It’s been called one of the “world’s top ten paradises” by National Geographic and cherished by millions of travelers around the world. Situated on India’s southwestern Malabar Coast, the state of Kerala has quickly transformed from being rather unknown to one of the world’s top trending travel destinations.
Kerala is a world away from the hustle and bustle of India’s major cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. The state is home to stunning natural landscapes that include mountain ranges, waterfalls, beaches, backwaters, and forested wildlife sanctuaries.
Kerala sits near the equator, meaning there’s very little change in daylight hours throughout the year. However, the state does have distinct seasons, each offering up their own special experiences. To answer the question of when the best time of year to visit is can be difficult, as it really depends on what you’re after.
Kerala is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year, whether it be the busy winter tourist season, the hot and muggy summer, or rainy monsoon season. Each season offers up unique events and festivals, while Kerala’s ecotourism highlights seem to shine year-round but in different ways depending on the season. To help you decide when the best time to visit Kerala is for you, I’ve outlined what you can expect during each season.
Best Time of Year to Visit Kerala
Kerala’s weather plays a big role in when most travelers decide to book their holidays here. December and January see the biggest surge of tourists due to mild temperatures and little rainfall, while opting for the monsoon season can save you a lot of money but comes with the risk of flooding potentially impacting certain aspects of your trip.
Despite Kerala having set seasons, weather has always been and will always be unpredictable wherever you go. Whenever I travel, I use ClimaCell’s forecast site and app which offers what I find to be the most accurate forecasting available.
Unlike the default weather app you may have preset on your smartphone, ClimaCell’s forecasts allow you to optimize your forecasts and provides “street-by-street, minute-by-minute short-term forecasts” for countless specific destinations in more than 50 countries.
Whether it’ s trying to dodge Kerala’s monsoonal showers or avoid the hottest parts of the summer days, having an accurate weather forecast that sends important weather alerts straight to your phone without needing to necessarily even look up the weather is extremely convenient and helpful.
Winter in Kerala
Kerala’s winter season runs roughly from the end of November into the early days of February. The peak tourist season rush falls within the months of December and January thanks to low levels of humidity and little rainfall.
Although it may be winter, Kerala’s idea of winter is a far cry from that experienced by Europe or North America and remains quite warm. Because the temperature remains very comfortable during winter, making trips to the national parks and reserves in search of wildlife is a popular activity along with hitting the beaches.
Some of the festivals taking place during the winter include the Adoor Gajamela Festival and Pongal, both of which kick off in January. Winter is also a great time to experience Kerala’s backwaters which are a network of canals, rivers, lakes, and lagoons.
Many Kerala travel packages offer the chance to hop on a local houseboat known as a kettuvallam, which feature a generous sleeping area, proper toilets, observation deck, and dining area where meals are prepared by chefs that accompany you on the houseboat.
Summer in Kerala
What many people in Europe and the U.S. might think of as spring is actually summer in Kerala and it starts in late February immediately after the busy winter tourist season.
While the daily temperatures may not change all that much in early summer, there is a noticeable uptick in humidity. If you don’t mind the heat and humidity, you can still enjoy Kerala’s wildlife reserves and it may be a better time to observe elephants which congregate around bodies of water.
You’ll also find many temple festivals happening during summer such as Parippally Gajamela and the Painkuni Festival, many of these festivals featuring large processions of Indian elephants.
The heat and humidity increase as you head deeper into summer, making it an ideal time to visit Kerala’s cooler hill stations. That being said, Kerala doesn’t see the unbearable 100°F+ temps that other regions of India experience thanks to the positioning of the Western Ghats.
You’ll find many of Kerala’s most popular and easily accessible hill stations in the Western Ghats region. Munnar is great for trekking, boating near Mattupetty ,and checking out tea plantations.
Thekkady Hill Station offers up the chance to spot Bengal tigers and elephants in the Periyar National Park, as well visiting spice farms and the the Pattumalay Tea Factory.
Ponmudi Hill Station in home to leopards and sloth bears that call Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary home and you can cool off in the refreshing Kallar River or hike to Menmutty Falls. Vythiri is another popular Hill Station. Located in Wayanad, it offers up Pookot Lake and Soojipara Falls.
Southwest Monsoon Season
Summer eventually gives way to the rainy monsoon season, the Southwest Monsoon Season dumping the most rainfall during the year which can reach 2,500mm on average.
The monsoon season begins in early June and lasts through August. You’ll experience periods of torrential rain when traveling to Kerala this time of year and there is a chance of flooding which may force the closure of certain businesses and attractions.
Despite the poor weather, there are still several reasons why many travelers prefer to visit Kerala during the monsoon season. You’ll find there are far fewer tourists to compete with and this equates to flights, hotels, and local transportation costing far less money.
Kerala’s Periyar National Park is one of the few parks in India that remain open during the monsoon season and exciting snake boat races like the Champakkulam Boat Race which is the first of the season take place as the rains fall. Towards the end of the Southwest Monsoon Season, the major Hindu Onam harvest festival takes place.
Monsoon season is also the best time of year to visit Kerala if you plan on getting Ayurvedic treatments as many believe they are more effective when the rains cause the skin’s pores to open up. The cooler weather ushered in after rainfall also aids with post treatment recovery.
Northeast Monsoon in Kerala
After a brief intermission of calm weather once the Southwest Monsoon Season ends roughly in late August, there is a second less significant monsoon season known as the Northeast Monsoon Season.
It arrives around late October and lasts about a month or two until the arrival of winter. Some say climate change may be lessening the impact this second monsoon season plays, and rainfall is often just a fifth of what falls during the earlier main monsoon season.
The hill stations become vibrantly green and the waterfalls such as Athirapally Falls are in full force after all the monsoon rain. Now is a great time for hiking since the rain becomes less constant, albeit there may be heavy downpours accompanied by impressive lightning storms to contend with in the afternoons.
As far as festivals go, there is the classical music festival known as Navarathri Sangeetholsavam as well as several snake worshiping festivals like the Ayilyam festival and Mannarasala Ayilyam festival.