Dharmalaya FAQ for Visitors & Volunteers > About Dharmalaya > When is the best time of year to come to the Dharmalaya Institute?
The Short Answer
Every time of year has its advantages, so you could volunteer during our ‘Volunteer Work Periods’. For a schedule of available volunteer work periods, see the bottom half of our homepage.
The Long Answer
In our region of the Himalayas, there are four seasons:
- Summer (roughly 15 March to 30 June)
- The monsoon rainy season (usually 1 July through 15 September, though climate change has made the timing less predictable in recent years: in 2013 and 2014, the monsoon rains continued almost until the end of October)
- Autumn (roughly 15 September to 15 December), and
- Winter (late December through February or early March).
There are pros and cons to each season, and which is best for each person will depend on individual preferences. In general, summer and autumn are the most temperate, which also means that’s when most of the visitors come (which can be either a plus or a minus, depending on whether you enjoy having more people around or prefer a quieter vibe). Winters are cold but generally not extremely cold: those who are accustomed to sub-freezing European winters might find our winters comparatively mild, while those from warmer climates (and those who feel cold easily) might find the Himalayan foothills uncomfortably chilly in winter (especially since there’s no central heating in rural Indian buildings and firewood is very scarce). Fortunately, Dharmalaya Institute’s thick mud walls keep us relatively warm through the winter.
In terms of numbers of people:
- Summer is the peak season (we’re usually pretty full from March through June).
- The monsoon season is the quietest, with just our five-person staff and a few dedicated volunteers and interns.
- Autumn is moderately busy and lively, but not as crowded as in March through June.
- Winter is usually quieter than autumn but not as quiet as the monsoon season.
Special advisory about the monsoon season: The monsoon season (usually late June or early July through late September or even mid-October) here in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh is very wet. It doesn’t rain continuously, but quite frequently, and often the rain can be intense. Even when it isn’t raining, it’s typically so humid and cloudy that sometimes one’s laundry never completely dries on its own (though there are local tricks to get it dry). The rain, humidity, and rarity of sunshine can make the monsoon season feel unpleasant for some people who tend to feel depressed by gray skies. On the other hand, there are also some people who feel it’s the best time to come because everything is fresh, green, and alive, and there are very few tourists around, so those who love peace and quiet sometimes actually prefer the monsoon season. The range of activities is limited during the rainy season (and muddy roads make it more challenging to go back and forth between Dharmalaya and the town of Bir proper), so it may not be the best season if you’d like to come and go from the campus a lot. That said, it’s a great time to be at Dharmalaya if all you want is a peaceful, beautiful place to do some volunteering and/or personal practice of meditation/yoga. (The monsoon season is traditionally considered the best time for long meditation retreats.)
If you’re comfortable with all of the above and you don’t mind getting wet and perhaps a bit muddy, then you’re absolutely welcome to come during monsoon and do some seasonal volunteer work (which often includes interior building work, gardening and tree planting) or a traditional rainy season meditation retreat — or a little of each.
For local weather forecasts, the most dependable and detailed source is the website of the ‘McLeodGanj Weather Geek’, a meteorologist based in Dharamshala whose forecasts are generally applicable to the Bir area as well. You can also try weather.com or Yahoo! Weather.
If you wish to come to Dharmalaya as a volunteer, please note that volunteers must come during one of our ‘Open Volunteer Periods’. You’ll find the schedule on the bottom half of our homepage.
Last updated on 15 Dec, 2016 by Dharmalaya Institute