The climatic differences in the state of Jammu and Kashmir are probably the most varied in all of India - in Jammu in the hot season the temperatures can be consistently above 400 C, while at Kargil in mid winter the temperature has been known to drop to -400 C, a temperature differential of 1500 F! Similarly Jammu, during the monsoon, can have rain every day while in Ladakh whole years may pass with no rainfall at all.
Situated at a height of only 300 metres, Jammu has the three-season weather typical of the Indian plains. The best time of year in Jammu is the cool season from early October to about February-March. In October, immediately after the monsoon finishes, the weather will be cool and fresh, the skies clear and dust free. Later in the cool season, December and January in particular, it can get quite crisp with temperatures as low as 50 C at night.
In February-March the temperature starts to climb as you enter the hot season. By April, May and June it gets uncomfortably hot and dry. Since there has been no rain for some time the air is very dusty and the temperature scarcely seems to drop at night. Towards the end of the hot season the mercury sill sit at 400 C or above for days on end. Finally, the monsoon arrives around the beginning of July; the dust is immediately cleared out of the air although for some time the temperature change is merely from hot and dry to hot and sticky.
At an altitude of over 1,000 metres the Kashmir Valley is much cooler than Jammu and it is at its best in the months of May-June for visiting to get a respite from the hot, airless plains. At this time the daily temperatures are around 200 C, a delightfully cool contrast to the 400 C temperatures common on the plains to the south. In July and August it can get rather hotter and the valley somewhat humid and still - the simple solution is to move out to one of the smaller resorts that lie around the valley rim. At places like Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg the altitude ensures cooler weather even in mid summer.
The Kashmir tourist season ends in October as minimum temperatures drop down below 100 C and from November to February night time temperatures often fall below freezing in Srinagar , snow falls and during cold years Dal Lake can actually freeze over. In the winter Gulmarg becomes India's number one ski resort. The spring thaw begins in February-March. Rainfall in Kashmir is fairly even year round. The mountains protect Kashmir from the worst of the monsoon.
Winter at the high altitudes of Ladakh and Zanskar can be spectacularly cold although snowfall is generally not heavy since the Himalayas act as a barrier to rain clouds coming up from the south. Parts of Ladakh may have no recordable rainfall for years, yet in others there may be deep and persistent snow. Temperatures are consistently below freezing for six months of the year in Leh and the snowbound pass into Kashmir isolates Ladakh from October to June.
Weather Of the Cold Desert
Drass is reputed to be one of the coldest places in Asia during the winter. The Zanskaris bring their sheep, cattleand goats into the house in winter. The Zanskaris bring their sheep, cattle and goats into the house in winter and from December to March they themselves retreat into the central room of the house and wait for spring. The Zanskar river usually disappears under ice and snow along much of its length. The Ladakhis too stay much of the winter indoors.
In summer the any time temperatures are pleasantly warm with maximums around 200 C to 250 C, but nighttime temperatures are always crisp. Even at the height of summer the temperature will immediately plummet when a cloud obscures the sun. One should always have a sweater handy in Ladakh. Beware of the power of the sun at this altitude; one will quickly get a bad case of sunburn even on a cool day.