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Help with India in April--Too Hot for Rajasthan? What to Do Instead?

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I'm traveling to India for a few weeks in April--my husband will be in Delhi on business for 10 days (during which time I'll be doing yoga/meditation in Rishikesh) and then we'll take probably another 10 days to travel as we like together. I understand from several friends of mine that it will be quite hot in North India at that time, but as it is our first time in the country we were thinking of doing the usual Agra-Jaipur-Udaipur itinerary.

Is the weather likely to be so miserable in Rajasthan in mid-April that we shouldn't linger there? I want to go to Udaipur no matter the weather (oh that lake!), but I'm wondering if it is worth sweating it out in Jaipur (we like to do a lot of walking as part of our sightseeing and extreme heat can make that not very fun). I've read comments suggesting that Jaipur is not worth the crowds/touts and that other, equally beautiful fort towns can be found in Rajasthan. Or maybe it will be so hot that we should just get out of Rajasthan as soon as possible....

Along those lines, and because we would like to add a beach or Himilaya destination to the end of the itinerary, I considered Kerala but was told it will be unpleasantly hot and humid in April. Now we are thinking Dharamsala/Mcleodganj (I have been practicing buddhist meditation for many years and have been to see the Dalai Lama when he has taught in the US, so, in addition to being in cooler climes, Dharamsala holds a particular interest for me).

Are my Indian friends simply being overly cautious in warning me about the weather, or is it really so oppressive that we should take it into account when planning our itinerary? I don't expect to travel in perfect climate-controlled conditions, but I also don't want to spend all our time in the hotel or car because I'll get heatstroke outside (my husband and I are both young and healthy, but my fair skin and Northern European-ness put certain limits on my heat tolerance...although I do live in DC so I'm familiar with hot and humid!). Your advice is sincerely appreciated.

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    Yes, India in April in the north is going to be very, very hot. (Even Rikisesh, which is a very pleasant little town in the foothills, is going to be quite warm as well by April). I have also lived in DC and IMO those dogs days in August/September in DC are nothing compared to April in north India. DC rarely hits 100F; on the other hand, that is a typical day in April in north India. I have been in Delhi on days when it was 115 F. The first time I encountered this, I thought the thermometer must be wrong.

    The other thing is that it that there is no rain, and no cloud cover, so the sun is really beating down on you. On top of that, other than the odd museum in Delhi which has air con, virtually all of the sights you will want to see are outdoors, require walking to or around, and offer no cover from the sun. Hotel pools in Rajasthan can become as warm as bathwater and are not really refreshing. It’s quite punishing, and it could be exhausting to travel in that type of weather. Only you can really decide if you could withstand – or enjoy – traveling in that kind of weather. After 10 days in Rikisesh, you may in fact find that you have had enough heat (and your husband probably more so after 10 days in Delhi; even just going from air con hotel, to air con car to air con meeting room can be tiring believe it or not. And of course places he may be working or going may not have air con or generators to take up the slack when the power goes off 10-12 times a day).

    Bear in mind that the lake at Udaipur may be on the low side in April. The lake was empty this year just before the start of the monsoon. This year, the monsoon was rather late but has been very good; but as the lake started out dry in June, by next April the lake level could still be quite a way down. (The area gets no rain from about the end of this month though June, so the lake can only go down at this point.) I still think Udaipur is a charming little place, and love the Aravailli hills which surround it, but be prepared for the possibility that there may be little or no water in the lake.

    I agree that there are many magnificent forts to be found in Rajasthan, so Jaipur may not be necessary. If I were going to pick ONE place to be burning up in April, it probably would be Udaipur and a visit to the magnificent Kumbulgarh (this is a long day trip and will be very hot) or Jodhpur, which is equally interesting fort and charming old town. The fort in Jaipur is outside the city and does not dominate it the way the fort in Jodhpur does. You might consider going to either Udaipur or Jodhpur for one foray into the heat, and then escape to cooler climes. It is possible to drive from Jodhpur to Udaipur and stop at Kumbulgarh on the way; but this is a long drive (6-8 hours or so) on top of sightseeing, so I would strongly recco in the heat that you consider an overnight at Kumbulgarh (see the Ahodi hotel which is at the foot of the fort and would be fine, IMO).

    While equally hot, Varanasi is very interesting to me, and may be to you as you could also visit Sarnath, where the Buddha preached his first sermon. Again, the suffering in the heat may be worth it; can’t really say the same for Jaipur.

    You might look at Ladakh which is also Buddhist, and has far cooler weather than the plains. I think Dharmasala would be quite nice and could be on the list. Darjeeling would also work and should offer about the clearest Himalaya views it has all year. I agree that Kerala will be humid, but also have to say that the sea breezes help, and you can sit on the beach or on a houseboat and get some relief. It’s also quite lush and green which somehow helps, at least physiologically, with the heat; in Rajasthan everything is brown and sparse by April. I was in Goa in April and while certainly hot, it was better than being in Delhi or north India.

    You have not mentioned Agra and the Taj Mahal. This also will be very hot. I am not a person who thinks you “must” see the Taj when in India, so if it is not on your list, then I would not worry about it. The other drawback is that it rather isolated in terms of other places, so it is hard to fit into an itin (other than going onto Jaipur). There is virtually no air service, as all flights are into Delhi or Mumbai and connections onward are usually unworkable, so flying from Agra to say Udaipur generally requires an overnight in Delhi or Mumbai. Too much backtracking IMO. You could do an overnight trip to and from Delhi to Agra by car or train, again in the heat this may be a bit much. I would not recommend just a day trip to Agra, too much time in transport and you would miss sunrise and/or sunset at the Taj, both great times to be there, esp in the April heat when the monument will be blazing at mid-day.

    And finally, just to throw out a strange idea, the Maldives are in excellent weather in April and can be reached rather easily from India (via a quick change in Colombo; although Sri Lankan beaches or mountain areas themselves may be worth considering and is another Buddhist country which you may find interesting. Parts can be rainy in April).

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    April is certainly not the time to arrive in Rajasthan. It is not only hot but also the hygiene conditions deteriorate, especially in the countryside midway restaurants where one normally stops for grub, while travelling from A to B.
    However, you do have destinations up north which would also make good, for what you will miss in Rajasthan. The erstwhile feudatory cheifs have taken cue from their brethern in Rajasthan & doing up the Havelis in Himachal Pradesh!
    Cicerone has already mentioned Dharamsala. And I second it. Dharamsala is not only famous for Mcleodganj (pronounced as Mc-loud-Gunj - for benefit of my Indian readers) & home for Dalai Lama, it has some lovely walks. The one which takes off from Dharamkot & regains the upper Dharamsala - Naddi road, just short of Udechee huts, takes the cake, as it passes through pristine cedar forests with nothing but the bird chorus to give you company. The John in wilderness has some touching obelisks with in.
    A visit to the small shrine of Bhagsu-nag will give you insight how the small shaivite image is reverantly nursed by our hillwomen, with cow milk. A morning visit to the prayers rendered by the buddhists is so very coulouful, as also the images of various deities in the main temple. The dolls museum at Norbulingka will take you back to Lhasa days before it was invaded by the chinese...do read William Dalrymples's 'Nine Lives' about the story as recounted by a refugee.
    There are great hotels to boot as well. The White Haven situates on a huge tea estate & by this time the new cottages will have been completed. You will enjoy the stay here. The old heritage wing is also ok, with verandahs opening on to the tea estate,though, age is showing at a few corners!
    About 40 miles to the east lies Palampur made famous by the Art galleries of Sobha Singh & Norah Richards the doyen of Indian theatre. Palampur too has some lovely walks & tea gardens. The Taragarh Palace belongs to Dr. Karan Singh of Kashmir & is one of the 5 unsung places!!
    Down south lies the Village of Paragpur & the Judges Court owned by Vijay Lall, makes a prfect host. The Kangra Fort has some lovely views from the top.
    A couple of days in Shimla at Cecil's will be an icing on the cake. The viceregal lodge, the railway station, the christ church, the Gaety theatres & lunch at Baljee's makes it a great destination...regardless!!
    Amritsar is not hot in April! You will love a visit to the Golden Temple at the time of ceremony of Palkhi Sahib. Ranjit Svaasa is a great place to stay.
    Rishikesh will not be so hot in early April, located close to the foothills & Ganges. It will offer adventure sports like water surfing, kayaking etc.
    Darjeeling & a couple of nights at the Glenburn Tea Estate will be great as well. There is a direct flight from Delhi to Bagdogra. The views of the Himalayas are best in November.
    Happy travels!

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    Bonnienikegirl, Mr Singh took the words out of my mouth!! The decribed Himachal itinerary is similar to one we did in June (when it was hot in the flatlands, but just pleasantly warm in Dharamsala, Manali, etc).It is perfect for the amount of time you have.

    We took the train from New Delhi to Amritsar. Visitied the magnificent Golden Temple (I gurantee, you've never seen or experienced anything like it) both at night for the amazing serenity and peace, the cool breezes in the heat--and in the morning to marvel at the community were thousands are fed free every day. Two other unforgettable sites there are the Wagagh/Attari Border Ceremony when quite a performance is put on as the nightly closing of the border between Pakistan and India happens. I describe it as a cross between a political rally and a Bollywood movie! We stayed at the Ista,a new and very modern hotel with a lovely and unexpected infinity edge pool, and a delicious buffet breakfast. Right across the driveway from there is Alpha One and Hyper City (love that name) Alpha One is an indoor shopping mall and food court. Try the great coffee drinks at the Australian coffee company branch up there--can't recll the name)) with Hyper City is a Target/Ikea type department store, with very helpful staff. For me, it has nowhere near the charm and interest of the market area near the Golden Temple, but it is fascinating nevertheless to see the Indian version of Western shopping mall and modern department store--and is convenient if you stay at the Ista, which beign quite new, lacks the , no doubt lacks the heritage quality of Ranjit's Svaasa.

    OK, from there you can easily get a car to Dharamsala, and then "upper Dharamsala" aka McLeod Ganj. We stayed at Chonor House, right across the road and up a sort of driveway from the main Buddhist Temple and school. (His Holiness was in town then, but did not venture out of the compound--but we did meet the Abbott of the temple in Chonor House's lovely and cozy restaurant. ) Mr Singh's White Haven recommendatin sounds fantastic. It's a choice of whether or not you want to be right IN town to walk there, or out in the countryside.

    yes, do not miss going down to Dharamsala to see Norbulinka Institure, which has workshops demonstrating the arts of Tibet, where you can get up close and personal with the artists and craftmen, Amazing place The restaurant under the trees is lovely, too, with the wonderful hot lemon tea wth honey and fresh ginger. Interestingly,the gardens of Norbulnka Institute were designed by a Japanese landscape architect.

    Agreed wholeheartedly-- Pragpur and the Judge's Court are must stay place int his area!! So many marvelous and unique memories of "only in INdia" in Pragpur village. Its a couple minutes walk directly out one of the gates at the Judge's House, the old mansion where you stay. The 100 yr old cobbler, the former bandleader for the town, who still makes and sells lovely sequi covered slippers....shoes...t welcoming kids so delighted to see an American in their village (but no match for MY delight kin being invited into the schoolyard to meet them) the back alleys with lovely old houses and cows and little barnyards; the next town, Garli with its beautiful old buildigs, where the writer for the local newspape interviewed us about why we had come to Garli! If you go to Judge's Court, ask for one of the suites in the area to the side of the main house--we were in "Windsor." While we were there, Mr Lal proudly gave us a tour of the remodeling and restoration of parts of the main house. Bathrooms were being enlarged and made top-of-the-line. At Windsor ou'll have our own mini sitting area in front of the fireplace. Oh..and the FOOD!!! Cooked in the ding building's kitchen...Delicious!! I cannot say enough good stuff about this beautiful and very relaxing property, its neighboring village and forest walk, and the gracious, erudite, charming owners Mr and Mrs Lal, who tell the most marvelous stories about their familiy history, the village and home history, INdia years ago, etc.

    We too loved Shimla, stayed at Clarke's , another older "heritage"hotel, much less expensive tariff (if budget is a concern, as it was for us) than the Cecil.. Not of the same* standard, but still quite delightful, charming, and comfortable, and with fantastic multi-cuisine restaurant. Clarkes was Mr Oberoi's first hotel.
    Mr Singh hsa summe dit up so beautifully. but if you do chose t his , please reply and i'll fill you in on a few more things that IMHO make this a very good and easily reachable/doable choice for you in April, when the weather in HP should be lovely,

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    Wow, thank you all so very much for sharing this wealth of knowledge! The options you suggested sound fantastic to me--we are definitely looking for a mix of nature, architecture, and religious history and practice (and good places to stay don't hurt, either) and those areas sound ideal (and more pleasant, climate-wise).

    If I may trouble you with another question: are these areas where we would want to hire a driver/guide? Most of the threads I've seen on the usual "golden triangle" itinerary imply that a driver/guide is advisable, but maybe that is less an issue in the hills. We're not the usual tour group types, and we've traveled around the world, but this is our first time in India so having a reliable driver for the times we do need a car might not be a bad thing.

    Thank you again for all of your suggestions and advice.

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    We used a car and driver for 17 days of our 23 days in India. We flew from Delhi-Amritsar-Jodhpur and Khajurahao-Delhi. We had various drivers in Delhi and Amritsar, but used Ramesh Meena who owns his own company for the bulk of our trip. He can be reached at indiabycaranddriver.com. He's a very safe driver, has excellent English skills, and is great company as well. Other Fodorites that have used his services are travelaw (two trips), mrsmarge, live42day.

    My trip report is at fodors.com/community/asia/east-meets-west-indiana-to-india.cfm. I would say that we spent too much time driving, but we saw wondrous things on the road that can't be seen in any other way. Next time we plan to keep our itinerary tighter, not go driving all over the countryside, but I wouldn't trade those miles for all the Kingfisher flights in India!

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    A car, preferably a powerful one like a Toyota Innova & a competant driver, with a hill driving permission stamped on his commercial license, are a pre-requisite for travels in Himachal Pardesh. You do not need a private guide for this tour as local guides are available at almost all destinations.
    Hope it helps!

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    Agree with Indianapearl, above: there looonnnnggg drives (eg to Shoja, Jalori Pass) in parts of HI--but I would NOT recommend these for your short trip, assuming you may head up to Himachal Pradesh

    Comletely agree with VP Singhabout Innova and competent driver. Innova is much more comfortable, adn you're higher off the ground, wth better view, its seats recline if you need a rest, etc. For some of those journeys, if you're prone to carsickness or dizziness...a supply of Bonine!

    The company we've used twice, Indianpanorama.in, uses local Himachal-born drivers for the HImachal area. Being familiar with Himachal roads is the icing on the cake for a good driver--they have a great reputation, which they should, for if they can safely navigate those narrow winding roads, they can drive anywhere! Our Himachal driver was Pradeep Rana--wonderful man, and extremely safe driver. Never had second of worry or jaw-clenching , white knuckle nervousness with him, even on VERY narrow, edge of the mountain, roads in Himachal. Indianpanorama's other Himachal driver is Narender. If interested, contact Faith at the Indianpanorama site. Her brother handles most of the Himachal touring, based on personal experiences there.

    IF you decide on this Delhi-Amritsar-Himachal plan recommended by Mr VP Singh, me, and Indianapearl, what i would NOT rec is the basic Himalayan Queen train, There is (I think) a "luxury" version where you're fed, sit in old fashioned car, etc. But we did it in "chair class" small hard seats where tow people can barely fit, not much leg room,--for such a long trip, quite uncomfortable. I'd suggest instead , if you are returning to New Delhi from Shimla, to take a plane ( Kingfisher flies it in the morning)

    Wow, i 've been re-living that last trip, based on your question. We also loved the city of Kangra's market which is on a narrow lane, covered by yellow tarp "awnings" leading up to the Hindu Temple there, with its trees and courtyard,

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    INDIA-Help please?
    Kerala and Rishikesh-April/May.

    Please can you help-as a follow up to the forum notices I saw in response to Kerala being too hot etc.

    I also was hoping to go to Kerala 20th April for a week or two. Then up to Rishikesh area May -to poss go to an Ashram and ayurevedic centre. Basically Im rather concerned, firstly because I pulled a muscle in my back 6 weeks ago and Im letting it heal-which it is, albeit slowly. Add to that Ive a swollen shoulder after permanent damage-which has been aggravated by back!SO im desperate to get some warmth (but not scorch!!!) and especially try and get ayurvedic treatment to help ailments.

    But Im worried about travelling not just due to ailments but because of the heat. Im really fair skinned. Though eager to be there, I know from your forum and its answers, that Kerala may be too hot-but wet too? Ive been told it will be very uncomfortable/humid? (by other for skinned friends who live there! They leave Apr/May!). What I would like to avoid if poss, is travelling/being in oppressive weather-espc with injuries! Ive delayed weeks to try and go (as was supposed to be there Feb, when I damaged back). Im sorry to give such a long winded enquiry, but its all going around and around...
    If you could please advise if a 'weakling whitey' (albeit a well travelled 1 for 3 decades) would be suffering! Im so eager to go but Im trying for once, to be sensible...

    Equally, if anyone can recommend where to go to get 'healed' in terms of such muscle damage. Ayurvedic or otherwise.

    Many thanks for all. Its appreciated.

    Wanda

    wanda1sf@yahoo.co.uk

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    Mr. VP Singh planned and arranged our trip to India which was lovely. When we had problem caused by Air Indian he fixed it for us. See my trip report. You will have a marvelous trip. I envy your time and would suggest a guide, car and driver for part of your time in Delhi. Makes life so much more pleasant.

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    Wanda - you'll get way more than just warmth! It may be just too hot and humid.

    As for treatment, there is very little to no standardization of medical or alternative care in India. Further, there is no liability if they do something to cause you more harm. Going there as a foreign tourist opens you up to be taken advantage of by any number of "practitioners" who claim to have "cured" thousands just like you. Buyer beware.

    You are better served to have your back heal at home under the care of a competent physician and THEN go visit India.

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    Jaya-Beautiful name! Thank you-I reckon you are right. Im just frustrated! Prob best to wait. But does anyone know if I can find folk wanting to do walking/trekking Himalayas Sept?
    Thanksalot

    Wanda

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