SD › Best Time to Visit Chennai
Updated: January 31, 2020
When is the Best Time to Visit Chennai?
The best time to visit Chennai is in January, February, and March. These months avoid the extreme heat and bulk of the rain, and temperatures hover between 21°C and 34°C. Since Chennai is not a major tourist destination, airfares and room rates are moderate through the year, except on major holidays like Diwali, Christmas, and New Year’s.
- Best Time for Sightseeing: Like all cities in southern India, the extreme heat and monsoonal rains may affect travel plans. Unlike Mumbai and Goa, however, most rain in Chennai falls from August to December, peaking in October and November. Chennai is hot and humid all year but is worse between April and July. So, the best time for visiting is limited to January, February, and March.
- Best Time for Weather: During the dry season from January to March, days are full of sunshine, temperatures aren’t too hot (yet), sea breezes help temper the humidity, and it may not rain for weeks. During April, May, and June, temperatures rise from warm to hot and the increased humidity is particularly notable. The monsoon that pummels Mumbai and Goa on the west coast from June to September bypasses Chennai, which receives most of its rain during the northeast monsoonal period of October to mid-December. Violent storms and cyclones are not uncommon at this time, while water-logging may also affect travel plans.
- Best Time for Honeymoons: Mid-December to April. Avoid, if possible, the extreme heat, humidity, and monsoonal rains during the other months of the year.
- Best Time for Nightlife: Between January and June, rain is scarce. Hence, this is the best time for partying and bar-hopping at night, even though nightlife is fairly tame in this Tamil-dominated city.
- Best Time for Saving Money: May to November. The most popular and expensive time to visit is the cooler and drier weather, so hotel rates and airfares are lowest during the monsoon season and its lead up.
Chennai Travel Seasons
- High Season (January to March): Day after day of warm weather, without being too hot or humid, and pleasantly mild overnight. Maybe 1-2 days of rain per month. Chennai is not a major tourist destination, so it’s not much affected by large numbers of visitors and higher hotel rates around the Christmas and New Year periods.
- Shoulder Season (April and December): Also a good time to visit, before the high heat and humidity (May and June) and after the worst of the wet season (July to November). April can still be hot and humid, and the rain lingers in early December, but by the end of the year, the streets are clean and gardens are flourishing.
- Low Season (May to November): Chennai is not blessed with an ideal climate for sightseeing. Heat and humidity peak in May and June in the lead up to the rains, which is at its peak during the northeast monsoon in October, November, and early December, when cyclones are common. The number of tourists reduces, so hotel rates fall, but allow time to get around because travel plans may be affected during the wet season.
Chennai Weather by Month
- Chennai Weather in January: Second coolest month, but average daytime temperatures only drop to 30°C and remain a balmy 21°C overnight. Significant drop in rainfall to about one-fifth as much as December, but still the wettest month of the dry winter.
- Chennai Weather in February: Daytime temperatures rise a little from the previous month and there’s a slight reduction in average rainfall. Overnight temperatures start to increase by 1-2 degrees per month until peaking in May.
- Chennai Weather in March: Days become noticeably hotter, averaging 34°C, and overnight is a warm and humid 24°C. Driest month of the year, with barely any rain recorded.
- Chennai Weather in April: Second-driest month, with only a couple of rainy days on average, but the heat and, especially, humidity, build to an uncomfortable level for those unused to it. Daytime averages of 36°C and 26°C overnight.
- Chennai Weather in May: The worst month for heat and humidity as the amount of rain also increases. Thrice as wet as April – but still not that much – and the highest average daytime and overnight temperatures for the year: 38°C/28°C. Humidity is very uncomfortable, even for locals.
- Chennai Weather in June: Some annoying rain but certainly not the sort of monsoon now flooding the streets of other cities. Still averaging 37°C during the day and 27°C overnight, while the humidity can be unbearable for many visitors.
- Chennai Weather in July: By now, the wet season has started in earnest, alleviated by a slight decrease in temperatures, but the humidity remains very uncomfortable. Water-logging is now common in poorly-drained and low-lying areas.
- Chennai Weather in August: Another drop in average daytime and overnight temperatures, but nothing too noticeable. Slight increase in rainfall, averaging about 132mm per month, which, by now, may disrupt travel plans a little.
- Chennai Weather in September: The rain continues (although slightly less on average than the previous month), but the monsoon has still not arrived. Daytime and overnight temperatures remain fairly uncomfortable at about 34°C and 25°C respectively, exacerbated by the continuing humidity.
- Chennai Weather in October: The first of the 2 wettest months, part of the northeast monsoon that doesn’t affect cities inland or along the west coast. About 270mm of rain on average, and cyclones are not uncommon, so always be alert. Average temperatures reduce a little to 32°C during the day and the humidity decreases a little.
- Chennai Weather in November: Easily the wettest month of the year as the monsoonal rains batter the coast and damaging cyclones pass through every year or so. Expect rain every day, often for hours, flooding the streets, even outside 5-star resorts. About 360mm for the month, but still less than half of what Mumbai receives on the other coast in July.
- Chennai Weather in December: Significant changes starting with average day/night temperatures at their lowest for the year: 29°C/21°C. The rain tapers off in the second half of the month to a total of nearly one-third as much as November. Cyclones are still possible; in fact, a very severe cyclonic storm called Vardah hit Chennai in early December of 2016, causing extensive damage.
Chennai Holidays, Events, and Festivals by Months
India has the world’s second-largest population of Muslims (after Indonesia). Dates for these 4 major festivals change each year according to the Islamic calendar. Each is a public holiday when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
- Eid-al-Fitr – The end of Ramadan is celebrated with up to 3 days of feasts, music, and dance at mosques and homes.
- Eid Mulid-un-Nabi (Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday) – Celebrated with prayers and parades.
- Muharram/Ashura – Start of the Islamic New Year.
- Eid al-Adha/Zuha (Bakr-Id) – Celebrates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son. Animals, mostly goats, are slaughtered and shared with families and the poor.
Chennai in January
- New Year’s Day (1st) – Celebrated by families and friends. Usually some concerts.
- Makara Sankranthi/Pongal (14th or 15th) – Makara Sankranthi is celebrated more in Western India, while Pongal is celebrated in South India. Both festivals mark the end of winter. Makara Sankranthi features lots of kite-flying, while Pongal involves 3-4 days of house cleaning and decorating, paying respect to farm animals, exchanging gifts, and visiting families and friends. Sweet rice pudding is consumed during Pongal.
- Vasant Panchami (changeable, January/February) – Hindu ceremony where devotees dressed in yellow place books and instruments in front of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, for blessing, and to celebrate the coming of spring.
- Republic Day (26th) – Commemorates the adoption of the country’s constitution on January 26, 1950. Huge parades in Delhi, less restrained elsewhere. National holiday, when all government offices and many tourist attractions close.
- Tourism and Trade Fair in Chennai (January, February & March) – Various stalls and events organized by local tourism authorities to promote the attractions and culture across the city and state.
Chennai in February
- (Maha) Shivaratri (changeable, February/March) – Day of fasting as a dedication to Lord Shiva and ceremonies in temples. Public holiday, when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
- Holi (changeable, February/March) – Vibrant commemoration of the start of spring. Almost everyone – including unsuspecting foreigners – is doused with colored water and/or powder.
Chennai in March
- Chaitra Navratri (changeable, September/October) – The beginning of the new year as per the Hindu calendar. The 9th night is celebrated as Rama Navami.
- Rama Navami (changeable, March/April) – Celebrates Lord Rama’s birth. 9 days of music, dance, fasts, and feasts, and reading of the Ramayana (epic). One day is a public holiday when most government offices and some tourist attractions may close.
- Mahavir Jayanti (changeable, March/April) – Celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavir, the most revered teacher of Jainism. Colorful festivities in temples and offerings to the poor. Public holiday, when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
- Easter (changeable, March/April) – Celebrated by the Christian minority. A few businesses may close on Good Friday.
- Gudi Padwa (changeable, March/April) – Traditional start of the Hindu New Year, marked by family visits, flying of a special flag, and spring-cleaning.
Chennai in April
- Vaisakhi (usually 13th or 14th) – Another festival related to the onset of spring, as well as the start of the New Year according to the Sikh calendar. Abundant music, dance, wrestling, and the wearing of traditional costumes.
- Ambedkar Jayanti/Bhim Jayanti (14th) – Celebrates the birth of late Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, a leading historical figure. Public holiday, when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
Chennai in May
- Vesak/Buddha Purnima (changeable, April/May) – Solemn festivals at temples marking the birth and death of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Public holiday, when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
Chennai in June
- Nothing notable, and the weather across this part of India precludes outdoor events.
Chennai in July
- Raksha Bandhan/Rakhi (changeable, July/August) – Hindu festival marking the importance of families, especially siblings. Commonly called Brother and Sister Day, where sisters tie colorful strings (Rakhis) on their brothers’ hands, and brothers give gifts in return.
Chennai in August
- Independence Day (15th) – Celebrates India’s independence from Britain in 1947. Patriotic time, with government buildings suitably decorated and ceremonies held, especially in Delhi. Also, a time for families to get together. National public holiday when all government offices and many tourist attractions close.
- Parsi New Year (17th) – Celebrated by Parsis who follow the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Chennai’s Royapuram fire temple is 110 years old.
- Madras Day (22nd) – Part of a week-long celebration of the city’s foundation in the mid-17th century. Concerts, food markets, and other events all over the city.
- Janmashtami (changeable, August/September) – Celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna with offerings, fasting, and decorations on buildings. Public holiday, when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
- Ganesh Chaturthi (changeable, August/September) – Up to 10 days of celebrations for the birth of the highly-revered elephant-headed God, Ganesha. Celebrated with fervor across the city and state.
Chennai in September
- Navaratri (changeable, September/October) – Nine days of passionately celebrating the battle of Goddess Durga over a demon. Lights and fireworks all over the city, as well as colorful parades and cultural events. The 9th day is Dussehra.
- Dussehra (changeable, September/October) – Celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, and the general battle of good over evil. Praying at temples, offerings of special food, and burning of Ravana’s effigies. Public holiday, when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
Chennai in October
- Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti (2nd) – Sombre occasion commemorating the birthday of the country’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi. National holiday, when all government offices and many tourist attractions close.
- Karaka Chaturthi/Karva Chauth (changeable, October/November) – Venerating Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati, it’s a social occasion for families and friends. Also, fasting and other special ceremonies among married women to wish for long and healthy lives for their husbands.
- Diwali/Deepavali (changeable, October/November) – Major 5-day festival of lights, candles, and fireworks. Busy time for travel because it’s celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. One day is a public holiday when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
Chennai in November
- Karthigai Deepam (changeable, November/December) – Period after Diwali (see above) when Tamils paint murals and place diyas (small lamps) outside houses.
- Guru Nank Jayanti (changeable) – Celebrates the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, and is marked by prayers and parades. Public holiday.
Chennai in December
- Christmas Day (25th) – Celebrated by all Christians and most tourists. Public holiday, when some government offices and tourist attractions may close.
- New Year’s Eve (31st) – Celebrated by most Indians, and all tourists, but perhaps not as boisterously as in the West.
- Margazhi/Chennai Festival of Dance and Music (mid-December to mid-January) – One month of traditional music and classical dance at various locations across the city.
- Chennai Book Fair (December to January) – For 10 days over the Christmas/New Year period, book-lovers and authors converge for this renowned literary fair.
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