Travelling in the Monsoon
The Indian monsoon is the most prominent of the world’s monsoon systems and recent reports from the MET office in India have confirmed a successful monsoon season, with rains reaching almost all parts of India.
This is good news, as many regions have been facing drought (or drought-like conditions) for the last couple of years. Thankfully lakes, reservoirs and water holes are filled once again, helping farmers, their livestock and crops; and Indian birds and wildlife.
Some of our favourite places are celebrating good rainfall. The iconic Lake Palace hotel in Udaipur, Rajasthan is not as spectacular (or romantic) without water in its lake; Chhatra Sagar’s lake has filled nicely, attracting many birds and will once again be a spectacular setting when the new season opens in October.
“Mausim” meaning weather, is the word used in the Hindi and Urdu language, and Monsoon was first used in India during the British period.
The monsoon arrives in South India in late May/early June. Kovalam, located in the southern tip of the state of Kerala – is one place that receives the first rainfall. Refreshing “pre-monsoon showers” break the heat and are then followed by intense, heavy rain with thunder and lightning.
Although most people would prefer to avoid travelling during the monsoon period – June, July and August – there are still some good reasons to visit at this time. For those who live in the Middle East, an escape from the stifling summer heat to the rains is a very welcome holiday. You will find that tourist attractions are less crowded; hotels – and often flights – are cheaper and rates more negotiable. Although there may be heavy downpours, there are still plenty of clear skies, periods of sunshine and a warm climate.
Nature comes alive with lush greenery during these summer months – although it is worth noting that the National Parks are closed to visitors from May until October. Wonderful, atmospheric places such as Hampi and Orchha, usually hot and arid with very little vegetation, are transformed during the monsoon and the cooler temperatures mean that it is more comfortable to wander and explore.
In the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand the Valley of Flowers, with 300 varieties of flowers, becomes an awe inspiring sight. You are able to hike up to this high altitude Himalayan valley between April and October; it is covered in snow for the rest of the year.
Ladakh, India’s remote northern state, becomes accessible to visitors in these summer. months. There are breathtaking views of Ladakh’s barren, lunar-like landscapes, crystal clear blue skies, and ancient Buddhist monasteries. Many people come here for some of the best treks in India, as well as the traditional Indian and Tibetan cultures and festivals. Both the Ultimate Travelling Camp and Shakti Himalaya offer some amazing experiences in this area.
In Burma you might want to enjoy one of their Drizzle Relax Packages! The monsoon certainly brings with it a different, slower pace to everyday life and this is one of the reasons the monsoon months are actually considered to be the best time for Ayurveda treatments; there are a number of wellness retreats to be found at this time, especially in the South Indian state of Kerala. The humidity helps to open the pores and soften the skin and – as treatments often involve the application of oils and the use of steam to flush out toxins within the body – this time of year is more beneficial.
Although travel between major places on good roads is fine, there will be some areas that are more difficult to travel to, with the possibilities of landslides so it will depend on where you choose to go.
You might need an umbrella and some waterproof sandals but the monsoon months are still worth bearing in mind for travel within certain parts of India and Burma. Sri Lanka is pretty much a year round destination; the time of year will depend on which parts of the island you go to and there are plenty of ideal beaches for the summer months.. However, since Bhutan is such a mountainous country, we recommend that it is better to go when travel between destinations is easier – from October to April is particularly good.