Five festivals to experience in Nepal

With its bright colors and fun energy, the festival of Holi has gained a good deal of attention in the U.S. and now brings travelers to Nepal and India regularly each spring. Participating in any of Nepal’s festivals is an engaging way to learn about the culture and religions, as well as to meet local people. They often bring people out to public spaces for celebrations and include feasts and special foods, as well as important traditional ceremonies. Many of Nepal’s festivals occur in the fall and spring, and we often suggest timing a trip to coincide with one. Here are a few to consider:

Bijaya Dashami

Held over fifteen days in September or October, Dashain or Bijaya Dashami is the longest Hindu festival in Nepal and one of the most important. It celebrates the victory of good over evil and honors the Hindu goddess Durga. Many people return home to celebrate with their families and receive tika (a dab of red vermillion on the forehead) from their elders. Kites are commonly flown; large swings are set up for children; new clothes are purchased and worn; and various rituals, including sacrifices, are held on specific days. The Taleju Temple in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, typically closed to all, opens to the Hindu people one day a year during the festival.

Dashain Festival. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

Buddha Jayanti
Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death fell on the same day and are celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus throughout Nepal on the full moon of Vaisakha, a month on the Hindu calendar (usually April or May). The grandest ceremony occurs at Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini in the western Terai plains. In Kathmandu, Buddha’s devotees pay respects at the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest sites in Nepal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And in Kathmandu Valley, Swyambhunath Stupa and the city of Patan also draw Buddha’s disciples and admirers.

Krishna Janmasthami
In a predominantly Hindu country, the celebration of the god Krishna’s birthday is an undeniably important day, falling in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada each year (usually August or September). The supreme deity, Krishna is known as one of the wisest gods, as well as a lover. Festivities center at the Krishna Mandir in Patan’s Durbar Square and last at least until midnight, when the supreme deity was born. Of course, devotees worship at Krishna temples around the country and typically fast throughout the day.

Gai Jatra
While the literal meaning of Gai Jatra is “festival of cows,” visitors are likely to see thousands of costumed people parading through the streets of Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur in August or September. Families who have lost a member in the previous year may lead a cow, or a child dressed as one, to help guide the soul to heaven. The festival incorporates the worship of the ancient god of death, Yamaraj, and is meant to accept and celebrate death. A merry celebration it is. After the procession, the day is often filled with street performances, comedy skits and dancing. 

Gai Jatra. Photo by Erica Buist

Bisket Jatra Festival Tour
This nine-day festival, often occurring in April, celebrates the Nepali new year. Celebrated in Bhaktapur, Bisket Jatra begins at the Bhairab temple in Taumadhi Tole. The Hindu deities of Bhairab and Bhadrakali are placed in large wooden chariots and pulled through the crowd before a large game of tug-of-war between the two chariots ensues. Other gods and goddesses are also carried in procession around town and locals come to pay homage. Another feat of strength occurs during the festival, as two large wooden poles are erected in the city and the major one is pulled down by groups of young men as the new year commences. 

Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur. Photo credit: Inside Himalayas

Travelers interested in participating in these festivals or others for an immersive cultural experience can see itinerary options here:

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Preparing for the Everest Base Camp Trek

One of the most popular trails in Nepal, the trek to Everest Base Camp, is rarely without visitors. But in a few months, the trail will begin to buzz with excitement as sherpas, trekkers and climbers head through the Khumbu Valley and high into the Himalayas for the start of a new climbing season. It’s a time of much anticipation and preparation. And yet many trekkers arrive not knowing exactly what to expect. We put together this guide to help you prepare your clients.

To borrow from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: Everest is a journey, not a destination.

Photo credit: Shubham

Trekkers should understand that it takes eight days to hike to Everest and three days to descend. They’ll spend only a few hours of this time at Everest Base Camp. This trek is about so much more than making it to 5,380 meters. It’s about spending days getting lost in nature (not literally) and being immersed in a foreign way of life and a fascinating culture. The physical challenge is just a bonus!

So who is this trek right for? It’s right for anyone who is in good physical shape and wants to spend nearly two weeks reveling in nature’s beauty and soaking in the rich culture of the Khumbu region. Yes hikers should be ready for several sections of tough uphill trekking, but much of it is also pleasant. Expect well-established trails, jaw-dropping views and adventurous suspension bridges.

Acclimatization days will be built into a trekking itinerary and should be taken seriously. The altitude change is dramatic and hikers need to pace themselves on this trip.

The first glimpse of Mt Everest from the EBC trail. Photo: Elen Turner

While several days of the journey can be long hiking days, there are also opportunities to visit the Tengboche Monastery, explore the town of Namche Bazaar and talk with locals at the teahouses. We recommend learning to play a traditional Nepali game called Bagha Chal, or Tigers and Goats. Many hikers become fascinated by the prayer wheels, prayer walls and prayer flags along the trail. Trekking guides can be a great resource for learning about cultural and religious beliefs.

There’s also plenty of time on the trail to talk to guides about how trekking tourism provides economic opportunity in these rural areas and empowers local communities. 

Teahouses, the simple lodging options owned by locals along the trail, often run on solar power and only sometimes offer unreliable WiFi. Trekkers can expect — and enjoy — a digital detox on this trip. All the more reason to relax, and enjoy the journey.

Have more questions about the trek to Everest Base Camp? Please get in touch or check out our detailed trip itinerary

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Reasons to Visit Nepal in the Low Season

Sometimes there isn’t a clear answer to the most commonly asked questions, like “When is the best time to go?”

Nepal’s monsoon and winter seasons (i.e. the low tourism seasons) fall between June and August and December and February respectively. Both are premium travel times for those on summer breaks or Christmas/New Year’s vacations. And both offer surprisingly valid reasons for booking a vacation to Nepal during these months, nevermind that travel costs are cheaper. 

As “overtourism” becomes a more commonly used word, travelers are seeking more sustainable ways to visit popular destinations and taking vacations during the off-season is one way to do that. Timing travel to when the crowds have dissipated means there’s less impact on the destination. 

Here are a few places we love to visit during Nepal’s low seasons:

  • The Terai region, the southernmost part of the country, is a wet lowland area and it is home to Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s first national park. Chitwan’s jungle is a sanctuary for one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, crocodiles and rare birds. Wildlife safaris in the park can be far more enjoyable, and less steamy, in the winter. Our “Magical Nepal” itinerary combines three days in Chitwan with cultural attractions in Pokhara and Kathmandu and more.

Photo by Pradeep Chamaria

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Holi: The Most Fun Day of the Year

Nepal’s celebration of Holi is a colorful festival that is open to all, locals and visitors alike. The revered Hindu holiday, which dates back to the fourth century and signifies the arrival of spring, has gained attention in the U.S. in recent years and a number of travelers feel called to participate in the joyful revelry. A care-free celebration with people of all ages smearing each other with colored powders and drenching each other with water in the streets seems like the perfect excuse for a vacation, right?

Photo source: Inside Himalayas

While Holi truly begins with the installation of a ceremonial pole in Kathmandu Durbar Square almost a week earlier and religious ritual and prayer around a bonfire the night before, the free-for-all of color is found all around the square, the city streets, temples, parks and into the hill region on the day immediately following the full moon in March. The second day of festivities continues in the Terai with celebrations and feasts in area homes. Continue reading

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Fourth Week in Kathmnadu – by Juho Paukku

Royal Mountain Corporate Building

Royal Mountain Travel Corporate Building

Another week in Kathmandu & in office. I have learned about more of the activities of the company and the company’s internal affairs. They actually gave me some more responsibilities.

This week has been Nepali New Year, don’t ask me why but we celebrated the fact that we entered the year 2072. They are way ahead of us 🙂  Continue reading

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10 Tips for staying in Home Stays

Tips to Stay in HomestayStaying in the homes of local people rather than with other travelers can provide a much more authentic cultural experience. Staying in a family home stay can present a chance to experience everyday life in the new place. Hosts will invariable cook you local meals and you will have an insider’s invitation to events or places that other visitors would never see.   Continue reading

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The Festival of the Horses— Ghode Jatra

Ghode JatraOn March 27, 2017 (Friday), the army grounds aligning Tundikhel in central Kathmandu will reverberate under the thundering hooves of many magnificent horses. Seated on the pavilion will be the President and Prime Minister of Nepal along with cabinet ministers, foreign envoys, and other dignitaries. Continue reading

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Christmas in Kathmandu

christmas-in-kathmanduSome years ago,around early November, I was invited to participate in a ‘Christmas Cake-mixing Ceremony’ at a five star hotel. A dozen or so bakers and chefs stood around a large table on which stood large glass bowls containing many different kinds of ingredients, along with some bottles of wine. Continue reading

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Tharu – An Ancient Tattoo Artist


From the medieval period to this Facebook world, tattoo has always been linked into the human skin. Indigenous of New Zealand used shark teeth, whereas natives from other continents would use sharp bones to penetrate the ink inside the body. This indicates two things: Tattooing is as old as paintings and it is a painful process, yet many people do volunteer for it. Several motives might be the encouragement to the practice of tattoo, such as attraction, to enhance the beauty, sign of identification, hidden messages, or to scare off the evil spirits. Continue reading

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