The preferred seasons for travellers are between September and December and March to May. However, Nepal has something to offer all year round. Nepal is a multi-ethnic and cultural country and each ethnic group has their own festivals and traditions. Nepal’s varied geography offers adventure seekers something to come back for: from trekking high mountains, to rafting down rivers to jungle safaris in the plains.
Weather in Nepal – best time to visit Nepal
Autumn (September to November) is probably the best time to visit Nepal when the skies are generally clear and you can enjoy spectacular views. During this season you can do all treks in Nepal. Around October, Nepal celebrates the biggest 15-day Hindu festival – Dashain – where each town is in celebratory mode. In late October / November the country also celebrates Tihar – the festival of lights, commonly known as Diwali. If you are planning a trip around this time, be sure to book in advance!
January and February is usually very cold, especially at night, but this period can be rewarding with quiet trekking trails and fewer tourists. It is still very pleasant to enjoy the lower altitude treks and hikes around Kathmandu valley, Pokhara and Bandipur.
Springtime is another season-favourite amongst travellers. The weather gets warmer and the days longer with great visibility making this period a great time for a trek. The nights are still chilly, especially cold in the high altitudes so you will still need to pack warm clothes and jackets. The landscape is particularly beautiful in the spring when the ice from the mountains thaw and the flowers bloom. In late spring Nepal’s national flower – the rhododendrons – will also be in bloom.
Around mid-April Nepal celebrates the New Year along with many other festivals including the famous Biska Jatra and Sindoor Jatra in quaint historical towns of Bhaktapur and Thimi respectively.
From May the heat and humidity levels increase until the monsoon rain arrives in June. From May until September is the best time to visit the higher altitude regions like Mount Kailash (Tibet), Mustang, Dolpo … Overland tours are not really recommended due to the heavy rainfall that could cause landslides along the way.
Nepal celebrates festivals all year, so there is often a festival or pilgrimage taking place - ask us for more details as the dates often change from year to year.
See festivals in Nepal (link) if you would like to observe and participate in a cultural festival during your trip.
Festivals in Nepal
Nepal is not only the land of mountains; it is also the land of the Gods and with that many festivals to celebrate. There are more than 50 festivals celebrated in Nepal every year. While the national festivals have fixed dates, religious festivals are set by astrologers following the lunar calendar. So be sure to check the exact date if you want to observe or participate in a festival.
The best part about the festivals in Nepal is that all the events are celebrated with the same enthusiasm and galore the way it used to be hundreds of years ago when people had no other means of entertainment.
January / February:
Saraswati Puja: Saraswati Puja or Shree Panchami is a day to celebrate the birthday of Saraswati – the Goddess of Learning. From early school students to scholars worship their pens and books to please the Goddess and expect her favour in their studies so they become wise and knowledgeable. People also throng around the idol of Goddess Saraswati, especially in Swayambhunath and offer flowers, sweets, fruits, etc. This day which falls between January/February is regarded as a very auspicious day for marriages too as it is believed that Goddess Saraswati herself blesses the couples. Normally it is the astrologers who fix the marriage date and time in Nepal.
Shivaratri (Maha Shivaratri): Shivaratri or the night of Lord Shiva that falls sometime between February/March is one of the major festivals of Nepal. This day is dedicated to Lord Shiva or Mahadev who lived in Mt. Kailash (link to Mt Kailash) in the Himalayas. Lord Shiva is the most worshipped God in the Hindu religion. More than 100,000 of Hindu devotees from India and Southeast Asia swarm to Pashupatinath temple weeks ahead of the festival to pay their homage to Lord Shiva on his birthday. Pashupatinath temple is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in Kathmandu. “Pashupatinath” literally means “the Lord of animals” as Lord Shiva is considered as the guardian and protector of everything that exists in the Himalayan Kingdom. On this holy day, worshippers take dip and bath in the holy river at early dawn and fast for the whole day and stay around fire to keep them warm, as it is still winter in Nepal. The devotees also freely indulge in using marijuana and other intoxicating substances as these things are believed to please Lord Shiva and marijuana use is legal only on this sacred day.
February / March:
Lhosar (Tibetan New Year): Losar is Tibetan New Year. Tibetan settlers in Nepal celebrate it for several days engaging in feasting gatherings with traditional song and dance. A colorful crowd usually gathers in the area around the main stupa (like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath). Read more about Festivals in Tibet (link).
Holi: This festival of colours that falls between February/March; it is also known as “Phagu” in Nepal. This day is observed to rejoice the extermination of female demon Holika who together with her King brother conspired to kill his son Pralhad, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. On this day, playful people wander through the streets in groups on foot or vehicles with various colors smeared all over them and the people in houses make merry throwing colors at each other and also to these people on the streets. You can participate by buying some colour powder from local vendors and join the fun in street parties and gatherings such as the famous one in Basantapur Durbar Square – remember to keep safe in large crowds and be respectful when applying colour on other people.
Ghode Jatra (Festival of Horses): This festival takes place between March/April and a grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel. Although this festival does not have much of religious aspects, a large number of people, even from outside Kathmandu flock around Kathmandu to witness the horse race and other exciting sports activities performed by the Army in the presence of the King and the Royal family.
Also known as ‘Bisket Jatra’, this festival is celebrated around the new year of the Bikram Sambat calendar, but these are not related, it simply adds a more colourful and boisterous atmosphere! Legend has it that this festival, celebrated in various areas of Bhaktapur city according to ethnic groups’ own rituals, is the “festival after the death of the serpent.” Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Thimi Balkumari offer some of the most happening of events during the festival. The signature event in Bhaktapur is a tug-of-war between the Thane (upper) and Kone (lower) part of town.
Read more about the myths and legends of Biska Jatra https://www.ashesh.com.np/bisket-jatra/
Thimi hosts a color festival (Sindur Jatra). Locals from various parts of Thimi gather, carrying their own chariots. The festival is celebrated with many gatherings, throwing simrik color powder and playing local music.
New Year (Naya Barsha)
New Year - according to Nepalese Calendar, Bikram Sambat - is usually around mid April. All Nepalese people celebrate this day as national holiday with many programs like street festivals, carnivals, cultural shows and parties. Some people organize tour or picnic too to celebrate it.
Buddha Jayanti: Buddha’s birth anniversary is celebrated every year during May in Nepal. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath and Boudhanath to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. Here devotees chant prayers and burn butter lamps. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went in search of enlightenment.
Rato Machindranath Festival
July / August
Gai Jatra (Cow Festival): This festival is full of humour, satire, comedy, mockery and shades of sadness too at the same time. As per the tradition, the family who has lost a relative during the past one year must take part in a procession by sending young boys in cow like attire and walk through the streets of Kathmandu lead by a cow. The Cow is regarded as a Goddess and it is also the national animal of Nepal. This festival also purges many who have lost their loved ones as they get to console themselves as to they are not the only ones who have been bereaved and it also teaches to accept death as a part of life.
Janai Purnima & Raksha Bandhan: On Janai Purnima, when the moon is full in August, high caste Hindus chant the powerful Gayatri mantra and change their Sacred Thread (or janai) while a red or yellow protection chord (a Rakshya Bandhan) is tied around the wrists of other Hindus and Buddhists. Many pilgrims travel to the mountains north of Kathmandu to emulate Lord Shiva by bathing in the sacred lake of Gosaikunda. Those unable to make the trek north, celebrate at Shiva’s Kumbheshwar Mahadev temple. Here a pool with an image of Shiva at its centre is filled with water believed to have come from Gosaikunda.
Krishna Janmashtami: The birth anniversary of Lord Sri Krishna, believed to be the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, falls sometime in August/September. All the devotees assemble in Krishna Mandir, the ancient Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square and other temples with the idol of Sri Krishna, to offer prayers, flowers, food, sweets and chant hymns too.
Teej: During the festival of Teej - usually celebrated around the first week of September - women gather for singing and dancing and are seen clad in beautiful red sarees with shining potes (glass beads) singing and dancing all over the country. On this day women observe a fast and pray Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried women also observe this festival with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.
Indra Jatra: Indra Jatra is celebrated by both Buddhists and Hindus in Nepal and takes place August/September. The eight-day long festival named after Lord Indra - the God of Rain and also the King of Heaven – is celebrated with singing, mask dancing and rejoicing. The chariot of Kumari - the Living Goddess - is taken through the main streets of Kathmandu with much fanfare. On the first day, the King of Nepal (now the President of Nepal) also pays homage to Goddess Kumari. The crowd of excited devotees from performers to spectators engulfs the streets of Kathmandu during this festival. People get to enjoy various classical dances like elephant dance, Lākhey – a very popular dance of a man with a mask.
Dashain (Bijaya Dashami): During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Throughout Nepal the goddess Durga - in all her manifestations - are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood.
Tihar: The festival of lights falls between October/November and is the second biggest festival after Dashain. This festival lasts for five days and people worship Goddess Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth. All the houses are cleaned and decorated with the belief that Goddess Laxmi will enter the house that is the cleanest and people lit candles, oil lamps and other lights and the whole place looks illuminating. During the five days, crows, dogs and cows are worshipped and honored with vermilion, garland and delicious food for what they have done in the lives of humans. Crows are regarded as the messenger that brought news even during the times when there were no postmen and no postal services. Dogs are the most obedient animals and they guard our house as true guardians. Cow is also a symbol of wealth in Hinduism and she is also the national animal of Nepal. During Tihar, the Newari community in Nepal also observes Mha puja – a ritual of worshipping one’s own body and life. On this very day, the Newari New Year - known as Nepal Sambat - begins. The festival ends with Bhai Tika – brothers’ day when his sisters worship him for his long and healthy life to safeguard the lives of his sisters. This is also a gambling time in Nepal as gambling is not illegal during this festival.
Chhath Parbha: Festival of Chhath is observed mostly in Terai region (Southern belt) in Nepal. This is the festival in which the sun is worshipped when it rises and sets and is especially significant for married women. They observe a two-day fast and offer prayers while keeping almost three-quarters of their body immersed in water for two hours. This festival is observed for four days. The first day is Arba Arbain or Nahan Khan. The devotees take fast by discarding meat, garlic and onion. The second day is Kharana meaning the reduction of sin. On the third day, the devotees go to the rivers and ponds singing folk and devotional songs. The fourth day is called Paran or Parwan.