Landlocked Delhi sits on the banks of the Yamuna River in North India. Its interior location—far from the sea and hemmed by mountains—creates an unusual dry continental climate in a largely humid, subtropical region.
The weather and climate in Delhi are characterized by extreme differences in summer and winter temperatures. Winters are chilly at night but pleasant during the daytime. Summers are long and scorching, with most days above 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) in May and June. The city only ever becomes humid during the rainy season, when moist monsoonal winds travel up from the west coast of India and penetrate it.
Here's what you need to know to when planning your trip to Delhi, so that you visit at the best time of year.
Fast Climate Facts
- Hottest month: June (95 degrees F / 34 degrees C)
- Coldest month: January (57 degrees F / 14 degrees C)
- Wettest month: August (10 inches of rain)
Air Pollution in Delhi
Severe air pollution is major issue in Delhi, particularly during the cooler months. The problem has now extended all the way into summer, with "very unhealthy" air quality index scores even in April and May.
Air quality begins to hit hazardous levels at the end of September, after the monsoon has withdrawn. The change in atmospheric conditions—a drop in temperature and wind—causes dense smog to settle over the region. The pollution is prevented from rising up and dispersing by a phenomenon known as "winter inversion," where the cooler and thinner lower layers of the atmosphere are trapped under the warmer upper layers. Delhi's landlocked location means that there's no cleansing sea breeze (unlike Mumbai and Chennai), and nowhere for the pollution to go.
Dust (carried into the city from the Thar Desert and farther-off dust storms), motor vehicles, construction, and industrial emissions are the main pollutants. However, agricultural stubble burning in neighboring Haryana and Punjab, and firecrackers during the Diwali festival, push the pollution to a peak in October and November.
The city is making efforts to combat pollution and installed a smog tower on Jan. 3, 2020. The 20-foot-tall tower will filter between 250,000 and 600,000 cubic meters (8.8 million and 21.2 million cubic feet) of air, removing approximately 80 percent of particulate matter. Currently there's only one tower for all of Delhi, but if it performs well more will be installed.
It's recommended that you check air quality reports and wear a proper anti-pollution mask (not a surgical mask) when it's unsafe, or if you have respiratory concerns such as asthma and bronchitis.
Winter in Delhi
Winter starts setting in by the second week of December, with daytime temperatures decreasing from above 77 degrees F (25 degrees C). However, Delhi's winters are becoming noticeably shorter and milder due to a combination of climate change and urbanization. Only the first couple of weeks in January are truly crisp. By mid-January people are already shedding their clothes as the days have warmed up, and there's just a slight chill at night and early in the morning.
Overnight temperatures may drop to around 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) on occasion during winter, producing frosts in the mornings. The daytime temperature usually remains around 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) but gets as low as 61 degrees F (16 degrees C) in the first half of January. Morning mist and fog are common, cutting off the sun and reducing visibility. Western disturbances (extratropical storms in the Mediterranean) also bring cold waves with patches of rain and hail to the city.
What to Pack: Heavy woolens and clothes that you can layer. Pants, jeans, shawls, shirts, T-shirts, jackets.
Average Temperatures by Month:
- December: 73 degrees F / 46 degrees F (23 degrees C / 8 degrees C)
- January: 70 degrees F /44 degrees F (21 degrees C / 7 degrees C)
Spring in Delhi
Spring is also short-lived in Delhi but it's a glorious time of year in the city, as gardens burst to life with bright blooms (the Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President's residence, are a highlight and are open to the public). The transition to spring takes place in mid-February, with a shift in wind direction and gradual rise in temperatures. The season is ushered in by the popular Vasant Panchami festival.
Spring days are brilliantly sunny and warm, with nighttime temperatures generally above 50 degrees F (10 degrees C). However, isolated patches of rain and hail from western disturbances do still occur. By the end of March, daytime temperatures are hitting 91 degrees F (35 degrees C) or more, and there's no doubt that summer has arrived!
What to Pack: Light woolens and clothes that you can layer.
Average Temperatures by Month:
- February: 75 degrees F / 53 degrees F (24 degrees C / 12 degrees C)
- March: 86 degrees F / 59 degrees F (30 degrees C / 15 degrees C)
Summer in Delhi
Delhi has the ultimate endless summer, although not in an enjoyable way. It's long and scorching with heat waves that send temperatures soaring to 113 degrees F (45 degrees C) or more, accompanied by hot dry winds from Rajasthan's Thar Desert. The heat steadily intensifies from April to mid-June. Daytime temperatures are constantly above 95 degrees F (35 degrees C) in April and 105 degrees F (40 degrees C) in May.
The approaching southwest monsoon provides some respite from mid June, with occasional thunderstorms. However, it also brings uncomfortable humidity. If you are in Delhi during summer, check out these top things to do indoors to beat the heat!
What to Pack: Light cottons and loose clothing. Dress standards are relatively liberal in Delhi, so women can wear sleeveless tops and men can wear shorts.
Average Temperatures by Month:
- April: 99 degrees F / 72 degrees F (37 degrees C / 22 degrees C)
- May: 106 degrees F / 77 degrees F (41 degrees C / 25 degrees C)
- June: 105 degrees F / 82 degrees F (40 degrees C / 28 degrees C)
Monsoon in Delhi
The southwest monsoon reaches Delhi by the first week of July, and transforms the weather from searing to sticky. It's characterized by stretches of rain, of up to a week, followed by a break for a day or two. The rain is heaviest toward the end of July and through August. Although the heat is less fierce, the oppressive humidity produces sauna-like conditions when it doesn't rain for a while. Be prepared to sweat! It's really muggy and uncomfortable. The rain eases off in early September but humidity remains high and daytime temperatures can be quite erratic. Humidity finally starts falling towards the end of September as the monsoon withdraws.
What to Pack: An umbrella, raincoat, waterproof footwear, knee length pants in dark colors, and fabrics that dry easily. This monsoon season packing list for India provides a comprehensive list.
Average Temperatures and Rainfall by Month:
- July: 96 degrees F / 81 degrees F (36 degrees C / 27 degrees C); 9 inches
- August: 93 degrees F / 79 degrees F (34 degrees C / 26 degrees C); 10 inches
- September: 94 degrees F / 75 degrees F (34.5 degrees C / 24 degrees C); 5 inches
Fall in Delhi
The temperature in Delhi is much more pleasant in fall. It gradually decreases to a daytime high of around 86 degrees F (30 degrees C) and the humidity disappears. Overnight, the temperature is mild. Expect it to hit a minimum of 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) in October and 57 degrees F (14 degrees C) in November. It's a festive time of year with Navaratri, Dussehra, and Diwali happening. Unfortunately, air quality issues are a major deterrent for visiting the city during that time.
What to Pack: Cotton or light woolens
Average Temperatures by Month:
- October: 91 degrees F / 71 degrees F (33 degrees C / 22 degrees C)
- November: 83 degrees F / 60 degrees F (28 degrees C / 16 degrees C)
Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours
Delhi's widely fluctuating temperature sometimes reaches 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees C) in the height of summer. In winter, it plunges below freezing on occasion at night. Delhi is positioned north of the Tropic of Cancer. The number of daylight hours changes by about 4 hours throughout the year. The city gets 14 hours daylight on the longest day and 10 hours daylight on the shortest day.
The average temperature, inches of rain, and daylight hours for each month are as follows:
- January: 57 degrees F (14 degrees Celsius); 0.7 inches; 10.5 hours.
- February: 64 degrees F (18 degrees Celsius); 0.6 inches; 11 hours.
- March: 73 degrees F (22.5 degrees Celsius); 0.4 inches; 12 hours.
- April: 85 degrees F (29.5 degrees Celsius); 1 inch; 13 hours.
- May: 91 degrees F (33 degrees Celsius); 1 inch; 13.5 hours.
- June: 93 degrees F (34 degrees Celsius); 2 inches; 14 hours.
- July: 89 degrees F (31.5 degrees Celsius); 9 inches; 13 hours.
- August: 86 degrees F (30 degrees Celsius); 10 inches; 13 hours.
- September: 84 degrees F (29 degrees Celsius); 5 inches; 12 hours.
- October: 82 degrees F (27.5 degrees C); 0.6 inches; 11.5 hours.
- November: 72 degrees F (22 degrees C); 0.3 inches; 10.5 hours.
- December: 60 degrees F (15.5 degrees C); 0.6 inches; 10 hours.