The best time to travel in Nepal is up to you… that’s the true answer! But I get this question a lot and so I thought I would share some insights into the seasons of the year and why you may choose one over the other. Guidebooks like the Lonely Planet Nepal (which we LOVE) will tell you October and November are hands-down the best months for travel… and that might be true, but I’ll let you decide.
Let’s Ask the Question: What if I travel to Nepal in….
January & February - If you don’t mind the cold, this is a great time to visit Nepal and get good deals. You will also find less crowds in the tourist areas. Can you trek in January? You can, but I don’t recommend anything that involves high passes, particularly in the Annapurna and Langtang regions as they may be un-passable with ice and snow.
So what can you do? How about Chitwan Jungle Safari or a trip to the Birthplace of the Buddha to Lumbini? The areas are in the lower sub-tropical climate of Nepal, and really enjoyable at this time of the year. For Himalayan views you could go to Gorkha or Pokhara or Nagarkot, but be sure to get up early as clouds may come in later to limit your peak viewing.
Don’t miss the holy festivals of this time of year – especially Shivaratri. Usually in February this celebration of Lord Shiva attracts throngs of pilgrims to the Pashupatinath temples, many of who “take” an offering of prasad – a.k.a – they smoke ganga!
March & April – This is my favorite time of year! Not sure if it’s Spring or something else in the air, but I just love April in Nepal. My favorite thing is to hit the outdoor cafes at the Durbar Marq, Lazimpat, Patan Durbar Square or even Bouddha where I sit at the rooftop restaurants and drink beer and sprite mixed together (you know, a shandy or penache or Radler or spritzer – whatever they call it in your country).
Rooftop viewing is especially good for the color bash also know as Holi! Be prepared during the Holi week for boys to bomb you with water balloons, and general color-filled hooliganism. It’s fun, so just wear old clothes and join in!
This is also a good time for trekking, especially Everest Base Camp Trek and Langtang Trek. You’ll find it less crowded then the Autumn season, but still lively. Plus, you will see the splendor of the Rhododendron forests in full bloom. Annapurna is possible, but prone to avalanches later in the Spring, so be aware of that.
May & June – Things heat up at this time of the year, and June can be downright miserable with heat (remember there is no air conditioning here) in Chitwan and farther south, but this is a great time to volunteer in Nepal because you can still do some fun stuff before the monsoon rains come.
May is usually the final window for Himalayan peak climbing expeditions, so you will see lots of mountaineers descending on Kathmandu as they celebrate their climbing victories (or not) in the Nepal Himalaya.
This is also a great time for college students, high school students and families to visit Nepal. It’s school break time and the weather will be hot and somewhat rainy, but you can still have fun adventures. I recommend rafting, rock climbing lessons or one of the many kayaking clinics available. Or how about Poon Hill Trek? It’s a short trek and great for family or those who do not want such a strenuous trek.
July & August – Do you like rain? Do you LOVE it? If so, this is your time! I love the monsoon. Some people don’t, but rain is awesome and by this time of year, we need it. There are some draw backs though, like – landslides, swollen rivers, flooded streets. But hey, we get 24 hours electricity — they only time of year we don’t have some type of daily power outages.
If you like Buddhism, this would be a great time to go for a meditation retreats at one of the Buddhist monasteries like Kopan or Namo Bouddha.
August is also the time of Tij Festival (Women’s Festival) in Nepal and it’s a great chance to experience a beautiful family ritual and honor Nepali Women. Try to do a village home stay during this time to get the most out of Tij.
September – I like September because it’s my birthday month! Birthdays are only catching on in Nepal. Most people don’t know their real birth date, so sometimes they make it up or just guess. Many babies are still born at home in Nepal, so birth records are established whenever a person is required to get an ID card or passport.
Anyway, at the end of September we are starting the holiest of holy seasons in Nepal – Dasain. You will see buses loaded inside and out (rooftop riding is the seat of choice for most) with people returning to their home villages to celebrate for the month long festivities. Children are off school for 3 – 4 weeks as well.
If you are traveling in Nepal this time of year, be sure to reserve any local transportation like the Tourist Bus well in advance, or you will get left out!
If you are trekking in September — watch out for leeches! They are all out after the monsoon rain, and will be until mid to late October.
October & November – If you want to come in October and November, you will be one of thousands on the popular trekking routes in Nepal, as well as the might Himalayan Whitewater rapids which carry raft after raft of tourist down the rivers. All the routes are crowded, but the BUZZ is so fun! And Thamel is hopping – one big party every night. This is trekking season! Why? Because the weather in Nepal is nearly perfect, and the Himalayan views are majestic… no clouds, mist, fog or anything to spoil your photo ops.
In late October you get to experience the wonder of our Dipawali – Lights Festival. All the building are lit with butter lamps and lights, mandala are made from tiki powder or grains and flowers and placed in front of doors as an offering to Laxmi Goddess of Prosperity.
December — This is a great time for trekking if you don’t mind a little cold, well sometimes freezing cold. But I really like December. It’s sunny and cold and not crowded. You can get great bargains from the tourist shops in Thamel and usually a discount on treks or tours as things slow down. Don’t expect the discount in the off season, but in December, I would definitely ask for a few dollars off my hotel room or a multi-day trip.
The downside of December in Nepal is there tends to be shortages of basic necessities like water and electricity. Expect 8-12 hours without power each day, and if you are at a home stay, hostel or apartment, expect limited water.
If your time off is not in the high seasons of October and November or March and April, there are still a million ways to enjoy Nepal. So, what is the best time to travel in Nepal? Whenever you can get here!