If you have not been to the Himalayas before you might make the mistake of thinking the climate is fairly uniform across the entire mountain range but nothing could be further from the truth. If you’re planning a trip it’s key to understand how the weather changes throughout the year in each part of the Himalayas. The Indian monsoon is the main driver of climate and the impact of the monsoon or lack of it is of key importance for predicting the weather.
A monsoon is best described as a seasonally reversing wind system. It works because during the hot part of the year the sun warms up the earth’s surface causing the atmosphere to rise and as it does it pulls in moist air from the ocean. When the sun is no longer heating the surface during the winter this mechanism reverses and a generally dry subsiding air mass dominates. The monsoon first reaches the Himalayas in far eastern India, Bhutan, and Nepal in early June and remains over these regions for the longest time. For this reason, the western Himalayas in contrast to the eastern Himalayas are much drier and the monsoon starts later in the year.
When to Visit the Himalayas
Let’s jump first to how the weather impacts where you can visit in the Himalayas and when is the best time to visit.
|Region||Season to Visit|
|Kashmir||June to Sept|
|Ladakh||June to Sept|
|Lahaul and Spiti||June to Sept|
|Himachal Pradesh||Mar to May & Oct to Nov|
|Uttaranchal||Mar to May & Oct to Nov|
|Nepal||Mar to May & Oct to Nov|
|Tibet||April to September|
|Sikkim||Mar to May & Oct to Nov|
|Bhutan||Mar to May & Oct to Nov|
|Arunachal Pradesh||Mar to May & Oct to Nov|
Kashmir: Kashmir is only lightly influenced by the monsoon but heavy snows in the mountains preclude trekking during the winter. The best time to visit is from the middle of June to Sept. The abundant snowfalls give rise to the beautiful pine forests, rivers, and lakes in the region.
Ladakh: Ladakh is almost always dry as the Himalayas block monsoon progression and create a rain shadow. High altitude and dry conditions result in extremely cold conditions in the winter. Temperatures in Leh can reach -35 °C (-31 °F) and up to 35 °C (95 °F) in the summer. The best time to visit is from June to September. Sometimes the snows on the high peaks like Stok Kangri preclude trekking to early July. See More: Treks in Ladakh
Himachal Pradesh: The state of Himachal Pradesh is a land of climatic extremes the region on the south slopes of the Himalayas bears the brunt of the monsoon and is wettest from July to early September. Heavy snowfalls by the end of November and high elevation treks are impossible until late March when the snows melt. On the northern slope of the Himalayas in the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti, the climate is more similar to Ladakh due to the rain shadow conditions that set up and block monsoon moisture.
Uttaranchal: The state of Uttarakhand lies just to the east of Himachal Pradesh and has similar climatic patterns except that the monsoon might progress a week or so earlier. The best time to visit is generally from March to May and from late September until November.
Nepal: The general trekking seasons in Nepal run from March to May and from late September until November. The Everest and Annapurna regions are of such a high altitude that winter snows are generally light and trekking is possible from December to February (See – Weather of Everest). The north side of the Himalayas which includes; the Mustang and Dolpo regions lie in somewhat of a rain shadow and monsoon moisture is more limited. If you want to trek in Nepal in July and August these are the best regions.
Tibet: Tibet lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas and is quite dry during the summer months. Winters have limited snow but are quite cold. The best time to visit is from April until early October.
Sikkim: The Indian Monsoon is at its full strength here as moisture from the Bay of Bengal is pulled almost directly northward to the high peaks, like Kanchenjunga. The Monsoon also begins here by the end of May which is earlier than further west in the Himalayas. The best time to trek is mid-March to the end of May and in October and November before winter snowfall closes off the high elevation trails.
Bhutan: Bhutan receives quite a bit of rainfall and the famous Snowman trek is notorious for bad weather. The best period for trekking in Bhutan is probably from early October to the middle of November. April and early May can be a secondary choice but occasional showers are common.
Arunachal Pradesh: This far eastern portion of the Himalayas receives heavy rainfall from May to September and is best visited in either April or October.
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