I love traveling in India and I chose to arrive this time during the "monsoon" season. This might sound intimidating to an American, but it is simply the name of a lovely cloud which visits the sub-continent and brings much needed rains to keep rolling fields fresh and emerald. It also visits the beach down in Goa and even the desert up in Rajasthan cools down a bit. So, June until September is the rainy season in India, but monsoon may actually be the best time it to visit India.
Kerala's Southern coast is the place to start for Monsoon travel, and it’s prime season for the ancient healing art of Ayurveda. Check rainy season packages like three night minimums or family specials. Here are ten reasons to visit India during Monsoon that may leave you feeling like a queen or king.
1. Monsoon proves to have the lowest rates for flying to India, and even government trains and planes prove to be more affordable. See www.cleartrip.com or kayak.com for the best deals. FYI, October rates are still considered off-season and peak season comes at December 10. Get ideas on where to go at SOI Tours.
2. Once you've landed, shop Monsoon Sales for smart clothes and exotic finds. FabIndia Monsoon Sale usually starts around July and lasts until September is just one example of a monsoon sale. Be sure to pick up some jelly shoes which are way more fashionable than galoshes for the rains at Or, cozy up with books and movies from Crossword.
3. Monsoon releases. India really knows how to make the best of a bad thing (besides flooded roads, monsoon we are learning, is really not so bad at all.) Lots of Bollywood movies are released in time for some chai and popcorn in the theater or at home. English subtitles for Hindi might be harder to find, but there are always plenty of English movies. Go to Mumbai's legendary art deco Regal Cinema to beat the heat with air conditioning. (Thankfully, almost all cinemas have A/C.) Use the Book my Show app for all of India or check the Regal's times.
4. It's the best time for Ayurveda. Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, dictates that monsoon time is when we start our purifying massages. Ayurveda incidentally originated in the lush, green state of Kerala, where the monsoon clouds begin. During monsoon, your skin always looks dewy and glowing. Yoga is easier too, as bodies are more flexible, and traditionally, monsoon is the best time to book an Ayurvedic treatment. Try the ultra-luxurious Kalari Kovilakom Ayurvedic "Hospital" in Palakkad.
5. Monsoon Menus. Many dining establishments like the delicious Indian Jewish chain Cafe Moshe's have a relatively discounted Monsoon Menu with cozy Western favorites, like pan grilled chicken with beetroot salad served on flatbread, for when you are craving a taste of home. If you like spicy food, pakodas, which are fried snacks, abound in the street stalls, and are rainy season favorites, great with a cuppa. "Monsoon Malabar," coffee beans from Kerala only available during the rainy season are heavenly.
6. You are in India, now you have to experience the iconic Taj Mahal Palace in India's cultural capital, Mumbai (don't tell Delhi I said that.) The first luxury hotel in the city, Taj Mahal Palace is royal to say the least. It is Mumbai's first harbor landmark; the site of the first licensed bar in the city; home to the first elevator in the city and was also the first city building to get electricity connection. While the Palace lounge formerly housed an actual art gallery, now the art and antiques worth millions, are housed inside the 560 room complex including the neighboring and slightly less expensive, Tower Wing. The hotel has a shopping arcade where guests or visitors can browse for a number of luxury products and can enjoy a high tea at the “Sea Lounge” where the orange couch in the right hand corner has said to be promoting marriage proposals. A grand staircase leads you to rooms fit for a king overlooking the bigger than Olympic size pool and city harbor where nearby Colaba lies. With a 24-hour personal butler, a spa offering the relaxing benefits of Indian yoga and Ayurveda, a salon and a gym that of course includes a personal trainer who will offer to stretch you; you will be tempted to extend your stay! Incidentally, the Australian singer Laura Hamilton arrived here in the 60s and stayed to her death. This hotel would make you want to live there too. Are they taking applications for residency?
7. Monsoon packages for luxury and five star hotels like the Taj can get you VIP treatment for as low as half-priced per night. Surprisingly many Taj hotels have a weekend special as well as business travelers provide a lot of business for the hotel during the week. Check out Vivanta by Taj, Fort Aguada in Anjuna, Goa. Goa's famous beaches might be the last place you think to visit India during monsoon and swimming might not be encouraged, but it is possible! However, the monsoon packages at Vivanta's forty-two acres ensure even more attentive care and pampering in addition to lower prices during the low season. Stay in a cozy villa and watch movies on LCD TV's or go trekking or even rifle shooting around Fort Aguada's rocky terrain. Take a private yoga class or do Indian bodywork special at the Jiva Spa. Other perks include huge bathtubs, soft bathrobes and 24 hour butler service.
8. Enjoy the tea plantations in Munnar and Darjeeling but check out the coffee plantations too. Tata Coffee Plantations in Coorg, Karnataka are bungalows situated amidst the misty and mystical Western Ghats mountain range. Stroll among the lush green fields, experience the coffee so legendary a man was made a saint for bringing seven beans from Saudi Arabia. Baba Budan is still worshiped by South Indians of all faiths for his bravery of bringing us coffee. Experience bird watching to adventure sports and the eateries have authentic Coorgi delicacies and lots of joe.
9. Take advantage of the sultry rains and book a romantic mountain cottage in Munnar. The Windermere Estate, Plantation and Retreat in situated on a tea hill plantation station famous for its spiraling hills of tea and cardamom. This boutique hotel is a plantation destination which boasts a 365 degree view of the villages rolling green hills from their property. Fine linens and minimalist décor help to focus on the spectacular nature around you. Take a tea plantation tour and be sure to see Top Hill station and Echo Point's selfie inducing waterfalls.
10. Spice Village in Periyar, Kerala just happens to be located at a wildlife reserve forest. Monsoon is the most spectacular time to see Periyar's jungle. The swimming pool boasts bottled water that you can drink, as it's oxygenated without chlorine. The kitchen serves spiced everything Indian and continental down to "masala wine" (made with Sula, the local white, lemon, cinnamon and a hint of sugar) at its buffet dinners. Take a bullock cart ride to nearby Tamil Nadu on a four wheeled cart led by two oxen, or trek to spot actual tigers, and panthers and leopards at the nearby tiger preserve, or just stay in with spiced coffee "podikappi" (powder coffee) and enjoy the mist found only in these magical hill towns.
11. Since you can afford it, why not stay at an actual palace? Rajasthan is an art, culture and aesthetic center of India and is home to legendary palaces and Arabian influenced havelis or bungalows. The royal "lake city" of Udaipur is home to the beautiful Taj Lake Palace, which seems to float gracefully on Lake Pichola, and is basically one of the most romantic hotels in the world. The Monsoon Offer Royal Retreat is from June to the end of September and includes a heritage walk with wine, half day city tour, Rajasthani dinner, wifi, spa and gym, laundry for two days.
12. During Monsoon, you can enjoy Pondicherry without the sweltering heat. Maison Perumal in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, is a divinely reconstructed Tamil heritage home in the Tamil quarter of a French colonial town in India. Traditional architecture includes finely sculpted mahogany furniture, stained glass and an open air dining room with a 10 square foot skylight where the sky and, occasionally but rarely, rains sprinkle in. While staying at this heritage home, enjoy cooking classes and a wonderful bicycle tour of Parisian Pondy, where the award-winning "Life of Pi" was filmed.
13.The hotel Palais de Mahe is in the French quarter of Pondicherry and has Franco-Tamil architecture. While staying in Southeast India, you will be surrounded by French language, culture and fashion from nearby Aurobindo Ashram. Inside the hotel is a wonderful fusion of the two. Enjoy a ground level heated swimming pool outside your door, a raised canopy mahogany wood bed and a rooftop restaurant serving French and Indian food. Treats include wine with lunch, curry fish and South Indian halwah which is a sweet made with honey, ghee, and coconut of course (similar to the sesame paste based halvah.)
14. The popular Brunton Boatyard is located in the wonderful downtown area of Fort Cochin in Cochin, Kerala which is bustling but still very green, quaint and quiet. Fort Cochin is surrounded by the amazing Arabian Sea and the Vembanad backwaters. The menu draws on the local cultures which have a population of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Portuguese and Dutch descendants which makes for yummy organic fusion cuisine of the town's over thirty communities. Cochin is known for its history, and the hotel replicates a 17th century Dutch palace though it is actually only seventeen years old. The hotel chain CGH's sustainability initiative is evident in all the green and organic touches. Enjoy drinking fresh rainwater which has been processed on site and a lovely large pool which is just a few feet from the Arabian Sea and passing ferries to local islands. Monsoon rates dip the lowest in the year, they go to less than half price during the season.
15. The only beachside resort in Fort Cochin is British style boutique hotel, The Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel which has a swimming pool with jacuzzi, gourmet western and Keralan meals. Order the tiger prawns and tempura fried calamari with Sula, Indian white wine. Arabian seaside views abound from almost every angle. It's reasonable for a "basic" room which is quite luxurious and the service is impeccable.
Monsoon Season is only once a year, and peak season in India starts again in December, so enjoy it while it lasts!