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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Is it possible to visit Nepal during the monsoon months from July to September?

Is it possible to visit Nepal during the monsoon months from July to September? This is a question we often get asked at The Mountain Company from people interested in visiting Nepal over European summer holidays. The short answer is yes it is certainly possible to travel in Nepal over the summer months however it is not the optimal time for a visit.

If you have the flexibility with your dates then I would recommend rescheduling to Spring (i.e March to May) or Autumn (i.e October to December). Of course some people do not have any other options with their holidays so my next suggestion would be to visit Ladakh as this Himalayan region's peak trekking season is over the summer months. Ladakh is located in far north of Indian in the Himalaya within the so called rain shadow as monsoonal rains do not tend to push this far into the mountains. If this is an option then I suggest you take a look at our Ladakh Sky Trail led by Almas Khan in late August, this trek is now guaranteed to run and there is currently availability.

If you are still keen to visit Nepal in summer months then it is worth explaining the challenges involved with travelling during the monsoon as well as several of the advantages of this time of year. The main drawback is the weather, it is likely to be rainy as these months are of course during the monsoon. This can cause issues for vehicle transport especially in the hills as there is often landslides blocking roads or if unpaved then the tracks will be muddy so there is always a high risk of your bus getting stuck in the mud!

If you plan to fly to start of the trek such as Lukla airport for Everest Base Camp then it is likely there will be delays if cloudy conditions as planes can only land with clear visibility on the runway. Trekking in the Himalaya during monsoon will be hot and humid at lower altitudes and also it is quite likely there will be leeches, snakes and other creepy crawlies around!

Photo: bus journey during the monsoon!
Having said this the main advantage of travelling in Nepal during monsoon is the lack of other tourists so the trails will be quiet compared to Spring and Autumn seasons. Also the higher valleys above 3,000m such as Lantang will be lush and green with many flowers so no doubt will be very beautiful. It is worth pointing it does not rain for the whole day during the monsoon however it is likely to be cloudy for most of the time with heavy rains for at least an hour or more per day.

There are also a number of interesting festivals in July and August such as Janai Purnima held at Gosainkund lakes below Laurebina La on the Langtang trek. The Gosainkunda Yatra festival is held each year when many Hindu devotees make a pilgrimage to Gosainkund lakes regarded as sacred to Lord Shiva. A dip in these lakes is believed to add considerably to pilgrim’s merit. Traditional faith healers called jhankris perform ritual dances to drumbeats throughout the night and day so it will certainly be a noisy and colourful event.

Photo: Gosainkund lakes
The word "Janai" means sacred thread and the word "Purnima" means full moon day. This year Janai Purnima will be held on full moon of Nepali month Shrawan or in western calendar on August 10, 2014. Janai Purnima, known as the Sacred Thread Festival, requires Hindu men to perform their annual change of Janai worn across the chest.

The mid-west regions of Mustang and Dolpo are often recommended for summer trekking in Nepal as these places tend to receive less precipitation in monsoon due to the rain shadow effect. However I do not think it is worthwhile as there can also be heavy rain, landslides and delays with flying in and out of Jomsom and Juphal airstrips. Also there is a far higher safety risk of flying in Nepal during monsoon months so I think best to avoid STOL flights.

Please get in touch with us at The Mountain Company if you would like any further information or advice about tours, treks or expeditions to Nepal.

Roland Hunter

The Mountain Company