Any walker, hiker or climber wants to visit the Himalaya. The mightiest mountain range on earth is home to the highest mountain and creates a physical barrier that defines countries. Its also still growing as the Indian tectonic plate travels north and collides with the Asian plate, forcing it upwards.
Whether you want to walk in the foothills with their green terraces and pretty villages, or the high Himalaya, with rushing rivers, steep-sided valleys and glaciers, there are seasons when it is better to go.
The most popular time is October and November. This is after the monsoon that has swept over India and crashed into the mountains, unable to pass. The hot summer months have passed so the air is cool. This means you get the best clarity, with little cloud and long views. Nights can be cold – at higher altitudes freezing, but it is a beautiful time to experience the villages while getting long, crisp views of the high peaks that seem to hang in the sky above you.
The next most popular time is late February to April. It is after December and January, the cold months when it can be too bitter to enjoy the scenery. Spring is a great time to go if your passion is flora, with wild flowers proliferating and great swathes of rhododendron forest coming into flower. (You can tell your altitude using rhododendrons, with red flowers lower down and white at their highest level.)
The downside is that the temperatures are rising once more as the heat builds towards the monsoon. While there is little rain, other than local thunderstorms, this causes cloud to build throughout the day, meaning that the high mountains are usually only clear for a few hours from dawn. The climate is pleasant however, and a perfect walking temperature.
Monsoon starts sometime in May-June and continues through to late August/September. This makes for wet walking, especially in the foothills and lowlands. There are some high valleys that are in the rain shadow of the Himalaya and remain dry, such as Mustang and Dolpo. With fascinating cultures dominated by Tibetan influences they make for amazing trekking. They are, however, expensive with special permits required in order to ensure that these small isolated cultures do not get overwhelmed by a mass influx of tourists.
The cold winter months of December and January are considered to cold for many of the high altitude treks can offers some excellent opportunities at the lower altitudes, although the weather can be somewhat unpredictable.
There is of course a pay-off. Go in October-November and you are going at the best and therefore most popular time, and on some routes, especially those that go and return by the same trail they can get very busy.
But there are always places to go that get you away from the crowds. The majority of trekkers visit the Everest and Annapurna regions because of their famous mountains. There are plenty more areas with only a handful of trekkers that will give you the amazing scenery while letting you enjoy the friendship of Nepal’s wonderful people.
For more information, please visit our Nepal Resource page.