While the vastly different regions of India present a range of climates—from the arid western deserts to the humid southwestern rainforests—Winter finds India blissfully temperate. From simply sightseeing to taking in festivals, wildlife, and cruising the tranquil rivers—the holiday months are a heavenly time to visit.
The traditional holiday month of December in India has average temperatures in the north seldom falling below 50°F at night, and staying in the 70s during the day. Except for the much colder Himalayan region, you will encounter favorable conditions.
For those seeking warm weather travel, the South offers tropical midday temps in the 80s and 90s. India in December allows you to spend all day out and about experiencing the incredible culture and activities that make this magnificent land such a one-of-a-kind destination.
Winter is also the festival season in India. From the Himalayas to North East India to North India to South India, there is an incredible array of festivals showcasing Indian cultural diversity.
Throughout the country there are elaborate celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Karnataka, a state in southwest India, hosts a Hot Air Balloon Festival. The city of Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal, hosts its Chennai Music Festival, featuring music and dance performances by popular and up-and-coming artists. The Rajasthan Winter Festival presents a colorful showcase of its local artists—with events ranging from concerts to boat races to handcraft fairs, and fireworks. In Ladakh, they celebrate Galdan Namchot, marking the beginning of Ladakhi new year, and commemorating the life of Tsongkhapa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher/philosopher; local tradition is to give out scarves to express happiness, and you will see the monasteries beautifully lit at night with butter lamps.
This is just a sampling of the festivals to be encountered in December and January. Truly this is the time to see India in full.
Winter is also good time for viewing India’s majestic and richly diverse wildlife. Monsoon season has ended, and all national parks remain open during these months. With the dip in temperatures, you can also expect to see the park’s exotic animals out of hiding.
Safaris by Jeep, elephant, and boat are available at different parks. India is famously home to five big cats—the Asiatic Lion, Royal Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard, Clouded Leopard, and Snow Leopard—as well as other notable mammals and pachyderms: the Indian elephant, Indian rhinoceros, Himalayan black and brown bears, deer, antelope, and many more.
While we can’t guarantee spotting certain animals within India’s national parks, you will certainly come away with amazing photographs and memories of the myriad animals on display in their graciously preserved habitats.
Migrating birds from all over the world shelter among India’s broad-ranging habitats during the winter months, making it a must-visit destination for birding and nature lovers.
This is the time to spot the maximum number of the 1,272 resident and migratory species. Birds include flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, storks, waders, plovers, gulls, warblers—and countless unique specimens, such as the Indian peacock, Himalayan monal, Sunbird, and the Satyr Tragopan.
Bird sanctuaries exist throughout the subcontinent. From the western Rann of Kutch salt marsh in the Thar Desert of Gujarat, to the eastern river valleys of the Brahmaputra River in Assam, from the remote valleys of Ladakh in the North to Periyar Lake in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu and Kerala—you will be rewarded with diverse and abundant sightings.
Ideal Time for Desert Safaris
The cooler temperatures of mid-December to mid-January also make this the best time to explore the Thar Desert by camel safari. These vary from one-day out-and-back tours to overnight journeys exploring deeper into the wilderness—with differing degrees of accommodations.
The Thar lies mostly within the state of Rajasthan, and these ventures are a wonderful opportunity to experience life among this select region of people, known for their colorful culture, and for whom livestock is the main occupation.
Winter months in India offer the ideal water levels to best experience river cruising. Whether by Kettuvallom (a traditionally built houseboat) or aboard a larger expedition cruise vessel, you will have a hotel away from it all, yet coursing through the heart of this breathtaking land. Not only may you see the resplendent cities built along ancient banks, you can experience the tranquil rural landscapes, and pass through national parks—idylls of wildlife and vegetation. Popular cruises run on the canals of Kerala, along the massive Brahmaputra, and Ganga Rivers.