Nepal has a hugely varied landscape considering it's relatively small size. You have the highest mountains in the world leading down into the best river rapids and finally into the steamy heat of the plains. It is a mecca for adrenaline activities and canyoning, trekking and mountain biking are available all year, but also one for spiritualism; there are amazing temples and world heritage sites with some fantastic architecture and history. Weather often dictates a trip to Nepal, but we don't think you should restrict yourself.....
Trekking: Good visibility and the temperatures and visibility are good, though it can get very cold and the Annapurna circuit may well be shut off by snow.
Perfect flying conditions and stunning views make this the best time to paraglide.
Chitwan: Now is a good time to visit Chitwan National Park and take an elephant safari through the jungle.... who know's you may spot one of the elusive tigers that live there.
Trekking :The weather gets warmer so it's less arduous. Visibility is not as good, but Nepal's famous Rhododendons are in full bloom.
Chitwan: As well as tigers, Chitwan is home to all sorts of wildlife - greater one-horned rhinos, gangetic dolphin, wild Asian elephant, gaur, golden monitor lizards and crocodile.
Festivals: Maha Shiva Ratri is celebrated - a dedication to Lord Shiva. People in Pokhara make bonfires and heat sugarcane in the fire. Once hot, it is slammed on the floor to burst - quite a sight (and sound!). It is also good to be in Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu as there are thousands of devotees - Sadhus and Yogis come from all over Nepal and India.
The ancient Hindu festival of Holi also falls in late February or on early March. Allegedly named after the mythical demoness Holika, it is a day when the feast of colours is celebrated. The festival is of a week. However, it's only the last day that is observed by with colour and students play at the house, before heading to Lakeside for a full on colour fest!
Trekking:- the weather gets warmer so it's less arduous. Visibility is not as good, but Nepal's famous Rhododendons are in full bloom
Rafting: Nepal is one of the best places in the world to raft and for those who have never tried it before, the thrill of hurtling down the rapids is a must. There are lots of options available in Nepal, but it's worth remembering that some of the rivers are graded 5.... just one away from "nearly impossible to navigate and a hazard to life". As most students experience will be based on a theme park ride, this is a good time to visit the Seti river and learn how to raft. It's the warmest in Nepal and the fast flowing route will give you a good introduction to some easy rapids. Beware of companies billing it is a "white water extravaganza" as you may find it falls short of your expectations. This is definitely a beginners river.
Festivals: Lhosar, the Tibetan New Year, falls on February/March. This festival is observed by all the Tibetan-speaking populations and their is a Gurung loshar, Tibetan loshar, Sherpa loshar and Tamang loshar, where people of each community organise folk songs, dances, dressing up in traditional attire.... it's a good one for the photo album!
Chaite Dashain is also celebrated for the first of it's twice yearly slots. This festival celebrates the victory of good over evil and in our Village Healthcare Experience you can expect to see animal sacrifices to Goddess Durga.
Paragliding - Pokhara lakeside offers one of the most fantastic places in the world to paraglide. Companies will take you out to Sarangkot at 1425m and from there it's just waiting for the right thermal to come along! As you fly around the lake, you can enjoy the view of Machapucre (Fish Tail mountain).
Trekking - the weather is still ok for trekking, with plenty of flowers to add colour to your trek, but it is warming up. From May onwards it is too hot and dusty to really enjoy trekking, and when the monsoon arrives many of the roads are shut off due to landslides.
Rafting: For those that don't want a beginner option of Seti River, another rafting site close to Pokhara is the Kali Gandaki River. There is no road alongside, and because of it's status as Nepal's holiest river, there are lots of temples and cremation sites. The rapids are far more technical than Seti and it is classed grade 3 to 4 (as opposed to Seti which is 2 to 2+).
Festivals: The Annapurna Festival takes place in Basundhara Park, featuring dance, music and stalls serving regional food.
Paragliding: Pokhara's big paragliding festival takes place this month. Alex, our Nepal Operations Manager took to the skies as part of a tandem to witness the spectacle himself " the views over Pokhara were amazing and the stunts were terrifying, but exhilarating!"
Rafting: Nepal's reputation as one of the world's best spots for rafting appealed to Chris, our Administrator. His trip to Nepal last year saw him clad in wetsuit and clutching a paddle.
"I went with some of the other students in the house to Seti and we had an awesome time. The views were spectacular - in some places the canyons reached up miles around you. I don't think any of us were expecting it to be as exciting as it was - I was literally thrown from the boat in the first ten minutes!"
Paragliding: It is no surprise that the thermals around Pokhara are good - there are some seriously high mountains around! You can choose to learn yourself, join a tandem or even fly with the eagles!
Festivals: Buddha Jayanti is celebrated, to mark the birth anniversary of Buddha. It is worth visiting the Tashi-palkhel or Tashiling monastery in Pokhara, or the stupas in Kathmandu. A little further afield is Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha - people flock here for prayers, chanting and to light butter lamps.
June & July
Temples: These months are wet, wet, wet and much of the Himalaya's are obscured. August and September are just as wet, but they are peppered with festivals. June and July have suffered a bit in terms of highlights, but that could work in your favour - there are dramatically less visitors during the monsoon months and you won't have to battle the hoards at any of the temples in the Kathmandu valley. This valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of seven different Monument Zones: The the three primary cities, Kathmandu Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur; the two most important Buddhist stupas, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath and two famous Hindu shrines, Pashupatinath temple and Changu Narayan. These are all magnificent sites whatever the weather.
Festivals: The festival of Gai Jatra (the procession of cows) is one of the most popular festivals in the country, although it is far more prevalent in Kathmandu than Pokhara. There is a comic parade which is fun to watch and people that have had a family member die that year will come out in the street with an animal. This festival has its roots in the belief that the god of death, Yamaraj, must be feared and hence worshipped. Cows are decorated accordingly with paint and garlands.
There is also a women's festival - Teej Ko Darkhane Din - where Hindu women, clad in red or green, must fast for the day. Through this religious fasting, hindu women pray for marital bliss, wellbeing of their spouse and children and purification of their own body and soul. It takes place on Tritiya of Bhadra (August/September).To prepare themselves they eat a lot the day before and dance and sing. Lots of our students have been invited out to dance with local friends and have shared gifts of bangles. Sunil recommends Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu to witness the festival.
Festivals: Both Hindus and Buddhists unite in the capital to celebrate the festival of Indra Jatra with enthusiasm. Sunil tells us "It's great to be in Kathmandu - they pull out a chariot and also showcase a blouse that is supposed to be gold with diamond studs. Apparently, the real one has been gifted to (or bought by )the Queen in England, so the blouse they show here on that day is fake!"
During the month of Kartik in the Bikram Sambat calendar (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. It is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, and is a bit like Christmas over here. It is celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country and over the fifteen days of celebration, people head back to their family and enjoy the week eating, buying new clothes, visiting relatives, giving good wishes and gifts to one another. Some students have been invited to meet their supervisors families and to put on tika.
Chitwan: A trip to the elephant conservation camp in Chitwan will no doubt end in a soaking... no-one can resist the opportunity to help bathe the elephants and it only takes one word from the Mahout (keeper) before Nellies trunk is dipped in the water......
Festivals - Tihar, the festival of lights is one of the most dazzling of all Hindu festivals and is second only to Dashain.This festival worships Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, and people decorate their houses and light lamps. Groups of people come singing at your doors in exchange for gifts or offerings.
Chaite Dasain has it's second celebration of the year. Although it is a public holiday, people in Pokhara do not particularly celebrate. Those on our Village Healthcare Experience will definitely have a chance to get involved though as it is one of the key events in the communities calendar.
Trekking: The monsoons have just ended and so it's a great time to trek - the countryside is green and lush, rice is harvested, visibility is brilliant and the air is sparkling clean. The weather is also somewhat balmy. Perfect for the annapurna or base camp!
Rafting: From mid october the run off from the monsoon has settled down and rafting is available again for beginners.
Chitwan - There is lots of wildlife to spot in Chitwan and after living beside the mountains, Nepal's lowlands are a complete contrast.
Trekking: The trails can get a bit busy because this is the peak time to take to the mountains. It really is worth trekking at this time of year though - I visited Nepal at the end of November and tackled Poon Hill as part of a 5 day trek in the Annapurnas. It was beautiful and the sunrise from the top of Poon Hill over the dark shadows of some of the world's highest mountains was one of my top travel experiences.
Rafting: From Pokhara it is possible to arrange a trip down the Seti River all the way down to Gaighat. This exit point is just an hour away from Chitwan National Park.
Paragliding: There are 4-5 day courses to learn yourself, or you can take to the skies as part of a tandem flight. For those that have always wanted to fly like a bird, there is also the opportunity to parahawk.... flying through the sky with an eagle or hawk is an unbelievable experience.
Chitwan: Its still a good time of year to visit Chitwan. You may not want to raft down here, but you can go overland.
Trekking -Temperatures and visibility are still good, though it can get very cold at high altitude. It's worth thinking about this if you are planning to tackle base camp or the Annapurna circuit as part of your trip. As Lonely Planet say - it can be a real feat of endurance!
Paragliding: More opportunities to fly above the skies of Nepal, with or without a hawk!