all at once. Rather, it builds up over a couple of days of "pre-monsoon showers". Its actual arrival is announced by an intense period of heavy rain, booming thunder and plenty of lightening. This rain injects an amazing amount of vigor into people, and it's common to see children running about, dancing in the rain, and playing games. Even the adults join in because it's so refreshing.
After the first initial downpour, which can last for days, the monsoon falls into a steady pattern of raining for at least a couple of hours most days. It can be sunny one minute and pouring the next. The rain is very unpredictable. Some days very little rainfall will occur, and during this time the temperature will start heating up again and humidity levels will rise.
The amount of rain that's received peaks in most areas during July, and starts tapering off a bit in August. While less rain is usually received overall in September, the rain that does come can often be torrential.
Unfortunately, many cities become flooded at the start of the monsoon and during heavy downpours. This is due to drains being unable to cope with the volume of water, often because of trash that has built up over the summer and hasn't been properly cleared.
Where Receives the Most Rain in India During the Monsoon
It’s important to note that some regions receive more rain than others during the monsoon. Out of India's major cities, Mumbai receives the most rain, followed by Kolkata (Calcutta).
The eastern Himalaya region, around Darjeeling and Shillong (the capital of Meghalaya), is one of the wettest areas in not just India, but the whole world, during the monsoon.
This is because the monsoon picks up additional moisture from the Bay of Bengal as it heads towards the Himalayan range. Travel to this region should definitely be avoided during monsoon time, unless you really love the rain! If you do, then Cherrapunji in Meghalaya is the place for you (it has the honor of getting the highest rainfall in the world).
Where Receives the Least Rain in India During the Monsoon
As far as major cities are concerned, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad receive comparatively less rain. Chennai doesn't receive much rain at all during the southwest monsoon, as Tamil Nadu gets most of its rainfall from the northeast monsoon, from October to December. Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh also experience this monsoon, as well as heavy rainfall during the southwest monsoon.
Areas that receive the least rain and are most suited to travel during the monsoon include the desert state of Rajasthan, the Deccan Plateau on the eastern side of the Western Ghats mountain range, and Ladakh in far north India.
What are the Benefits of Traveling to India During the Monsoon
Monsoon time can be a great time to visit India as tourist attractions aren't crowded, airfares can be cheaper, and bargain rates are up for grabs at hotels throughout the country.
You'll also get to see another side of India, where nature comes alive in a landscape of cool, lush greenery. Check out these 9 Top India Monsoon Travel Destinations for inspiration.