The best time to visit Nepal is a matter of opinion. Nepal’s climate can roughly be divided into four seasons, although huge contrasts in altitude across the country mean that the best time to visit Nepal in one region may be different from another.
Winter (December to early February) – Cold, but Some Benefits
Winter extends from December through to early February (with January usually the coldest month) and sees heavy snow cover across the Himalayan region and bitterly cold weather which deters most trekkers. Many lodge owners close up for the season, but if you can handle the cold and come prepared, it can be a magical time to be in the mountains with few other trekkers.
Snow rarely falls in Kathmandu during the winter and daytime temperatures are pleasant for taking in the cultural sights of the capital, as well as Bhaktapur and Patan. But the mornings and nights can be very chilly (dropping to almost freezing point) so warm clothing is advised. There are few other visitors in the Kathmandu Valley during this period, so it’s an excellent time for photography with generally clear conditions.
Winter is an excellent time to visit the Terai and go wildlife spotting in Chitwan and Bardia National Parks. The dry conditions see animals congregate around limited water sources and the reduced vegetation makes the one-horned rhinos, monkeys and Bengal tigers more visible.
Spring (late-February to mid-April) – Although Rainy, One of The Best Times to Visit Nepal
Spring extends from late-February through to mid-April and sees warm weather (around 22°C/70°F) and regular rain showers, although nights can still get chilly. The rhododendrons are in bloom throughout the hills and mountains, illuminating them in colors ranging from red to pink and white depending on the elevation. Combined with the longer days, this makes spring one of the most popular trekking seasons in the Himalayas and one of the best time to visit Nepal. The downside is that haze and low cloud often obscures the mountain views from the foothills of the Himalayas and the Kathmandu Valley, but if you’re trekking at high elevation, you shouldn’t be affected.
If you’re visiting the Kathmandu Valley, the warm, long days make this an ideal time to take in the cultural sites, although keep in mind that mountain views will probably be obscured. Because this is a peak period, all travel should be organized well in advance as hotels and tours book out early.
March is also marked by the annual Holi celebrations, sometimes known as Fagu in Nepal. This Hindu festival celebrates the extermination of the demon Holika in a vibrant display of color being thrown by devotees throughout the streets. It takes place on the last day of the month of Phalguna with a wooden chir adorned with flags erected outside the palace of Kathmandu and burned throughout the night to symbolize the burning of the old year.
Pre-monsoon/monsoon (late-April to August) – Ok for Trekking, Not Great for Travel
The heat gradually builds up throughout late-April and May, bringing heavy clouds and humidity before the monsoon rains descend in June. Temperatures hover around 30°C/86°F, with the majority of the rainfall occurring at night and transforming the landscapes a lush green.
If you’re trekking at high altitudes, then temperatures are more comfortable and the air clearer, but the heavy rains bring frequent landslides and very muddy trails. Leeches are common along the mid-elevation trekking routes and mountain views are still a rare occurrence.
Sightseeing throughout the Kathmandu Valley is still pleasant and quieter than the peak tourism periods, with the rivers at full force and many flowers in bloom. Fresh produce is abundant and butterflies flitter throughout the villages, although the heavy rains and high humidity make safaris and wildlife spotting in Chitwan National Park less pleasant.
Transport logistics become more difficult during the monsoon, with roads occasionally closed. Flights in and out of the Himalayan regions to the start of trekking routes are also often canceled or delayed. If you opt to travel during this period, then flexibility in your itinerary is recommended.
Towards the end of the monsoon, the God of Rain, Lord Indra, is honored during the festival of Indra Jātrā (Yenyā) by both Nepal’s Hindu and Buddhist communities. It’s marked by eight days of celebration throughout the streets, including masked dances and traditional music, as well as the parade of Kumari, the Living Goddess, through Kathmandu.
Autumn/Fall (September to November) – Overall Considered the Best Time to Visit Nepal, but Expect Crowded Tourist Attractions
As the monsoon dries out at the end of August, the start of Autumn/Fall heralds in clear skies and reduced humidity which are perfect for trekking in the Himalaya. The rains wash away accumulating pollution and dust and there are fantastic views from the lakeside town of Pokhara, as well as good wildlife spotting in Chitwan National Park from around October.
Many consider this the best time to visit Nepal, with daytime temperatures hovering around 25°C/77°F (with nights normally not dropping below 10°C/50°F), while the landscapes are still a lush green from the monsoon rains.
This season also coincides with two of Nepal’s biggest festivals – Dashain and Tihar – which make visits to the Kathmandu Valley particularly colorful. Dashain is held in late-September/early-October and extends over 15 days, with temple offerings and animal sacrifices to honor the goddess Durga. Many expat Nepalese return to the country to spend time with family as they celebrate the triumph of good over evil through feasting, music and dance.
Tihar, or the “Festival of Lights”, is marked in October/November to honor the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi. She is encouraged to enter houses with beautiful decorations of oil lamps and candles, while crows, dogs and cows are thanked for their loyalty to humans with flower garlands and food.
The downside of traveling in Nepal during this period is bigger crowds at many of the most popular cultural sites and along most trekking routes. Accommodation prices can be inflated and tours fill quickly, so it’s a good idea to book early.